Living with kids is like inviting several small tornadoes to make their way through the house numerous times a day, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. I used to think this was a preschooler thing. But these tornadoes don’t appear to subside as the kids get older.
I love craft, creativity and free play; a recipe for carnage. I could give my kids more screen time, and keep the house tidier. But I want them to spend more time in the real world, with paper and scissors and dress ups, than they do in the virtual world of the screen.
So what are my top 5 ways to keep the house tidy with kids?
1. Have less stuff
This, you may have noticed by now, is my mantra. You can’t keep a house organised that has too much stuff in it. It will always get the better of you. So the number one way to reduce the clutter chaos is to have less to deal with.
Think about what toys are the best for your kids. Get rid of all the plastic junk that gathers dust. The kids won’t miss it.
The best toys are open ended and allow kids to be creative and spark their imaginations; craft supplies, building blocks, lego, dress ups, pretend play.
And anything that gets them outdoors is great – it burns their energy, keeps the mess outside, gives you a bit of headspace, and keeps them fit and healthy. Think scooters, bikes, pavement chalk, balls, hula hoops, trampoline, sandpit toys. But don’t over do it – you can have too much of a good thing.
2. Have a place for everything
This is KEY. Categorize toys and keep them there. Keep all your lego / train set / dolls clothes / cars together in one place. Have craft supplies in a box/cupboard. Have a puzzle/games cupboard.
I use baskets, old suitcases and boxes to store things. They’re easy to move around, and they’re more attractive than big plastic toy boxes in your living room.
Any of those random odds and ends that don’t fit a category and your kid can’t part with? Give each kid a treasure box, which is where they can keep their own special toys of their choice. Once the box is full though, that’s it. They can only keep as many
bits of junk special toys, as fit in the box – there have to be limits!
3. Keep some toys out of reach
Putting some toys away is a great way of ensuring the low lying tornadoes can’t impact everything on their pass through the house. I sometimes pop a toy suitcase up high for a month or two, and when I then get it back down, the toys have the novelty factor and get played with again.
4. Incentivize tidying
My kids get a DVD at 4pm while I get dinner ready; it’s their one screen time slot of the day. Before the DVD goes on, they have to tidy away one box of toys. The slower they are on the job, the less DVD time they get.
On occasion, when they’re dragging the chain, I tell them I’ll give away any toys left on the floor at bed time. This works a treat when required, although threats are generally not my recommended strategy!
5. Have a sanctuary
I’m not militant about keeping the house tidy; I want the kids to be free to have fun, and make the messes that kids inevitably make.
The tornadoes have access to our whole house, and can make light work of it when left to their own devices. However, one room is strictly out of bounds for them to mess up. And that’s our bedroom.
They know (but sometimes forget) that they can’t pull the sheets off our bed for a game of monsters, and can’t set up the train track our bedroom. It’s my sanity space when the rest of the house is carnage.
What’s your strategy for keeping on top of the chaos?