Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Secret to Cleaning with Little Kids

I have a mental list of projects that need doing.  One of which was to clean my room.  This was going to mostly involve putting a lot of laundry away, and probably re-washing laundry as well, since most of the problem that was there was some stacked up laundry baskets full of clean clothes that hadn't been put away, and a box and laundry basket of the kids stuff and some odds and ends that had been put in our room "until we got around to dealing with them".  Add to that a pack-n-play, a chair, and the disconnected footboard of our bed, and it was really annoying me.  The baskets were all stacked against the dresser and closet, the pack-n-play in another corner near our tiny non-functioning tv, and the footboard was leaning against our bed during the day and against the pack-n-play during the night. 

The main issue was that I was always having to move the footboard around twice a day and I couldn't really get at our tiny closet.  I'm not as able to straighten up our room because either A) someone is sleeping in there, or B) someone is sleeping directly accross the hall from there.
Then last Saturday night something rare happened.  All three kids slept over at Spencer's parents' house!  Not because we asked them to watch them so we could go somewhere, but just because they wanted to have the kids over.  The girls spent most of the day with Nana and Papa and Little Man joined them at dinnertime.  That night after seeing Black Swan with Spencer, I started my project.  There was a lot of laundry washed, dried, folded, hung, and actually put away that night!
Between cleaning our room, doing 8 Billion loads of laundry (between our dirty clothes, clean-but-sitting-too-long clothes, daycare bedding, and the kids clothes), and straightening up the living room which had been laundry/organizing central all evening, I was astonished at how quickly I could get things done without little kids in the house! 

I read somewhere that Rule #1 to having a clean house is Not to have young children.  Well, crap.  I have 3 young children of my own, and 5 others that come on various days at various times to live here during the day.  I've come to the realization that I can NOT keep up all the house cleaning while taking care of all these young children!  I can choose to have a spotless house, or have young children in the house... I definately choose the kids!  If I spend a Saturday kids are mostly left to entertain themselves, and this typically means they will mess up areas which I have just cleaned.  I can not just ignore my daycare kids while I scrub down the house and do a couple billion loads of laundry... their parents do not pay me to clean my own house while their children wander about all day.  The only thing that works is a balance of sorts, and getting the kids involved in the process.

When I have an interview in the evening, I can't just wait until the kids are in bed to get my cleaning done, it has to look nice before dinnertime.  This means I have extra cleaning to do during those days.  What I've learned to do during those days is give the kids lots of cleaning jobs throughout the day.  Extra clean-up times, sweep the floor, dust the living room, and one of their favorites (and a total time-sucker) cleaning stuff with baby wipes.  Asking a 4-year-old to sweep the floor will not earn me a totally swept floor.  It will, however, earn me time to load the dishwasher or clean the mirrors, while they are busy doing something that is NOT spreading every kitchen toy througout the house.  I give them extra table activities (clean ones) that are both educational and fun so I can run a vacuum around the carpet edges.  I have the preschoolers read to the toddlers (if they'll sit for it... which they usually don't) and help them clean up toys. 

Even the toddlers like cleaning with baby wipes.  I'll give them one of Little Man's wipes and they find random toys, areas of floor, and walls to "clean".  The kids all learn to help out, they like doing chores they don't usually get, I tend to bring out table activities they haven't seen in a while - which is always more fun for them, and I get a few extra minutes to wipe down the bathroom.

I have a "perfect pick-up" chart where the kids put stickers in the row by their name when they work hard to clean up every single toy at clean up times.  Sometimes we play the "clean up game" where I pick a toy in my mind that is not put away, and then I say, "Go!" and they work like mad to clean up as many things as they can, because if they are the one that winds up putting the secret toy away, they get 2 stickers on the pick-up chart!  Once they get 10 stickers they get to pick a prize from a bag I have full of things like happy meal toys and party favors.  Cheap stuff that will make them feel like they've earned something for all their hard work, and their parents can toss when the kid gets bored with the item after a week.

So, while the secret to keeping a house clean all the time is really to not have young children in the house, getting them involved in the process - no matter how little they are actually doing to get the house clean - will result in a house that is at least "lived-in clean", and will give them the practice they need so that at some point they will be able to really mop/sweep/vacuum/do dishes.  Letting them help also is good for burning off energy and building up their confidence in their ability to do "grown up" stuff. 

If you've got little ones at home, get them involved when you're cleaning and you won't have to pull your hair out because while you just spent 20 minutes cleaning out the refrigerator - your child just dumped every stinkin toy out onto the living room floor.  Your little mess-maker will eventually be a big help to your daily chore list!

I need to update you on how the new chore chart is working. I love it even more than I did when I hung it up and I can't wait to tell you more about it!

All that said, if you have a toddler in the house... you're just going to have to come to grips with the fact that things will not be smooth sailing until they are a little bit older.  There are days like today, where keeping the house clean just doesn't really happen because half the family is sick, and the toddler is cranky and climbing on tables every chance he gets.  Though your toddler will make things difficult to keep up with, give yourself a little slack - preschoolers on up can, and want to, help out quite a bit! 

I can't wait until the kids are old enough to be trusted with doing the dishes.. because keeping up with the never-ending supply of dirty dishes and dirty laundry is still my biggest struggle.


GopherMommy said...

Great ideas and pratical. I should have the husband read these, as he has been home with the kids since December and the house is looking worse and worse....

mom said...

Good ideas. Kids do like to help and feel a part of the family. Plus living without clutter makes life much easier to find stuff and have stuff ready when you need it.
Glad your chore chart is working so great.

Tara O said...

I argue with my hubby all the time about this. I'm a SAHM with 4 little ones- 7years, (in school FT) twin boys who are 5 (in school only 4 hrs. a day til next year) and a 2 year old. My 2 year old DD is THE BEST HELPER EVER!!! I hope she stays that way! LOL She LOVES cleaning with wipes even when I don't ask her! The house is a mess all the time because they undo everything I do as I do it, and DH says the house SHOULD stay clean- to "keep on top of them" and I say it's next to impossible. They play with toys, pick something up, color, or do whatever, and I come back out from doing laundry, and it looks like no one has cleaned for weeks! They're AMAZING at destroying the house, which... unfortunately is a bad thing. lol I love the comment of "The only way to keep your house clean is by not having kids" I really feel that's the only way it's gonna happen. lol I try to keep on top of things with the kitchen and laundry, and I CLEAN one room a day, and a quick pick up at night to get things tidy.

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