This is Why I Decluttered

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The screen door squeaks open, then quickly swings shut. Footsteps rapidly cross the living room towards the kitchen. Her arms wrap around me in a quick hug before her little hands reach out, eager to sample the icing recipe I’m trying to perfect.

A few minutes later, my ears perk up as the screen door moves on its hinges again. Another friend. She flashes a toothy grin at me while she tastes the butter and sugar I’ve mixed together – she gives me a thumbs-up, indicating the icing is ready to be swirled onto rows of tiny cupcakes.

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They come and go, these ones and their sisters. Sometimes I feel like we’re raising a neighborhood, between the overflowing dinner table, the extra shoes by the door, the silly jokes, and the added drama.

Their parents and grandparents ask repeatedly, “Are you sure it’s okay for them to hang out all evening?”

Oh, yes, I assure them. It’s more than okay.

As I gaze at the nine bicycles laying all over my tiny front yard, I think about how different things are this year. How full our home is. How much bigger our hearts are.

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There are rarely only four people here for family night anymore. Our living room has become the standard game spot when it’s raining. And preteens are rediscovering their love for dolls as they delight in hours of imaginative play.

A few years ago, I wouldn’t have let them in. I was so embarrassed by my clutter that I shut others out of my home, and in doing so, I was also closing them out of a part of my heart.

I grew weary of living that way.

I finally decided that I wasn’t going to let a messy house stop me from reaching out to others. But I knew I was too busy putting out clutter-fires to make time for more important things. So I decided to unbury myself. It was tough. But I didn’t give up.

The difference has been amazing.

And while my house still gets messy, a gentle mess from a day or two feels and looks a whole lot different than piles of clutter that have been laying around for several years.

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And just like our bodies continually need refreshed with water, our homes continually need refreshed from excess.

Because when we’re not weighed down by the burden of clutter, we have more energy to give, to love, to serve, and to welcome others in to our homes and our hearts.

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Will you join me in welcoming others in?

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6 Tear-Free Ways to Get Kids to Clean

One thing I’m asked regularly is how to get kids to do their chores. I avoided answering this question for a long time because chores with kids is tough, especially when the parents (re: me) aren’t perfect at maintaining a clean home, either.

But something I’ve learned is that while my kids and I aren’t perfect, we can make progress, and that progress makes a huge positive difference in our home!

Here are 6 ways I’ve learned to get kids to clean, sans tears:

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1) Talk about what’s expected.

Needing to put dirty clothes in the hamper may seem like common sense to us, but it’s not always obvious to our kids. So make sure they know what is expected. You can do this by posting a simple chore chart, having a family meeting, and offering frequent gentle reminders.

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2) Show how to complete a chore.

It’s important to make sure our kids really know how to accomplish a task, and teaching chore completion is usually best done in 4 steps:

  • Have your child watch you do the chore.
  • Instruct your child to help you complete the chore.
  • Allow your child to lead while you assist with the chore.
  • Child does chore unassisted (don’t forget to check their work!).

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3) Keep tasks manageable.

Have you ever walked into a room, felt incredibly overwhelmed, and walked right back out? Me too! Sometimes our kids feel the same way and need help breaking down tasks.

For example, instead of just saying, “Clean your room,” try offering step-by-step guidance such as, “Put your shoes in the closet.” When they finish, you can tell them to place their dirty clothes in the hamper. Keep going until the room is clean.

Offer lots of praise and gentle redirection along the way!

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4) Teach by example.

When I was recently lamenting to my husband that our kids left their shoes and bags all over the kitchen again, he gently told me that I leave my shoes and purse out nearly every day too. Ouch!

He was right though and went on to say that our children will never learn to develop good cleaning habits if the example they’re seeing is to dump everything on a table.

The same goes with the rest of the house – do our kids see us leaving the kitchen a mess after we’re done cooking? If so, why would they think they need to clean up their stuff when they’re finished with it?!

We need to remember that regardless of the chores we assign our actions are setting a huge example, so let’s make sure we’re working to set a good one. {Check out the private Tidy Up Club on Facebook if you need a little extra accountability in this area.}

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5) Follow through on appropriate consequences.

If steps 1-4 are followed and you’re still having trouble getting your kids to clean, then it’s time to take things a bit further by giving appropriate consequences.

For example, the children who didn’t put their toys away before a bedtime story may need to miss the story so they can finish cleaning. The kid who complains about taking their plate to the sink can earn a week of dinnertime dish duty so they can practice completing the chore with a good attitude.

Children are quick learners and when they see that their actions have real consequences, it’s amazing how efficiently they can work!

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6) Stay consistent and diligent.

Being a parent is tough sometimes, but we need to persevere!

It does often takes more time to train our kids than it takes to clean something alone, but we need to remind ourselves that we’re training our little ones for adulthood and if we want them to succeed later, we need to teach them today.

What tear-free tips would you add to this list of how to get your kids to help clean?

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Why I Hated Chore Charts, Plus a FREE Printable

I stare at my taunting list, acutely aware of the many items not crossed off. Deeply defeated, I sink into a chair, head in hands on the cold table, and wonder why I can’t get it together. After several minutes of silent self-criticism, I slowly pull my weary body up so I can go climb into bed, too discouraged to put forth any more effort.

After repeating the above scenario more times than I can count, I decided that chore charts and lengthy to-do lists simply weren’t for me. And for years, I did just fine without them.

But after I started working full-time again, I knew my family needed a very efficient system in place. I also knew the system had to be really easy or we wouldn’t maintain it. So I carefully created a simple chore list.

ChoreChartPinterest

I determined two important details right away:

1) Our chore list will aide our routine, not dictate our schedule.

We have not completely followed the list one single time since posting it on our fridge. But our mornings run much smoother now because I can say, “Check the list,” to my kids instead of verbally running through every item repeatedly.

In the evenings, when my mind is tired, I just glance at the list. It tells me what to do. I can choose not to follow through, of course. But having that gentle suggestion ready when I want it is very helpful.

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2) We won’t play catch-up.

I really love that completing a couple of simple chores each day helps keep the home looking nice much of the time.

But we won’t play catch-up. If my family doesn’t scrub the main bathroom on Monday, it can wait until Thursday. If we don’t vacuum or mop this week, we can do it next week. No big deal.

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The Printables!

Today I want to share my family’s lists with you. The first two pages, shown above, are exactly what we have hanging on our own fridge. The other two pages, shown below, are perfect for those of you who would like to write down different chores.

Print one if you need a simple routine. Print several if you’d like to vary your list each week.

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Go here to download your FREE daily and weekly chore list printables! Customizable pages are included!

Remember, though, whether you use a ready-made chart or create your own, you are in charge of your list, not the other way around. Don’t let any chart be be the boss of your family or tell you how to feel!

And for those of you with pre-readers in your home, I’ve got you covered, too! Print and laminate the chart below, and let your little ones put a sticker on it after they finish each chore. Remove stickers each day or once a week. Repeat.

Or just print it and put it on your fridge. No lamination or stickers needed.

Remember, you don’t work for the chart, the chart works for you. You’re the boss.

Your Daily Chore Chart FREE Printable from The Tidy Mom

Go here to download your FREE daily chore chart printable!
{This one is perfect for all ages, including pre-readers.}

I’d love to hear – do you have good success with chore charts?

PS I have an amazing giveaway for you this weekend. You are going to LOVE it and I can hardly wait to share!

PPS If chore time with your children often feels like an impossible battle, I highly recommend reading this post about how to get your kids to willingly pitch in with chores. I can guarantee the answer is not what you think!

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How to Get Your Kids to Willingly Pitch in With Chores

I’ve been mulling over this question for awhile, wanting to answer, but afraid to say the wrong thing. And then last week I told you that while I may not have the perfect answers, I’m going to do my best to help, to encourage, and to inspire.

I promised to stop backing away from the hard stuff.

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So here we go.

“I am a stay at home mom and I do understand that it’s my job to take care of the home. However, am I wrong to say that it’s the entire household’s job also to keep the house standing? I just feel as if I get taken for granted. How do I change this? Can I change this? I can’t keep the house going on my own.

“How do I get everyone to realize that I just did the dishes and the respectful thing to do is to clean your dish so the sink is once again clean? That way one dish doesn’t lead to another then another and another… next I have a sink full of dirty dishes once again.

“Your blog has given me some faith that maybe you could help!” – Danielle

Danielle, thank you for your kind words and for your patience in waiting for an answer! I’m not responding to this question as the queen-of-having-perfect-little-helpers. Not at all.  I’m answering your question more as an “I’m right there with you!”

Throughout my nearly ten years of motherhood, I’ve worked part time in an office, worked from home, stayed home completely, and am currently working full time outside the home. Switching gears so many times has taught me that while the dynamics of who does the most housework may change from season to season, the underlying issue is this:

We are training our children for adulthood.

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The answer to your question isn’t the perfect chore chart or some sort of amazing super-secret method. In fact, the answer isn’t really an answer at all – it’s simply more questions:

Are you speaking to your children’s hearts? Are you taking the time to teach them why taking care of a home is important? When the sink is full of dirty dishes, what is your response? Are you frustrated while you wash them yourself or are you using that opportunity to gently call your children in so you can work on the dishes together? Are you teaching them that they’re blessed to even have dishes?

Yes, we are to be good stewards of our possessions. And yes, stay-at-home moms should generally be doing a larger portion of the housework than a woman who works full-time outside the home. But the hard truth is that if we feel like we’re being taken for granted, it’s a sign we’re bearing too much of the load on our own.

Training takes time. It’s hard, discouraging, and repetitive work. But eventually, the training sinks in. It pays off. And though it may not feel like it right now, your children will eventually notice. And it may happen sooner than you think.

Proverbs 31:27-29 “[The virtuous woman] looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.”

What encouragement and kind advice do you have for Danielle as she works to help her children develop good housekeeping habits?