Taming the Tornado: Housecleaning Tips With Toddlers Around
I have a confession to make. My house frequently looks like footage from houses after natural disasters hit small towns.
I have never been a good housekeeper. I have a number of talents, but cleaning is not one of them. My home will never look like
anything you see in Better Homes and Gardens or even as neat as your average sitcom living room. To be blunt, I suck at it!
However, nobody else ever steps up to do it and when you have two small children and a messy husband you have to learn how to at
least put a dent in it so nobody calls the news crew. Here's some ways I get things less zoo-like.
- Get a large box or laundry basket and sweep everything off tables and other surfaces into the box. Enlist your toddler for this
part. You have an instantly better looking home, and you can carry your box from room to room putting things away from there.
- Okay, this one sounds terrible, but it works for me. Use a broom or a rake. Yes, I'm serious! A rake will effortlessly sweep all of
the toys, paper, books and junk into one pile. Put the pile in a box and proceed as above, or just put things away from the pile, but
you will immediately feel like your house is cleaner because you have a small pile of stuff instead of a floor littered with junk. I
cringed the first few times I raked the living room, but then I decided that since it was so quick and easy, I'd rather feel silly and rake
the house and have a nicer looking house than care what anybody peeking in my windows would think.
- Do the five minute trick. Have your toddler hold a stopwatch or timer and set it for 5 minutes (or even 2). Stay in one room and
clean it as much as you can till the alarm sounds. Pick up anything that goes to the next room, and do that one for 5 minutes.
When you've done every room, take a break for a half an hour and do something fun with your kids. Then do it again. It goes quickly
and you make a big difference. You can even just do the 5 minute trick in one room several times a day, and it will make way more
difference than you'd believe.
- Do cleaning games. These have been around forever and it's because they work. Have your little ones put away everything that's
red, or round, or bigger than their hand. Have competitions to see which child can put all the things of their color away first. Have
babies put things into boxes or bins as you go. No, they don't really help much but they like it and they get used to the idea that
they should help clean. These games are also a great way to introduce concepts like colors, shapes and sizes.
- Assign a task to your toddler. If kids grow up with chores and the idea that they have a responsibility to help keep their
surroundings clean, it doesn't just help you but also them! I was never expected to help clean the house and as an adult I floundered
forever at it. If it comes as naturally as brushing their teeth or taking vitamins, children will grow up with the skills to take care of their
own homes more easily. Make sure you praise them for it and let them know you appreciate it, just the way you would anybody else.
- Get rid of stuff! This is our biggest challenge. I grew up very poor and didn't even have furniture for most of my childhood. When I
grew up I became the biggest packrat, and it took years to realize all of that stuff was robbing me of time and energy. If you don't
love it and use it, get rid of it! Donate clothes, toys and books to your local women's shelter and feel good while making your house
easier to manage. Also, some people pack away 3/4 of their children's toys every season or so and recycle them so they always
seem new. I would rather have fewer toys, but it's another approach. Remember too that if your child has too many toys she's more
likely to be overwhelmed and find nothing to do.
- I don't know who said it, but there's a lot of truth to the saying "Cleaning with kids around is like shoveling the driveway while it's
still snowing." Pick a few times per day that are designated cleaning times. For me it's while the kids eat breakfast, after craft time
and before we do activities. My two year-old, Victoria, recites "We have to clean up one mess before we make another" and she
knows that as soon as we get things liveable she gets to do something else fun.
Remember that as much as you cringe at the idea of anybody seeing your chaotic house some days, your kids aren't going to look
back on their childhoods and ever say "Man, I wish my mom had kept the house cleaner." Some things just aren't priorities right
now. Sometimes the best thing to do is shove it all in a closet and go play horsie.
And if you ever come to our house, please don't open the closets!
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All works on this site Alicia Bayer unless otherwise noted.
Don't take it - that would be rude.