first, here are a few thoughts on the matter. things to remember. words of encouragement, i suppose.
- learn to accept the mess. you have kids now, it's inevitable :) take a breath.
- cleanliness is not that important to children. their messes are just a result of them learning and growing.
- your house belongs to you and your family. live in it. above all, happiness is most important. if you only have enough time to mop the floor or read to your child, read to your child. every time.
- again, take a breath. it will all get done. or maybe it won't, it's okay.
- no one is perfectly clean or perfect in life. and that's okay, good even. life is hard to keep up with. don't sweat it. really, listen - don't sweat it.
dishes: we have a pretty good system. the first thing i do when i wake up is unload the dishwasher. and then throughout the day, if you use a dish, immediately put it in the dishwasher. and right before i go to bed, i put in the soap and push start. repeat the next day. this way, we almost never have dishes in the sink. your little ones can learn to do this, too! maybe not toddlers, but my seven year old caught on just fine. ... if you do not have a dishwasher (we didn't in our last house) ... try to wash after every meal. even if i didn't have time throughout the day, i would wash them all before bed. nothing worse than waking up to a sink full of dishes. lastly, to cut down on the amounts of dishes used in a day ... everyone gets one glass per day. that's your glass for the day, rinse and reuse!
laundry: it's never ending, isn't it? ... this is one my kiddos are still getting the hang of. putting their dirty clothes in the hamper! eleanor has to be reminded almost daily and her clothes almost always seem to end up on the floor. grrrrrr. :) relax, mom. it really isn't that big of a deal. ... every monday, i go around and gather laundry from hampers and start washing. i try to stay home most of the day on mondays, so i can get it all done ... but lately with the new babe ... it often doesn't get all done until wednesday. ... also, older kids can help fold. eleanor has to help fold her clothes and put them all away.
bathrooms: we have three bathrooms, so this is a tough task for me. generally, i clean bathrooms during nap time. often times i will clean the kid's bathroom while wolfgang is in the tub. it works out really well. but ill be honest, sometimes i let my husband and i's bathroom go a little longer without a cleaning. and sometimes if we are expecting company, i am frantically cleaning the guest bathroom five minutes before they arrive.
cleaning as you go: this is a big thing for me. i find that if you clean as you go throughout the day, the messes never get too out of control. we teach our kids to pick up one thing before you get out another. for example, if eleanor has the barbies out, she has to put them all back in the tub before she moves on to something else. THIS is huge. wolfgang is still learning this, but he WILL get it. i also practice cleaning as you go when i am baking or cooking. if i am baking a cake or cookies, i usually wash the dishes used and wipe counters between steps so that way by the time what i am making is ready to go in the oven, my kitchen is basically already cleaned up. huge relief. if you start a crafting project or something like that, clean it all up before moving on to something else like dinner or laundry.
nap time: this is when most of my cleaning cleaning gets done. if i need to scrub a toilet or mop a floor, i do it while the boys are napping. if something comes up and the boys don't nap, i let it go. ill do it tomorrow. remember, it's no big deal ... and remember to take a day off, you deserve it. usually i have one day a week (sometimes two) when i do what i want during nap time. read, surf the web, watch a show, whatever. remember that you are important and your mental health matters. don't overwork yourself. that causes stress which leads to unhappiness which will have a negative impact on your family. they want mom to be happy. (and/or dad, too)
involving toddlers: wolfgang has his very own cleaning kit. it consists of a spray bottle full of water, a couple of rags, a brush and dustpan and a mop (i just recently made) ... the only time he is allowed to use these items is when i am cleaning something. if i let him play with them all of the time, they will no longer serve as a distraction for him because he will have grown tired of them. this way, if i want to go around and clean windows without him destroying the house, i give him his own spray bottle. this way he is distracted, focused and "helping" me. children love to help because they love the praise they receive after. something simple as a hug and saying, "aren't you just the best little helper!" really goes a long way. and sometimes a sucker doesn't hurt either. :)
older kids: my oldest, eleanor, is seven. she doesn't always like to help and may fuss when i ask her to, but she does help a lot. every night before she goes to bed, she has to make sure her room is organized and picked up. if she takes a shower, she has to clean up the bathroom afterwards. in the morning, she is expected to make her bed. as i said before, she also helps with laundry. usually, she is the one who sets the table for dinner and wipes down counter tops when i ask her to. again, even with our older babes, praise goes a long, long way. if we fuss or nit pick our babes when they help, they will probably never want to help or contribute to the cleaning up. ... eleanor also loves rearranging her room and i allow it within reason. i am learning to appreciate the fact that she is her own person and may not like her things the way i would like them. so, as long as her stuff is organized, i allow her this freedom.
food: eating is for the kitchen and dining room only. walking around the house with food is just asking for a mess. if wolfgang wants a snack, he has to sit in his high chair. same goes with eleanor. honestly, the only one who breaks this rule on a constant is me. every night after everyone goes to sleep, i have cereal in bed. shhhhhhh. my husband hates it, but what can i say? it's me time, darn it. :)
this and that: as for wiping counters and sweeping the floor and picking up, i do this all throughout the day when the kids are distracted. if wolfgang is quietly playing with his cars or blocks, i sweep the floor. sometimes i put rufus in the carrier and let him nap during. ... in the evening, after dinner, my husband uses that time to wrestle and play with the kids while i clean up the kitchen, pack lunches and start the dishwasher. it's a really good system.
i know this is a long post, so if you kept up with all the reading, thank you! ... i am no expert, trust me, but we do okay around here. i have my mom to thank for that. she always involved my brothers and i in the cleaning routine. we couldn't stand it at the time, but now i appreciate it.
anyway, that's it, i think! happy cleaning! also, im worried i am coming off like a know it all or that i have it all figured out .. i do not. these are just the things that work really well for us.