I spend a ridiculous amount of my time cleaning up after other people. There are diapers and dishes and clothes and toys and school papers and hair elastics and legos and shoes and tiny pieces of paper and crumbs and goo and hand prints and beloved stuffed animals and crayons and books and flash cards and pencils and more goo. I don't really want to know what the goo is.
I have mentioned that I have felt like I'm drowning in all of the chaos and mess and sense of never being finished. So I decided to do something, ANYTHING, differently to see if I could change that feeling a bit. I channeled a little bit of John Rosemond and a little bit of my former teacher self and I came up with this idea:
At the end of every day, once the children are in bed, I steal anything left on the floor or out of place.
It all disappears never to be seen again. So far, it is working like a charm. My house has been clutter free for a week--so, not a long term experiment, but still a less cluttered week than the other 100 before it.
In reality, the stuff goes into a bin in the back of my closet that is easy for me to access, but not obvious to the kids. I'm not sure how long I'll keep the stuff in there. My current options are 1) forever or until my next Goodwill run; 2) until they ask for a particular item and then another week after that; and 3) I'll clean it out once a month and sort the items into Goodwill, keep, or garbage. I'm still working out the kinks and I'll let you know if I come up with anything more concrete.
But here's what's been so great. The older two kids are actually afraid that something they really love will disappear because they see that things are actually being cleaned up. So they clean like madmen and make up for their younger siblings. When the younger ones (really just my obstinate 2-year-old) refuse to help, I just take those toys and now have less to clean in the future.
Before I started the new plan I cleaned out all of the toys in our playroom, set up new storage cubes that are easy for the kids to use, and explained the new system to them all. Every night I give them fair warning to check the house and I guide them to toys they may have overlooked (but there aren't very many because of their fear of disappearing toys).
The result? I don't have to pick up before I clean up anymore. Now if I can just find the source of that goo...