I've had lots of visitors at my house lately as we've recently moved in and people want to come and have a look. Some people come invited, others just pop in (seems to be the thing to do in our new neighbourhood, which is friendly!). No matter whether invitied or unannounced my house nearly always looks like the picture below. And the comment I get from nearly every visitor is "how on earth do you keep your house looking like this with 3 boys under 7 years old!!".
The truth is I actually find it relatively easy as I have a number of daily habits that take me barely any time at all. These habits help me keep on top of the clutter and as a result our house does (nearly always!!) look like this.
Here are my 5 daily habits:
1. Make good use for of your storage
In my opinion storage is KING for a tidy house with kids. When we were renovating this house I put built-in storage everywhere. Every room has storage, I have a massive hallway storage cupboard and most of my smaller furniture pieces also have storage allowance as well. Storage can be a good and bad thing. It can encourage you to keep clutter and just put it behind closed doors, but my wardrobes are well organised and everything has a place (see more on that below).
Here's the built in we have in our playroom, for example:
Our hallway cupboard:
And some small storage cabinets in the playroom:
2. Have defined kids spaces around your house for the kids to enjoy
Although I like a tidy house I also, of course, want my kids to feel at home and to enjoy their spaces. As such I have defined kids areas around the house that they can use whenever they want. The drawing and reading nook is one of these places. Books are displayed on Ribba picture shelves from IKEA so my younger non-reading kids can pick books they like the look of (my eldest son's chapter books are kept in his room away from small fingers!). They also have a drawing table that is always set up with pencils and a place in the cupboard where they know they can get paper whenever they want it (which is very often in our house!). To display their masterpieces I've pinned up some pegs with blue tack and they can hang up any they want to have on display. This gives them pride in their work, makes a colourful artwork display for the room and keeps the clutter off the floor.
3. Have a place for everything and teach your kids to pack away
OK so the first bit is easier than the second so let's start with that. I showed you a picture of my built ins in the playroom. Here's a picture of what they look like inside:
This is obviously one of our toy cupboards. I have similar things stored in buckets and baskets and the kids know where each one is kept and what goes inside. For example, one yellow bucket has the toy car collection, one has the Fireman Sam toys, one has the wooden trucks, and so on. Puzzles are stacked in a pile neatly and always go back to the same spot. On the higher levels are my eldest son's toys - small soldier figurines, chess and board games that aren't for the little ones. Higher up again, out of all boys reach, are the craft/glue/paint/play-doh and messy toys that I don't want them playing with unsupervised. I also have my "special box" as we call it, which has lots of rainy day games and toys in it for those days when you're in desperate need of half an hour of peace and quiet and need something new to entertain with! Examples of this are craft kits I pick up at the toy shop, small lego sets and so on. I also store at least 2-3 birthday presents in this box for kids' birthday parties so I always have something on hand to wrap up at short notice. I also normally buy these presents in the sales - so we save ourselves a bit of money that way too!
The highest shelf is where I store a selection of artworks and craft projects from each child each year. I file these per year for safe keeping along with any other certificates or memorabilia they have from school or preschool that year.
That is just one of my toy areas and there are other places we store toys around the house as well. Small lego, for example, is organised by colour in the bedroom in a dedicated set of drawers. You can read more about that here if you want. Although it was an incredibly time consuming thing to set up my (nearly) 7 year old now appreciates being able to find what he's looking for when he's making his elaborate Lego creations and he always puts things back away in their coloured baskets at the end.
So everything has its place and the next step is a bit harder - encouraging the boys to put one thing away before they start playing with something else. Although they are pretty good at packing away if they are asked, they aren't good at spontaneously doing it themselves so we do spend time each day doing a whip around and a clean up of what's got played with so far. The best tip I have for doing that is to make a game out of it. I'm always shocked that these tidying up games work nearly every time (you would think the novelty may have worn off!). I either get the boys to have a race for who can put away the most toys the first (works well with my eldest who is very competitive) or with my youngest (3 year old) I might pretend to be a crane and pick things up and drop them into a bucket or each toy might be a fire engine (make the noise!) going to the fire station (the bucket!). He gets the hang of that eventually and does lots himself, although I help out too of course. Obviously the older the kids get the better they are at packing away but making it as fun as you can and doing a little bit all throughout the day will help it not become too overwhelming by the evening.
My other daily habit is to multi-task the tidying up and daily chores. When the boys are home from kindy/school and are having their showers or playing outside I quickly unpack the school bags and put them in their dedicated cupboard. While they are having their showers I will fold the washing and put it away and put on the daily load in the washing machine. When they are having their dinner I might use the little handheld vacuum to quickly go around the house and get up any of the worst mess and do a big vacuum over the weekend. In the mornings while they eat breakfast I will make beds (they first have to have a try of making their beds themselves). I pack up breakfast and wipe down the kitchen while they get dressed. I'll unpack the dishwasher while the kettle is boiling for my tea. These little habits help me keep on top of mess and clutter and are what keeps everything from getting too out of hand and overwhelming at the end of each day.
5. Do one major pack up each evening
My final daily habit is to do one final pack up each evening after the kids have finished playing and had dinner. Normally they will watch a show on TV or read or draw quietly before bed and I use these 10-15 minutes to put the house completely back together again before my husband and I start our evening together. This helps me feel sane at the end of the day and makes it enjoyable for my husband and I as we don't have to sit together staring at a pile of kids toys and mess in front of us.
All of this probably sounds like a lot of work but I have the basics of well organised storage already in place and the daily habits I do take me barely any time.
If you take the time to set up a system and a place for everything, then multi-task small tidying up jobs throughout the day you'll find it much easier to stay on top of mess and clutter. If you have any other tips for how you keep your house organised and tidy then I would love to hear them!
Enjoy the rest of your day.