Okay, so you got kids. They’re loud. They’re destructive (probably without knowing it). And they are messy! My goodness! If I had a nickel for every time I picked up a piece of clothing that was dirty and laying on the floor 2 feet from the dirty clothes basket I would not be writing this article. I would be living on a secluded island with half set aside for the children and half for me and my husband. We would all gather when needed. Life would make sense. On the other hand, what would I do with my day if I wasn’t cleaning? Well, I have four kids and one on the way. The more kids means the more mess. At least that seems to be the mathematical equivalent for every family out there.
My six year olds are the biggest culprits. My step daughter has all those little Polly Pocket toys and Barbies with their little tiny accessories and shoes. I could spend a whole day picking those up and looking for more and I would never find all of them. My son is just a kid who wants to eat constantly. You would never know it by eating meals with the child, but only by finding pieces of stale bread hidden under the bed and apple cores under the couch. My three year old just thinks it’s a hoot to fill the sink in our bathroom up with water, leave it running and play in it while the water slowly, but surely, creates his own personal swimming pool on the floor. As far as my 8 month old goes … we’ll see! And with one on the way … well, don’t be surprised if you see me in the paper in a straight jacket! Just kidding.
So, step one is cleaning out the junk. You know what I mean. The broken toys. The toys that have no purpose in life. The toys that are missing an arm, leg or, worse, a head. Get rid of them! Do it today before you lose your home to deformed toys. Now special toys deserve to stay in the home. They have made your child happy. They keep your child occupied while you’re cleaning up yet another mess that kid has made. They keep your child feeling secure when they get an owie or are scared of the storm that the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland creates somehow. (That’s my three year old’s consensus anyways)
And while you’re at it, get rid of your junk, too. Keep only what presents special memories for you and keep the things you’ll pass on to your children. You could go through your husband’s junk box. Maybe while he’s not there and then you can show him all the junk you found and tell him he needs to choose. Junk it, or trunk it. In other words, toss it in the garbage or stick it in a storage box and keep it out of site. Like in the trunk out of site. You know … where the mafia keeps dead bodies. That is where junk belongs!
Next look at each room. Do you really need all the furniture you have? Could some be moved from one room to another so the rooms each have more space? Do it, by all means. If you can get rid of some by selling than have that garage sale. Sometimes in an apartment they will have one every few months or you can go to the landlord and ask permission to have a group sale. Sometimes you can even manipulate a piece of furniture to make it useful for a different purpose.
I found that cleaning each room after you have cleaned it out is the best thing to do. It is the time when it will be the most clean it has ever been. At least until you need to clean junk out again. Dusting, window cleaning and more. Oh my! Febreeze is absolutely the best air freshener on the market … Hands down! I always use it after cleaning out a room. It takes all the poopy diaper and cleaner smells right out of the air and makes it seem like a magical transformation has just happened. And let’s face it, it has. Finding the time and energy with so many children can be difficult and, at time, near impossible for any mother. So, doing one room at a time is very helpful. Pick one room and focus on it for one day. I find if I have three days a week where I clean one room really well, it really cuts down on the clutter.
Now you have cleaned out every room in your house, it’s time for the hard part. Making a chore list. The chore list is the most feared piece of paper known to every child in America. It is a form of habit that the child must learn and endure. But, worst of all, it cuts into … dare I say it … their playtime. AAAHHHHH! No, mommy, you child yells, it’s too hard! If you haven’t heard your child shout those words, it’s possible they may not have chores to begin with. When I was a child of five, my mother had me doing dishes, picking up my room, setting and clearing the table. It wasn’t hard or difficult, I just hated doing it. But, when I got my own place as an adult I remembered how great the rooms looked after cleaning and, being my own place with my own junk, I found an urge inside of me to keep it clean. Not always. You need a day or two a week to just sit and play all day long with your kids. Besides, what’s more important: cleaning or the time you spend with your children? Not to say your place needs to look like a pigsty.
My mother also told me that the two most important rooms in a house to keep clean was the bathroom and kitchen. So, make that your priority in cleaning everyday. And then once a week do a deep clean: scrubbing the toilet, the sink, cleaning out the cupboards, etc. It makes a big difference. As far as the rest of the house goes, it gets tricky from here on out.
People with many kids know how difficult it is to want to clean. You clean a room and not more than 5 minutes later it is a complete disaster. A disaster made while you were picking up a different room. So, have your kids help out. Have them clean a room with you. That way you can keep your eye on them and get more done. When they are really young and just learning to clean, one thing that works really well is asking them to do one thing at a time. For example: Johnny, please pick up all the legos you see. Make it a game with a fruit snack or some sort of reward when they’re done. Read them a book as a reward. Let them know what kind of pride comes in keeping a room clean. As for the five and six year old kids, they’re usually capable of more and , by some miracle, are willing to do more. They like to scrub and wash dishes. They enjoy helping with dinner and the like. Take advantage of it now because there comes a time, not too far in the future I am told, that chores are harder to get done than anything else.
Besides a daily pickup of toys and dirty clothes, something else that keeps a house from overflowing with dirtiness is doing a daily load or laundry and dishes. Emptying the dirty clothes bins everyday helps keep the rooms smelling decent. Doing one load of dishes everyday helps keep the kitchen cleaner. Dirty dishes take up space on the counter and dirty laundry, especially for apartment dwellers, usually clogs up the hallway floor.
Make a routine for everyone in your house. Have them take their shoes off when they step in the door. Hang up the coats. Bring stuff in from the car that belongs in the house every time you come home after a trip. Have everyone bring their own dishes into the kitchen and rinse them off and scrape the food into the garbage or disposal. Having each kid do their part at the appropriate age not only keeps your house cleaner longer and makes it easier on you when you’re doing your part, but it also teaches your kids responsibility for their actions. Sooner or later they will realize that leaving dirty clothes under the bed is not the best way to ensure that piece of clothing will get clean. They will realize that picking up a rotting apple core they hid in their room is not pleasant and tends to attract the multitudes of fruit flies that flock to it for food. And last, but certainly not least, kids learn that when there is less cleaning for mom to do, the more time she gets to spend with them.
So do yourself and your family a favor and start cleaning out your house now. Make the time created by doing this to spend with your kids. You’ll thank yourself on the weekends when you get to play Monopoly instead of scrubbing pans. Use books to help you along your way. One of the best books I’ve found to read on how to keep a house organized is “Confessions of an Organized Homemaker” by Deniece Schofield. Now get going and enjoy a cleaner house and happier family.