I have another big writing adventure I'm pursuing, so my blogging time is very scarce these days. I haven't quite made the decision to abandon the blog, but it's experiencing some intense and unrepentant neglect. This blog post was birthed out of hearing many moms (myself included) talking about how in the world to get the kids' rooms cleaned. I don't have an end-all solution, and if you rang our doorbell now, you'd find one of the bedrooms sporting a million blankets that remain from an apparent fort explosion.
Soooo, take this for what it is worth...just one mama who discovered a little way to get messes under control. I'm not writing a blog post about how to keep all things mess-free...because, well, I have no idea how to do that. But once there IS a BIG MESS, I got ya covered.
Several months ago, I stumbled upon this idea. Okay, I didn't actually stumble. I was desperate. Moms, you know what I mean. (ENTER PHOTO ILLUSTRATION ---->)
Sometimes children's rooms get to that state where you know that one of two things can happen. 1) You send Junior into his room to clean it up, OR 2) YOU go into Junior's room to just do the job yourself. Option #1 means you don't have to do the work (yay for you!), but it also means that the job gets "finished" in 7 minutes by angelic ones who then fly out the door while you pour yourself a cup of tea and weep. Option #2 means the job gets done (thoroughly, I might add), but it takes YOU three 12-hour shifts (and then you pour yourself some tea and weep)!
I know I'm not the only one this happens to, because I've heard y'all at Starbucks talking about what to do about this predicament (right before you ask the barista to give you 12 more shots of espresso). Yep, I've heard you. So, I'm willing to come out in the open and show you our messes and share with you this sweet little compromise I made between Option #1 and Option #2. (And it actually WORKS!)
God must have given me this idea, because it's simply brilliant, and it just came to me one day. In bold colors I wrote the names of different objects that needed to find "homes" in the boys' room. I then placed these papers in sheet protectors so that I can reuse these at least a hundred times in future cleaning expeditions. Every single category I can think of goes onto separate papers. Hats, Trains and Tracks, Cars and Planes, Soldiers, Stuffed Animals, etc etc etc...whatever toys and various things are in their rooms and needing to be put away.
I then lay these papers (in sheet protectors) around the edges of the room. And the children begin tackling a mess in one area of the room and simply place the toys onto the corresponding paper. They find a big Lego, so it goes to the "Big Lego" pile. They find small Legos, and they put them on the "Small Lego" pile. So and an so forth. And, while this is work, they always have energy and get the job done fairly quickly and with very little complaining. Perhaps it's because the papers are colorful...or because it involves a game of sorting...or because they can see the progress quickly as things start to move into do-able piles. I'm not sure WHY it works, but for whatever reason, it works for my children. We've done this multiple times, and it's always a good experience.
And you know how you're cleaning in a bedroom, and you suddenly run across the missing garlic press or a stocking that never made it into the Christmas box or the movie that has been missing for months?? Well, I created papers for those things. I simply label one page: "To Downstairs" for all the items that need to be taken downstairs. Another is "To Bathroom" (yep, toothpaste finds it way under the bed). We have a pile for things going outside, to different bedrooms, to the Learning Loft, etc.
They can pretty quickly tackle the areas of out-of-control things and place them into the corresponding piles. Once the papers are in place, the rest is a simple sorting game.
And ummmmm, some occasional breaks to climb the walls and such....
After the room has been combed through, and all the items are in their organized piles, the put-away process begins. One child is in charge of getting the big Legos into the Big Lego Box. Another is in charge of getting the outside toys taken outside to the outside toy bin. ETC. Each time, they do this quickly and make comments like, "Look! We're almost finished! Only 5 more piles to go!" They run to and fro getting it all put away...seems almost like a race or something.
And what is mom's job? Really...whatever you want it to be. Sometimes I pitch in and help sort for awhile to get them going. And when they are finished sorting, I sometimes help them get the piles put away. Other times, I have been surprised to see them take out the papers and do this whole process on their own with no help from me. But, whether I help a bit or whether I just check in on them periodically, the big point is that I am no longer weeping in my tea over this issue! I no longer find myself on my knees in their closet saying under my breath that I'm just going to throw all the toys away and why can't they have just one toy each like they did on Little House on the Prairie! (I do love simplicity myself, but until they get on board with the one-toy-per-child thing, I think I'll just stick to the sorting game to help them clean it up).
And the same can be applied to homeschooling issues. You homeschool mamas know what I'm talking about. While some houses are vacant for 8 hours per day while children are at school, homeschooling homes are a hub of activity 24/7. Okay, they DO sleep...but you get my point. And learning means activity, and activity means messes. I adore the learning process, and I thrill at the sight of 4 children all working on their own amazing projects all across the room(s). It's beautiful and so full of life! But, when we come back to the Learning Loft the next day, I don't like STARTING with the remnants of the tornado still strewn across the room!
For illustration purposes, here's what it looked like today when we finished...
And here's the table. Yes, there's toothpaste and various other treasures that made their way to this space.
And the most incredible Lego architecture feats were carried out with gusto behind the couch while Mama read aloud today. And looks like chore stuff (dusting spray!) has found its way to the science table.
Simple solution... Each child has their name on a paper (inserted into a sheet protector), and anything we find that is theirs is placed on the paper. Each child is responsible for putting their stuff away. Voila...a quickly straightened room...without breaking Mama's back. Not to mention some healthy competition of "Hey, look...I put most of my stuff away today, so my pile isn't too big!"