Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Part 2: Keeping it Clean!

Part 2: Keeping it Clean!

It’s a daily struggle for moms everywhere. You work your tail off to clean the house, and in a few hours it’s messy again. Here is a list of odd tips to keep you from spending all day cleaning the same things you cleaned yesterday.

Daily Bathroom Cleanup
-Keep a box of baking soda and a toothbrush in the shower. When you put your conditioner in your hair, let it sit for two minutes. This will help your conditioner work better, and give you two minutes to work. Sprinkle the baking soda on the edges of the shower or tub, and scrub with the toothbrush. This keeps mildew and mold from building up, and only takes a minute. You don’t have to do it every day, but a few times a week will save you from a scrub-a-thon later. On the days you don’t do it, use that 2 minutes to shave your legs or use a good exfoliating treatment on your skin. The baking soda will get into tiny crevices, rinses clean, and will help remove odors.

-Let the kids make bathtub volcanoes. My kids love doing this, and it cuts down on my cleaning time. Give them a small bowl of baking soda and a spray bottle of vinegar. If it finds its way into little mouths, it won’t hurt them. Have them sprinkle the baking soda all over the tub surface, then let them spray it all down with vinegar and watch the bubbling action. This will clean out textured surfaces and superficial scratches, leave a sparkling clean, and the vinegar will disinfect it. This is a good time to squeeze in a science lesson, teach cause and effect, or just sit back while they do the dirty work. Rinse with warm water and you’re done!

-If your kids are like mine, getting them to put dirty laundry and wet towels in the hamper is a daily battle. If you give them each their own basket, they are more likely to put clothes where they belong. We have baskets lined up in the hallway, each with a child’s name on it. If it doesn’t go in the basket, it doesn’t get washed. For older kids, they understand if their favorite shirt didn’t get washed, they can’t wear it. For toddlers, teaching them early is key to a lifetime a good habits. Show them where their things go (they can usually recognize their name on the basket, even if they can’t “read”) and let them help with the washing when the time comes. This also saves you from sorting through laundry later.

Kitchen Clean Up
-Keep a mop bucket under the sink, a stack of wash rags or dish cloths, and a spray bottle of vinegar. Any time there is a small spill or mess to clean up, everything you need is right at your fingertips! When you are done, the wet rags go in the bucket. This will save you from hunting down dish rags, and when the bucket fills up you can dump the entire thing in the washer at once. Every night after dinner, my kids grab a spray bottle and a rag and we work together to clean up. One wipes off the table, another gets the stove, one gets splatters off the walls and windows…. it’s a family event. Cleanup is done in ten minutes, they enjoy helping, and they know if they make a mess, they have to clean it up.

-Have a Swiffer race! When it comes to children, competition breeds productivity. I have two Swiffers, so they can race each other. Sometimes we see who can get it done the fastest, sometimes we see who can get their cloth the dirtiest, and sometimes we divide the room and see who can get the floor the cleanest. We do this with dry cloths in the family room and wet cloths in the kitchen. (Side Tip: You don’t have to buy expensive Swiffer cloths. A rag fits nicely around the base and can be reused)

-If you don’t have a dishwasher, or you have a large family and your dishwasher just can’t hold it all, keep a Rubbermaid tote under the sink, in the pantry, or stashed in a nearby cabinet. Fill with soap and water, and drop in dishes you don’t have time to clean right away. This is especially great if you have company coming over. The dishes are no longer piled in the sink, which leaves the kitchen looking cleaner, and lets the dishes soak so food isn’t dried on.

Tackling the Family Room
-Get a storage ottoman (we got two smaller ones at Target for about $20 each). This is a great place to stash stray toys, extra pillows and blankets. Once or twice a week, I haul it upstairs and dump all the toys back into the toy box. This keeps the living room picked up and looking nice. If the kids want to watch a movie or play a game, they have to get all the toys put in the ottomans first. Suddenly cleaning up isn’t so hard, and it’s done in just a few minutes. It’s also easy to pick u during nap time without disturbing them.

-Make a game out of cleaning. See who can get their dust rag the dirtiest with Dust Bunny Battle. Race to clean off the coffee table and bookshelves in Dirty Rag Race. Or label where everything should go and test their reading skills. We have tiny stickers placed on the shelves and bins labeling where everything goes (remote, books, toys, phone, etc). For a less permanent option, scotch tape labeled flash cards to each surface, and you can quickly peel them off when you expect company.

-Velcro remotes, phones, video game controllers and baskets to their respective homes. A roll of Velcro stripping costs about $2 at any craft store, dollar store or big-box store like Wal-Mart and Target. Place a small strip on the remote or other item, and the opposite side of the Velcro strip to its home. The remote will never be lost again!

Organizing the Home
-Bins, baskets, buckets and boxes. These are your new best friend. You can get canvas bins at the Dollar Store, or nicer looking baskets at home improvement stores like Lowe’s. When everything has a place, it’s easier to clean up. Baskets look nice on a shelf to hold odds and ends, like playing cards or game pieces. This also teaches kids to sort and properly put away their things. A large pink box can hold baby dolls and accessories, an under-the-bed basket can house thousands of Legos, and decorative bins can store small blankets and extra bedding for quick midnight changes and more drawer and closet space. My closets are filled with bins of every color and size. From first aid kits, to each child’s medicines, to hair accessories, they keep things organized, and everyone has their own place. This is great for large families or families with large age gaps in children. Infant medicine goes in one bin, children’s medicine in another, and adult medicine in a third. So when a child is sick in the middle of the night, there’s no hunting for the right bottle and dose. (Side Tip: Highlight on the bottle your child’s dose, and draw a line on the syringe or medicine cup where the dose is. This helps at 3am dosings and when Daddy is in charge. If the child’s age/dose changes, the medicine is likely expired and should be properly disposed of.)

-Chore schedules and charts can be a life saver. You can do one large chore chart, color coded for each person, or individual charts for each child. We have a little of both. My oldest kids have their own chore charts and my youngest ones are included in the family chart. I have a list of ten chores, with five every day, simple tasks (bathe, do homework, clean room, brush teeth, comb hair) and five household chores (sweep the kitchen, take out the trash, unload the dishwasher, clear the dinner table, and help someone else). These can be printed out, written on a dry erase board, or a poster board with stickers. There are numerous ways to approach this: drawing chores from a hat, rotating weekly chores, even rotating which room in the house to clean up. No matter how you approach it, it’s important to teach kids to help, and to start them early.

-A household notebook is a helpful way to keep track of everything. We’ll go into more detail on this later, but keeping household information in one place is an easy way to remember what’s going on and quickly access the information needed.
-Laundry schedules can help you tackle Laundry Mountain. You can divvy up laundry in whatever way works best for you. Monday, Child A; Tuesday, Child B; Wednesday, Child C; Thursday, Mommy; Friday, Daddy; Saturday, all bedding; Sunday, towels. Or you can do lights, darks, whites, etc. If you don’t have daily access to a washing machine, or perhaps do all of your laundry on the weekend, you can do it by time frame (morning, Mommy; afternoon, baby; etc.)Having a laundry schedule can help you keep up with whose clothes are in the dryer and help get them sorted and put away. Older kids can put away their own laundry.

     Cleaning doesn’t have to be a once a week marathon, nor does it need to be a daily battle to keep things looking neat and tidy. Many hands make light work, so get the kids involved whenever you can. Break up large chores over several days, and have a schedule to keep you on track.