Clearing the Table: Cleaning and Organizing Skills

By Courtney Tabor-... on Oct 21, 2016

In all aspects of our adult lives, we are expected to be organized and to clean up after ourselves. Some of us are better at this than others. While some of us are neat freaks, others seem to have little interest in or need for a well-organized environment. However, being able to organize and tidy up our work spaces is a necessary part of life. For individuals with vision impairments, having an established organization system and the skills to clean up is especially helpful in allowing individuals to keep track of their personal items and navigate their environments.

In this activity, students practice cleaning and organizing skills by clearing the table after a meal. A table or similar surface is a good starting point for building tidying skills since it is a small and manageable space. Students who are able can eventually learn strategies for tidying larger and more complex spaces. This activity also promotes responsibility and contribution to family chores/household management.


  • Dishes, glasses, napkins, etc.


  1. Set a table for a meal, complete with plates, cups, napkins, and silverware.
  2. After the meal, ask student to clear the table.
  3. If needed, show student where to put various items (i.e napkins in the trash, plates and cups in the sink). Provide instruction on handling glass items.
  4. When all items have been cleared from the table, student can use a sponge or cleaning rag to wipe down the table surface. Encourage a consistent pattern to ensure the table is wiped thoroughly, such as cleaning lengthwise from left to right.


  • This activity can be adapted to meet students’ particular strengths and needs. Students can work on sorting items, proper care with glass or sharp objects, learning about trash and recycling, and learning patterning techniques or cleaning surfaces.
  • When students have mastered clearing a table, families or instructors can expand by working on activities for tidying larger spaces, such as a bedroom.
  • For a school-based version of this activity, student can practice clearing her space at the cafeteria table, learning where her tray and trash belong, and building on orientation and mobility skills to learn how to locate the cafeteria’s trash cans, etc.
  • For a community application, student can practice clearing and cleaning tables at a local coffee shop. Owners may be open to this activity during hours that are not busy, allowing the student to learn about a restaurant set-up and what cleaning tables involves in a public place. This can be excellent preparation for entry-level employment.

Collage for teaching student with visual impairments to clear the table

Read more about: Transition

Total Life Learning by Wendy Bridgeo,‎ Beth Caruso,‎ & Mary Zatta

Cover of Total Life Learning

The Total Life Learning curriculum was developed for students ages 3 to 22 who are blind, visually impaired including those students who have additional disabilities or are deafblind. The focus is on the development of life and career goals that enable student to maximize independence, self-determination, employability, and participation in the community.