Living in Bristol and not being race fans gives us one nice advantage over most folks. Besides having our little town 3 times as crowded as normal for an entire week and roads that look like a scene from Mad Max (nothing like when *some* folks with a penchant for alcohol and fast cars get together for a big event!), we get to rent our house out twice a year (incidentally to the same nice people who take great care of our house every year)! So, twice a year, we have the duty of completely and thoroughly deep-cleaning our house. By the time we’re finished it’s pristine, hotel-clean (unless you frequent Travel-lodge, in which case ignore that last metaphor). The white glove we run across furniture not only stays white, but once it touches our stuff it takes on the sheen of Moses after he received the Ten Commandments. Want to perform heart surgery and the OR is full? Try our living room, but only twice a year! (Yeah we’re just kidding here… but it’s cleaner than it is at any other time!)
Every year Kim and I look at each other at some point during this arduous process and say, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could keep it this way all the time?” Then we laugh and get back to reality. We have 4 little gremlins who happen to attract clutter like dogs attract fleas. We could have our house perfectly straight, but give the kids free reign for 15 minutes and you’d think a tornado hit it. That’s just the way it is. It’s not that they don’t try, but they’re little. Sure, we do clean and straighten on a regular basis, but the Second Law of Thermodynamics just seems to happen to us quicker than most. That’s OK, but for people who enjoy living in a state of Order, sometimes the DISorder of our house can seem overwhelming!
So, in the spirit of helpfulness, and with 4 fingers pointing back at ourselves, we want to offer some pointers for keeping a house full of kids clean and clutter free. Now if only WE would do a better job of following all of these!
1.) To everything a home – If something has no home, it will end up where it’s not supposed to be. Seems simple, but it’s true on so many levels. Kids bring home stuff every day, school papers, lunch boxes, jackets, projects, etc. If they have no specified place to put their things, their things will end up in the middle of the kitchen floor or on the kitchen counters. Kid papers and chicken juice just don’t mix. If there is a home for every item in your home, then keeping clean will just be a matter of putting that item back in its home after using it. (The trick, for us anyway, is often having enough space to HAVE a home for everything. That’s what a garage is for, but that’s a whole other blog!)
2.) Clutter is the ENEMY – Attack clutter, wherever it is found, or it will overwhelm you and KILL you. OK maybe that’s an exaggeration, but unless you want your home to look like an episode of ‘Hoarders,’ you need to do something with those spots of clutter around your home. You know where they are. We know where they are. Now get them before they get you!
3.) Make your children pick up after themselves – This is very important. Don’t pick up that jacket, hair clip, or Barbie doll in the middle of the kitchen floor. Sure, it seems like it takes more effort, at least on the front end, to call your child in to pick it up, but in the long haul they will (hopefully) learn and it will get easier over time. Plus, their future spouse will thank you!!
4.) Daily kid (and adult) chores – Not only should the kids have specific, age-appropriate chores that involve more than just picking up after themselves each day, but you should as well. That microwave oven isn’t going to wipe out itself!
5.) Weekly rotating ‘big’ chores – tackle something ‘big’ and different every week, whether it’s washing the cars, cleaning the windows, or filing and organizing the family paperwork.
6.) Weekly regular ‘big’ chores – this includes laundry, general straightening, and, of course, de-cluttering that annoying spot in the foyer that tends to ‘collect’ everything the kids bring in when they come home. In fact, de-clutter should be an automatic part of this. If you or your spouse dread this chore, try setting a timer for 15 minutes, de-clutter like crazy for that amount of time, then stop when the timer goes off and go to something else. Depending on how small your children are and how neat your family is, de-clutter time might need to be moved from ‘weekly’ to daily!
7.) Have a garage sale ‘pile’ or area (ideally in the basement or storage shed) – things marked for sale go directly to that spot. They do not linger, pass go, or collect any money until they are SOLD. Let the kids participate. They will kids enjoy earning money off what they don’t use anymore.
8.) Provide organizational resources for your children – Need a spot to keep those Legos? Make sure they have a box, cubby, or shelf just for that. They’ll enjoy it and it’ll make your job easier in the long run.
9.) Don’t buy something unless you absolutely need it – and have a home for it… This helps the wallet as well as the clutter!
10.) Always try to put things back where they belong, and never put things on surfaces – kitchen counters, hutches, desktops, etc. The only thing that goes there is what GOES there!
We find that when we are able to knock out the clutter, the actual business of cleaning our house becomes so much easier!