Help Kids Keep Their Messes Under Control: Simplify
Most days it seems that my kids leave a never-ending trail of messes as they go to and fro about the house.
With three (young) children who are not very aware of the trail they’ve left behind, and one mother who is overwhelmed by the tasks of keeping order in the home and training these children to pick up after themselves, something proactive needed to be done.
As I reflected on the situation, I noticed that these messes were often too complicated for my kids to easily sort through on their own. They could execute a single job (such as “put away the Uno game”), but they were not good at reducing a bigger mess into steps and then completing them.
The truth was, my kids were overwhelmed by their own messes.
I thought about what had helped me so much in my journey to becoming a better homemaker and home-manager. It came down to simplifying.
Through the process of reducing what I had in my home, I eventually arrived at a level of stuff I could stay on top of each day without feeling stressed. It was incredibly freeing for me!
Less stuff = less opportunity for chaos = less work to neaten it back up.
So, a few months ago, my husband and I decided to simplify our kids things as well (not for the first time, but as you may know, this requires maintenance).
We hoped they too could experience success in keeping their things picked up.
How to Help Kids Keep Their Messes Under Control: Reduce and Gate Their Stuff
Simplifying the Toys
We began by dumping all the toys into a large pile in the toy room. This included all their toys in every room. Each child then had the opportunity to choose 7 toys and place them in a basket. We put all other toys up and away in our garage. (They’ve been there for the past two months with an uncertain future.)
Our children were also allowed to keep their dress up clothes, legos, and books. Fortunately for them, they’ve all had birthday’s since this time, so their toy stash has multiplied a bit.
Nonetheless, this was an instant victory for everyone.
The toy mess is no longer able to get “out of hand” any more, which has two critical benefits:
- My husband and I feel less stress about the way our home looks and feels
- Our children can be held responsible for picking up their own toy messes because these now qualify as “kid-sized” messes that I know they can handle.
Was I concerned about depriving my kids of their toys?
However, all my concerns proved needless. My kids are actually grateful that their messes are easier to clean up! They have fun with the toys available to them, which are their favorites, and they play games, read, and explore outside for hours a day. They also love to color and do crafts.
But speaking of crafts…
Simplifying the Craft Supplies
With the toy mess situation greatly improved, it was time to address another overwhelming mess-station in our home, our craft table.
My children have a small kids’ table. Beside it is a stack of plastic drawers containing paper galore, stickers, tape, scissors, colored pencils, crayons, markers.
Each day, to my delight, my children would sit down and create interesting artwork for long stretches of time.
However, to my chagrin, they would undoubtedly get up, leaving cut-up bits of paper, crayons, and all sorts of craft supplies covering the table and floor beneath them.
Although I frequently reminded them to clean up their mess before moving on, they responded with complaints, distraction, and “I’m too tired.”
And this was happening every single day, if not twice a day or even more!
As much as I loved that my kids were spending time busily creating, this was not working. They were being allowed to repeatedly make a mess that was overwhelming for them to clean up.
So, I applied the same tactic as with their toys.
I took the plastic drawers and rolled them into our office (a no-kid zone). I set a dish of crayons on their table and made a new rule. Each child could have one piece of paper per day, and that was it.
This created instant freedom and success! It lifted an burden from both my children and myself. Over a few weeks, we transitioned our “one paper policy” to include more craft supplies, but only with special permission and only with the promise that these would be cleaned up without complaint.
Miraculously, my kids even figured out how to control the mess as they work so it no longer becomes a complete craft-explosion! Simply by scaling back and setting clear-yet-doable expectations they were able to invent their own strategies for success.
I’d love to hear you chime in! What kid messes in your home cause you stress and how could you reduce the possibility for mess? Have you tried reducing or gating your kids’ stuff as a means to control the mess and chaos? How did you do it? How did it go?
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, coming next week!
Do you ever wonder how some women make running a home look so natural?
I certainly have!
However, after many years of watching my friends who do this well, and after much trial and error, I’ve boiled it all down to 3 essential daily habits. With these 3 habits in place, a home can function pretty well! Without them, it will be perpetual catchup.
While I used to feel like a failure as a homemaker, I know feel a sense of success and satisfaction.
I’d love to share these 3 simple (secret) daily habits with you. If you focus your energy into establishing them, I believe you will achieve the same breakthrough in your homemaking that I did.
Can I share my secrets with you?
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