At the beginning of the year, I decided to plan out habits I need to work on as a mom. February’s habit is neatness and order. It feels like I’ve been working on this habit forever, but the cycle of kids make a mess, mom cleans it up keeps going and going. I decided that I needed to get some new systems so this cycle doesn’t drive me absolutely nuts. Miss H is almost four- she’s very capable of cleaning up after herself! The key to securing neatness and order in my house is delegating, especially to the actual mess-makers. So, this month, I taught Miss H some cleaning strategies to help her clean up after herself, and to make my life less stressful. These strategies mostly focus on keeping her bedroom clean, but they can be used for the whole house!
Charlotte Mason said that children should be able to clean up their own toys at the age of two. Two! That seems teeny, doesn’t it? But then the other day, Baby E started cleaning up his toys- without being asked! This is something that his big sister doesn’t do (yet!) Somewhere along the line, I found a way to squelch Miss H’s natural desire to clean up after herself and help. Maybe it was my attitude towards housework, or the desire to just get something done quickly and not wait for her to do it. Creating a positive, peaceful home atmosphere for my family requires me not to just do the housework, but to teach these life-long skills to my children. They’re taking in either an atmosphere of order or disorder, whether I like it or not.
“Cleanliness, order, neatness, regularity, punctuality, are all ‘branches’ of infant education. They should be about the child like the air he breathes, and he will take them in as unconsciously” (Vol. 1, p. 125).
The Five Things Rule
This one takes a little reminding, but I ask Miss H to pick up 5 things when she goes into a room. She has fun with it, and it doesn’t overwhelm her because it’s just a few things. When I’m really consistent with this, it helps to hold the clutter at bay!
We went to Target and bought these pretty storage bins– one for each bedroom- to put in our family room. A couple of times a day, I ask Miss H to put anything that belongs in her room upstairs in her basket. When it’s full, we bring it upstairs, put everything away, and then put anything in it that needs to go downstairs (cups, towels…she always wanders off with these things!) Then we empty the basket again downstairs, and put it back in the family room. Right now she needs my support with this, but it will get easier for her after more practice! One big advantage to this is that the clutter is gone immediately, even when we haven’t taken the time to empty the basket.
Saying, “Clean your room!” doesn’t work out so well in our house. If you think about it, young children can only follow a few directions at a time. But “clean your room!” involves tons of directions! It means to put away clothes, pick up toys, put away shoes, organize the books that are spilling off the book shelf, pick up any trash, make the bed….it’s a big process! I’ve figured out that I need to give Miss H her directions one or two at a time. I say, “Put away your books and clothes,” and when she’s done with those, I say, “Please make your bed.” This helps her get moving in the right direction instead of spinning her wheels.
10 Minute Cleaning Bursts
Miss H sets the timer on my phone for 10 minutes (okay, Siri sets the timer,) and together we clean as much as we can in that time. She loves the element of urgency, and really gets moving during that time. Sometimes we turn on music for that ten minutes for a little extra spring in our steps. This also works out well for the length of her attention span.
I learned this one from an article about a professional house cleaner and business owner. She mentally divided her spaces into zones so that she could complete an area entirely and not backtrack. This also helps with making the task less overwhelming.
I’m hoping that by working on these strategies, we’ll both be less overwhelmed with housework!