You don’t care about this post.

With that said, this is how I keep my house tidy.

  1. My house is less than 1,000 square feet.

  2. I declutter often. I keep the most important things to us. I keep the things my children actually play with, the things that I feel scratches an educational itch, and the things that are easy to clean up. Be assured that my children entertain themselves just as well as other kids. If they have no room to play, if their room is covered with broken, scattered things, if cleaning up is so hard it never happens, if there more things than homes for things and it’s mentally taxing to put things away, more gifts are not truly gifts. I really stress about what gifts to give my children. What will actually bless their lives?

  3. We have tidy time every day after lunch, right before quiet time. I believe that a tidy house allows children to focus on their work. Their room is cleanest when they have a long stretch of independent time. A blank slate. (Tidy rooms and long, uninterrupted time to work is a principle borrowed from the Montessori Method, which I love and am trying to emulate.)

  4. If I want the house to be tidy at any other time of day, I have to clean it myself. I get to clean it myself. I don’t get to make the kids clean up. I don’t have to make the kids clean up. Bryan is extremely consistent about being helpful around the house- in pre-agreed upon, predictable ways. He is not available at my bidding, but if I feel the household chores are unequally divided, we talk about it and he puts something on his plate and then it gets done every time it’s supposed to. I extend the same courtesy to my children.

I enjoy tidying, and I love to give my children the gift of space.

Am I setting them up for roommate hatred in college? Maybe. I am instilling a taste for tidiness, not an understanding of how difficult it is to pick up everything you get out. Someday I will enforce putting away what you get out right when you’re done with it, just like in Montessori. Wait. That would really solve the problem of “I wasn’t done with that and you took it!” Hmm… that’ll happen soon.

We also clean up each others’ messes, because Christ was all about cleaning up other peoples’ messes. We help each other in our family.

Am I ruining my kids? Yes. You are too.

  1. When it comes to cleaning dirtiness, our system is different. We don’t have an established day, because honestly our house doesn’t get that dirty (maybe Bryan would have a different opinion.) When I start to feel that our house is gross, (which is probably after Bryan thinks so) I take a morning and enlist the kids’ help.

list of chores, a place to sign up, and a place to sign off.

I write down whatever I want done, and the kids sign up for as many jobs as they are old. Two is plenty for Austin, three is perfect for Peter (and it’s after midnight so now it’s his birthday and he gets four chores! We better have a cleaning day to celebrate.) Their helpfulness increases every year, and three or four is plenty to have a preschooler’s “help” with. I get my age number of jobs too, which covers the rest.

My kids choose which jobs to help with. It’s different every time. That makes me feel like they are learning all the jobs. And a chore is more palatable if you chose it. If a kid signs up for a chore, they HAVE to do it. (At least start it.) If they didn’t sign up for a chore, they CAN’T do it. It’s cranky, but it solves so many problems.

And imagine how this will scale… I’ll have a 15-year-old and a 14-year-old and an 12-year-old… yeah.

I thought long and hard about how to reward the kids for chores. I wanted it to be sustainable and to prepare them for having houses of their own. I can’t give candy or money for every chore, because soon that inflates and the quality of the work goes down because it’s only about earning rewards. What is the reward for cleaning in the real world? A clean home. Pride that you made it clean. So, after every tidy time we lay on the floor and bask in the tidiness. We relax and congratulate each other. When the kids finish a chore on the chart, they sign off for it. I try to leave it on a wall for a while, so everyone who comes in knows who cleaned the toilet and vacuumed.

three year old peter vacuuming