Picture this. You’ve just spent the last few hours tidying up the house while the kids are at school and you finally sit down to have a drink of water. You take a sip, let out a huge sigh of relief, and marvel at the wondrous sight of your squeaky-clean kitchen. “Nice work!” you say to yourself. Now, you just need to figure out a way to keep it like this even after your kids get home. Here are 5 tips to help you instill clutter free habits in your kids.
1. Bags up and lunchboxes open. I started this clutter free habit at the beginning of the school year and it’s been one of the easiest and best ways to save myself from tripping over my kids’ school stuff. I told my school-aged children that if they put their shoes away, hung their backpacks up, and opened their lunchboxes and placed them on the counter every day after school without me asking, they would each get fifty cents. It has worked like a charm. My kids had saved up enough money from doing this one thing every day that they were able to cash in their coins for dollar bills when we took a trip to the beach over spring break. Not only were they excited about being able to buy what they wanted but the daily “kerplunk” of the coins in their piggy banks was an auditory reminder of their hard work.
2. Placemats or bust. We do A LOT of crafts in my house. I’m not afraid of glitter and we use it often. We also have washable markers but get this, we have permanent Sharpie markers, too! I know. I’m a daring mom. But, I don’t worry about my counters anymore because my kids know – no placemat – no craft. I learned with my first child, mistakes happen and it’s a heck of a lot easier to clean off a placemat (or throw it away) than it is to cry over something that won’t come out of granite. My kids have made placemats somewhat of their calling card by picking out a new one each year that suits their individual personality.
3. Craft kit corner. My mom ordered the most adorable craft bags for my kids. They put all of the stuff they’re currently using in these bags and tote them around from place to place when they want to. It’s a cinch to clean up. When they’re done with whatever they’re using, they put everything back in their totes and hang them on their hooks. Each tote has their name on it so they know whose is who.
4. Operation pantry. Once upon a time, my pantry was unorganized; not with food but with my kids’ arts and crafts. I’d had enough one day and so I organized everything into bins with labels. My husband hung a couple of wire shelves and with a pep talk and a few incentives, I showed my kids exactly how I expected the pantry to look from that point on. It’s not perfect but it’s a lot better than how it used to be. My son has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) so we have a lot of rice bins, bean bins, and sensory-type toys. Things like this can easily spill or become cumbersome because of the touch-and-feel type items they are. I knew I wanted to keep these things because they were helpful to my son but having them strewn about and finding beans in nooks in crannies in our house was stressing me out. I now have a system. My son knows that when he gets his sand bin out, he has to do it at a specific table on top of a placemat. He also knows he has to get the broom out and sweep (as best he can) up anything that has fallen on the floor. I’m not looking for perfection out of the cleanup process but rather, responsibility from him on what it means to be able to play with those types of things.
5. Stairway catch-all. The stairwell seems to be the catch-all for anything and everything that has been worn, played with, used, or doesn’t have a home. My kids know, that if there is something left out (not on the stairs) it gets donated or thrown away. Their responsibility is to put everything they find of theirs in a basket that I have put on one of the steps for them. This basket is big and flexible and one they can easily carry up to their rooms to help them put their things away. This basket serves so many purposes; it collects everything and my kids don’t have to make multiple trips up and down the stairs because they’re able to carry it all in one basket. They know to return the basket to the steps once it’s been emptied.
Creating clutter-free habits in our kids doesn’t have to be scary. Think of the things that you’re already doing every day and find a way to make them work for you and your family. Sometimes it just takes a minute or two of thinking, “How can I make this easier while allowing them to take responsibility?” I bet you’ll find that your kids actually like the way they feel when they claim ownership over their belongings. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Parenting journalist and author, Meagan Ruffing, encourages and equips other moms who may be feeling overwhelmed and lonely in the midst of parenting in her debut book, “I See You: Helping Moms Go from Overwhelmed to In Control.” Meagan talks about the challenges of living with a child who has behavioral disorders and talks candidly about her struggles with mom guilt. To read more about Meagan’s story and real-life parenting tips, visit her at www.meaganruffing.com.
“Isn’t this day supposed to be about ME?” I remember saying those words one frustrated Mother’s Day years ago to a husband who just woke from a nap and kids who were fighting. Sometimes Mother’s Day doesn’t feel like a celebration of mom to MOM. Yes, you could look at it as a holiday created to sell greeting cards. But there’s something about this day that makes you want to feel honored or at the very least, recognized and given a much-needed break.
Maybe you’ve uttered those words to your family in frustration. Or perhaps you relish the fact that on this one day, they are going to knock your socks off with pampering and you are not going to have to think about anything heavy.
And then you see her. The single mom in your church. Huh. Who is making sure she has a great mother’s day? And the guilt starts to whisper that you really should do something but, I mean, really, it’s your ONE day. Squirm.
Clutter Free is about clearing clutter from a lot of areas of your life including your heart and mind. And seeing a mom who needs some help shouldn’t come with a side of guilt. Yes, you still get to enjoy your day. But if you truly want to bless her too, I’ve got two amazingly simple ways:
Remind her kids they need to do something.
Or, simply tell her you see the amazing job she’s doing as a mom on her own.
Told you they were simple.
Remind Her Kids
The first Mother’s Day after my husband died, I expected to wake up to just another day of doing everything for my kids. They were a little older but let’s face it, kids often need to be reminded. So imagine my surprise when my girls, ages 12 and almost-6 surprised me with scrambled eggs, toast, and tea on a pretty platter in bed. It was perfect. Absolutely perfect.
I didn’t need a huge gift. I couldn’t afford to take the kids out to lunch. But the fact that they remembered me was enough to make my Mother’s Day special.
Maybe her kids just need to be reminded to do something for mom on this day. Or perhaps they need some suggestions. If you have the means, giving them a gift certificate to take the family out for dinner is great too. Or, help the kids buy her flowers or something simple. These material things are super nice however I think most moms want to feel appreciated and remembered on this day more than anything. So do what you can.
Be Her Cheerleader
Maybe you don’t know her kids well enough to be the bossy grown-up who asks what they are planning. If not, simply telling her you see all she does and you think she’s rockin’ it is another great blessing.
Being a single parent is incredibly tough. It takes lots of creativity and energy to be all things that your kids need on top of provider and caretaker of the home. Telling a single mom you think she’s doing an amazing job at it is another way to bless her on this day to celebrate moms. Simple and free, this encouragement might come at a time when she’s had a rough day or just be a delightful surprise.
So when God places that single mom in your path as Mother’s Day approaches, don’t feel guilty that you want to enjoy your holiday. That’s self-care and you, fellow mom, have earned a day, too. Instead, ask God how you can best help this single mom.
Jenn Buell is a writer, speaker, radio DJ and widowed mom of four kids who lives in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. She loves using her superpower of encouragement to cheer on other Christian single moms through her blog and podcast, “Right There With You.” You can connect with Jenn at JennBuell.com.
Welcome to The Mom Project. For the next few weeks, we’ll be launching my book The Mom Project by hosting several mom friends who have tried it out for themselves. They read the book, completed a project from the book with their kids, and wrote all about it. And these are real moms. Busy moms. Unsure-of-themselves moms. Single moms. Special needs moms. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. They do the hard working of mommyhood every day, and have found fun ways to connect with their kids in the simple activities found in The Mom Project. Read on to hear their experience:
When I first became a mom over 20 years ago, I had this perfectly reasonable idea that if I could just follow a certain list of things that “good moms” did then surely I would ensure that my kids would turn out OK. The problem was that the hospital must have forgotten to give me a copy of the list because I left with a tiny baby bundle and no clue what I was doing. As a young mom I quickly fell into the comparison trap. I thought that if I could just copy what other successful families were doing then we’d be fine.
So I started looking around, taking notes on all the things “good parents” did. You know the usual: reading to your baby, getting them into the right pre-school, sports teams and activities, sign up to be class parent for every grade, volunteer with the PTO, and so on. But every year that passed the list seemed to get longer and longer. It was becoming hard to keep up.
One area where there seemed to be a never-ending list of to-dos, for example, was birthday celebrations. We have dear friends and family members who have a gift for hospitality. They love throwing parties for every birthday and holiday. And early on I felt pressure to have big parties too, even though it’s not one of my “gifts”. But after having our 4th child we realized that big birthday parties every year for each child was just not in alignment with our values or our budget.
Our focus shifted from checking boxes and trying to do all of the things to considering what we really wanted our kids to remember about their time at home?
After we gave our family permission to trade-in the to-dos for meaningful traditions, our birthday celebrations became small and simple but meaningful. The birthday person gets to choose the meal and dessert of their choice on their special day and they get to use the red “I am special today” plate. Then we go around the table and take turns sharing what we love about the birthday person.
It’s become a sweet, fun and often funny tradition in our home.
As I started to think more about what memories and experiences we wanted to create together as a family I began to look for ways to make our time together special. Little every-day events have become reasons for celebration.
For example, Friday evenings have turned into “Toto’s Fridays” where we head to our favorite pizza place for dinner, usually after our youngest son’s baseball game, and catch up on the week’s events.
Other ideas for family traditions:
Annual camping trips
Donuts or a special treat on the first day of school
First day of summer scavenger hunt
Family game night Fridays
Ice cream sundae Sundays
There are definitely times when we need to check off to-do lists but when it comes to creating family memories each family is wonderfully different. Let’s choose to celebrate our time together by creating meaningful traditions that are in line with our family’s values rather than consume what others are doing and potentially miss out on some special opportunities.
One small win: We have limited time while our kids are at home, creating family traditions can be a great way of celebrating your family’s uniqueness and create memories together. Consider what special or ordinary events you’d like to find ways to celebrate.
Zohary Ross is a life coach, speaker and author of the Aligned Parenting Workbook. She is passionate about equipping and encouraging women to let go of the never-ending hustle for perfection and live with alignment instead. Connect with her at zoharyross.com
What happens on family night … stays on family night. At least that’s what we said the night I dramatically pantomimed changing my adult daughter’s diaper. It was the final round of Cranium. If my husband guessed correctly, our team would take the win. If not, it was sure to go to the other team.
In the last few seconds, he shouted, “Changing a diaper!”
I raised my hands in victory. “Yes!”
The other team groaned as my husband moved our player piece into the winner zone. My daughter got up off the floor, red-faced and raspy from screeching/laughing.
Now, whenever we decide to play a game on family night, her older siblings (and brother-in-law) always tease her with, “Let’s play Cranium.”
And she always spits back “No!,” much to their delight.
Creating a fun family night
Family night has been a thing in our family since the kids were little. Now that they’re all out on their own, they still love it. So do my husband and I. I credit family night for one of the main reasons we’re a close family.
It hasn’t always been easy. But I’ve learned some things (sometimes the hard way) to make weekly family nights an event they won’t want to miss.
1) Yummy food. If your kids still live at home, this is a night to put something special on the menu. When mine were little, they’d beg for pizza — an obvious way to make the meal fun for them.
There are other nights for “eat your vegetables” and “try it — you’ll like it.” Family nights are a great reason to put out those “Yay! Best mom ever!” foods.
Now that mine are young adults on a meager food budget, anything that isn’t Ramen noodles or Kraft macaroni and cheese puts a smile on their faces. I usually make this my night to put more effort into cooking dinner. It’s also our one dessert night of the week.
Whatever their age, choose a menu (or restaurant) that will be sure to lure them to the table.
2) Fun activity. Don’t let the night end with everyone slipping away after dinner and melding with their devices. Planning an activity keeps the conversation going, often getting into the deeper issues of life. We’re fond of board games, so it doesn’t take much to entice them to play a round or two. Sometimes we’ll hike at a local landmark or head to the nearby city park if the weather’s nice.
Some weeks, like Easter week, we’re simply exhausted. Those are great times to head to the theater or rent a movie to watch at home. This weekend, my heart melted when my youngest curled up next to her dad on the couch like she did as a little girl.
3) Safe conversation. Speaking from some of the most painful parenting lessons I’ve ever learned, I highly recommend saving the difficult conversations for later. Most issues can and should be dealt with individually, but if it’s truly a family matter, we schedule a family meeting.
We work hard at cultivating positive interaction, with more encouragement than correction. For me, the work is especially hard, since I didn’t grow up in a positive environment; too many times I’ve repeated the mistake of being too harsh with my children. Often, it takes intentional work on the parents’ part to create a supportive and affirming family environment.
I’ve watched the work pay off not just on family nights, but throughout the week as well. Recently, one of our adult kids sent us all a group text before a big job interview and instantly got 100% response with many variations of, “You go, girl!”
One Small Win: Whether your kids are just barely old enough to sit at the table, or if they have dining room tables of their own, family nights are a great way to create great memories and foster closeness.
And if you ever find yourself playing Cranium and draw the “pantomime changing a diaper” card?
Do it with gusto.
Your family will be talking (and laughing) about it for months to come.
Lyneta Smith is an inspirational writer and speaker who lives with her husband near Nashville, TN. Some of her favorite things to write in her planner: date nights and family time with her adult children. She’s owned by a frisky Boston terrier and a tortoiseshell cat. Connect with her at www.lynetasmith.com.
Sometimes the cutest things become our biggest challenge when getting Clutter Free and those would be our not so Clutter Free Kids.
Today we share real life strategies that we can use with our children to not only help us kick clutter our of our homes, but will also give our children the strategies they will need to live a Clutter Free life when they leave our nest.
Don’t forget that it’s not too late to join us for the Kickstart to Clutter Free e-course!
Click HERE and use the code: INSIDER to get the course at half price!
We'll be conducting the book club through Kathi's Private Facebook Group, Clutter Free Academy. Join the book club to get access to the private facebook group. You'll receive an email with instructions once you submit this form.