Thursday, May 21, 2009

everybody everywhere

I'm reading a book about organization, which book was lost for a little over three days. The irony has not been lost, friends. My goal is to get things going this summer. I say 'get things going' because that's attainable. What's unattainable? Well, let's see... Getting And Keeping The House Spotless While Spending Time With Each And All Of My Children.

I don't aspire to much when it comes to housework. No, that's not true. I don't let myself worry about housework much. No, that's not true either. I do my best to not let it get to me and look forward to the day when my house will be clean and I won't be embarrassed about the state of each room because the fact is that it completely overwhelms me to the point of being physically overwhelmed - yes, I can't move - and I really, really would like a clean home. Yes, that's it.

As far as I can see, there are two extremes: Those who completely ignore their children for the sake of housework, and those who completely ignore their housework for the sake of their children. I fall in the middle, leaning toward the latter. You won't find one of those cross-stitched, "Dust, leave me alone, I'm rocking my babies" or whatever it says, but there are days when my kitchen is a disaster (dishes to be done, floor to be swept and mopped, dried sauces on the stovetop, younameit) and I choose to ignore it and spend a few hours with my babies in the play room, reading books, playing with blocks, and ever-so-carefully filling a plastic bag with toys for charity (since the older kids are at school and won't object). Don't be fooled, though, I pay the price: Guilt All Around for not having done My Job (yes, I consider it my job to keep our home looking nice; I give myself a D+). Darin always picks up the slack, and you know what that means: More Guilt. Such a nice gift we give to ourselves.

I honestly stand in awe of women who have clean homes. I have friends who fall into this category, but I don't want to mention them specifically in case they are embarrassed about it. They have awesome and superclose relationships with their kids AND they have clean homes AND they Do Stuff AND they watch tv, AND AND AND. I really, really have no idea how they do it. we are at Getting Things Going.

I've slowly come to the realization (duh) that I cannot do everything for my kids. I wanted to, no, really I did. But then I remembered that I have to teach them to be grownups. So that's where I am in terms of Getting Things Going. I'm working to somehow persuade my children that cleaning isn't a punishment. Summer brings time to teach them how to do the chores properly, the way they should be done, with efficiency, attention to detail, and a cheerful attitude.

Chores. Charts. Rewards. Allowance.
What works for you and yours?


rookie cookie said...

I don't have children that are old enough to really help out, but when I was a kid we sure did. Every Saturday was "Slave Saturday". Job lists were printed off the computer and no one was going anywhere or doing anything until everything was crossed off. Floors mopped, bathrooms clean, sheet changed, furniture dusted. By noon, my Nazi mother had a clean house. She was just extremely consistent. Maybe that is the key- consistency.

As for rewards or incentives, there were none. As the phrase goes, "Service is the price you pay for the space your occupy".

rookie cookie said...

Fix: not "your" occupy, "you" occupy.

Bunsies said...

I am sorry I never taught you how-- but I was never taught. Regardless of what some people think or say, cleaning house is not an inate ability. You need a Darla.

Kaerlig said...

I'm not the greatest at getting the kids happily involved in family chores...but I usually see them hop to it and clean their room and the basement living room (their toy zone) by telling them they can do whatever it is they want (have a friend over, play computer games etc.) as soon as they have it clean. They usually grumble and get cleaning.

c-dub said...

This sums it up perfectly for me:
"I don't aspire to much when it comes to housework. No, that's not true. I don't let myself worry about housework much. No, that's not true either. I do my best to not let it get to me and look forward to the day when my house will be clean and I won't be embarrassed about the state of each room because the fact is that it completely overwhelms me to the point of being physically overwhelmed - yes, I can't move - and I really, really would like a clean home. Yes, that's it."

I stink.

But bribery works a little when they are teenagers.

The truth is, I think there is some sort of innateness to neatness (you've seen the picture). That's not to say those of us born with the maid gene (as in, we need a maid) can't do it. I can manage a two-bedroom condo w/ no excess of stuff just fine and if no one else lived here I could handle that, too. But I too am overwhelmed and there is not enough time and energy in my day.

* sigh *

Grace said...

Jen, I feel your pain sister. Okay, the thing that I say to my kids when they start to moan and complain is that we are a family team. We work together and we play together; we help eachother. They hear all the time that mom can't do it all, and its the "family" that works together to create a loving and clean home. And when the house is clean and picked up I point out to them how nice it is and how much better we all feel when its like that.

We did start a chore chart, and its not specific chores like clean the bathroom. Its basic every day things that they need to do to be responsible and take care of their belongings. For example, after school chores look like this: hang up backpack, put shoes on rack, eat snack, clean up snack, do homework, show mom papers, put homework away and zip up backpack. I just break down all the things they need to do into small steps and it really helps them. Then they get to go and play, and the house isn't a disaster zone after school. If you want my whole chore list let me know and I'll email it. It has become my lifesaver. My most used saying at the moment is "check the list!!"

Emily said...

I think is is important to be working towards something all the time...perfection will never happen in this life...but we have to try and be our best. Good for you for trying to make some changes that will help you home and family.

I know that you are not a huge fan of the flylady, but they do have a free program to help kids learn how to clean up after themselves. You should check it out. I believe there is a link on

Good luck...and I think you are an amazing mom. Blocks with the kids...I need to do better at that and leave the dishes more...oh wait...I do. What is my problem? LOL

L. Mo said...

My girls each clean a bathroom once a week. Brother takes care of the diaper garbage. (Very stinky) They complainged a lot at first. I tell them we all live together and all have to help. Little Sister still complains and I offer to do her chores if she does mine (all the laundry, all the dishes, and everything else) after considering she does her bathroom. I tell them that as soon as they are finished they can go out and play. Big Sister has figured out it is better to just hurry and get it done. I have to give them a very specific check off list of things to do, in the order to be done (so they don't take the garbage out first, for example). I give them a dollar when they are finished and the only reason is so I can teach them about tithing.
Sorry about the novel.
Good luck.

Iann said...

I'll I got to say is..."Dull women have immaculate homes"

Kalli Ko said...

I'm not there yet with the kiddos, but I could probably use a chore chart and reward system as motivation just for me.

Before baby my house was always clean. Major clean was once a quarter, bathrooms once every Thursday, Kitchen floor mopped at least once a week.

After baby that flew out the window. I just fit it in when I can. I seriously need to do a better job with designating certain days and times as my time to clean rather than sitting here typing about it on the computer...

c jane said...

I just wrote a big comment about the awesome advice my mom gave to me about organizing the housework, but then I thought that it sounded to complicated and it might turn you off instead.

So I will just say this: your home is always comfortable and has a lovely spirit no matter what state it is in, and I think that is more important than clean.

wendysue said...

~j, this is SO me. That 2nd paragraph is totally me too. I haven't found anything that works, except about every other month having a complete meltdown and then everyone pitches in for about 2 days. Chores, charts all that stuff only happens for maybe a week, I think it's partially me. . .I don't keep track of them or "it" well (It makes me too tired, and it's one more thing I have to do). . .SO let me know if you find something that works. . .do you still have a cleaning gal (maid, cleaning lady, cleaning service, house helper. . .what's PC?)? I really need one/want one, but seriously am too embarrased to have one over for the first time to introduce her to the mess.

Someday it will be clean right? Maybe not, by that point I will just want to go out to lunch with my friends instead of clean anyway.

La Yen said...

I was raised where we cleaned like crazy on Saturday. And we fought about it the ENTIRE Saturday. And I never learned my lesson. I think the hardest thing will be starting up with the kids. Maybe make a goal that you will enforce for 6 Saturdays--then see if it sticks?

But CJane took the words out of my mouth: I have been there when it was spotless and when it was lived in and when Bub threw a can of cherry soda on the ceiling. I always feel at home.

Gerb said...

We use a "job jar"for all jobs that they are not already expected to do - like take care of their rooms. I wrote all of the basic jobs that kids can help with on 3x5 cards, put them in a jar and they draw them out. I also threw in a few non-jobs like "Play on the computer for 20 minutes" or "Go have a snack" so that they are motivated to choose in the hope that they get a fun one. Sometimes they will choose more jobs than I ask them to just for the chance at a non-job. Bribes work, too. If you want more details, call or email me. This comment is too long already!

One last idea: The priority for me is keeping my front room clean because then it looks great from the door.

swampbaby said...

Amen, Sister! I could have written this post word for word, except you are probably better at spending more time with your kids than I am. We started the two older boys on chores and allowance a little over a year ago, and overall I am pleased with the results.

We give them the $ amount they are in age, once a month at the beginning of the month for their allowance. I think this helps them learn to budget and save. If they want to earn more during the month, they are welcome to do "money chores" for small amounts, which are chores that are outside their normal realm (usually ones I've been putting off or don't want to do like dusting the blinds or pulling weeds).

As far as jobs go, they have their "kitchen chores" each night which consist of clearing the table, loading the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, and picking up the toys from the day out of the living room. Just these in and of themselves have made a huge difference because at least in the morning I feel like there is one area of the house I can come into that isn't a complete wreck and a place that people can come into that isn't a wreck.

On Saturday, they have "Saturday chores". This has been an experimental area, but now we do a job jar they draw out of. They try to beat the timer to get the jobs done (which has been a huge help - before we didn't have the timer and it would drag out for-ev-er). The jobs are actually bigger jobs broken down into smaller pieces. For example, instead of "clean your bathroom" they can draw out either "clean your toilet", "clean the sink and mirror", "clean the floor", etc. The same is done for jobs in their room. And then we have some other ones thrown in like vacuuming and dusting the living room, windexing the glass doors, etc. They each draw 4 jobs from the job jar.

A really good book on this subject is "The Parenting Breakthrough" by Merrilee Brown Boyack. Sorry for the super long comment!

Kristie said...

You know what's funny? That when I got to the last paragraph, my 6 year old came to tell me that my 5 year old spilled a bucket of paint on the carpet. yep. I can relate. Here's my philosophy: 1 hour of cleaning a day, no more no less. in between that everyone is supposed to clean up after themselves. And, to not feel guilty about cleaning instead of being with the kids, the kids clean with me (really, they just think they're cleaning, and that's all that matters), because cleaning should be a family responsibility, not a mom resp.-- I don't want my boys growing up and getting married and having the idea that cleaning is a mom responsibility.
However, right now I am so frazzled because first, paint is spilled upstairs, and second, we had a busy weekend and the house got really messy, and so I feeled overwhelmed and paralyzed. So then it gets worse. So I've noticed that it can't get really bad or I get overwhelmed and paralyzed. Thanks for writing this post.

Kristie said...

ps. I also don't want the weekends to be cleaning days. Those are the only days when my husband has off, so if we can help it, I want those days to be for doing fun family things together.

Monica said...

I have convinced myself that mothers with young children and clean homes must be faking it. They are just cleaning really quickly right before I get there. That way I don't feel bad when my standard for "clean" is if I could make it look decent in 20 minutes.

As for a solution, I love Gerb's "job jar" and I may just make one for myself. I'll put freebies like "20 minutes reading blogs" and "one movie for the kids" in it. I feel motivated already!

wendy said...

Hm. I'm somewhere in the middle, too. I'm thinking about your guilt for not doing "your job," though. I think "my" job is primarily to take care of our child, and "our" job is to work on the house together. It doesn't work all that great, but I have less guilt than you describe, and I love less guilt.

Shawn said...

I'm definitely in the middle----I hate to do housework, but every once in a while---I get a "bug up my butt" to get stuff done.

But I have NO help from my hubby, well---except for doing the trash and emptying the dishwasher once in a blue moon.

Future Mama said...

I'm not a neat person! Brian does most of the cleaning, I guess I'm lucky that way as I never do the laundry and dishes. Once kids come along though it may be nice since he'll still hopefully do most of that stuff and I can play with our kids! haha... I'm sure it'll be that easy (not!)

Sue said...

You know that saying about "lazy mothers pick up after their children?" I'm starting to realize that's me. My house is usually sort-of kind-of cleanish (except when it's not), but I'm terrible at involving the kids in cleaning. For such a long time they were too little to really be of much help. I think I sort of still think of them that way, when really, I need to kick their little keisters into gear. I tend to use "go clean your room" as a way to get them out of my hair on tough days, instead of actually expecting them to clean it. They'll clean it if I sit up there and direct the cleaning traffic, but if I just leave it up to them, forget it. They'll forget what they were supposed to be doing as soon as the door closes.

We used a chore chart for a brief two-week period, with allowance if they did their chores each day. It worked, and then I promptly forgot all about it.

Rynell said...

I have to rotate rewards simply because my kids get tired of the same old thing. Sometimes it's books, sometimes it's money, sometimes we go for a few weeks doing really great at job charts and they get a certain amount of change for each star on the job chart. I have to mix it up for me and for them. Often, I'll just say, "as soon as we finish this chore, we can do (whatever it is that sounds awesome)." When my older kids were younger, we had a reward box full of things they liked. Once they had done enough work, I let them choose a reward. I have tried many systems and will likely continue to try new ones just because my kids thrive on a new motivation to get the same old chores done. With my older kids, I'm noticing that they are thriving much more on praise than rewards. Which is all kinds of awesome.