Note that I said tidy, not clean. If you pop over unannounced, my living room will be picked up but I ask you kindly to not take too long of a look at our bathtub grout situation.
Let’s get the disclaimer-ing out of the way early, I am obviously no Kon-Mari expert, just a mom trying not to lose her mind on the daily. I also realize that people have a different threshold for clutter and disorder and mine is really, REALLY low. I can’t really handle a bunch of stuff lying around all of the time. I like a place for everything and tend to clean up one activity before starting the next.
I sound SO FUN, I KNOW but since I run this mother, I make the rules. I tend to think of our house as my workplace (stick with me here), and when I was working, I always, always tidied up my desk at the end of the day, setting myself up for getting right to work the next morning. I couldn’t imagine walking into a desk full of clutter and disorganization. It would take me more time and mental energy to organize and clean up then just being able to start my work. SO, full circle, I like to have my home tidy (even if it’s just in the evenings) so we can wake up and get to “work” aka playing and doing all the things.
Now that we’ve gotten my neurosis out of the way, how do we do it? I limit the stuff, make organization easy, encourage the kids to help clean, and we do a ten-minute tidy twice a day.
If you take away one tip, let it be this: It’s not an organization problem, it’s a stuff problem. Quote from some wise and sage internet meme. 😉
I go through our kids’ clothes, books, and toys regularly and I don’t have a problem showing stuff the door (yes, EVEN gifts). When they were younger I usually went through things while they were napping so I didn’t have to worry about them being upset but I’ve now started including them in the process. I just explain that we are passing on clothes/toys/etc to the next family who needs them. They’re surprisingly on board with it and I haven’t had a problem yet. Obviously there are some toys and clothes (I’m looking at you cat shirt that Harper wears 4 days a week) that I would just like to chuck into a burning fire but they love them (and use them!) so they stay. If you’re starting from scratch here and are worried the kids will miss something, take out the toys and store them somewhere out of sight for three weeks. Still no mention of the item? Feel free to part with it, guilt free.
Once you’ve got a handle on your toy situation, let’s organize it. I have been the most successful with using baskets to corral everything. I don’t use kid specific baskets, I just buy jute ones from Target or HomeGoods. They tend to blend in better with my home so I don’t mind them sitting around. We have two in the sunroom that hold 80% of all of the kid toys. The puzzle and legos are in Hudson’s closet to keep Lucy from demolishing/eating them.
Our makeshift toy room/sunroom off our dining room area. Lucy enjoying contraband tractors while Hudson is at preschool.
I try to limit the extreme organization of toys as I think it overwhelms them and nothing ends up getting put away. While I love seeing all of your color coded lego storage solutions on Pinterest, I know that is not sustainable for us. So most toys just go into the big baskets in the sunroom. I also have half of our media console dedicated to smaller toys like blocks and magnet tiles.
They all have containers so the kids know exactly where the toys belong. Think of large scale organization; all of the vehicles in one box, not one box for trains, one for planes, one for cars. I find that it’s too much for the kids to keep up with.
Next tip, start them young! Even young children can understand and learn to clean up when an activity is done. When we’re doing our ten-minute tidy, even Lucy helps. Keeping the storage solution simple streamlines this and makes it easy for kids to learn and remember where toys go.
Moving past the toy clean up, have the kids help with chores around the house. We don’t have any assigned yet but the kids bring all of the laundry to the kitchen to be sorted, love unloading the dishwasher and washing the dishes (this still needs a lot of assistance), they’ll put up the floor poufs on the couch for vacuuming, and they put away their folded clothes.
We’ve tried to explain that as a family we all take responsibility for keeping our home clean and enjoyable. I know some might bristle at the thought of having small kiddos cleaning but if we don’t instill it as part of our family culture when they’re young, I don’t think an 11 year old is just going to wake up one day and think, I should probably take on cleaning the bathroom for the family. Also, the reality is that we have a large(ish) family and it is unreasonable to think that one person (mom!) can keep up with all of the work it takes to run a home alone.
So my last nugget of wisdom, do a ten-minute tidy, twice a day. I try to encourage the kids to put away an activity before starting the next but usually we have an assortment of blocks, books and toys around the house (which is fine! They’re kids!). I used to just feel like I was following behind them cleaning up stray messes all day long before instituting a set clean up time, twice a day. We do one at 11 am and one at 5 pm. They’re both natural breaks in our day, right before lunch and dinner. I put on some music and the kids run around and throw all of the toys back in their bins, shoes in their baskets and any other stray items get put away. I usually load any dishes into the dishwasher and run the vacuum after they’ve cleaned up.
That’s it! How we keep this place rolling on a daily basis. I’d love to know how you keep the kid clutter away.