Over the years, I've heard plenty of different family situation and I'm no longer willing to stand on a soap box and say only mine is correct. I don't know what it is like to have a house full of teenagers. I don't know what it's like to have ten kids born a year apart. I don't know what it's like to have a husband absent most of the time, whether due to work, military, or abandonment. I don't know what it is like to be a mother who works outside the home. So much I don't know!
All I know what it's like is to be a homemaker mother to four kids so far, born about every two years, so, for the time being, I stick with teaching, "If you can't take care of your stuff, then you have too much stuff, a burden of which I will happily relieve you."
Around our home, children make their beds every morning. I remind the children to pick up general detritus several times per week when it's getting too bad for my standards. Clothing is supposed to be picked up nightly. And once per week, their rooms must be "vacuum ready" because what isn't picked up, I get to vacuum away or throw away. Personal items left about the house get confiscated into my "Mommy's Ransom Box" for which the children have to work extra chores to get them back.
Therefore, I was tickled to read a great article, "How to Teach your Child to Clean Any Bedroom in Ten Minutes (Without Using a Blowtorch)". The piece is highly instructive but humorous and lacking a patina of know-it-all attitude. (I need to take lessons in that style of writing!)
I have noticed that some adults have no idea how to pick up an area or room. Some people are completely overwhelmed, touching objects numerous times (instead of once), distracted innumerable times by each item picked up instead of sticking to the task at hand. I think some children are born with a more natural bent to organize and pick up, while others are decidedly not. So far, I can spot one of my children who isn't lazy but can't clean up a room without explicit instructions and constant supervision. Without training, that child will become an adult who can't clean a house either.
|I don't have wonderful graphic skills, so made this simple sign using free clip art.|
So, I distilled the above delightful article into a sign for the children's rooms. I felt that this teaching was worthy of taking an entire morning off of book work school, which really says something around here--but teaching just isn't effective in the cracks or in heated moments of frustration. Therefore, we sat down in a relaxed manner and talked through the five steps and extolled the concept that, if done right, this should take only about ten minutes. Yay!
Note that it has been several years since I've lowered my perfectionist tendencies: the first step required of mothers. One can't start requiring children's help with housework while maintaining an adult level of perfection. So, each children's bedroom has one toy box in it and it is okay that most toys are simply tossed in there. There are several specialty bins, but not over-many: one for Legos in the boys' room, one for play kitchen equipment and one for dollhouse furniture in the girls' room. Clothing put into drawers is not folded as neatly as I'd like and I now tolerate that--sometimes even when it's just stuffed in there! Beds do not have square nurse's corners, but the sheets and covers are smooth.
I've taped the Bedroom Cleaning Instructions on the interiors of the children's doors. The children who do better at cleaning anyway thought it was fun and completed the task in ten minutes. The child who really struggles in this area kept arguing about how one really can make up one's own order for cleaning a room that will work just as well--which is why we were still at it nearly an hour later. I felt like I was trying to teach a ping pong ball to stop pinging about crazily. Mama--who can't bend over with this big ol' pregnant belly--discovered that this child had been cleaning the bedroom lo these many weeks by stuffing all toys, clothes, shoes, and trash under the beds, so we had some "make up work" to get the job done.
However, I have hope for continued improvement in an already good system of keeping their rooms orderly. Lots of hope!