A home that always stays clean is either a myth or a fairy tale. However, it is possible to never (or rarely) wake up to chaos!
When you are homeschooling and your children are home all day (or if you are running them around town to all their activities and co-op sessions), your home can quickly go from tidy to chaotic.
Don't let this stress you! View this as normal. Whoever said that the key to happiness is low expectations is mistaken. However, contentment often comes on the heels of realistic expectations. I've found that if I have high expectations of cleaning my home and it still being clean six hours later, I'm frustrated if it isn't. But if I expect there to be normal wear and tear going on all day long, I'm content with a certain level of chaos.
But contentment doesn't mean we sit back and allow it to continue.
Contentment means we calmly address the disorder at the correct time.
Now, as much as I cherish a clean, tidy house, I cannot walk around behind my kids all day long, picking up their strewn belongings. Nor do I want to be a nag.
On the other hand, I'm not content to wake up in the morning to absolute chaos.
So here's what I do about it.
Don't Wake Up To Chaos!
I have found a three-part solution to keeping the chaos at bay.
This is important to me, because chaos and clutter is amazingly distracting. In order to be able to focus on my work and to experience peace and joy, I need a certain level of order.
Part One: Nightly clean up.
I start at night. Before going to bed, I try to make sure certain jobs are done. The dishes must be washed. The kitchen must be somewhat tidy. The laundry must be clean, folded, and given to my children to be put away. There are other jobs I like to have done, and depending on our circumstances, I aim for: bedrooms clean, bathroom wiped down, hallway empty of piles, and dishes dried and put away. I would love to say that I go to bed every night with a thoroughly clean house, but that would be a fairy tale. But I rarely go to bed when my house is in absolute chaos.
Part Two: Morning Chores.
In addition to cleaning up before heading to bed (and I'm not a night owl, so that means it’s a stretch for me), we have several times when we work together as a family to tidy up the house. The first of these times is during our morning chores.
In our house, chores are not distributed just for the purpose of giving our children something to do. I've portioned out the most important things that need to get done every day in order to maintain the household. That means everybody has a chore in the morning that directly contributes to household management. My children take out the trash, carry down the laundry, take care of the cat, sweep the upstairs hallway, do a quick wipe down of the two bathrooms, and make breakfast. (This is evenly distributed: each person has one chore that shouldn't take more than 5-10 minutes.) In addition to this, we work together to put furniture in place, clean off coffee tables, put away scattered music, and clear the floors of toys, balls, and skateboards. Thankfully, there usually isn't much to do in the morning because of…
Part Three: Evening Clean Up.
We have a second, similar clean up late in the afternoon or early evening, often after dinner. We put away all the homeschool materials and books, musical instruments, and toys. Clean clothes are put away. Books are shelved. Games are finished and put away. (Are we the only family with board games going on practically 24-7? Unless it is Axis and Allies, I prefer it not to be left out overnight.)
In addition to these three quick-cleaning times, we also have a policy of washing dishes immediately after every meal. With no dishwasher, this is a big task. But it has to be done, so why not right away? I find that the kitchen is not only the heart of the home, it is the also the thermometer of my homemaking diligence. If it is clean, the rest probably is too. If it is a mess, you don't have to peek into closets to know they are likely a mess too.
These are our cleaning times. Over the years, as my family has grown (both numerically and in the physical size of bodies), the Lord has had to give me more and more grace to close my eyes to messes that arise in between. I do ask my children to put their toys away if they have moved on to a new activity, but I don't stress over it in general. This is part of a balanced life: choosing to focus on certain things at certain times and ignoring them at all other times.
And this is the system that helps me--and can help you--to never wake up to chaos.
Start by asking yourself what the non-negotiable chores are for your home--the chores that make the biggest difference. Is there a way you can divvy them up to your children? Or are there tasks you can do right before bed or early in the morning so that they are off your plate for the rest of the day?
Plan in at least one (or up to three) 5-10 minute clean up times each day. (If this is new to your family, start with one.) What are good times to do this? Right before or after a meal is great, since the whole family is usually already congregated together at those times. Choose a time of the day when you and your children are not on low battery power so you can avoid melt-downs. (Another reason to choose a time following a meal.)
Whatever time you schedule for this, tie it to another activity so it gets done every day! For instance, you could do it right before Daddy gets home from work (so he can enjoy a peaceful evening) or right after (so he can help oversee it). Or you could do it right before outside play time (so the kids get it done fast instead of dragging their feet). Or right after morning snack time. These are all logical times to take a quickie time-out from homeschooling to do a bit of tidying.
Put on some fun music or an audio drama while everybody cleans. Follow them around and supervise. It helps if I hand someone an item and tell them exactly where they are to put it. ("This goes in the pink basket on the bottom shelf of the hallway closet.") Remind them it gets put away, not just dropped at the top of the stairs or on the floor of someone's bedroom. When done, thank them for their help. Your family is a team: you play together, eat together, and work together. Each person's help and presence is needed and blesses the team as a whole.
It's no fun at all to wake up to chaos. Thankfully, you don't have to! Wake up to a tidy home tomorrow morning.
About the Author
Hi, I'm Laura. I've been homeschooling for over ten years. I have six children and I'm married to my best friend.
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