Do you feel like you can never keep your house clean? Everywhere you look, you see toys left out after playtime is over? Does it seem that you minute you pack away the broom and dust pan your kids inevitably leave a trail of cracker crumbs not five minutes later?
This was our home too.
I was stuck in a rut feeling like I was constantly cleaning, picking up toys strew on the floors and wiping up messes.
My time was spent cleaning more than my time was spent playing with my kids.
I was irritable, getting upset when one of the kids dropped something on the floor instead of finding a way to make it a teachable moment.
Thankfully, gone are my days of being upset about the mess of childhood play.
We have an organization system in place that keeps lets us live in a mess free home, even with three kids and three dogs.
(And most importantly, doesn’t involve me scrubbing the floors everyday!)
I WAS YOUR TYPICAL CONSUMER WHO HAD TOO MUCH
My house was full of “stuff” before I had kids but once we found out we were pregnant, the accumulation of baby clothes, toys, and items such as activity centers, play areas and supplies seemed to multiply each month and quickly – especially having twins and thinking that we *needed* two of everything!
And while we eventually outgrew the baby stuff, next came toddler and then big kid stuff. Mountains of stuff. It seemed like we couldn’t get away from growing our inventory of clothes and toys or dig out from the “stuff” that was overtaking our house.
We knew we wanted a clean house that was functional but still kid-friendly and finally through many purges and trial and error organization methods, we’ve found a way to streamline our items, live without clutter, organize our playroom and family areas and most importantly, find a cleaning system that doesn’t take much time every day.
We wake up in a mess free home and go to bed in a clean house. Here’s how!
ELIMINATE (& Then Eliminate Some More)
The first thing you must do to live in a clean house is to get rid of all the non-essentials.
Kids grow fast – they grow out of toys, out of clothes, out of phases and we think they need more than they actually do.
Our homes are filled with material objects we – at one point – thought we *had to have.*
If you want a clean house, you have to start by doing a monster purge. This involves your children’s toys, clothing, equipment and the rest of your home.
I love using the KonMari method for clothing and books, and to listen to our gut about what possession we have that we’re holding onto for sentimental reasons instead of necessity. Read this for an easy tutorial to decluttering once and for all.
BONUS DOWNLOAD: Decluttering & Eliminating Checklist For Your Whole Home
DON’T BUY NEW UNLESS…
Stop buying things. Don’t bring more into your home unless you’ve prepared to get rid of something else. These two rules will save you a lot of mess and money!
Do not buy new unless it’s for birthdays or holidays.
This was a tough rule for us to adhere to at first because our children’s interests changed frequently and it felt like we were always bringing new items in the house or the backyard to keep everyone busy and entertained.
But then, those purchases were only adding to the mess in our house and our kids were not only making me unhappy, but our kids weren’t playing with their toys for very long before losing interest and their creativity was becoming stagnant.
PROVEN FACT: boredom is an incredible creativity booster for children!
When kids are surrounded with light-up toys and a constant stream of new entertainment, they loose the ability to tap into their imaginations.
Children who have less, play longer with the limited toys they have, increase their attention spans and can engage for longer periods of time, and most importantly, use their imaginations to create games and entertainment.
The bottom line is that having too many toys and things, makes your house messy, harder to keep clean and tidy and stifles kid’s imaginations.
When it’s time for our twins’ birthday, we make a note on invitations to not bring gifts. Sometimes guests still bring gifts and we donate these items to organizations that our children select.
Our gift to our children is throwing them a birthday party and we buy them one present that they will use all summer. In the past, this has been bikes, scooters and a hard shell pool for the backyard where they can be physical active and be creative!
Before Christmas, we go through all of the toys in our house to see what they’ve outgrown or don’t have any interest in any longer. The kids also participate and fill a boy of toys to donate to make room for any presents they receive over the holidays. At the holidays, consider gifting experiences instead of filling your home with more toys!
MAKE RULES FOR PICKING UP MESSES
We have one main rule in our house – clean up your toys once you’re done playing with them and before you move onto something new.
It took some getting used to but has really helped that this is also a rule at preschool, and we all know that consistency is key! Now, we never have messes that need to be cleaned up throughout the day and it’s so nice.
If you ever notice your house piling up with toys, institute the magic 2-Minute Clean-Up for a quick fix to an all-over house clean-up.
FIND YOUR DUMPING GROUNDS & IMPLEMENT A SYSTEM
There is a place for everything in our house even if it’s in the laundry basket.
It takes some time to establish habits but if you make an effort to identify your dumping grounds – whether it’s on the floor of your closet, entry table or kitchen counter space that serves as your catch-all – create a system that solves these areas.
We have laundry baskets in everyone’s closet and labeled bins in the entry of our house so mail, keys, magazines, etc. all have a place to immediately go when we enter the house or bring in the mail.
In the garage, we have a storage system for jackets and sweaters to be hung up and bins for shoes so our kids have one place to find and put their shoes on and keep their jackets.
Here is a quick tutorial on how to assemble your own storage system for jacket and shoes with a bookcase and 30 minutes. Here is a great system you can buy and put into your garage, mudroom or entry to have one set stop for shoes and coats.
SET-UP DESIGNATED PLAY AREAS
Choose one or two places in your home that are for playing and keep the toys corralled into these areas so they don’t get strewn all over your home.
Teach your children that toys stay in those areas and once they’re done playing in the room, they need to clean up after themselves before moving on.
For example, our kids have some toys and books in their rooms for quiet time, a playroom and a basket in our living room with a handful of play items and quiet activities.
EXPERIENCES TRUMP MATERIALISM
How many times have you thought you’ve bought the perfect for your child only to see that their interest in it lasted for ten minutes and they’ve dropped it behind and moved onto something else?
Children don’t need material items, what they need are memorable experiences.
I know my children would always choose to head out of the house and go to the zoo or even have a picnic over playing at home with their toys. They want to get go and see things and most importantly, want their parent’s undivided attention and time with their family.
Do you think your child would rather have a toy or go out and get ice cream with you? Do you think your child wants a baby doll as a gift or a stroll around the neighborhood one-on-one with Mom?
In the long run, what do you think will mean more to your child and to your relationship with your child. the memories and experiences you share together, not the toys you bought them.
Paper is the number one thing that leads to clutter and mess. It’s everywhere!
Mail, bills, magazines, work, homework, arts and crafts, junk mail, school projects, newspapers… it consumes your countertops, drawers and filing systems.
Turn your valuable documents (mortgage, life insurance, wills, birth certificates, investments, taxes) into digital files, and when you’re ready, start this process for everything else that comes into your home that you need to save. Create a digital file of the document, save it to an appropriate folder, and back-it up (this one is a little pricey, but HUGE and a high-quality brand.)
What subscriptions can you do without and what can you automate to paperless so that it never even enters your home? Subscribe for electronic billing and turn your kid’s artwork into digital files for easy storage.
RECAP FOR A MESS FREE HOME
Having a mess free home while raising kids is not easy, but the hard work is on the front-end during the decluttering and eliminating that you need to do before you can really get started.
Once you get rid of all the non-essentials, you’ll not only feel a huge relief, but the burden of trying to keep your home clean will be immediately lessened.
The rules for having a clean and mess-free home while raising kids and helping kids understand they have a role in helping out with the family home, too:
- Declutter & eliminate the non-essentials
- Don’t Bring Anything New Into Your House Unless You Get Rid of Something Else
- Don’t Buy New Unless for Birthdays & Holidays
- Your Kid’s Don’t Need A lot of Toys (this is much better for creativity & imagination anyways)
- Make Rules for Cleaning Up Toys & Messes
- Set Up Designated Play Areas
- Find Your Dumping Ground Areas & Create Organization Systems
- Remember, Kids Will Always Choose Experiences Over More Toys
- Go Paperless and Eliminate the Paper Stacks In Your Home
BONUS DOWNLOAD: Decluttering & Eliminating Checklist For Your Whole Home
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