People make assumptions about my home the minute they hear that I have seven kids. They imagine the clutter, the chaos, the dishes piled up, the toys strewn about, the stacks of mail and books and papers. I must run myself ragged trying to keep up. Either that or I don’t keep up at all.
Here’s the truth.
Today I am allowing the kids a vacation day from their schoolwork so we can spend a family day together watchin movies, playing Jenga, reading The Secret Garden, etc… I am doing this because everything on my list is caught up and I am bored.
No housework to do. No rooms to clean.
My secret is very simple and twofold.
1) Chores. My kids do chores. Everyday. They have a chore chart. Believe it or not they enjoy checking the chart each day to see what chore they have. They often trade chores. It’s allowed. I don’t get my blood pressure up if one of them has a day where they don’t want to do their job. No yelling or bribing. I believe firmly in natural consequences. I don’t spank my kids. Think about what happens to you as an adult. If you don’t go to work, you get fired. Natural consequence. Your boss doesn’t punch you. He just fires you. So, that’s how it works. If they don’t do a chore, they don’t get the next meal coming up until it’s done. They eat it cold if they whine and fuss and take too long to do it. Or they lose a treat. If I planned on giving them all ice cream, that child misses out. There’s a little mumbling and complaining but mostly there is no fits thrown. When you speak to and treat kids with matter-of-fact respect blended with discipline, they respond accordingly.
So, they help. I teach them that family means we work together. I explain how nice it is to live in a tidy home and how we ought to have pride in our home. I teach them teamwork. This lesson stems out into the rest of their life. What begins at home continues in the world. Children taught to help one another and lend a hand grow up to be good Samaritans. “See a need, fill a need.” I remind them.
2) Organization. “A place for everything and everything in it’s place” is another mantra I chant often. And I really mean it. The kitchen cabinets are organized so if I need oatmeal I know exactly where on what shelf to reach. The fridge is organized so the dairy products are on one shelf, the condiments on another. It’s all about time saving. We don’t spend a million hours a year searching for missin shoes because we own shoe organizers and then I reminded the kids twenty times a day to put them IN the organizers until it became habit. That’s the big secret. Start when they are young and make it habit.
I also have a very firm rule: No Toys out of the bedrooms. At all. Ever. Family areas are not where toys go.
Their rooms used to be a HUGE battle. A trillion toys, half of which were broken, all dumped into one storage tub. To get to the stuff at the bottom they would dump out the WHOLE thing ad then the giant mess strewn all over would be so overwhelming they would not know what to do as far as cleaning it. You know that “Holy shit…where do I begin?” feeling you get when your kitchen looks like it exploded? That.
So I went out and bought THESE at Lowes for $50 each.
You have to assemble yourself and you MIGHT be like me and act all macho and say “I don’t need to read the dumb instructions” and then bust two of the little connector pieces and have to go all the way back to Lowes and buy new ones and then go home and realize the instructions make it SUPER simple and you then put it together in 5 minutes flat…….so maybe DON’T be like me.
I also bought THESE to go inside the shelves.
They come in all different colors and are a tough fabric with a cardboard insert for the bottom. They are not insanely durable but are instead collapsible when you remove the insert so no real worries of them being destroyed by small minions. I was nervous at first that because they were not plastic my kids would destroy them but so far they have held up phenomenally well. They run about $7 each so for about $100 you can get your kids room organized and buy some serious peace of mind.
I did one room per day. Kicked the kids out (They share two-to-a-room) of their room and went to work. Starting with throwing out every single toy that was broken, not used, etc. Then I lined up the bins and designated each one to have a purpose. Cars and trucks. Characters. Animals. Lincoln Logs. Legos. Rubber duckies. I tossed each toy into its categorized bin. Then I put all of their bigger toys that won’t fit into the bins into one medium-sized storage tub. Stuffed animals found home in a laundry basket. Then I explained to the kids where everything was and that they were only allowed to pull out two bins at a time and MUST put all of their toys back in the proper space when done playing or before meals or going outside.
It has been two weeks now.
I have not had to stress or yell at all. Not ONCE. Even the 2 and 6 year olds are keeping a beautifully organized room. I do room inspections once a day. It’s insane how simple this solution was. I wish I had done this YEARS ago. I have begged, yelled, bribed, times, threatened, cried, been stressed, taken all of their toys away and locked them in the shed, etc….. All to no avail. I had to step back and realize the key was organization. They were simply overwhelmed. It is MY job as their parent to teach them how to properly clean and tidy up. I teach them to wash silverware before pans. To sort whites from darks when doing laundry, to wipe down counters before sweeping. To have a place for every toy and every toy in that place. It’s so basic it’s ridiculous. And it will save a lot of time and stress for your family. I promise.
My kids take pride in their rooms now. They pick up without being asked. Now there is far more time for family time without all of the arguments over messes.
I call this a parenting win.