Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Keeping a Mess-Free Home... with Toddlers

While sitting around with a bunch of friends today, we started talking about our houses being a "total disaster." Although I think that term probably means totally different things to different people, I'll say one thing for sure: since having toddlers around, it is VERY EASY for my house to become--for lack of a better phrase--a total disaster.

I don't have boatloads of extra energy right now. I certainly don't want to spend the energy that I DO have, on cleaning up messes. And believe me, these kids know what they're doing in that category. ;)

So. There are certain ideas I've heard floating around, such as... kids cleaning up set of toys before starting on another one, kids being responsible for their own room clean-up, etc... Those are all fabulous ideas, and I tend to follow all of them.


What I'm talking about is far more simple, and [maybe] far more radical. Okay, okay, don't get your hopes up. This isn't rocket science, especially since it's coming from me. You've probably heard this concept multiple times over on this blog.

You ready for my #1 tip on keeping a mess-free house, with several young children running around???

Wait for it...

Don't have a lot of stuff.

Minimize, minimize, minimize. Get rid of everything you don't use or need.

I hope you're not overly disappointed. ;)

This would probably be my Tip #2: Once you've gone through every area (and I mean EVERY area) of your house, then give everything you still WANT, a permanent resting place. The kids will know where everything is, and you'll know where everything is.

That basket holds all three kids' summer shoes. When we walk in the door, the first thing the kids are supposed to do (and I remind them constantly, just in case they forget) is to take off their shoes and PUT THEM AWAY. The girls are responsible for grabbing Matthias's shoes--now that he's walking--when we're going anywhere. I'll say, "Jemima and Rachel, go put on your shoes, and please get Matthias's shoes."

And they know where the shoes are. Isn't that AWESOME?!

So as for shoes, by the way, Matthias has two pairs, and the girls have a few more than that (a couple pairs of church shoes, a couple pairs of sandals or flip-flops each). If the shoes are dirty, they get cleaned off before they go into the basket, so that everything in the basket stays tidy. (Oh, yeah, and I bought the basket at a yard sale. Of course.)

Moving onto to our toy situation...

This is it, guys (umm, ladies). The top two fabric baskets hold crafting supplies, and the bottom four are filled with their toys. Occasionally toys will get placed in the kids' closets for the night (so they can play with them again in the morning), but I'm talking only a few toys. At the end of the day, all the toys we own could be comfortably placed in those four baskets.

I realize that a few years down the line, we might have far more toy storage than that. Some of you might be asking yourselves, "Then what do the kids PLAY with??" But right now, the kids are all relatively young, and they really don't need anymore than that. Since it's summer time, they play outside for a couple hours almost every day, or they color, or they look at books, or they hang out with me doing whatever I'm doing. But they've never seemed to need anymore toys than what we currently have.

By the way, I'm not just limiting the kids' stuff. A week ago, I went through all our random storage, and at the end of my re-organization, this is what we had.

Oh, and HALF of that is going to be sold in a few weeks--at two different sales I'm planning/participating in.

Of course it's GREAT when the kids learn to put their things away... it makes life SO much easier... but if there are THAT many fewer things to clean up, it also makes the "cleaning-up" task easier on everyone.

This is the way our living room looks [almost] every night.

Actually, I just ran in and snapped that photo. And that's the GOAL... that mess-making is kept to a minimum, because what we OWN is kept to a minimum.

I'm going to give you one more example--the girls' bedroom.

You'll notice that not much is going on. That's in part because I'm not a great decorator, and a terrible crafter, so I really have no idea what to put on the walls. But even if I DID (and I may, one day), it'd be simple. I'd rather have a room that was empty, than a room full of stuff I didn't want (AND stuff that would just end up making more messes!).

There are several areas, of course, in which I'm NOT a minimalist--or not an extreme one. It's all relative. ;) One that immediately comes to mind would be kids' clothes. I love shopping for kids' clothes, and besides... I'd rather have a few extra shirts/shorts/dresses laying around, for variety's sake, than realize that I hadn't done the wash for a week, and the kids didn't have anything to wear.

So, yup, I like clothes and hairbows. (The girls' hairbows are kept in that pink chevron box, by the way.) And a few other things. ;)

But in general, my mindset right now is...

"Excess leads to mess. Get rid of excess."

Yes, I just thought of that right now. But it works, doesn't it?

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