This is a guest post I did for my old neighbor and friend Kim’s blog, The Lifestyle and Fashion Place. She asked me to give her 8 tips for keeping a clean house with kids. It’s a bit different from my normal Snoqualmie stories, but I thought a change of pace could be fun for my readers. Somehow I have convinced Kim over the years that I am a great housekeeper. With 4 kids I am convinced I have just “conned” her all these years!
Have places for everything. In a pinch you can hide it quickly. My pantry is filled with baskets. My house is filled with storage furniture pieces. A rattan storage cube doubles as an end table. I hide blankets there. An armoire in the living room hides the kids toys. Baskets on shelves are filled with art supplies, office supplies, and kid art work. Baskets under entryway benches hide little shoes, hats and mittens. Rubbermaid storage closets line garage walls. They are filled with shoes, garden supplies. Create a hiding place for all the crud that drives you nuts. Maybe the baskets are not organized perfectly, but sometimes just hiding it saves your sanity!
REALIZE CHILDREN ARE LITTLE SLAVES
In this age of kid entitlement, try and take a step back in time…say to the 1950′s when kids did chores because it was considered part of being a family, not because they got paid for it. Really, do I get paid for what I do around the house? Then why would I pay them? They owe me. I waited on them hand and foot until this point! Once my kids were old enough to reach cabinets and not break my dishes, the dishwasher became their domain. I cook. I drive. I grocery shop. They can rotate the daily chores I hate. Those chores include cleaning out and loading the dishwasher, sweeping the kitchen floor and cleaning the counters. If these duties are shared by ALL, it’s more likely Mom will have energy to cook a great dinner and not cringe at having to drive the teenager yet one more place.
TEACH YOUR KIDS HOW TO DO LAUNDRY
My two oldest daughters now do their own laundry! They are 14 and 16. All my kids fold the laundry. I am lucky to have an upstairs laundry room. That means the hampers are not in the kids’ rooms. I figure they are bright enough to carry their dirty clothes 15 feet to the community laundry room hampers. This way I know when a load needs to be done without having to search. One problem…the older girls hide dirty clothes in their closets. Solution? You hide it, you wash it. I became so frustrated thinking all laundry was done only to have a daughter bring tons of hidden clothes to the hamper. BAM! Mom is mad because she thought all the laundry was done. I finally broke and bought them their own hampers, under the condition that they do their own laundry. Problem solved.
FIND A CHARITY
Find a charity that does home pick ups. Get on their monthly donation list via phone or email. Once a month they call to say they will be in the neighborhood. Presto! Bag it and donate it. I keep a stack of clothes that don’t fit or no one wears. With 4 kids this happens a lot. When someone tries something on that is too small (but still nice) into the pile it goes. When Community Services for the Blind calls, I write down the pick up date, bag the clothes and put it on the porch. Magic! Excess stuff gone without me driving it anywhere. Sometimes I miss that magic charity phone call. So I just go online and schedule a pick up on their website, http://www.donatecsb.org/. Find a charity that makes it easy on you.
With four kids you get a lot of papers, drawings, etc. After my third child I realized I could not save everything. I pick and chose a few memorable things and the rest goes. Typically I do this when the kids are not home. If they want to believe I save it all, I am fine with that. As long as they see a few great pieces in the art box, they tend to forget about the rest. My older kids like to save important class work in folders in their rooms. After a couple of years even they realized what was important and what wasn’t – and recycled! Yes, all that training paid off.
MAKE IT A HABIT
If you let it go, chances are there is no turning back. There is nothing worse than feeling so overwhelmed that there is no place to start. We sweep every day, sometimes more than once. The counters are sprayed each day. Recycling is taken out each day. The dishwasher runs and is unloaded almost everyday. Don’t let the mess control you. Control the mess.
CYCLE THROUGH THE BIG CHORES
I hate days where you have to clean ALL day long. Instead I have days for certain big chores. I don’t write it down. I am not a Drill Sergeant. I look around each day and see what needs to be done. Sometimes the mess jumps in my face because it’s been so long. Kids divide up the vacuuming on its designated day. A certain day becomes toilet scrubbing day. I may not get to the rest of the bathroom, but at least the dreaded toilets get scrubbed. Cleaning a glass-door shower is a biggie. My solution? Pick a day and do it while you are showering. Don’t freak out. It works. It’s so much easier to clean a shower when you are already wet. And by the way, the best solution for those dirty glass shower doors? Scrubbing Bubbles Spray and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Every house should have Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. They are amazing.
REALIZE CLEAN DOES NOT MEAN PERFECT
If you stay on top of things, cleaning shouldn’t occupy too much of your day, considering how many hours are in a day. Many of you probably don’t believe this, but I have found it’s true. Cycle through big chores, have your kids clean the kitchen daily. When the laundry room hamper is full, throw a load in, and then have the kids fold it. It’s all about not letting your house overtake you. My house is not perfectly clean every day of the week. My kitchen and family room are my bulls-eye because that’s where I spend so much time. If that area is tidy, I am calmer. If I strove for perfection in each and every room, I would be insane!