A while back, Luke and I (mostly I), were bemoaning the fact that after the kids go to bed, when I come back downstairs, I’m faced with an onslaught of messy house syndrome. It’s like I take a deep breath after having tucked the kids in, and then lo, my house is in shambles. It seems so discouraging and unfair that the kids are all tucked in and comfortable, when all I’d like to do is settle down for the night too! And yet, who wants to go to bed with a disaster of a house and wake up to it again? We all know what would happen come morning time–grouchy mom syndrome, to say the least. So with a huff and a puff, I’d set about to aright all the wrongs done to the house so that peace would once again be restored and I could relax.
And then, in a moment of pure genius on Luke’s part, after he had listened to me complain about this dilemma one too many times, he came up with this brillianceness (made up word–there’s no other word for it).
Here’s how it works:
After we have dinner, and whatever dinner chores assigned to each kid are finished, we set the timer for ten minutes and release the kids upon the main rooms of the house to clean it up. One person gets assigned to each room (with Landis as an assistant), and if they finish early they get sent to their own room to straighten it up. They are responsible for tidying it up perfectly–everything gets put back in its place and beautified (books straightened, pillows fluffed and replaced, blankets folded, etc).
And bam. The house is clean. And beautiful. In 10 minutes.
Sometimes we even make it a competition (as if we need to put our kids against each other anymore than they are already), and we will offer an extra treat to the winner of the most beautiful room. (*side note–I attempted to go the “non-winner” route tonight because I don’t want them to always expect that, and met with some tears from one of my children who was dreaming of a three-time victory. But we worked through it. Such is life.)
The genius of this is that it’s such a no brainer! We don’t even know why we never thought of it before. Maybe it was the age of the kids and up until now they really couldn’t be trusted with an entire room, who knows. Mostly it just took us stepping away from the situation and evaluating how our family could work together to bring peace to our home (instead of the burden always resting on me).
We don’t do it every night because sometimes the schedule just doesn’t allow it. And sometimes this momma just needs her kids tightly tucked into bed and quiet, even if it means a few more minutes of me cleaning up by myself. But I’d say we do this three or four times a week, and it’s quite amazing how pretty the kids can make the house look.
And I think it makes them feel good with all the oohing and ahhhing we do after we admire the work.
So it keeps the house, at least for one moment in the day, a group effort that all of us can take pride in. And I highly recommend it.
A note for you with really little ones…
This plan might be a stretch if you have only preschoolers and toddlers. But surely the same principle could apply, in smaller chunks. Maybe you could set the timer for less time and give them a bin or bucket or basket and have them pick up all the toys that go in that basket, or do a toy patrol where they walk around and just find all the misplaced toys and add them to the basket. I think if you start little then by the time they get old enough they can do an entire room according to your standards (mostly…).