Clean Up Timer

Stopwatch on wrist displaying time and date

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Get Kids to Stop Procrastinating

Stopwatch on wrist displaying time and date

  • What: Clean Up Timer
  • When: Picking up toys
  • Why: Stop dawdling, waste less time
  • Where: Your home

I got sick of my kids dawdling around during clean up time. We don’t even clean up, nothing like the actual cleaning that occurs during All Family Clean Up once a month. But each night we ask the kids to pick up their toys before bed. I used to imagine that as a simple request.

But no. They dawdle. They plod. They pick up one thing and stare at it. They use the bathroom for ten (or even twenty!) minutes. I got sick of my kids’ attitude and started using a timer. I gave them ten minutes to get everything cleaned up. Whatever they haven’t cleaned in that time, I clean up. And they don’t get those things back for the rest of the week.

Messy living room kids pillows bedding and toys everywhere
My kids can make this kind of mess in under five minutes.

I figured three kids cleaning for ten minutes each equals thirty minutes of cleaning. That seemed like a reasonable amount no matter the state of the house. Heaven knows they can trash it in less than five minutes, so surely the reverse should hold true as well.

But boy do they hate the timer. On the positive side, they don’t really hate me, though they will beg and plead. They’ve even been known to cancel the timer, since we use Alexa and voice control. When that happens, we knock off a minute and start a new timer. It only took a couple tries for them to give up on cancelling the timer.

Alexa voice control unti
Alexa is kind enough to keep track of our timer and announce when it ends so no one has an excuse they didn’t know.

Once they finish, we inspect and put anything we find in a bag. Once a week, they have the opportunity to put the things collected into the bag away properly. Anything left in the bag at the end of the designated time period gets donated.

We spend less time chiding them about cleaning up. Instead, I calmly work in the kitchen clearing up after dinner, or help them out here and there with their toys. I end up less frustrated and they get more quality time and waste less effort. I doubt any of my three kids would choose the timer, but it works.

It works so well we stopped using it. They’ve returned to their old ways, though, so now at the first complaint or the first time I spot someone slacking off, we set the timer.

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