My House Is a Mess

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12 minutes after cleaning

If you would like to see a visual depiction of the phrase “wasting time” in real time, you should come watch me clean my house. With three children under the age of five and two long-haired cats, the house is a disaster covered in a thin veneer of fur. Unfortunately, my threshold for mess is significantly lower than everyone else’s in my family. So, waste away, time. Waste away.

I have tried so many things to counteract the tide of crap, but they all inevitably fail. I instituted a rule that any presents we give to the kids must be made to be thrown away – for instance, markers (run out of ink); paper (gets used up). Unfortunately, I forgot to take into account that there is a superseding rule that parents SHALT NOT THROW OUT THINE CHILDREN’S ARTWORK. So now there is also artwork coming out of shelves and piling up in the basement.

I sometimes get inspired by those “Parent Hacks” you see on Pinterest. I saw one where some loving mother sorted all her children’s Legos by color and put them into a shoe organizer. First of all, I so don’t have time for that. Second, I guarantee you it would take less than four minutes for those Legos to be all over our floor with my children fighting over who got to wear the shoe organizer cape.

The best way to get any cleaning done is to send my kids down to the basement to play while I work on the upstairs. Which is great for the upstairs but results in the biggest mess ever in the basement. My children were once happily amused by a game that consisted of my oldest child bringing every bucket of toys we have over to my daughter and dumping them at her feet. As a side note – yay for my daughter for already at the age of two having total and utter dominance over the course of any given game. You go, girl. But as to the bigger point – seriously? SERIOUSLY? Every single toy?

Every once in a while I can’t take it anymore and threaten to throw out all the toys that aren’t picked up off the floor. This results in my oldest running around whimpering and throwing everything onto shelves while my daughter lackadaisically examines a book or a marble or whatever else captures her fancy. (She’s not super into consequences, that one.) But the biggest success I’ve had has been bribing my children with a quarter if they clean a room. They do a pretty decent job at it, and even more valuably, it gives me a good twenty minutes to tackle some of the other rooms. However we have run into some problems when my oldest then wants to play with a toy and my daughter goes into crazy neat-freak mode, screaming at the thought of anyone messing up the room she just cleaned. (I feel her pain.)

The obvious problem is that we have too much stuff. We clearly do. And that is even with me stealth-hiding their toys at every opportunity and getting rid of a good quarter of them at a garage sale last summer. Somehow I still can’t walk from one end of the house to the other without stepping on a toy dinosaur. The other obvious problem is that my children need to do a better job of cleaning up after themselves. But there is a delicate balance between them taking the extra ten minutes to clean up their mess before bed, and getting them to bed right this second. And the getting them to bed right this second usually prevails.

Perhaps this is the state of things when one has three small children? I would love to hear other people’s attempts at taming the mess.

17 responses to “My House Is a Mess

  1. The only way to have a tidy home is to make sure every single object, including the Scotch Tape, has a home. When things have a home, you can always find them, and you always know where to put them when you’re finished using them. When I wander from that mantra, the house can become a complete mess, even without kids.

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  2. i remember my mom being plagued by this when i was a kid and i certainly can’t understand how i’ll manage with kids – i get insane when the house looks out of place and messy from just my fiance and i. ah well, i suppose i’ll learn rapidly that things can’t be spotless all the time!

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  3. As someone who does not yet have kids, I don’t have any wise advice, but a home isn’t a home without being lived in. I’m also a fan of a full home (also known as cluttered to some people), but I like the idea of making the “mess” work for you, such as a decorative toy hammock hung on the wall as a fun and creative way to display and organize loose toys. Keep on keepin’ on! 🙂

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  4. My mom had the same “SHALT NOT THROW OUT THINE CHILDREN’S ARTWORK” philosophy. I really appreciate it as an adult that she has all of our things. It’s great to look back and laugh as a family and my stick drawings!

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    • Yes, I think they will enjoy seeing some of it when they get older. But I need to find a happy medium. Stick figures: Yes. Half-heartedly colored pictures from their coloring books: Probably not.

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  5. I liked Bill’s advice about items having a home- I grew up with 3 other siblings so we had a lot of toys, and we had a room with shelves that was devoted to toy room/toy store as well as we each had our own cabinet to put toys away behind cabinet doors and those could be shoved as much as needed to fit! For any new toy, an old toy needs to go to make room in the toy home!

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  6. I’ve got two little ones, a husband who doesn’t pick up anything (love him, but it’s true!), a shedding dog, and I run all of my businesses from home, so I get it. I am big on systems and organization, but with kids’ needs and habits changing all the time, it’s always a work in progress. We have tons and tons of storage systems and bins. We did organize our massive Lego collection (I think we have 20+ bins just for Legos — no joke) by color, and that lasted a couple of years when the kids were younger. But now that my kids are 7 and 10, the “stuff” is bigger, and we just switch up how we organize everything as we go. My youngest is a tornado when she’s in any room – she’s always been like that, and that’s just how she is. I just figure a happy home is a healthy home… it’s all good 😉

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  7. I feel your pain! We have two little ones (3.5 and 15 months), two cats, and a dog. We have toys and pet hair galore!

    When we first started collecting an abundance of toys when our son was little, little, my husband had the genius idea to turn our formal dining room (that we never use) into a play room. He bought extension baby gates from Babies R Us, connected them, and boom! instant play pen, as we affectionately call it, that keeps the toys contained. We still keep some toys in the living room, but the majority of the toys find their home in the play pen.

    The play pen does get super messy, and once a week or so we (mom or dad and kids) will pick everything up and put them in their appropriate boxes within the play pen. Every night before bed, our normal routine before going upstairs to get jammies on is to pick up the toys in the living room. My son (3.5) picks up the majority of the toys by himself, as we have trained him from very small that this is what we do. My daughter is now starting to get the idea and help a bit.

    My son is at the age where he wants to help with everything so he helps with chores while my daughter follows us around the house, dusting, vacuuming, folding laundry — whatever may be on the chore list for that day. We need to be more consistent, but we are trying to teach him the relationship between work and money so he does get compensated when he helps with chores. Our house is far from spotless, but this routine works for us. Now if only the cats and dog would start cleaning up after themselves! 😉

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  8. I feel your pain! We have two little ones (3.5 and 15 months), two cats, and a dog. We have toys and pet hair galore!

    When we first started collecting an abundance of toys when our son was little, little, my husband had the genius idea to turn our formal dining room (that we never use) into a play room. He bought extension baby gates from Babies R Us, connected them, and boom! instant play pen, as we affectionately call it, that keeps the toys contained. We still keep some toys in the living room, but the majority of the toys find their home in the play pen.

    The play pen does get super messy, and once a week or so we (mom or dad and kids) will pick everything up and put them in their appropriate boxes within the play pen. Every night before bed, our normal routine before going upstairs to get jammies on is to pick up the toys in the living room. My son (3.5) picks up the majority of the toys by himself, as we have trained him from very small that this is what we do. My daughter is now starting to get the idea and help a bit.

    My son is at the age where he wants to help with everything so he helps with chores while my daughter follows us around the house, dusting, vacuuming, folding laundry — whatever may be on the chore list for that day. We need to be more consistent, but we are trying to teach him the relationship between work and money so he does get compensated when he helps with chores. Our house is far from spotless, but this routine works for us. Now if only the cats and dog would start cleaning up after themselves! 😉

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  9. I love, love, love an honest blog post! They always crack me up. I don’t have kids, but this sounds like my brother and I to a T! We were the worst (and my dad was not much better). Also, loved comment about Pinterest Hacks because most of the time I’m like “really??” Great in theory…

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