Loss of breath, legs giving out, and you need to go to the restroom. The side effects of hearing those godawful words “time to clean up!” Fortunately for you, the parent, that incantation only works on children, and you are free to tidy up till your heart’s desire. What if there was a way to break the curse? If you could somehow breath life back into their tiny little lungs, mend their lower extremities and give them the focus to use the toilet without running into a side quest? Here are five easy steps to picking up even kids will admit makes it simpler.
The floor is lava! It might as well be because most likely there has been an eruption of fun at some point and now getting across the room is a game of getting from one safe point to another. Where to start is the first question? To a child, this is a massive operation that they lack the experience to manage. Make it simple for them. Just sweep.
Everything, and I repeat, everything gets swept into the center of the floor. It does not matter what it is. If it can be stepped on it can be swept on. Freeing up real estate will allow the work process to gain a starting point. Now a walkable square perimeter, or circle if you live in a tee pee, has been established. Objects can now start getting returned to their proper locations. What do you have though?
Defining the categories of the pile is the next step. Most households with kids will probably have close to the same basic items depending on how adventurous your kids are at going through your stuff. Six classes come to mind. Toys, clothes, dishes, stationery supplies, trash, and big stuff.
Get your children to help identify what is what also. Chances are that what you consider to be trash is a toy to them. For instance, my kids love pipe cleaners. They get a whole pack of them, twist them all up and create guns, swords, and monsters. It never is lost to them though until you find it for them.
Eliminate the Big Stuff
The mound may be massive, so we need to remember from step one that we need real estate. The big stuff needs to be the first to get put away as it gives us the freest space in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of effort. If you have younger kids this stuff is going to be like big wheels, ridable Thomas the trains and play tables. Older kids may have binders full of Pokemon cards or a basketball. Now that everything is more visible, it is time to really get to work.
Tackle the Bulk
Here is where categories come into play. Ask your kids what is the one group that they see the most of. The answer to that is usually toys. What kinds of toys? Go ahead and categorize those now. Legos, action figures, cars? Whatever there is the most of focus on putting only that where it goes. Let your little helper know it is perfectly fine to ignore everything else and push anything to the side so that only, Legos for example, are being picked up.
Now that all Legos are put away turn to the next toy taking up the most space. Repeat this process until a good portion is taken care of. For better efficiency, have a laundry basket available for clothes, trash can for garbage, and tote for any stray dishes discovered. This way a separate trip does not need to be made every time one of those item needs to go back.
Sweep and Repeat
“Are we almost done yet,” your kids may be asking by this point? The answer is yes! I guarantee the room is at least halfway done now and is nowhere near the eye sore it started out as. Sweep the pile closer together to free up more real estate. At this stage it is not really about the space but more to be eye pleasing and allows your kids to see how much they have already accomplished. The remainder may be more tedious but take it one category at a time.
I have implemented these strategies with my kids in our playroom and noticed a significant attitude change towards cleaning. Distractions still occur but the time it takes to pick up has greatly reduced also. It does not take as much mental energy trying to figure out what to do next. To make it less of a chore, I have added in music as well. For parents with multiple children, adding in an assembly line for passing things from one point to another is another great way to reduce time and energy used to complete the job. My three kids want to use that exclusively now and are upset when there is not much left to utilize this method.
I enjoy cleaning with my kids now.