The short answer is you don’t! Sorry if you were enticed to the post for a miracle answer. I wish I had one. It is very hard to keep your house tidy and not to have some sort of mess when kids are about, no matter how hard you try or how much of a neat freak you are.
In my current role as a temporary stay at home mammy I could clean and tidy all day if I was so inclined. I’m not. I want to enjoy the time with my kids.
I do, however want some semblance of order and cleanliness. So how to achieve both? I’m still working on that but some observations, tips if you will, that I have picked up along the way.
1. Accept that less than perfect is perfect!
The first thing to do is accept that now you have kids your house will never be the same. And so it shouldn’t. A few sticky handprints, crumbs and wayward toys are part of family life. Embrace it. When I get annoyed about handprints around my house I remember this poem which accompanied a handprint home from my kids’ montessori.
“Sometimes you get discouraged
Because I am so small,
And always leave my fingerprints
On furniture and walls.
But everyday I’m growing,
I’ll be grown up someday,
And all these tiny handprints
Will simply fade away.
So here’s a final handprint
Just so you can recall,
Exactly how my fingers looked
When I was very small.”
2. A place for everything and everything in its place
Try and have a place for everything. IKEA is your friend when it comes to kids toys. Put nice big labels on the boxes so the kids know where everything goes which will make it easier to tidy up after playtime.
3. Get the kids involved
On that point, get the kids to help. They make the mess, they clean it up. Obviously age appropriate tasks but getting an 8-year-old to make her bed or a 5-year-old to put his train tracks back in the box is not exactly cruelty to children. In fact, it is an important life lesson about maintaining and tidying a home. My 3-year-old loves to help me with the laundry. Ok, sometimes it is more hindrance than help but it is good for her to see these tasks need to be done. When she is old enough she can start washing her own clothes!
4. Set a timer
I get very bored with housework at times. I have a couple of mornings to myself when my 3-year-old goes to Montessori for a couple of hours. It is very easy for those hours to just slip away either doing nothing productive at all, or spending the whole lot of it scrubbing and washing. Neither of which I like. The best thing to do is to set a timer for 30 mins, 60 mins (whatever you want) and then just go for it for that amount of time. Then give yourself a break. For me, maybe I have a coffee, maybe have a look at Facebook or write a blog post but it breaks it up allowing a productive spell too.
5. Have a task tracker
I don’t know how many times I have done certain tasks even more than I intend to while other tasks get missed completely! The way around this is to have a task tracker. In following my Power Productivity Programme from Alejandra Costello she recommends a tracker so you can keep on top of routine tasks you do daily/weekly/monthly etc. I am just finishing off developing mine and I hope it will keep me focused in achieving what needs to be done – no more, no less.
6. Declutter often
I need to practice what I preach but when you have kids they will continuously accumulate more stuff. Birthdays, Christmas, new seasons clothes. You cannot keep adding stuff into your house without getting rid of some. Unless you want to drown in toys. Donate, sell, throw away. Whatever you choose to do, do it regularly enough to keep things in order.
Not my house!
Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw at freedigitalimages.net
7. Get out!
Finally, getting out of the house means nothing gets messy or dirty. A trip to a play centre, a visit with Nana and Granddad, a trip to the park, anything! Just get the hell out of the house. 🙂