Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Home Cleanliness: My Thoughts/Your Thoughts

First off, I'm asking for some advice. Please read the following and then give me your ideas.

With small kids, it seems like the cleaning in my home is endless. 98% of my house is carpeted (everywhere except the bathroom, including the kitchen). I have to vacuum at least 3 times weekly to keep the house looking decent; not even presentable. Every day I pick up toys, garbage, and laundry; except Thursday, which tends to be the day when I just can't take the constant hassle of cleaning, and it isn't yet the weekend when I can get out of the house/have my hubby's help to get the house back in shape.

My man and I have come up with a few things we do to help keep the house in a semi-orderly state, but I could really use a few more ideas.

Here are my successes:
1) There has to be some major compromising. I want my kids to have a creative, happy, open atmosphere to grow up in. I don't want their imaginations to feel restrained by anything--not super-strict cleanliness, but not awful messes either. I think either extreme is distracting for children. I aim for somewhere in the middle.

2) We keep all the toys under child lock. May sound a little extreme, but see the next few points.

3) In the morning, we let the kids pick 3 toys for the day to play with. If partway through the day they want to switch, that is totally fine. They put away the toys they're done with, and then take out new ones.

4) Right before dinner, the toys go to bed. They are put away for the night. Then the kids wash up for dinner, and we have our evening time together as a family, for playing games and reading books and maybe watching a movie.

Here are my struggles:

1) The kids LOVE the kitchen. They get out all my cooking utensils and take them all over the house. I have no clue where my biscuit cutter is at this moment because the kids played with it months ago. And considering the very central location of the kitchen in my house, and the metal cabinets that can't have child locks screwed into them, I'm not sure how to keep them out of there; yet I can't let them just have free reign, because some of the utensils are breakable, dangerous...or at best, will have to be cleaned after every play session.

2) I have a hard time motivating the kids to pick up after themselves. I have a 3 1/2 year old who I think is old enough to learn how to clean up, yet I'm not sure the way to go about it. Do I reward/bribe? Do I punish for disobedience? How much of the mess should I clean up as he's puttzing around putting away 1 or 2 toys? And how long can I wait before just finishing the job myself?

3) Lastly, I don't like picking up the same messes every single day, two or three times a day. Once a week? no problem. Twice a week? doable. Twelve times a week? kill me now! Any ideas on how to make it from day to day without pulling my hair out?

Thanks! ~Lisa


  1. Sounds like you're doing a lot already Lisa!!! I've found that I pick my areas I want to keep clean(kitchen, front room, bedrooms) and then don't worry about other areas(the basement playroom) too much! I do pick up at least once a week to vacuum but not a lot more. We always sing the clean-up song and don't get out new toys until the old ones are cleaned up. Just remember-we can do it!

  2. Ah, I know this story oh-too-well. It seems like just yesterday it was me in your place with my oldest being 3 1/2 and my daughter climbing all over everything seeking and destroying. I swear, two kids was the hardest adjustment for me. It was harder than one, and it's harder than six. Maybe it was the ages and me not knowing how to manage and them not following through with their assignments.

    Routines worked best for us. It seemed pretty constant and I HAD to be in there with them when it was clean up time. If I wasn't in there, most of the stuff would get cleaned up, and then destroyed in record time. Sometimes this happens even now with Hammy.

    As of right now, my house is NEVER clean. And I do get irritated with toys being strewn from one end of the house to the other. My gremlin is particularly fond of pulling out little snack cups and spoons and playing with them. As far as the snack cups and kid spoons go, I always assume they're dirty and wash them before using. I about went insane when my daughter was that age and did the same thing. Now I know it's a phase he'll outgrow.

    However, I LOVE to bake and cook and hang out in the kitchen. And I sense that's the same in your home. The kids pick up on that and want to be there too and do what mommy does as well.

    Way more than what you tell them is what they observe. If everytime you play dishes you have to wash them and put them away, they'll know that only clean dishes go back in the cupboards. And they'll know that is where they go when all done.

    So my best advice? Good routines and teach by example. If you always clean up after yourself (which trust me, isn't always possible with little ones), they are more likely to do it. Talk through it and explain the steps. Sing about cleaning up while doing it.

    Lee, now that we're done making pot pies I'll show you how we wash those dishes and where they go. Want to be my helper?

    followed by,
    (singing) Washing with Mommy is fun to do, fun to do, fun to do.

    Washing with Mommy is fun to do, to do, to do, to do!

    I know some people assign different kids to be their helpers according to the day of the week. But it's kinda impossible to just ignore Annalisa while you and Lee are washing. It's not safe either. In my home, my four year old really loves to help me in the kitchen. The eight year old is the one most likely to antagonize others. The two year old is most like to destroy things if not tied to my hip.

    Reward or bribe? We do a little of both. But I'd like my children to see us cheerfully serving others and not expect something in return for doing things they need to know to function in society as an adult. So, I don't know what is best. I think different ages and personalities require different teaching methods.

    We used to do a mommy store system with mommy money. It worked pretty well for Gabbers and Bun. It worked for Pookie for the praise and reward part. But the red chips, the negative ones, caused a downward spiral with him. The days he got a red chip, he usually ended up with several.

    I have certainly rambled on and on and am not sure I really said anything of help. :P