Cleaning/Organizing with two small kids, tips???

emmhipSeptember 14, 2007

I have a five year old and an eighteen month old who tears through the house daily. I am barely keeping my head above water as far as cleaning, and all the organizing I did when my 18 month old DS was tiny needs to be done again. I understand that with two small kids, it's not going to be perfect, but I would like to improve the current state of things. I work 9am-1pm (DH is home during these hours) and then I come home and DH goes to work. I have no one to watch the kids while I attempt to get things done. DD is a great babysitter, but only for short periods of supervised time. I hate to use the TV as a babysitter, but sometimes I'm forced to babygate the two of them in the living room while I try to whip through the rest house. I've thought about a mother's helper, has anyone tried this? My DD loves to help with chores and does a great job, it's the DS who is quite the terror right now. Suggestions????????????

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Pls do what I didn't do--get the kids to help put stuff away periodically. Definitely before bedtime.

Give yourself a weekend to put stuff away where the 18mo-old can't get to it. And institute some rules (you can enforce these even w/ a toddler), such as "no food in the living room" or "no toys in X room." "no legos in the afternoon" or "no games w/ lots of pieces unless it's Game Hour."

It's OK to not let them play with what they want, when they want to.

And even 18-y-os can be made to oput one set of toys away before they get out the next.

Get DS onboard when he's finally able. Even now, you can teach him to put away the toys you hand him; make it a game.

But of course, that's toys & picking up--not necessarily actual cleaning.

make him part of your cleaning--if you give him a squirt bottle of water to "clean" the tile in the bathroom with, can you do the *real* cleaning while he pretends to? Then he's busy, and he's w/ you (shut the bathroom door so he can't get back out; trap him in there w/ you, LOL!) so you can watch what he's messing with.

chores will be slower, but consider them "together time" and "playtime," and you might not mind so much. Because they ARE excellent "together time." My dad always says, you never get to know someone well quite the way you do when you work with them.

Set out a schedule for yourself of what you want to do when, and maybe that will help you feel you've got it under control, and keep you focused.

otherwise, I think you do what you have to do. Be a whirlwind during naptime

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 2:35PM
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The 10 year old daughter of a friend worked this summer as a mother's helper and she did exactly what you would want. She entertained two children while the mother cleaned up the house and did other chores. The girl is the oldest of four children (she has 2, 5 and 8 year old brothers) so she was very good at keeping the young ones occupied.

That said, I didn't go that route. I tried to work WITH my children in cleaning the house. No, it's not great cleaning but it's a teaching experience. I got bins with covers from IKEA for toys (trains go in the blue ones, blocks in white, legos in green). That really helped with picking up toys. Both DD (9) and DS (4) have always liked sweeping, vacuuming and mopping as well as wiping down counters. So, I hand them dustcloths and a sprayer and they happily will clean off the counters - it's a bit weird but I'm happy and they're happy. For a while the kids had their own working vacuum cleaner and they worked beside me. We would take turns mopping - this gets a bit wet but after a while they let me clean up.

But most of all, I have incredibly low standards of neatness so things just aren't as neat or clean as before children.

Finally, my sister, SIL and mother all suggested getting a cleaning service at least twice a month. They all do and say it definitely helps.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 6:28PM
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DH and I worked opposite of each other for twelve years. From noon on, I was on my own with four kids.

jy_md, I tried a cleaning service for a year. Once a week. It was a waste of money for us. Too much still needed doing in between cleanings. I don't think it sounds like you have low standards, just realistic about a house which is lived in.

I started changing things when my three youngest were 1, 3 and six. Every evening we set a timer (10 min. will do) and we ALL ran around and picked up our crud and put it away. Every single evening. Very soon it was easy to put away the day's floating items. It took less and less time.

I feel that 90% of house cleaning time is actually spent picking stuff up and putting it away. My attitude became "If you are big enough to get it out and drop it, then you are big enough to put it away." It is easy to sweep a floor when there isn't stuff all over the floor. Same for other household tasks. We used laundry baskets for much of the toy storage, so that putting things away was easy.

This is really worth the effort of getting your kids in the routines of picking up and having some small chores. I'm having a hard time picturing why you would need them gated off? If it's because of cleaning chemicals, then I would switch to less toxic stuff. But if it's because they are undoing items which have been put away--you will have do decide what behaviors you will accept. Mr. Terror may just have to sit in the high chair for a bit while you work on the kitchen.

I combined many tasks. While one was in the tub, I took those few minutes to wipe down the bathroom. They could certainly sit at the kitchen with Play dough while you sweep and mop the floor. If I wanted to sweep the floor before pick-up time, I had everyone gather their stuff or the vacuum might eat those Legos.

I know it seems hard right now, but it will really be worth it in a few years. My oldest has moved on out of the house, but the other three are 7, 10 and 13. The youngest has been making his bed since he got out of the crib. They all know to pick up behind themselves and we only occasionally have to have a pick-up session. They know how to create a daily and weekly job list. They even know if they have friends over, that the friends are expected to clean up what they got out before they go home.


    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 3:03AM
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You've received some great advice, and I'll echo what Talley Sue said: Please do what I didn't.

My children grew up in a perpetually messy, sometimes dirty, never-really-finished house. I very much regret that. The house is very old and therefore charming almost by definition, but it was sadly lacking in many areas. My kids had their friends over quite a lot (we had a beautiful inground pool), but I know the condition of the place often bothered them.

Today, it looks so much better, and I dearly wish I could go back in time and have my children come home to this house when they got off the school bus.

I hope my failures inspire you to create your own success.


    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 11:26AM
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Great advice!!!! Wow!!! You guys are inspiring me. Yes, I think I need to get the kids helping more instead of trying to remove them from the situation so I can clean up after them. I am going to get a timer today and see if we can try 10 minute pick up sessions. We have a pretty small house, so I don't think it's going to be too hard. I'll let you know our progress.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 3:33PM
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Emmhip, another mom inspired me to get the kids to help. She had two children at the time, the younger one was about 12 months (walking but not talking) and the older one was maybe 6 or 7 years old. Anyway, she would sing the clean-up song while the children picked up their toys and put them in a great train box (a set of boxes decorated as train cars linked together). It was amazing how quickly the living room was picked up.

My sister and her husband never allowed the children to drink or eat outside the kitchen. Ever. Even as toddlers, they knew they had stay inside the kitchen doorway and then put their dishes on the counter by the sink.

Gloria, I never had maid service - I pretty much agree with you :) I never could bring myself to spend that kind of money every week or two weeks. But everyone else in my family swears by them.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 4:25PM
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I have twin 5 yr olds. Every Saturday we have cleaning service. On Friday night I collect all the stray toys from different rooms in a luandry basket & leave it in the Toys room. I then invite the girls put away the toys in their respective places. The girls sort out different toys into piles & I put them away. I have been doing this since they were 3 & it has been working well.

I make it sound as though it is their work & I am the helper.

In fact now they sometimes(not always) put back the toys into containers where they got it out from.

When they were little I used to clean up everyday. I just dumped all their toys in a play pen everynight.

I don't restrict them when they can play what. This way I get a good chunk of time when they keep to themselves. I have noticed when I restrict them they are always behind me.

Another thing that helped me was couple of times I showed them "Mission Organization" on HGTV. These were shows where the play rooms would be an absolute mess. My girls tell me they will never let this happen to our house.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 6:42PM
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I was going to mention the clean-up song!

Or, if they have a favorite music (my DD loved Was Not Was, which she called "blue music" bcs the strip on the edge of the CD case was blue; DS loved the "green music," which was the Pixies), play that during pick-up time. Esp. great if it's lively music.

It also helps so much when they're little (and even if they're bigger) if you are their company and partner. It's much more fun to do that stuff w/ other people.

My kids also respond well to structure during pick-up time. I'll get the clothesbasket, and say, "it's time to Do a Dozen." We pick up 12 things off the floor, lickety-split, and toss them in the clothes basket. Then, once we have identified our 12 things, we set a time and see if they can beat it for putting them away.

I loved my maid service, less for the dusting and vacuuming and kitchen-floor mopping but more for the shower-stall scrubbing, backsplash-cleaning, big stuff that you don't necessarily do every day.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2007 at 10:23AM
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I have 2 DD's, a 4-y-o and 18-m-o. I recently hired a college-aged sitter to come in 10 hours a week, and it is the most awesome thing ever. If you can afford it, you should consider it. She plays with the kids while I work (I am starting a home-based business), organize a closet, or run errands. She does fun activities with them like painting and playing at the park and swimming. She also does light cleaning - dishes, folds laundry, sweeps... today she stripped the beds and washed the sheets. The last 30 minutes of her visits she helps the kids clean up all their toys.

I definitely want to get better about working with the kids to clean up. I think having clean-up time before nap time and before bed time would be great, but it seems like at those times I am so tired myself I find it hard to make energy for working with the kids to pick up their things. Sometimes my kids will help me with the chores -- putting clothes into the washing machine or wiping down the kitchen table -- but more often they'd rather do their own thing. It helps having most of their toys so they cannot get to them all at once and just setting out a few things for them to play with... but my 4-y-o just defeated the "lock" on her toy closet, so I am back to the drawing board on that one.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 11:47PM
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DS is almost 14 and one of the most organized people I know. He is now responsible for doing his own laundry and cleaning his room, not just picking it up, and does it without nagging. When we moved into our new house last spring, he asked us if he could pack & set up his things, and did an amazing job of it. He was not born with this ability, nor did it happen overnight. Yes, we know how lucky we are!!

We started at toddler age with bins & shelves for his toys. It really helps to have a place for everything. We didn't do the big toy chest--it's the bottomless pit that things tend to get broken in & lost forever. We did daily pickup sessions together, but told him it was ultimately his job. If he didn't pick his toys up by the end of the day, he "lost" them for a period of time, a natural consequence. He also attended a Montessori preschool, which insists on putting one activity away before getting another. When friends come over to play, he knows that either they help him put things away, or he has to afterwards, and I give them a gentle warning of 30 minutes or so before the playdate will end. If our son made a mess, he was expected to clean it up, which was an opportunity to show him how. He then usually wouldn't do it again so he wouldn't have the chore. Occasionally he made mistakes that involved some destruction, and he had to do additional chores and/or lose privileges to correct his mistake.

A daily "uniform" helps with the clothing issues. This can be either a school uniform or what you have decided your child can wear, then make it accessible and let your child choose from that. I picked tops & bottoms that I knew were comfy, sturdy, & would all go with each other. Our son loved dressing himself from an early age.

One thing that really helped me is what the "Love & Logic" program teaches about expectations & consequences to guide behavior. There are Love & Logic books, tapes, & lectures available at libraries & schools. With L&L, you don't yell, threaten, or negotiate. You do let the child know what is expected, and you do what you said you'd do, NO warnings or second chances. It's hard at first, but gets easier over time, and everyone is much happier & more peaceful. The whole idea is to never do for your child what s/he can do at each age. We're there to teach them life skills and let them practice them.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 12:04PM
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Laundry baskets saved us a lot of hassle. I had several white plastic ones, that fit inside each other, I'd write on the side the name of the room it belonged to. I'd put them in the livingroom (we played there most of the day) and we'd all fill the basket with the toys, laundry, whatever.., and then at the end of the day they were taken to the room they belonged to and emptied, and stacked. With tiny ones I'd be careful but when mine were older I tied a rope on the handle so I could drag it to the rooms instead of lift and carry. We had an upbeat music tape (b/4 cd's!) and we'd put that on only when we picked up.

Now that they are grown, I still use the basket system because carrying/lifting is harder. DH and I have a "15 minute pickup" when things look out of control or we know company is coming.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 10:46AM
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