Minutes, that is. (What? You thought I meant sit-ups? *pfft* Have you met me?)
Today is a day for catching up, at home. This is exactly no one’s favourite day at Chez Peady. (Well, if I’m to be honest I have a hunch that it might be my husband’s, but I digress …)
We had a great July (everything being relative) and the oh-thank-goodness-school-is-over-we-are-free-to-run-and-swim-and-play-and-never-ever-ever-ever-clean-our-rooms, like ever, philosophy has carried us through a fun month of visiting family and favourite places, but the time has come to rediscover our peace and, let’s face it, our floors.
I’d love to be the kind of person who really gets all jazzed about being organized and tidy to a freakish fault, but alas, nope.
I’d love to be the mother of perfectly obedient* children who can fluff and fold like nobody’s business, who never interrupt, and who wake up at the crack of dawn to fashion their beds into something worthy of a military inspection, but again, nope.
I wish I had systems in place that allowed me to buy and keep every book I’ve ever read or wanted to read. I would hoard books like a bibliophile bound for her own (least watched ever) reality show.
Wishin’ and hopin’ and prayin’ that everything would be at right angles and dust free. That’s me!
But wishing, as I am willing to wager you already know, won’t make it so.
So, here we are on a grey, rainy, and otherwise damp, Sunday cleaning. It’s ideal, really, because grey, damp Sundays are already depressing, so we are just going with that theme! (I kid. I kid. Sort of.)
One of my strengths, I believe, is finding something to be happy about
all the live long day most of the time. This comes in handy when it comes to rallying the troops for a cleaning mission. Why on Earth should they want to spend their time cleaning their rooms when Austin & Ally is on? I mean really! If I had the option to watch Austin & Ally instead of cleaning *my* room, I would totally choose Austin & Ally. Have you seen it? It’s terrific! Perfect for Things. Funny. Clearly, written by fun, geeky, music loving, hilarious people. I love it. Will they ever get together? The people want to know!
Anyway, as I was saying, because I am generally happy and imaginative, I also tend to be able to make things fun. This is a skill that comes in handy – especially when it comes to my children. There’s always a way to make life a little more fun or entertaining. You just have to dig a little deeper sometimes. I mean, even I am not going to claim to love cleaning a toilet or a disgusting mess from the bottom of the fridge or dealing with the latest evil Fruit Fly invasion, but I sure as heck enjoy when those tasks are done and I might do a little happy dance to show my joy at the vomitrocious job being over and done with. Maybe. Who’s to say really? It’s a mystery.
If a little celebration after the job is done, is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. I have taught my kids that sometimes a job just needs to be done, so that we can get on to the fun that follows.
Fun always follows.
There are a lot of things about a very messy room that can be overwhelming. Ideally, no one would ever let a mess get to that point, but let’s be honest here, life is messy at the best of times and after a long, hot, happy summer day with sand and sunscreen and sticky popsicles or treats the victory is in getting kids cleaned up just enough, so they can get to sleep. (W00t!) The time just never seems right for a big clean up.
Then the mess grows and grows. Clothes that should have been sorted and donated keep finding their way into the laundry. New summery clothes come home. Drawers get stuffed to overflowing, instead of neatly filled with folded fashions. My Things are masters of “Oh, it’s fine. We’ll take care of it. No problem.” (Remember Theo Huxtable?) and they are actually pretty honest people, so we give the benefit of the doubt until the day we walk in to glance at the clean closet and see that there is no longer a floor.
*cue the Mom voice*
“How is this acceptable?!”
“This is not okay.”
“You have some work to do!”
Oh, don’t I sound sooo fun, now?
What is a mother to do? I’ll tell you what.
You get yourself a timer** and you set that little gizmo for 15 minutes, pick a zone, and clean it up.
Never mistake motion for action. ~ Ernest Hemingway
The aim is not perfection (a horrible, delusional, harmful word), but rather action. You want to see a noticeable result. Not only so your “Mummy Brain” doesn’t go *kerblooie* from the sheer number of T-shirts in your kids’ collection, but also because you really are teaching your kids how to take charge of an ongoing task. It’s a life skill. You don’t want them to resent it or you. It’s just a fact of life that if you make a mess, you have to clean it up and that putting it off only leads to more stress later. Completely unnecessary stress, for that matter.
I mean, if you did a little each day, it would never be overwhelming, right?
Oh, Summer! Why ya gotta be like that?
There is a plethora of advice available to parents about ways to “motivate” or get kids “involved” with household chores. It can be exhausting. We have always adhered to this simple idea at Chez Peady: They live in the world, therefore they must learn to be a part of the world.
It really is that simple. Even when Thing 1 was a teeny, little Thing he would help to wipe up spills (adorable!) or line up his board books (Can you picture it? It still makes me squee!). Thing 2 loved doing dishes the “old fashioned way” with bubbles in the sink and a dishtowel apron (just like *my* Mummy showed me!) or using a cloth to hunt down spots on the walls or cupboard doors. We would present it like a fun thing, but always credited them for taking part. There is a family unit and if everyone doesn’t do his or her part, life begins to get stressful and then some pretty important things might be lost, forgotten, missed or broken. No one wants that.
This basic approach has been a great catalyst for coming up with effective, but easy-peasy ideas to just get stuff done. The sooner it’s done – and noticeable – the sooner we can move on to something fun. It counts if you go tidy for a few minutes, of course, but 15 minutes is just about (dare I say it?) perfect for getting a whole task done.
Trumpet practice? 15 minutes!
Empty lunch containers and clean them? 15 minutes!
Make a bed? 15 minutes! (Bunk beds. Ugh!)
Fold a load of towels? 15 minutes!
Gather all the hair accessories and put them away? 15 minutes!
Empty and fill dishwasher? 15 minutes!
You get the picture.
It is a magical number. Not just for the Things, either.
I often set a 15 minute timer to help me focus on getting a task done. From mail, to school forms, to meal planning or prepping, to writing (some of) my blog. Many of these everyday tasks can just get done with a focussed 15 minute approach.
Now, a gift.***
Click on this to download my little “15 Minutes” sign. The original hangs in our office. True story! 15_Minutes.pdf
How does your family approach household chores? Do you involve your kids in the things that make your house a home? Do they love taking part or do they loathe chores with the fire of a thousand suns? What’s your approach when stuff just needs to get done?
I hope you print off my little sign and then do a little happy dance the next time you tick a task off of your to-do list. Please come back and share with me when you do.
*This is a falsehood. I am happy my children are unique individuals with minds of their own. They are polite, kind, funny, creative, energetic and thoughtful. I love them unconditionally. Obedience is a terrific trait in a dog, though, I suppose.
**Swear that just as I typed the word “timer” *my* timer – also set for 15 minutes – went off! Honest to Martha Stewart!
***For the record I have been calling the above gift a “PeadyF”. Get it? Hah! I kill me!