Anyone with kids can tell you that from an organizational standpoint, sharing a home with little people can be frustrating. And if you don't share your home with little people- I'll clue you in on a secret- It can be frustrating. If you've ever shared a living space with ANYONE you can surely attest to the fact that different people have different cleanliness habits, and what drives you crazy (whiskers in the sink, hair balls in the shower, dirty dishes on the counter) may not even register on the radar of your roommate. The thing about kids is that for the first several years they don't even have radar as far as clutter is concerned, so nothing will ever register. Remember that fact when looking around your house in disgust at the mess created by the little people.
This week I was asked by the ladies at BlogHer:
What are your best tips for keeping the clutter at bay with kids in the house?
How do you help your kids develop good organizing skills?
I once read somewhere that the best way to minimize disappointment is to monitor your expectations. I think it's a great tip to keep in mind for all aspects of parenting (and many other areas of life as well). If we realistically check in with our expectation level to be sure it's appropriate we will spend less time feeling frustrated by things that aren't realistic to begin with.
So after I read this advice, the type A part of me, (which is most of me), became obsessed with figuring out what exactly a realistic expectation was for every age and every set of behavior. I was determined to feel less frustrated by better understanding what I could and should expect from a toddler or a preschooler. Unfortunately there isn't a concrete set of rules for me to share with you- but through trial and error I have learned this: Little people aim to please, and if we set them up for success, they will thrive.
So in regards to keeping a clutter free house with kids, in My home this means:
1) Minimized expectations for kid driven cleanliness
2) Child involvement in household routines
3) Small and specific instructions given and repeated frequently
4) Big reactions and small rewards
I don't expect my kids to remember to clean up after themselves- because at their ages of 3 and 5, I feel that it's a somewhat unrealistic expectation. But I DO expect them to participate in daily tidying routines, under my specific guidance. For my 3yr old especially this means detailed task by task delegation.
Put your shoes by the door, then come back and see me. Take the dolls to your room, then come back and see me. Take your dishes to the sink, then come back and see me.
And then when the tasks are done, I grin ear to ear and make it seem like world peace has been achieved. It works so well that when we are in cleaning mode, one of their favorite things to do is to "surprise me" with a clean room- complete with dramatic door opening and a proud declaration of "Ta-Dah!" "Mom, you're going to LOVE this!!" they say to me. Even if the room is far from perfect, I "Ooooh," and "Aaaaah," at the sight, and then go back to step 3 with small specific instructions on how to complete the job to my satisfaction.
I'm also not above occasional bribery- such as rewarding a clean room with a piece of gum, but I really pass out the rewards when they do good deeds without being asked. By this point all of the kids in the neighborhood know that I'm good for a round of Popsicles following an unprompted playroom cleanup. I don't require that the playroom be cleaned daily (because that's part of my realistic expectation of this stage of life- sometimes it's gonna look lived in), but when they do a great job of picking up and putting away without nagging I'm sure to let them know how much I appreciate it.
What about you? What are your best tips and tricks for keeping the clutter under control even in a house full of lovely little ones?
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