03/28/2016 02:04 EDT | Updated 03/29/2017 05:12 EDT

For Hygiene's Sake, Clean Your Room!

Teenage Girl In Untidy Bedroom
Monkey Business Images via Getty Images
Teenage Girl In Untidy Bedroom

"Go clean your room!" is ground zero for children's chores. But teaching them to keep their room clean is not just an aesthetic goal; it's a hygienic one as well. Yes, it's the only space they can claim as really their own in the house (even if they share with an annoying brother), but there are certain hygiene essentials we need to make sure are met.

At its worst, a dirty, dusty, moldy room can lead to allergy eruptions, and a disruption of a good night's sleep. If you've noticed that your child is sneezing or stuffed up every night at bedtime, or in the morning when they wake up, it may be because of allergens you can take steps to eliminate.

There are many approaches you can take to keeping your child's room clean; certainly when they're very young you'll find the burden landing on yourself. But as they get older, teaching them to care for their belongings and to learn, really learn, how to clean, is an essential life skill.

Starting with the main feature of a bedroom; the bed. Making a bed for a child can be difficult when they're smaller, so simply pulling up the sheets and duvet might be enough, but as they get older, they should be able to produce a tightly made bed. It's recommended to wash sheets and pillowcases about once a week, and there's no reason the kids can't do this themselves once they are about eight years old. Make sure you have pillow covers and mattress covers to help keep the bed clean and to reduce allergens caused by excess dust; you might want to consider a hypoallergenic mattress and pillow (such as an Endy) for kids with sensitivities. This can cut down on the number of times you have to wash the sheets as well.

Think about employing the KonMari method of tidying when it comes to toys, clothes and books that accumulated in your child's room. Marie Kondo's theory is basically to gather items by category (put all the toys from the whole house in a pile, for instance), and then keep only those that bring you joy.

Consider handing down items to people only if you know they are actively looking for those items; not just assuming they'll take anything, which just adds to the clutter in their own homes. They won't thank you. Make sure the toys are cleaned on a fairly regular basis.

When it comes to clothes, keep a box in the kids' closets for them to easily deposit clothes that no longer fit, or that they simply don't wear. Make sure they're not leaving wet or stinky clothes on the floor which can cause mold to erupt and set off allergies or sensitivities. Same goes for wet bath towels. A drying rack in their bedroom can be effective for this.

School mementos such as drawings, pieces of "art", awards, and other sentimental items should either be photographed and put into a scrapbook, framed immediately and put on the wall, or think about establishing what we call a "shelf of treasures" to keep it all in one place. Be selective in terms of what the kids keep, and make sure it isn't something that will deteriorate in an unpleasant way.

The number one "gross out" item in any child's bedroom is leftover food or drinks. Establish a rule that no eating is allowed in their bedroom to absolutely eliminate the possibility of an accidental science experiment growing on their bedside table. The mold from this can also cause those with allergies or sensitivities to sneeze and sniffle and prevent a good night's sleep.

Cleaning and tidying are not the same thing; but a blend of both can help teach your kids these skills while helping all of you to have a restful night's sleep, which adds up to a tidy sum of all its parts.

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