You have all heard the saying “good moms have sticky floors, dirty ovens, and happy kids” . I read that on Pinterest makes me feel all warm and fuzzy… for about a day. Then my blood pressure starts to rise, the corners of my mouth turn down, and the volume of my voice goes up.
Since my five children are home with me all. the. time. things get mess around here pretty quickly. We aren’t dirty, it’s just that we aren’t exactly tidy either. The truth of the matter is that if I want a tidy home we have to spend a lot of time cleaning. There is no way around it. The way I see it we have three options
- Clean a little bit every hour or so (aka often)
- Clean once a day (for a LONG time)
- Have an angry Mama.
I prefer the clean a little bit every hour or so route because I tend to get more stressed the messier things get.
I have tried EVERYTHING! Chore charts, rewards, stickers, prizes, money, chore packs, schedules, etc. Nothing seemed to work for longer than a few days.
I am not a neat freak. My car is a chronic mess and I just so happen to be the queen of flat surface piles. I do, however, like to have the floor clean and swept, the seating cleared off, and the dining room table and kitchen counters clean. So how do I make it happen?
To be brutally honest, I don’t always make it happen. Sometimes the sink is full of dishes for a few days, there is always at least one set of abandoned toys on the floor and I always seem to be at least two loads of laundry behind; but after much trial and error and a few conversations with a wise older sister (*wink wink, Heather*) I have been able to come up with a few techniques that enable us to keep our house presentable.
- First of all, my kids are too young to be trusted to clean something on their own without supervision. Every time I try to send them off to clean a room on their own I am disappointed. Even Lucy needs to be reminded of the standards once in a while. I have found that the very quickest, most effective, and least stressful way to clean up is for us all to work together as a family in the same room at the same time. If a room is getting out of hand I will call everyone in, give them an assignment in that room and say “Go!” When they finish their job, they come back to me for an inspection and another job.
- With the exception of Lucy, I always have to be as specific as possible when giving the assignments. I can’t just say, “Emma take care of the toys, Spencer throw out the trash”. I have to say, “Emma, pick up the legos, put them in the bin, put the bin in the closet, and come right back. Spencer, pick up all of the papers and the trash there, there, and there; put it in the garbage, and come right back”. It’s frustrating that they don’t just KNOW that they need to follow through and come back, but being perfectly clear with my instructions is far easier and less stressful than unmet expectations.
- I don’t just sit and bark orders, I work with them. When I’m not sick, hurt, or nursing then I am working right along side them. I want willing helpers, not bitter slaves.
- If we are going to be at it for more than ten minutes I turn on music for us to listen to.
- We finish one room entirely before moving on to the next, though sometimes we will divide and conquer the smaller rooms.
- While we don’t have chore charts they do have some jobs that they are expected to take care of. Lucy is in charge of keeping the dishwasher empty and taking the trash out. She is also responsible for the occasional meal. Emma is in charge of gathering, sorting, washing and rotating the laundry. They are both responsible for helping out with Henry, reading to their brothers, or helping in any other way I ask.
We try our best to put toys and other things away before getting new ones out but usually after a week or so the ponies are mixed in with the cars, and the duplos and legos are no longer separate. I try to keep food in the dining room but it doesn’t always happen (our frequent family picnics and movies might have something to do with that). But, even if I haven’t been super vigilant about keeping things put away we can usually get the downstairs tidied, swept, and vacuumed within 30 minutes (excluding laundry piles :)).
Tidying on a semi-daily basis keeps our house presentable for visits from friends and my own sanity, but I can only go so long before my paper piles start to lean and I can no longer find things in them (or we get the occasional visit from in-laws and other people I’m trying to impress). As much as it pains my free spirited nature, I have had to put myself on somewhat of a schedule for deep cleaning.
I have a lot going on, so I rely heavily on my my planner app. In it I have my calendar, notes, and set up schedules and reminders for my blog posts, reviews, appointments, school schedules, and more. I also set up reminders for deep cleaning.
I give myself one zone to work on per week and it cycles through every six weeks or so. This way we get walls and baseboards scrubbed, cobwebs and dust eliminated, cabinets organized, and even my flat surfaces cleaned off on a semi-regular basis. If I have a bad or busy week and can’t get to it all then I skip what I didn’t finish and move on (touching up the paint can wait another six weeks if it has to). Whatever happens I don’t stress about “catching up”. I don’t have time to worry about that.
At this point I am the only one to do any deep cleaning, though I have been known to let the kids wield the dusters on occasion. To be fair, the “deep cleaning” has as much to do with organization as actual scrubbing so if I want my organization to make ANY sense, I need to be the one to do it :)
What about you? What are your tried and true methods for keeping a tidy home? How have you had to adjust things as your children get older?