Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Will My House Ever Be Clean Again?

No, probably not.

The fact is when you have children in the house twenty-four hours per day it gets a whole lot messier than when they go away to daycare or school. 

Sorry. That is just the way it is. 

You might as well cancel your subscription to “Perfectly Neat Houses and Yards” magazine. 

I am serious. “Look how pretty this house is, how neat that woman is dressed, how fancy that car is” magazines create envy in you, making you far more unsatisfied than you would be otherwise. That is the point of the magazines. They make you want more and their advertisers sell you things you probably wouldn’t want or miss otherwise. That is how the magazines make their money; through advertisements.

However, you do have the opportunity to teach your children that you would not have if they were gone all day. Not just academics but domestic and life skills also. 

So I imagine the average home with young homeschooled children is a whole lot more chaotic than one with young traditionally schooled children; but the average home with older homeschooled children can be cleaner than one with older traditionally schooled children.

Begin when they are young teaching them to do chores. I started my oldest at six, my others all at three. I have had two that insisted on starting themselves on chores at two and a half. 

It takes longer at first for you to make sure they dump the trash than it does for you to do it yourself, but in a few years you won’t ever have to dump the trash (I have dumped ours twice in the last six months, and that was because of children with the flu.) 

By the time we start school the dishes are done, the laundry is humming and all the rooms are reasonably clean. When you have a work crew of six (9) (babies excluded) you can get a whole lot more done. 

One thing I do is to put at least one trash can in each room. I watch out for habitual messes (such as the spot my husband lays his newspaper in when he is done with it) and put a can under that spot. It is easier to dump a can than to gather things up off the floor.

I have three laundry hampers in our home; one in my bathroom, one in the hall by the children’s rooms, and one in the laundry room. A child as young as four can dump the two auxiliary hampers into the one in the laundry room everyday. 

Then I sort the dirties into one of three baskets (darks, prints, and “bleach that sucker”). My nephew built me shelves to put each basket on, so they take up no more floor space than one basket does. This makes it easy enough to run a load of clothes that a six year old can do it, (mark the dials and buttons with a dab of paint to help them know where to set them). 

With a set of baskets on matching shelves on the other side of the room, each marked for a child with dots and x’s, a six year old can also sort clean clothes into individual baskets. 

I buy only cotton/poly blend clothes (t-shirts, jeans, sweats) so wrinkling is not a problem. Each child puts their own clothes up. (Actually, now that so many are grown and wearing the same sizes, all but two just do their own laundry. I make it a goal to run 1-2 loads first thing every morning, and they have the machines for the rest of the day. Everyone is happier with this now.)

I have divided the main (non-bedroom) parts of the house up into six zones; living room, computer room, dinning room, kitchen, toy/coat pen and hall. Each child is assigned one zone to clean before school, before Daddy gets home and before bed (the coat pen and all are so small I give both to the same child. The two babies don’t have to clean yet). This keeps the house roughly in order most of the time.(Now, the man sized boys have divided up the acre yard for their zones, while the girls divided up the house. Otherwise, we ran out of enough zones to teach work skills!)

Once per week we clean everything real good. I clean under the couches and on the shelves. Everyone is supposed to go through all their boxes of toys (each a little bigger than a shoe box) to make sure everything is where it belongs. Amazing the things you find in these places sometimes.

The real key is consistency. Do the same things in the same order, everyday. Patiently insist on the same standard at all times. You will probably have to repeat yourself many times at first (“The corners are still part of the room, you know.”) but they will get it in time. 

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9

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