Sigh. Is this a familiar scene for anyone?
Life with a toddler can be best summed up here. It explains why you can be at home all day and yet feel like you literally accomplished nothing. It’s so true. While I’m putting laundry away in L’s room, B is ripping apart all his legos. While I’m making our bed, he’s undone an entire roll of toilet paper in our master bath. I have that kid from the cover of ‘I’ll love you forever‘ and while I certainly love the heck out of him, the like can sometimes be iffy while he is undoing the home over and over and over again.
Even my 8 year old. I’ll find his pants in the kitchen. He’ll be in the basement for 5 minutes with his buddies and it will be completely destroyed (also the workings of his brother). Toothpaste is regularly smeared all over his bathroom sink. Heck no. I am not raising a slob. Heaven forbid someday some poor nice girl (please be nice, please be nice) enters either of my boys’ apartments and sees a disaster zone. Our home will be picked up, tidy, organized, surely welcoming and lived in, but not over run by the kids. There is a fine line, and here’s my best tips for balancing it all:
- The first floor is the grown up floor. Sure, there are fingerprints smeared on the glass doors, art work hung up, brown bear brown bear in the pile of books in the living room, and toys for the kids – but they are organized, stored away, and out of sight. We have a large trunk for our coffee table that holds eight baskets of toys so the legos, trios, magnet tiles, etc., all own their own little place in our home that is not in our view.
- Speaking of baskets, I can not stress this enough. All the toys need a place to go, otherwise you will end up with drawers and bins of just random items (AKA: my greatest nightmare). I’ve also found this concept helps the kids in their ability to clean up well. The balls go in the yellow basket, the trios go in the green box, etc. Items need a home.
- The basement. Sing it with me now… ‘let it go, let it go.’ This is my let it go room. Especially in the colder months, it will be the room that is destroyed and unorganized and chaotic. And that’s ok. Kids need a spot to play like that. My rule of thumb is the boys tidy it up each night, and once a week I spend a chunk of time organizing their ‘clean up.’ Again, make sure you have a spot for everything (we have massive bins labeled ‘instruments’, ‘cars’, ‘blocks’ – etc.). I’ve found if you put the tidy rule into effect along with your once a week organizing rule things never really get out of control.
- When my favorite living room or just picked up family room has legos and balls and batts strewn all over 5 minutes later, I take a deep breath and repeat this to myself over and over: ‘your home is not dirty, it’s messy.’ Those are two very different things. It may look awful, but when you really stop to clean it up with the boys it takes about 5 minutes.
- I only fold and put away laundry when the little one is sleeping. It just doesn’t work when he’s awake (see photo above).
- This tip took me a few years to figure out but now I can’t imagine living without it: before birthday parties and Christmas, clear out old toys. Donate them. Move some to storage, do whatever you need to do to make room for the new ones that are coming. Because if your family is anything like mine, they will be coming in abundance and you will need the free space.
- When it comes to chores, L doesn’t have a chart or allowance – it’s just expected of him to do certain things. Hang up his backpack and coat. Bring in his plate. Clothes in the laundry basket. No more smeared toothpaste. Little things like this to teach him to pick up after himself, and I don’t believe it warrants the reward of money.
- Embrace the havoc kids can bring to your home. I have marker on my bay window frame from when L was 2; B colored with marker on our stainless steel dishwasher days after pouring blue paint on our stair runner. One of the boys (I’m thinking L) slammed the door so hard into our brand new mudroom wall that there is now a hole. The marks, dents, scratches are going to happen. Just take a deep breath and tell yourself it adds character.
- I pick up toys twice a day: at nap time and before M gets home from work. In between I just go with it; otherwise I would be picking up after B all day. Before bed, we all pitch in, and go to sleep with a tidy home.
What do you think. Any good tips? Anything I’m missing? I’d so love to hear what works for you in your home. Why not share in a comment below?