My house is a little bit messy. I’m just going to come out and say it.
When we bought our house, we were working from the “five-year plan” mentality–we could stay here for about five years and maybe one kid, and then we’d see if we can move on to something bigger/better/closer to family/closer to jobs/etc. Well, twelve and a half years and two kids later, we’re still here. And we’re a little crowded.
At first, we were hit with the invasion of the Big Plastic Toys when the girls were very little: bouncers, exer-saucers, play yards, and the like. Now that they’re older, we’ve been inundated with the Smaller Toys With a Million Parts: Barbies with a zillion outfits and shoes, puzzles, art supplies, trains, a kitchen with pots and pans and food, and little toy cars to name a few. Even though the size of the toys have gone down, the volume has remained roughly the same.
Don’t get me wrong–our kids aren’t spoiled, and they don’t get everything they want all the time, as tempting as it might be to do so sometimes. We’ve also been teaching them the value of charity, and how it’s good to give some of the older toys they don’t play with any more to children who aren’t as fortunate (Daughter #1 has particularly taken this to heart, and gives willingly and gladly). This also helps to make room for the newer, more age-appropriate toys.
The biggest issue we encounter is the fact that, because we’re still in our Five Year Plan house, there’s just not a huge amount of space. Our public spaces tend to be play spaces for the girls as well, in spite of efforts to try and keep them separate. They’re still a little too little to play completely on their own and unsupervised in their rooms (particularly Daughter #2), so having the play space in the living room isn’t the worst thing, either, from a being-a-responsible-parent standpoint.
While I’ve been trying to instill in them a sense of responsibility for their things, I have to keep in mind that they’re only 3 and 4, and that I need to keep my expectations realistic. The girls have gotten better about it, but even so, there tends to be stuff everywhere. And, very often, I run out of time by the end of the day to get it all cleaned, straightened, washed, folded, and put away. It’s been a constant battle.
I try to stay positive and philosophical about it, but it isn’t easy. I tend to vacillate between “Oh, at least the kids are happy, who cares if the house is a little messy?” and “I am never getting out from under this. EVER.” At the end of the day, though, all I can do is chip away at it, do as much as I can do in the course of a day with everything else going on, and try not to let it bother me too much.
That is, of course, until something goes wrong and we have to call on a professional to fix something in our house.
One night, two of the electrical outlets in Daughter #1’s room stopped working rather suddenly. I went down to the breaker box to find that no breakers had tripped, so I contacted a local electrician who said he would come out the next day to look at it. After texting him my appreciation, I put away my phone, and looked up.
Oh, dear Lord, I thought. I’ve gotta do some cleaning!
The day he was scheduled to come, I quickly swept up the clutter on the living room floor and sorted it back where it went (with help from the girls and my wife). I raced upstairs to remove the random detritus on our upstairs landing/laundry area (if for no other reason than to give him a clear path to my daughter’s room). I gathered loose paperwork together and at least stacked it in neat piles. I got the dishes out of the sink and into the dishwasher. Daughter #1 and I got her room in some semblance of order (which ended up lacking a point, as we had to move a lot of things around in order for the electrician to check all the outlets).
Once the work was completed, and the electrician had left, I looked around once again. And suddenly the task of cleaning and organizing the house didn’t feel all that daunting. When amply motivated, great things can happen. Sure, I still have my moments of despair about the things I ran out of time to tackle during the course of the day, but it didn’t seem quite so overwhelming any more.
So let me ask you this: what are some of the strategies you employ in order to keep the clutter under control? Feel free to comment here or on the Dad Bloggers Facebook page.