I Paid Someone to Teach My Kid to Clean Her Room (And I’d Do It Again)

I Paid Someone to Teach My Kid to Clean Her Room (And I’d Do It Again)

We hire people to teach our kids karate and dance, so why not hiring someone to teach a child to clean their room?

By Jeanne Sager

I can’t put my finger on the last straw. Was it the empty waffle box shoved into a drawer? The likewise empty string cheese wrappers strewn around the floor? Or the second sunny Saturday in a row wasted in the house with a tween who insisted her room was just toooooo haaaaaaaard to clean?

Whatever it was, I found myself in a stand-off with my 11-year-old on one side, and a woman I’d just hired to teach her how to clean her room on the other.

I was trying farm out one of the most basic of parenting tasks, and my daughter wasn’t having it.

Offering to step into age-old parenting roles is becoming an increasingly lucrative business, from the baby naming experts who will help you make the choice between classic and unique (for a fee, of course) to potty training “specialists” who will roll up to your crib and convince your kiddo that diaper-free is the way to be.

But this isn’t exactly a “new” concept. Parents have turned to outside help for years to find people who will teach their kids everything from karate to dance. So why not cleaning? It’s a life skill she’s going to need, and one that I was failing miserably at imparting.

My tween’s bedroom has always been a pain point in our house. I’ve encouraged her to clean up after herself since she was a toddler. We started with age-appropriate tasks like returning the piles of blocks and dolls to the toy box and worked our way up incrementally from there.

Or at least, that was the plan: to teach her how to manage the mess in small doses as a toddler so she’d be up for the bigger ones by elementary school.

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Of course it would be a lot easier if she didn’t make big messes, but she’s a kid and that’s what kids do, so let’s just be real.

The past few years involved a lot of fighting and lost privileges, at least one fruit fly infestation, and zero headway. At times the floor would be sparkling clean, but it never lasted more than a day … maximum.

So when a friend -- who happens to clean houses for a living, including mine on occasion -- joked that she was up for hire, I was tempted. I didn’t want her to clean the room; that would likely end us back at empty string cheese wrappers and waffle boxes in a day or two. I wanted her to teach my daughter how to clean her own room.

Which is how we ended up at the stand-off at the door leading to the upstairs, and my 11-year-old’s bedroom.

I’d warned her well in advance that I would be hiring someone, and she’d even (begrudgingly) agreed, but when she realized someone was actually going to be inside her inner sanctum, pulling discarded towels and stray socks out from under her bed, she balked. But as we talked, I realized her problem was really with me. We’ve spent years doing the same dance over her room, and she wasn’t interested in hearing -- once again -- that I think the place could do with some serious disinfectant.


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So we compromised: She’d let the woman into her room if I stayed downstairs and out of their hair for the entire time. I was fine with that. The whole reason I’d hired someone in the first place was because my guidance (gentle and not-so-gentle) wasn’t working.

They cleared three bags of garbage out of her room that day and another bag of recyclables. With my blessing (I was allowed to come upstairs but not to cross the threshold into her room for a peek), they rearranged the entire room, moving her bed against a wall so she could no longer hide junk behind it and shifting her dresser to make the top more useful for storage.

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It’s been two months now, and her room has returned to chaos several times over. Hiring someone to teach her to clean her room was not magic, and yet, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Because there’s been a marked improvement. The lessons once ignored because they were coming from her mother were given more weight when they were meted out by someone who wasn’t related to her.

Her room doesn’t necessarily stay clean for long after it’s been picked up, but she now has skills to clean it when asked.

And when I do ask, the arguments are fewer. She can no longer tell me she doesn’t “know where” to put something or “how” to make things fit. She no longer falls on the excuse that it’s “too hard” or “I don’t know how.”

Her room is still a work in progress, but it’s progressing pretty nicely.

What are your best tricks for cleaning up the kids’ rooms?

Jeanne Sager is a freelance writer, photographer and social media junkie. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, daughter, and way too many pets. You can follow her @JeanneSager.

Image ©iStock.com/Kirby Hamilton

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