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.