I got an email from a good friend asking if I could share any tips to help on keeping a car full of kids clean and keeping up with the house. I often get asked questions like this because the assumption is that if you have only seen my house and car clean, it must be clean all the time. Trust me, it isn't. But I do try very hard to keep up with it and my favorite thing in the world is to have people over so I work hard to keep my house in that condition -- where I am ready as often as possible to have people over.
This morning was the perfect example of how I often operate. It was 9:00. I hadn't showered. The kids were out the door to school. I was sitting in my PJ's on the couch watching Diego with Adam. I knew I had several things I wanted to do, but I really was lacking in motivation. My bed wasn't made, Adam's bed wasn't made, the dishwasher had not yet been emptied, the breakfast dishes were on the table. I knew that by myself it might take me all day to get around to everything. What I really wanted to do today was make homemade granola (I had bought everything for it on Monday), but there was no way I was going to start a project in my current state. So, Looking for motivation I started to call friends. The first one didn't answer. The second one did! I asked Michelle if she wanted to come learn how to make granola. She said she did but wanted to make sure she could get her kids going so she said she would call back. I continued to sit on the couch. Fifteen minutes later at 9:14 she called back to say they were on their way (she lives 10 minutes away). Over the next 10 minutes, I emptied the dishwasher, folded a load of laundry, started another, did the breakfast dishes, took a shower, got dressed, made the beds and she still wasn't here -- she actually didn't get here for 25 minutes so I also found the granola recipe and dug through my food storage to find the oats.
Cleaning your house is all about being motivated to do it. With the right kind of motivation, it just doesn't take long. But I can promise you, that if I had not called a friend, I would barely have gotten any thing done by 3 p.m. (and definately not the yummy granola).
Anyway, here are the tips I emailed back to Andrea. Hope this helps someone out there.
How to keep the car clean??
1. Put a towel underneath the car seats (especially if you have leather seats as our car seats have actually ripped the leather because they are pulled so tight and the car seats edges are not exactly smooth). It is so much easier to take out a towel and shake it off than to vacuum in all the crevices.
2. Keep the dustbuster stored in the garage right by the car -- (then when you know the goldfish have spilled you can take care of it right away)
3. Keep a garbage can close to the car in the garage.
4. Store your plastic grocery bags in the car -- preventing mud is so much easier than cleaning it up -- I try and be aware of the kids shoes after soccer practice and the like -- if they are muddy, I have them take them off and put them into a plastic bag -- I figure this helps a ton keeping my house clean too -- if you are aware of what is on your kids shoes before they get in the car, then all that mud will never get in your house. I have put dirty soccer balls into the bags. I use them for garbage.
5. Add this routine -- while getting gas have everyone search the car for garbage, there is always a garbage can right by the gas tanks and you are doing nothing else -- my kids are great at this -- it is like a big hunt for trash at the gas station and I am not ashamed to admit buying them treats sometime as a reward for finding lots of garbage.
6. When we lived in Texas Trent washed and vacuumed the car each saturday, but here it happens more like once a month -- but even when it was every week it was never a huge task because the car was never that dirty at least on the inside to begin with.
Hope that helps with the car. . .
Now to the hard question, do I ever get worn out and just not clean up.
Yep, and I always, always regret it. I must say it happens less and less because of the reality that it never gets easier and I always want to kick myself when I do it. Especially in our circumstances right now. Trent leaves at 6 in the morning and doesn't get home often until 9:30 at night -- so there literally is no one to bail me out. My mom does not live here, my sisters do not live here. So the burden falls on just me. all the time. I constantly am talking myself into doing the little things. But here are some things I have done to help.
1. Whenever I cook a meal, I cook another meal for the same day at the same time. My goal is to be in the kitchen for only 2 meals a day (and yet eat 3 meals a day at home) -- So . . . while making breakfast and packing the kids lunches, I nearly always pack Adam and me a lunch as well. It is not any more work to pack 3 lunches or 5 lunches, but when I am done cleaning up the breakfast lunch making mess, I know that I do not have to be in the kitchen again until dinner. It also means that every day I am ready to go on an adventure with Adam. We always have our lunch packed and ready to go. It gives me the incentive to find a park or an activity to go and do with him.
2. When the girls buy lunch, which is 1-2 times a week, I always make dinner for everyone while I am making lunch. So again, when I am done with lunch-- dinner is already made. I often even set the table at lunch time for dinner. I do all the dishes and cleanup and just have to heat up dinner when it is time. That means the dinner dishes are not very many.
3. I am not afraid to use paper plates. On days when I know I am going to be tired, I make things as easy as possible.
4. Every dinner is not a big deal. My kids are just as happy with scrambled eggs as they are with shrimp and snow peas (OK, sometimes even more happy). I have sometimes said, "Kids, Mom is tired, let's have cereal." They never complain.
5. I always make a ton of food and freeze ready made plates (so that on cereal days- Trent can find a "real" dinner in the freezer.
6. Reward yourself. I love to be on the computer. So I use computer time as a reward for myself when the laundry is done. If I am posting a lot on my blogs, you can know that I was doing laundry. I also love naps. My goal each day is to be done with everything in the house by 9:30 in the morning so that I can play with friends, take a nap while adam watches max and ruby, and read a book. I am often the most productive in the house when I have a good book to read, because I bribe myself with the book. I guess I feel too guilty to just sit and read for hours on end. So I always say to myself, "I am going to let myself read a chapter for every load of laundry I do. or I am going to do a craft with Adam and then read a chapter. "
7. Become ritualistic. Every night, no matter what, I start the dishwasher. It doesn't matter if the load is small or big. Every morning the first thing we do is empty the dishwasher (all the kids help). That way I am ready to handle all the dishes of the day. As for laundry -- every day I run 2 loads (whites and coloreds). I like the loads the smaller the better. (they seem so much more manageable to deal with) -- When I do the whites and it is a very small load I run and grab some towels to add to it or some sheets. Also I always make myself finish a load before pulling another one out of the dryer. Even if I have gotten behind and have 6-7 loads of laundry waiting, I much prefer to tackle one load at a time, instead of stacking up the clean laundry for one gigantic 2 hour folding session.
8. Use your kids. Mine have become such good helpers lately. When it comes to picking up toys they are really great. I have several "tools" we use sometimes. Occasionally when there is a big mess in the toy room we play bean bag pickup. I toss bean bags at the kids and if they get hit, they have to put something away. The kids love the game and always want to play it. When it is the rest of the house I have them all go find 5 things and bring them to the table. Once on the table we group things as to what room they go in and then each kids is responsible for all the stuff in one room (often there own).
9. I have a place (here in this house it is a barstool) designated for each kid. I put their laundry on it, and all day if I find something that is their's or something they got out, I just put it on their stool. When they come home from school that is the first thing they have to do -- clear the stool, then they get to sit on the stool and have snack. I don't ever put away the kids laundry or their toys. I tell them I have enough of my own mess -- but I will gladly trade, I will do their stool if they make and clean up dinner. None of them have traded yet. They NEVER get snack or get to go to a friend's or go to soccer if their stool is not cleared. They all know this rule very well and it is just a part of their routine. Even Adam does it.
Hope this helps. I certainly learn through trial and error, no day is ever perfect, but I really try and not put off something because I know it just gets worse. I really feel like I only spend a small part of the day working on the house. I always reward myself with having friends over or going out every day to a park or something. And there is nothing like going to bed each night knowing that you are ready for the next day. there is nothing like enjoying a book and not feeling guilty about the things you should be doing. and there is nothing like having a nap and knowing you deserve it.
And if all else fails, chocolate is amazing. A small piece of chocolate is often the motivation I need to get moving!