With young children still at home, keeping a house orderly is harder than keeping it clean. Sweeping, mopping, dusting and vacuuming don't bother me. I don't relish these tasks, but neither do I dread them.
It's the clutter that discourages me and turns me into an ineffective parent--a grumpy, depressed, nagging mom. This bothers me because I'm so grateful for my family. I love children and I want my demeanor and tone to reflect that. My tweens and little people are precious and they truly delight me.
We have fairly frequent Bible studies here so we clean thoroughly (not always the bedrooms) every Saturday. Given this regular discipline, our home should never look like a disaster, in theory. But by Tuesday it's often an embarrassment.
Why? What goes so awry that all our Saturday work is ruined in two and a half days?
In the last year I've made some progress with these issues, albeit slow. I'm ready to share a few management tips.
Problem #1 Mom's doing it all, she has no free time, and her grumpiness is making everyone miserable.
Fix - Get the kids involved
When we keep them out of the process, we're enabling their sloppiness and contributing to our own grumpiness. Doing it all ourselves is terrible management and we can do better.
Instead of giving the kids a lengthy list of chores, try giving them 3 responsibilities.
~ Make your bed (ages 5.5 and up?)
~ Put dirty clothes in hamper
~ Participate in 5-minute pick-ups.
After your housekeeping is under control, add a few cleaning chores for the older ones. They do need the training, but as long as clutter is still an issue, it would be hard for them to sweep, mop, dust or vacuum on schedule, just as it's hard for Mom. Again, clutter is more a problem than dirt; once clutter is under control, dirt is easy to wipe/sweep/vacuum away.
Strategy for Kids - Five-Minute Pick-ups
Without this habit, you're doomed as a housekeeper. Truly.
~ When you get up in the morning, set a timer for one hour. Put a sticky note in the bathroom so you can remember (assuming you visit the bathroom upon waking).
~ When the one-hour bell rings, call the first five-minute pick-up, unless you've just sat down to a meal, in which case I just push back the timer 20 or 30 minutes.
~ When your pick-up bell sounds, Mom's job is to take a straight-edge, such as a large hardbound book, and sweep all the floor clutter to one pile (add paper and book clutter from the end tables, etc.). If you don't want a pile on the floor, put it all in a couple laundry baskets.
Children get easily overwhelmed by strewn-out clutter and that's why we get the ugly, ungrateful whining when we ask for their help. Like us, they find clutter stressful, and like us, it makes them grumpy. So do help out at first by making a big pile for them to "fish" from. A neat pile looks like a challenge, while a cyclone looks like a nightmare.
~ You can give them a number goal, such as, "Everyone put away ten things. No stuffing under cushions or in corners. Everything in its place."
~ To jump-start their motivation, offer an incentive for continuous work for five minutes (no resting or fooling around).
~ As soon as the five-minute timer rings, stop their work and set the timer again for an hour. They will get used to these pick-ups and all whining will stop, because anyone can do this for five minutes.
Problem #2 The house never stays clean more than 12 hours.
Fix: Troubleshoot Your Habits
Getting everyone involved, clean your house thoroughly over a day or two. Then put a notepad on the fridge and take notes as you watch the condition of the house deteriorate. Don't do anything different, just be a keen observer.
As I did this in my own home, I found a few problems
Our Bad Habit #1 - Getting Ready to Go Frenzy
When we get ready to go somewhere, whether a doctor appointment, the library, or church, we leave a disaster in our wake. Mom is scurrying around making sure everyone finished their meal and looks clean-faced and well-dressed, all the while continuing with her own grooming. There might be library books to gather too, or school books to take along to an appointment.
Getting four kids out the door is my least favorite thing.
The children, meanwhile, are doing whatever they want, outside of following Mom's directions about food, clothing, hair, and shoes. Free time (for kids) always means messes.
When I'm busy getting ready, I'm not calling five-minute pick-ups. I'm not thinking about the house at all (only the clock). When we return home, often ready to relax, I look around me and just want to cry. This scenario is our biggest problem and I knew we needed to change things up.
Now, I'm stricter about the 90 minutes or so we spend getting ready to go. I have them read books or draw, rather than get out things we won't have time to put away before departure. And I do at least one 5-minute pick up before departure, in case they've left dirty clothes or cast-off shoes lying around.
Our Bad Habit #2 - Not Consolidating Errands
As homemakers most of us have figured out that as soon as we leave our homes, we're behind. The solution is to stay home as much as possible (consolidate grocery, library, pharmacy errands, for example).
We have a few chronic medical conditions that keep us running to appointments (which I can't control), but beyond that we keep extracurriculars light. We only participate in a Sunday night AWANA program. That's all.
I purposely keep our schedule light for a few reasons:
1. Rushing around makes us feel like we can never relax. No relaxation means high stress, and high stress means bad habits. Good habits are bred in a low-stress environment. (Think of your own eating habits, for example. You overeat during stress, right?)
2. Making wholesome meals takes time. Too many activities often means a horrible diet.
3. I believe kids develop best when they have free, unstructured time they must fill on their own. Boredom leads to innovation and innovation builds problem-solving skills. Going to programs put together by other people means those people are doing the most learning, not my child. Children follow directions at extracurricular activities more than anything else, and following directions is not higher-level thinking.
When my children have needed expertise, they've gone to books. My 10 year old taught himself to play the piano, do origami, and use watercolors beautifully--all from books.
My 12-year-old became a garden expert, a backyard bird watcher, and backyard animal expert...all using books.
My Beth received a ballet video from a friend for Christmas, and she finds more dance instruction vidoes at the library.
This is more than enough information for one post, but let's review before closing:
~ Moms can't do all the work and it's poor management to try.
~ Kids can keep the house clutter-free by participating in hourly 5-minute pick-ups (This skill will be invaluable to them as they start running their own homes/schedules).
~ Put up sticky notes to remind you to keep setting the timer all day.
~ Clean your house and take notes as its condition deteriorates. Then, troubleshoot.
~ Consolidate errands to stay home as much as possible.
Do your kids do regular pick-ups and how does it go? How do you organize your errands?