Well, in the spirit of multi-tasking…
A friend just asked me to jot down some helpful hints for staying organized in a house with only little ones. I am blessed now to have helpers who are getting older every day, but not that long ago, there were only little people in our home.
(That's Nathan, Megan, and Evan in 2005!)
When a mom has only young children, it can make life really challenging, because little people make BIG messes. Here are a few things that helped our family maintain some semblance of order and peace.
•Get up before the kiddos. There’s no better way to stay a step ahead than to get up just a little bit earlier than the children do. It makes for a calmer mommy.
•Spend time in the Word. Many people advocate a daily quiet time, and it’s true: Spending time reading the Bible and praying is an important part of growing and having peace as a Christian. For most moms with little ones, though, this goal seems unreachable, and failing to accomplish that daily “quiet time” requirement can make them feel like spiritual failures. Well, ladies, I’m here to tell you that there’s no law in Scripture that mandates that you sit down with a cup of tea in one hand, your prayer journal in the other, Bible open on the table to spend time in peaceful meditation. Read the Bible WITH your children. Listen to Scripture set to music. (We like Steve Green’s Hide ‘Em in Your Heart.) The Lord is ever-present and His Word is powerful no matter where or how we read it.
Now, on to keeping things clean (or at least not disgustingly dirty)
•Throw stuff away. It’s amazing how much more we have than really need, isn’t it? And, somehow, all that stuff ends up on the floor, scattered around. The more you get rid of, the less you have to clean up.
•Cut down on the number of toys. This dovetails off of the first point. We have SOOO many toys these days and it makes clean up very difficult. Some people rotate which toys they have out on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. I’ve found it more effective just to have the kids choose which toys they really like and keep those out. We give away and throw away as many as I can get them to part with. We store the rest in the attic, and some of those gradually rotate to Goodwill. No one ever mentions them, so they’re obviously not worth keeping. Be sneaky with little kids. They tend to want to hold onto everything they can see. Notice I said everything they can SEE. Out of sight, out of mind. Once stuff is gone, they rarely think about it again.
•Keep your kids’ organization system simple. I have made the mistake of having systems that were too complicated. Bins that kids can’t open or divisions that don’t make sense to them can doom a system to failure. Make sure they can access the toys and clothes, and that they can understand how you expect things to be sorted. Bins for trains, cars, and dolls make sense; bins for Thomas the Tank, Target brand trains, American Girl dolls, dump trucks, sedans, dolls with cloth bodies, and so on, do NOT.
•Confine the toys. In our house, toys belong in the playroom. If you don’t have a playroom, toys might belong in the bedroom. This doesn’t mean that toys can NEVER come out of those rooms. It just means that that is where the toys “live.” Only one bin at a time comes out of the toy “home” and it returns as soon as possible. That way, you can at least shut the door to the toy room at the end of a hard day, and sit down in a living room that’s relatively clean. Otherwise, you will find yourself stepping on Legos in the middle of the night. (No, it is not okay to sell all the Legos after one impales your foot. It’s just one of those parenting sacrifices you have to make.)
•Do “Quick Cleans.” I got this idea from the Duggar’s book and it has made a tremendous difference to us. Three or four times a day, announce a “Quick clean!” and have everyone clean up as much as they can in five, ten, or fifteen minutes. You can pick a specific area to focus on, and you can encourage your kids to go as fast as they can. Otherwise, in a house with preschoolers, you can find yourself neck-deep in chaos by the time Daddy gets home. Even though Daddy knows better than to ask, “What did you do all day?” you may look around and find yourself asking that very question.
•Pile it up. Little kids are really not very good at picking up. (“Is your room clean?” “Yes.” “Then why is _____________ still on the floor?” “Oh, I didn’t see it.”) I’ve had much better success getting my preschoolers to clean up an area by quickly piling up everything I want put away in the middle of the room. Then, they can see exactly what needs to be put away. (And, yes, I still sometimes use that with my older kids when “mess blindness” strikes.)
•Toss it in the basket. I hit upon this method out of desperation a couple of years ago. PEOPLE were coming over (don’t remember who) and the place was NOT getting cleaned up anywhere near fast enough. I grabbed a laundry basket and a trash bag and tore around the house tossing trash (papers and so on) in the trash bag and everything that was out of place in the laundry basket. Then, I put the laundry basket in the middle of the table, set the timer, and we all dashed around like mad putting the stuff away. It worked! I’ve used that at least once a week since then, and now, I also have a bin in my closet where I just toss things that I find throughout the week. The kids call it “The Confiscation Bin” and they get to retrieve the stuff from it once a week when we clean it out. And, now that I use the method regularly, a little bin suffices- no more need for a big laundry basket to contain the mess. (NOTE: Stashing the full basket in the closet is NOT a good idea. You have to actually clean the junk out and put it away.)
•When everything is melting down, stop and read a book. No, not a novel to yourself, a book to your children. It calms everyone down, lets you be the “good Mommy who reads to her children,” and resets the day. Who knows, maybe you will get to take a bath with that novel later on after all.
•Remember that little ones grow up WAY too fast. I have a ten year old. A TEN YEAR OLD! The other day he was discussing how best to fund and select his future college. Just yesterday, or maybe it was the day before, he was painting my bathroom with nail polish and running off with my freshly baked bread.