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Everyday Parenting

Ways to Live Happily With Your Neat & Not-So-Neat Kids

Face it, sometimes we have a child that’s a neat freak and sometimes we have the absolute opposite. As a parent, it’s our job to figure out how it will flow so that everyone involved is happy (that means you and your children). If your kids share a room, you need to find a way for them to cohabitate peacefully.

Here are a few ideas on making this happen in your family.

  1. Try to give each child their own space. The messy child shouldn’t have to live in a tidy environment just because we all think it is a better way to live. One’s bedroom is considered their sanctuary. It may be that the clutter makes them feel comfortable or safe. What is messy to one child might not be to another. So, if possible, give the kids separate living spaces or divide their shared room with a curtain that runs down the center.
  2. Define what is neat and messy. I might think things are clean if they are piled nicely, while my wife doesn’t think it is clean until the clutter is gone and the countertop has been disinfected. Figure out what “organized” or “clean” means to each child and then try to find a happy meeting place.
  3. Work out a compromise. You should not expect one child to change for the other. It is not fair to assume the “neat” child is living the right or better way. Figure out what is absolutely necessary for each child to live a stress free life and meet in the middle. These are great lessons to learn at an early age as life is often about compromise.
  4. Respect each other’s ways. This comes down to hard, honest conversations. It is not fair for either child to pick on the other for what brings them comfort and safe feelings. The messy child can’t be allowed to be a total wreck, but the neat child will have to loosen his ideas of what “clean” means. Again a great way to learn how to function in life where we all have to compromise.
  5. Do not side with either child. This will be difficult as every parent has their idea of neat as well, but siding with one child will make the other feel badly about themselves and give the one extra power. This may also result in your messier child going extreme the other direction.
  6. Set a “cleaning” time. Whether it is a short stint every night before bed or a longer more intense clean up on weekends, a set cleaning time will set expectations as to when cleaning will occur. This should help lesson or eliminate fights in between. Find ways to make it fun. Turn on music, play a game or give out awards such as “winner chooses dinner!”
  7. Find out each child’s cleaning strengths. You might find that your messy child hates to organize, but loves to vacuum. Or that your clean child loves to make beds but can’t stand hanging up clothes. Once you’ve figured out if there are preferences, divide and conquer the cleaning chores. Teach your kids at the same time proper ways of cleaning so they do it “Mom’s way” rather than the sibling way. They will be much more inclined to please you than they are each other.
  8. Make it so even the messy one thinks cleaning is easy. This may take a little investment, but under the bed bins or closet boxes that stuff can simply be thrown into and pushed out of sight is simple cleaning for the messy person. It may not be your idea of clean or put away, but it will get stuff off the floor and make the room less cluttered.

Daddy Nickell

Robert Nickell, aka Daddy Nickell, father of 7, offers his “5 cents” worth of advice to expectant and new parents. Daddy Nickell is the founder of, delivery room duds and daddy gifts and apparel for dads, and the blog where he covers topics about parenting and the latest baby and kids gear, all from a Dad’s perspective.


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