Allrighty, so first off, can I just say that my kids are SO NOT a shining example of little children who dutifully only play with one toy, and put it away before they get out another. NOPE!
And can I also say that I am not diligent about MAKING them do that? It's too much work for me. I'm a wee bit lazy.
So, since that it not how I roll, my kids tend to sort of tornado through the toys in a day's time, and when 7pm come around, it looks like a natural disaster has indeed hit.
In order to make me feel like I'm doing my job as homemaker, we do a "QUICK PICK UP" every evening before bath time. We make it a race, to see how quickly we can get all the toys back in the toy box. It leaves my family room looking nice for the WHOLE EVENING. This makes me feel good about myself.
I have found that if my husband and I are enthusiastic and excited about "getting" to pick up, the boys are more willing to fall in line with it as well. If we're grumpy, they're grumpy.
Things like dishes in the sink and shoes in the closet are HABITS we're trying to instill. So, ALWAYS and FOREVER, if your shoes come off, where do they go? In the CLOSET! YAY! If you're done eating where do your dishes go? IN THE SINK!
I was raised in a home where my mother was a mother, not a maid. We as children were expected to do our part. I'm trying to teach that to my boys as well. I want them to be neat and clean people, not slobs. But at ages 4, 2, and 1 there are limits to their abilities. I find that picking up, and being responsible for their own belongings is a good place to start. When my oldest gets to be school-aged, I'll expect him to help with things like setting the table, and other small chores. As they grow, so does their list. :)