“Where’s all your stuff?” It’s a question I’ve treated as rhetorical since the first of my three kiddos was born. We’ve lived in a cookie-cutter suburbia home, an 800 square-foot cottage and a completely open timberframe in the sticks. But one thing remains the same with each location: I’ve learned how to manage the mess.
My approach is type A, hard knocks and will not jive with a good portion of moms. That being said, I eliminate a number of meltdowns and get us out the door more quickly. Because I can easily locate the Spider-man glove in the bottom right bin of the basement toy closet, so it’s ready for Friday’s Show & Share at school. Here are five easy fixes that keep this mom of three from going postal.
Laundry: My husband wears shirts with cufflinks. I don’t touch that stuff. The rest of the bedding, jeans, pjs, towels and too many t-shirts to count get thrown into one 32-inch tall laundry bin downstairs. When it’s full, I dump everything in the washer. No sorting, no special cycles—just hit start and let ‘er rip. Why? Because I have three kids under five who become unglued when a Little Mermaid nightgown or Ninja Turtle shirt are dirty. I pull some stuff out to hang dry but the rest goes into pinstripe, portable Target bins after the dryer. I bring one bin with me around the house until its contents are folded.
Cleaning: I don’t hide chores from my kids. I don’t believe that “moms with dirty ovens and sticky floors have happy kids” like that cute little sign I saw at TJ Maxx. I do believe that kids respect your workload and will even pitch in when they see you in action. When my three-year old spills something she grabs a paper towel. Of course I help her, but she and her five-year-old brother understand that messes don’t just magically clean themselves.
Toys: Kids are spoiled. I don’t care if yours have hand-me-downs or the newest Disney princess dresses. They have more crap than they need. Mine love to empty nesting bins full of racecars and Legos. (As they should—they are kids!) But if something doesn’t fit in its designated bin it gets traded, donated or consigned. Period. How many dinosaurs does a kid really need? My storage bins are visible and within reach, so the kids can locate what they want to play with and organize Barbies versus superheroes when they clean up.
Timing: Every Monday I strip the beds to wash sheets. The exception is one of my littles having an accident on another day of the week. Tuesdays I clean toilets because I live with three boys and they are disgusting. Designating a day keeps me in the zone and breaks down what would otherwise become overwhelming.
Space: There is something eerily calming about open space. In marketing, designers call it “white space,” which allows an ad or pretty picture to breathe. My counters have lots of breathing room. Toothbrushes, lotion, pull-ups, even the toaster goes in a drawer or under the counter. Our house is completely open, so furniture with extra storage is limited. If what I need doesn’t fit, then the drawer needs to be cleaned out. The only exception to this rule is functional items like a fruit basket or soap dish—and pictures! Because people actually do live in my house and I like those faces to be the first (and only) thing visitors see.
I’m not perfect and neither is my family. But at least we can fool the masses…for now.