Like many modern homeschooling families, we have a relatively large family. We started out with my husband’s three kids, then we had five more. With two of the older children moved on, we still have six at home, and all the laundry and mess that goes with it. Add homeschooling to it all and whew! Sometimes you would think a tornado went through here!
Our children at home are now 19, 11, 7, 6, 4 and 18 months. We can whip up a mess in no time! It isn’t just the kids, I have some bad habits that certainly add to the chaos, as well. The mess sometimes drives me crazy. Some days it seems like I clean all day, and never seem to make a dent. I tried “Flylady” and “Emily Barnes” and more books than I dare to mention (even “The House That Cleans Itself“)! Funny, reading all those books didn’t do a thing for the condition of our home!
During my pregnant/nursing years, I had to get creative. What works during one season of your life doesn’t always work for the next, but I thought I would write down some of my ideas, hoping to remind myself of what has worked in the past, also to help those who are in the thick of it!
1) Playing “I Spy” is a great game for pregnant and nursing mothers! You sit on the couch or in a chair and “spy” the toys and things that mysteriously end up all over the living room. This is a good opportunity to train them to put things away where they belong. You may need to follow the younger children, or put an older child with a younger child to help train them to put things away properly. If you don’t’ have children old enough to help in this way, you could have the child bring the items to you, then at least you won’t have to bend over that baby-belly and pick things up off of the floor. You could also try having a different basket for each room and the children can sort the items according to which room they go in.
2) Scavenger hunt: my eleven-year-old daughter invented this game. She walked around the house and made a list of out-of-place items in the room. When she would call off the item, the children would have to find the item. This could be good for an early reader, too if you had him read off the list. The items may or may not be all in one room. This one takes a little more time than “I Spy” and would be better if the house is “kind-of” messy rather than a disaster.
3) “The Cleaning Race” is my favorite cleaning game. The best way to “play” this game is if you have recently had your home really clean, what I call “company clean” (clean enough to allow company to visit). It may take a day or two (sometimes it takes me a week!) to get the house that clean, then every day after that, you do the cleaning race. What we do is start at the entrance of our home, where our family primarily comes in, which is in the attached garage. We all line up at the back door, like we are going to have a race. I ask three questions: 1) “Why do we do this?” (Answer: to be good stewards of what God gives us!) 2) “How do we do this?” (Answer: as to the Lord and not to men!) and 3) “What is teamwork?” (Answer: everybody helps everybody until the whole house is clean!) We put our hands together like a team would do before they begin a game, shout “TEAMWORK!” and “GO!” And the race begins! We rush around the garage, picking up shoes and coats and putting things away. Next we move into the mud/laundry room and pick up shoes and bags and laundry and whatever else is on the floor there. Next is the kitchen: cleaning up from the last meal, sweeping the floor, washing and putting away dishes, and changing the tablecloth. After the kitchen we do the living room, then the bathroom, hallway and finish in the kids’ bedroom. If I call it a “race” they hurry through it, even when I forget to set a timer! If I just say “we are going to clean the house” the results are not so good. We started this at the beginning of our summer vacation and did it every day, except sometimes we skipped Sunday, then had twice the mess to clean up on Monday. Once we started school, it was hard to squeeze the cleaning race into our schedule, and we got really behind! But we had Grandma & Grandpa over this past weekend so we had incentive on Saturday to kill ourselves cleaning the house, now the cleaning race is not such a big deal! When you are trying to keep it clean, rather than cleaning all the time, with (seemingly) never an end in sight, everyone has a much different attitude about that nasty phrase: “clean the house”.
4) “The Sock Game” At our house we have a laundry basket which is about half-full of socks that don’t seem to have matches, I call it the “dead sock pile”. Every few weeks or so, I spread out all the socks on the living room floor. I organize them into rows then the children take turns finding matches. Even the four-year-old can play this, or even three-year-old with a little help. There is always a reward for playing all the games for us it is usually candy or playing a game together so we can enjoy our clean house and the extra time Mommy has because they helped so much.
I made a spin chart to assign chores to different kids. I spin the chart each day so they don’t have the same chores every day. Here is an example of our spin chart: child #1 unloads the top left dishwasher rack (Left, being left of the dishwasher, which is cups, mugs & glasses), feeds the pets, sweep kitchen; child #2 unloads the top right dishwasher rack (little plates and plastic storage containers), cleans the bathroom (each child has a different region according to their age capabilities - sink, toilet, trash- the 19 year-old gets the bathtub); child #3 unloads bottom dishwasher rack, is in charge of living room clean-up and helps with meals. The four-year-old puts away silverware and empties the bucket of vegetable peelings & coffee grounds in the garden.
I do laundry for my husband & myself and towels. Anyone over 10 does their own laundry. Our 19-year-old daughter does everyone else’s. Practically every morning we have a basket of clean towels and washcloths to fold and put away. I separate the 4, 6 & 7 year-olds to different parts of the room, then I start sorting the clean towels. “Seven” gets big towels, “Six” gets kitchen towels and hand towels; “Four” gets washcloths. About the same time I finish sorting, they finish folding!
Keeping the home clean with a large family really does take teamwork. When I switched from a “just do it” attitude to a “good stewardship” attitude, everything changed. I hope that someone will find these ideas helpful, and keep in mind, you are not alone!
So when the newsletter arrived, I sat down in my total-disaster-of-a-house and read the artical I wrote about keeping house! LOL! Thankfully, I inspired myself! I am happy to say, that as I write this, we have re-intituted the cleaning race and our home is quite tidy! "On your marks, get set, GO!"
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