When we were expecting our first child, I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew I had to keep my house in order, to maintain my sanity. I did not want my house to be overrun by toys and mess. You’re laughing, right? It’s OK, I’m laughing, too.
Now my three children are nearly grown and looking back, I can see how I certainly did find ways to maintain an orderly home, without being a totally unreasonable parent. Here’s how I did it.
1. Set expectations, but remain flexible. Before I had kids, I had no idea just how much stuff they need. Diapering stations, exersaucers, play mats and blankets, bassinets, the list goes on and on. It’s easy to fill up a home with baby and toddler supplies, and at the end of the day, there’s little energy left for anything, especially cleaning up. A good start is to hold the intention that you maintain a level of order in your home that helps you feel clear-minded and joyful… understanding that it’s not going to be anywhere near perfect.
2. A place for everything and everything in its place. When we had our first child, I bought attractive baskets and woven storage items and we set one in every room. This facilitated quick and easy clean-up when “I just can’t take the clutter right now!” or when guests were en route. That way, instead of trying to pick up a whole house at once, it was easy to go room-by-room (only on the main floor of our home) and transfer all the baby things for that room from the floor into that room’s bin.
When my second child arrived, we had a three-story home and I knew I didn’t feel like always going up to the nursery every time I needed to change new baby’s diaper. So I bought a couple of small tray carriers with handles, like the kind you would use for gardening, or crafting, or small tools. These inexpensive carriers turned out to be a lifesaver because I filled them with diapering supplies to make a “portable changing station.” I could send my preschooler to fetch the nearest one and have baby all cleaned up in no time, all with minimal space investment, and zero clutter.
3. Teach your kids to pitch in. This one seems to be the hardest one for most parents. It’s never too late to give your kids chores, but too many parents cave under the pushback or think, “it’s just easier to do it myself.” Here’s what I’ve learned: when implementing a new chore, be vigilant for two weeks. Yes, there will be fussing and complaining and perhaps even crying, but if you can remain steadfast about it for two weeks, they suddenly realize you won’t cave and they accept that this chore is now theres. Trust me, it will pay off for a lifetime. Kids and teens who have chores are happier, have a stronger sense of personal responsibility, and have higher self-esteem because they are contributing to the family household.
The earlier you start with chores, the better. I didn’t start until around age 7, and I wish I had started much earlier. Then in our home, each child gets a new chore or responsibility on their birthday. This works well because the birthday fun and celebration help cushion the blow. By the time my youngest reached age 10, there were no more chores to distribute! This one thing has saved my sanity and helped prevent “parent burnout” for myself, and for the dozens of parents who’ve taken my advice and tried it.
If you want a neat home, these three steps are the easiest way to get there. Remember, stay strong for two weeks when you implement a chore, and it will pay you back in spades over time. Good luck and happy delegating!