This week on Facebook and also on my email newsletter I asked you all what your biggest frustrations were in your home. My “job” here as a blogger is to serve you and I wanted to know what you needed help with. By far the most common response was how to get your family to clean up after themselves. This is a daily battle at my home too so today I’m going to offer some tips and tricks for you.
Get your spouse on board
If your partner isn’t already in the habit of picking up after himself/herself I suggest starting with them first. You need to be on the same page before tackling the kids. Find a time to talk and tell them how you feel-don’t make it a power struggle or a nagging session. Explain that picking up after them cause you stress and makes you feel resentful.
Be specific with what you’d like from them-do you want him to make sure to put his dirty clothes in the hamper? Can the hamper be moved to a place that’s more convenient? Listen to their feedback and ask them to help you find solutions-work together.
Sometimes it helps to give the less organized person a specific “messy” area like an office or dresser top where they can keep things without worrying about being organized. In our family I’m the messier one by nature and I work best when I have a space that I can not worry about keeping presentable, like an office or corner of the closet.
Finally, if you don’t get any headway with your spouse consider hiring help. Get rid of your cable TV, go out to eat less, make a sacrifice to work it into your budget. Your spouse may see how important it is to you and make more of an effort once the bank account is involved.
Once you’ve got your spouse on board have a family meeting with your children. Re-establish family rules-I suggest giving them one warning to pick up their things and after that they lose the item for an amount of time. The most important part of this process is to follow through! If you don’t back up the rules the behavior will never change. I repeat: DO NOT CLEAN UP AFTER THEM. Every time you clean up after them instead of requiring them to do it themselves you are showing them it isn’t their responsibility to help with the cleaning.
Start Early with Age Appropriate Tasks
You want to start as early as you can teaching good habits. I started having my boys clear their place at dinner at age two. They can help sweep and vacuum as soon as they can handle the tools. I also bought my children their own child-sized cleaning supplies (this Montessori company is where I get mine.)
When tidying with younger children it helps to be specific. Very young kids can’t look at a big messy room and see the steps they need to take to get it clean-it’s overwhelming. Give specific directions. Instead of saying “clean the mess” tell them to to pick up all the stuffed animals, or clear the toys off the couch.
Make Clean Up Fun
Especially with younger children, making clean up fun is important. Sing songs or play music-even I do this when cleaning by myself sometimes! My three sons love when I give them time challenges to clean a room-it makes it a game to race to finish the job!
Be the Example
Model good habits and expect the family to follow. Clean up after yourself and hold others to the same standard. It’s a good idea to have a family clean up time-a quick 15 minute tidy up after dinner can go lightyears towards keeping your home clean. When I was growing up being raised by a single mother we always spent Saturday mornings cleaning the house. Get the entire family involved in the process before moving on to other activities.
Make it a Process
Don’t expect change to happen over night, it will be a process. Have weekly meetings to check in on the rules, be consistent, and keep your expectations high (with a good dose of grace!) Over time your family can learn to work together to maintain a happy, tidy home.