A few months ago I made a new friend at play group, we'll call her Sarah. :) She has three very active boys and newborn baby and still manages to keep the chaos to a minimum. For awhile whenever I went over to her house I was fairly amazed at the fact that she managed to keep things clean. And I have seen and heard plenty of examples of destruction from these boys, it's not like they are low maintenance. (Meanwhile when she came over to my house she said it was like seeing a vision of what her life would be like post-baby. I told her not to worry, it would only be this bad if she's crazy enough to have 4 surgeries right after having that baby.) One day Sarah showed up on my doorstep with her cleaning caddy and while our babies laid on a blanket and our kids played together we attacked Thing 1's room. The progress that we made in an hour and a half was nothing short of astounding. I snapped a picture and sent it to my husband. (I'd post the picture, but it doesn't mean very much without the before shot.) He asked me if a wizard had visited our house. Almost. Here are some tips that Sarah gave me as we cleaned.
- Tackle one room at a time, and if you can, do it with a friend. :)
- Take at least half the toys and pack them away. Rotate them when the kids get bored or request one that they can't find.
- Throw things away. Be ruthless. (Apparently throwing things away is one of Sarah's favorite-st things to do. And she always throws away all McDonald's toys. It made me think, instead of buying the Happy Meals in the first place, I may just pay my kids $1 every time to not get the toy. Then they can save up for something nicer.)
- Don't leave the room to put things away. You're wasting time and energy. Give yourself 3 (or 4) containers. 1. Put away (elsewhere in the house) 2. Throw away 3. Give away (4. Pack away- toys or seasonal clothes.)
- Teach your children not to hoard. It's a tough thing, kids like to collect things with little or no value. And Thing 1 is the 'hoardiest' child I have encountered. Really, I adore her, but she wants to save every ribbon, every paper, every broken balloon, every rock and every leaf. It's not conducive to keeping her room or the rest of the house clean.
- Hangers are your friend. Kids have a tendency to 'dump' shelves and drawers. Hang up as much stuff as you can.
- Clorox tabs help keep your toilet clean between scrubbings. (Sarah said without them and with three little boys she had to scrub her toilets daily.)
- Pumice stones are great for removing any hard to remove spots on the inside of your toilet bowl.
- Energy efficiency toilets are much harder to clean. We have a regular toilet in the bathroom that gets used the most and a "low-flow" toilet in our master bath and I couldn't figure out why I spent twice as much time scrubbing our master toilet with lesser results. Sarah enlightened me. So I may be saving some water with that toilet, but not to make up for the wasted time, energy and cleaning supplies that I have to put into maintaining it. This is a case where I don't think trying to save the environment pays off. If only dual-flush toilets were easily available in our area like they are in Europe.
I think that the biggest enemy to maintaining a clean house is clutter. At first when Sarah was strongly pushing me to throw stuff away, it was slightly uncomfortable. I felt like the guests on 'What Not to Wear'. They know that they don't dress well, but they have a hard time parting with their old clothes that are what make them poorly dressed even though someone is giving them $5000 to spend on new better looking clothes. There's an emotional attachment to the old clothes. I feel the same way about the clutter. I know that if my house is ever going to get clean I have to get rid of a lot of the junk. Part of me says 'But I spent money on this junk! How can I throw it away?' or 'But (fill in the relative) gave them that toy, sometime I will get around to fixing it.' Yeah, well I have to get over that, uncomfortable though it may be. The reality is that I am not going to get around to fixing broken toys and having a clean house is more important to me than having a bunch of junk.