However, I've taken so many pictures in this past year and taken so many notes while I'm cleaning up, that I know exactly how I do it. These pics are not going to be normal (as a little warning). I usually take pictures while I'm in the midst of a project and blog about it pretty soon afterward. This way they all match what I've just done. However, these pictures will be old. No--we didn't get new carpet and then rip it out and Bubzy didn't go back to being 6 months old. This post would be extremely long if I posted a lot of pictures anyway.
Note: As much as I would like to say we go by this exactly, that would be an exaggeration. If it's easier to dump a shoe off the kitchen counter into the Stow-Away basket instead of wiping around it on the counter, for instance, I don't call over the child in charge of stow-aways that's working on the other side of the kitchen. This is just a guideline to give you a jumping off point, not a set of rules. Use your head more than you read these rules, and you'll be good to go.
Keys To Timeliness:
- Keep your children close. Wear any not-yet-walking baby. This keeps them absolutely supervised and comfy enough for a nap. Any toddler age child can go in a walker-like toy--they are far easier to carry than a playpen and you can always switch to the playpen in the room it's currently in. Give every child a job, even the older toddler. He can throw away paper plates and tightly wrapped diapers, or you can hand him a wipey and let him wipe whatever he gets his hands on. Once they are old enough to help, they should be included. People need to feel needed and useful! This is not child-labor, but self-esteem boosting exercises. Just never give them something more than age appropriate and be patient with them. Keeping your children close may seem to take longer, but think of all the saved steps going back and forth from the t.v. room. I told you how to set up a Safe Haven here, but that should really only be used when circumstances are unsafe to allow a child's help.
- Get your tools together ahead of time. You will need two laundry baskets and at least one trash bag. You may also choose to take along a vacuum or broom if you haven't recently used them.
- Eat before hand and start with no excuses. Children will have a few in their arsenal--thirst, hunger, and being hot or cold, are some of the first to come up. Make sure these and any others you know of are taken care of before you start. They will pull them out at intervals like slowly trickling traffic that you can't pull out in, every excuse in the book. Just make sure that they're not legitimate.
- Stay in the same room until you really need to move on and then glance around and make sure you're taking with you as much as you can. If you're headed to the back of the house, for instance, take several things that will be dropped in rooms that are along the way.
- Skip any really big messes--say Christmas decor that needs putting back in the garage or closets that need decluttering. If the timer hasn't gone off by the time you're finished tidying the whole house, by all means dive in, but not until then.
Step by Step
- Empty and reload your dishwasher. --I always start here. When I get behind, which is not unusual for me, I usually need two loads of dishes. It's better if I start right away on getting the dishwasher started so I can put in a second load mid-way through.
2. Assign jobs as such: (be sure to check for any sharp knives or slippery spots on the floor before getting started in the kitchen)
- 1st child--oldest and most capable of doing dishes (may be you if your children are littles). Get them going on unloading the dishwasher.
2nd child--owns the trash bag. Instruct them to circle the room, picking up anything and everything trash and dumping any small trashcans in along the way.
3rd child or You--starts either a few steps behind or on opposite side of child in charge of trash. Instruct them to walk around the kitchen in a circle, gathering all dirty dishes and putting them by the sink.
1st child--when finished unloading starts right into loading back the dishwasher, skipping all hand wash only or knives.
2nd child--circles a second time with one of the laundry baskets, picking up all stuff that belongs in a different room. If there's not much in the area of trash and stow-aways, then have them run to distribute items where they go. This child may also be sent on a scavenger hunt for dishes that escaped to various rooms.
You--instruct the children, put away all kitchen clutter that has been left out, and generally help with everything. I point a lot--you missed the paper plate, can you throw that jacket in the laundry basket, don't skip that pot it can easily go in the dishwasher, etc.
1st child and/or You--warms a rag and wipes down all counter tops and breakfast table, and sweeps the floor.
You--do any hand wash dishes that remain and clean out the sink.
Now, if you're actually finished with the dishes, you're done with the kitchen. If there's more dishes left for a 2nd load, it's time to move on and come back later.
3. Quick trip to the laundry room--it's not time to do laundry, but a quick swap from dryer to basket, washer to dryer, and starting a new load will keep it all running.
4. Bedrooms--move from room to room, doing the following:
Oldest Child and You--make bed first.
2nd Child--owns the trash bag and "stow-away basket", which holds anything belonging in a different room than you're currently in. Circles the room picking any of these things up.
3rd Child and/or You--deal with clothing. Hang back up what's not dirty but found its way to the floor anyway and put all dirty clothes into basket.
Now, everyone--circle room together, picking up all things out of place on the floor or dresser-tops and putting them back in their homes. If the room is terrible--blankets and pillows first, huge objects like boxes and chairs next, biggest toys after that, then shove together what's left and put it all away. When a child's room is really bad, I set a time limit and go in this order until the time is up and move on. You don't want to get trapped here all day when you're goal is the whole house.
- 5. Bathrooms--I do these as we go along with bedrooms, and if it's tight I usually either tackle it by myself or assign most of it to one child.
First, gather all trash.
Then, put away all clutter.
Next, I use a clorox wipe to quickly freshen up the sink and toilet. (Remember, you're catching up this time, so don't stop to do major jobs like cleaning a nappy bathtub. However, if you have your cleaner right there with you and can contain yourself to an imperfect cleaning, be my guest.)
Gather any dirty clothes or towels, and move on.
As I finish each room, I take my baskets and filling trash bag with me. We scavenge through the Stow-Away basket in each new room and put things away.
6. If the dishwasher's finished, open it to cool, and let everyone get a drink and potty break.
[REMEMBER--If your house is bad, decide on how much you'll do as you hit a room, and then just call it done. You can always get trapped in a room later--not now.
Let's say I'm looking into Abram's room and it looks like a tornado hit. I scan the room quickly and notice that most of it's toys and blankets. I would say something like, "Okay, we'll do the bed and all blankets, pillows and stuffed toys. We'll get 20 big toys each put back (they usually run out of toys before they reach 20). We'll put the toy box and dress-up bin back in place. Then we'll pick up 20 small toys each and put them all back and call it done. That usually takes it from chaotic to hope and the next day we can usually finish it off.]
7. Tidy hallways and entryways as you pass them. Straighten, tuck, and generally just put it back in order.
8. Main Living Areas--
1st Child--restores all pillows to the couch, then takes over the trash bag.
2nd Child--puts away toys or belongings that go in the same room.
3rd Child or You--tosses any stowaways in Stow-Away basket and if needed vacuum.
9. Put away all things in Stow-Away basket. Children are great runners if you don't mind them just placing stuff on the bed in whatever room they belong in.