If you’re concerned that your child’s perpetually messy room will cause him to grow up to be a disorganized, ineffective adult, rest easy. A tidy room isn’t necessarily as crucial to a child’s development as parents might expect, though it certainly does offer short- and long-term benefits.
“Is a messy room going to leave a kid less capable as an adult than they would have been otherwise? I’d say no,” said educational psychologist Jane M. Healy, author of “Your Child’s Growing Mind” and other books. “There are more important things in child-rearing than making sure every shelf is labeled.”
But Healy says that cleaning and organizing a bedroom or playroom presents teachable moments for all ages. “There are wonderful opportunities to work on color matching, classifying and sorting. For older kids, it can be planning ahead, having a goal, outlining the steps to get to that goal.”
And Ellen Delap, a certified professional organizer and spokeswoman for the National Association of Professional Organizers, says an organized room can help prevent kids from becoming frustrated, anxious and overwhelmed.
“An uncluttered space can help them be the best people they can be,” she says. “Kids get overwhelmed with the number of toys, clothes and technology in their spaces — it’s frustrating to find what they need.”
So while parents shouldn’t worry that they’re dooming their children to life as a slob if they don’t clean their rooms, it can’t be overlooked that helping them develop some habits of tidying and organizing can’t hurt. “What this offers is an opportunity for you to help your child shape their adult attitudes as well as their adult habits,” says Healy.