Friends tell me all the time to just let go of the mess but I can’t. It is not in me, not part of my DNA, so therefore I have to be armed with as much ammo to keep the mess under control.
Clutter and messes make me anxious. It’s my kryptonite. I find it thrilling to organize! In fact, give me a few beers and a messy closet and I’m a happy girl. One would think a woman of my “issues” would not be well suited for a big family but I would not trade my little messers for the world, so I had to learn to work with them not against them. I lucked out by having a room that was turned into a play room so I could corral them in there with baby gates and clean away.
They are now five and have had chores since they were able to walk. It started with the basics like putting toys away, clothes in laundry basket, and dishes in sink. Their list of chores ranges from feeding the dog to folding the laundry in addition to the original ones. The problem with kids is being creative and keeping the idea of chores fresh so the nagging doesn’t start.
I change up charts and rewards periodically. Sometimes the reward is the act of checking off each task.
Other times I have to use good old reverse psychology to get additional help. I would say, “IF you clean your room I’ll LET you vacuum.” It works like a charm as long as it isn’t abused.
Some of my favorites when they start getting unruly and I have lots to do is as follows:
- Give them their own Windex bottle. I am a proponent of all natural but those products are super expensive and Windex is pretty harmless. For a few bucks I fill up their spray bottle and they clean windows, doors, sinks and counters. They love it and they are cleaning and not making a mess.
- My favorite for laundry, as hard as it is, is letting them fold the clothes themselves. We then took bright blue painters tape and put outline shapes of clothing in their closet so they knew where everything went.
- They each picked out their own laundry basket and picked the day of the week to bring the basket down stairs.
- I give them dull spreading knifes and let them cut vegetables or cheese while I am preparing for lunch or dinner
- Let them put the silverware away. They love laying it out on a towel and picking through their favorite pieces to put away.
Those are a few of the activities that my girls help with which is actually beneficial instead of shooing them away to make another mess I’ll have to clean.
It’s true that accountability makes them want to help and be responsible.
But you don’t need another article about getting your children involved with the chores; those are a dime a dozen. So what happens if your children are too young to help out? What then?
I now have the added joy of 4-month-olds. What can they do? Nothing. As newborns they slept for hours on end allowing me the peace I needed to scrub the house. The sleeping is far less these days. And to add to this turn of events they are at that awkward stage where they can’t quite hold their head up or play with toys so they are relying on me to keep them happy.
To keep order in this house I have to stay on top of the chores. If I skip one day of laundry if feels like weeks before I get out of the hole. I might look like an idiot while I clean but I get the job done and here are a few ways how:
- Music on and dance for the child’s entertainment while I dust
- Put them in a carrier and vacuum; this is a bonus because holding one or two babies while vacuuming is a major work out so you can check that off your list for the day
- Dump the clothes out of the laundry basket and let them sit in it. It is big enough for two but small enough to snuggle them in the corners so they can sit up and see what’s going on
- TURN on the FANS in every room you walk into. They will coo at the blades as they go round and round
- Sing to them as they sit in bouncy seats in the kitchen and you wash the dishes
Okay so we’ve spoken about the infants and the big kids but what about the little monsters that are one or two-years-old and are too little to help but too big to stay put? This is so tough because they are so active.
- Make a game of it. Put socks on their hands and watch them giggle as they follow you around touching things thus dusting
- My husband used to let them stand on the vacuum while he pushed it
- They loved a little, I am stressing LITTLE, bucket of water and a cloth to wipe the floor
- Save special toys for cleaning time. Strap them in the highchair with a puzzle or toy that they only get during this special time, even crayons and paper
- When all else fails turn on the TV
Parenting is so difficult. Just when you think you tackled one hurdle another is waiting quietly to strike just as you think you have parenting figured out.
Do a little every day. From the start be loud so your kids will nap through anything and you can utilize that time to do chores. Don’t make them feel like helping or not helping is punishment.
Bottom line, get the kids involved even if it takes three times as long to do.
Kerry Bergeman is a full-time stay at home mother of 5-year-old twin girls and newborn identical twin girls. She teaches part-time at the local community college and blogs at New2Two about life with twins, dealing with infertility and a daughter with a severe intolerance to dairy.