As spring begins to show her face, it’s all too easy to look around your home and see all of the things that have been piled up over the past few months. With winter weather trapping the kids inside, you probably have messes in places that you didn’t realize messes could hide—and those are the things that the kids actually picked up instead of leaving them scattered from one end of the house to the other! Depending on how many kids you have at home, you may have things strewn everywhere—and it’s not a pretty picture.
Your instinct is to get it all clean sooner rather than later. You drag out the mops, the brooms, the dust cloths. You threaten the kids with death and dismemberment if they don’t get to cleaning immediately. Spring break? Spring break is for children who don’t leave messes everywhere! Outside time? You don’t care that it’s pretty for the first time in months. Your house looks appalling!
Restrain that urge as best you can. It’s not easy; but you’ve been overlooking the mess for months (are those Christmas bags still hiding underneath your couch? A shred of Christmas wrapping paper stuck to the chair?). Taking the time now to do it slowly—and therefore not burn out you and your kids—will be well worth the effort.
Set a daily goal. Each day you will: clean out one bag of garbage that you don’t need anymore. Finish one location (one closet, one shelf, one cabinet. Use the square foot method: each day, you will clean up one square foot of space. When you’re done for the day, give yourself permission to be done! The mess, and the clutter, will still be there tomorrow.
Enlist your helpers. Let them know that you will be achieving this goal. You’re tired of living in squalor (which probably isn’t really as bad as you think—it just feels that way), and since they helped you get here, they are going to help you get it clean again. Bribe them, if necessary. Point out that until the cleaning is done, you aren’t able to (insert fun activity here). Perhaps you can plan to go outside for a little while when everything is done. Watch a movie together. Read a book. Have free time. Offer the incentive that works best for your children.
Don’t accept half-done work. Just as when you’re teaching your kids, you have to put your foot down about the amount of effort that they put into a task. If you let them get by with shoving half of the mess under the bed, then they would be absolutely delighted to shove half of the mess under the bed anytime you’re not looking—and that way leads to more piles and more messes that you don’t need.
Get comfortable with getting rid of things. Have a donate pile. Donate it. If they’re things that you and your children no longer use, or that you have far too many of, pass them on to someone who can really use them. It’s likely that you have “junk” (that would be an absolute treasure to someone else) hiding in many of the rooms of your house. Getting rid of it will leave you with a lighter spirit and your house with storage space that you didn’t even realize it had.