Helping Children Clean Their Room, GTD Style

David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology of staying clear, current, and creative in order to get more things done with less stress consists of five parts: collect, process, organize, review, and do.  Somewhere on his website or a podcast I heard someone mention that they had applied GTD to helping their children pick up their room. So I tried it out, and what do you know, it works pretty well.

Start with a messy room. Then get a big tupperware tub, the kind in which you store clothes in your attic. Instead of telling your kids to “pick up their room,” i.e., pick up everything and put it all where it belongs, you first get them to put everything into the box. THEN you have them take out one item at a time and ask the questions, “What is this and where does it go?” They then proceed to decide what it is (dirty clothes, trash, toy car, doll, shoes, my brother’s legos, etc.) and put it where it belongs.

You might think the extra step of putting things into the box is a waste of time. It really isn’t. For one thing, it makes cleaning your room manageable. Once everything is in the box, the room is “clean” – and you get to say to your children, “Wow! Look how clean your room is!” They rejoice and cheer, and think they can go out to play, and then you say, “Wait a minute, now we need to process all your stuff” (okay, you don’t have to use the word “process” if you don’t want to). Rather than trying to work to pick up a cluttered room, now you have everything in one place, and the room is spotless. Now the child is able to pick up one thing at a time, and churn through the processing of their stuff by asking “What is it and where does it go?” GTD makes cleaning your room fun, and I would argue quicker, since once you have it all in one place you can help your kids answer the questions and get it done quickly. It’s fun to watch a full box get empty.

I realized that my six year old son has gotten hold of at least a little of what I’ve been trying to teach him when I came home today. The girls’ room was clean, but their box was full. I asked, “What is this?” and my son answered, “Dad, I tried to get them to ask, ‘What is it and where does it go,’ but they wouldn’t listen to me.” I smiled. I hope that he will continue to grow in his organizational acumen, and that he will continue to learn patience with his sisters – both vital lessons for life as an adult.



2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Helen on September 4, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    And what do you do when there are too many toys for the box? 🙂


  2. Posted by Landon on September 4, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Arguably your best post yet.


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