If I could write a letter to my previous self, I would tell her "You CAN have a clean house and happy children." Seriously I had never seen it done! I did not grow up in a minimalist home. I was raised to be a career woman. When I had my daughter, I was not prepared to leave my corporate job, but I knew that I made the best choice for my daughter as she had medical complications at the time. Choosing to come home was the right decision, but it wasn't easy.
You see, if you fast forwarded several years, I was floundering as a mom. I did not have good boundaries for allowing well-meaning family to "store" items at my house. Maybe you have family like that. I'm sorry. I totally understand. Seriously, I couldn't walk through my house safely - toys, furniture, too many clothes, dishes literally to the ceiling. I'm not proud of that and I was miserable. My children weren't particularly peaceful either. We were a huge, hot mess in more ways than one.
The changes started slowly at first. I think it's called the compound effect. I stopped allowing others to redecorate my home. I donated bag after bag to the local charity. Furniture started to go the mountain of toys. Anything with batteries and noise was on my "hit list." I was like a woman on a mission to get rid of those migraine making toys!!
Slowly, our true life emerged from under a mountain of "stuff!" I took nightly walks with my children as the evening sunset painted the sky. I read book after book instead of screen time. The behavior improved, in me actually first and then my children. I started to see our home from their eyes. If I was upset about the toys being out everywhere, I realized that I was totally responsible. I realized they needed a system, each activity needed a home. Suddenly a clean home became possible because every item HAD an actual home. Now, please don't judge! I know this is common sense and I have a high level degree. I get it that I should have known this, but how did I actually do this?
Maybe you have wondered if a clean home is possible with children, you are in the right place. I wondered that as well. I wasn't willing to give into the sarcastic sayings on FB about blaming the kids for a messy house. Like you, I also wasn't willing to let the kids trash the place either. Not going to happen....ever.
Here's 3 things that will help CREATE a happy, kid-friendly house:
1.See your home from your child's eyes. Follow their footsteps through an ideal day. Do they need their socks with their shoes? Done. Move the socks to the shoe cupboard. Kids always asking for drinks? Done. Step stool in the kitchen with stainless steel cups. Always finding toys on the floor? No problem. If found on the floor, the toy goes to the job shelf. Each child must work to earn their toy back. Clean house? Done.
2. Teach the concept "if you want to get something out, put something away." I also have a play pattern for each day. It's not strict but I am the one to direct their activities. In the morning after breakfast it's math blocks. Afternoon time is outside play or art in the basement. I am in charge so that there are no roaming bandits flooding the house....it has happened twice, just saying.
3. Encourage the children to keep their favorites. And share! Blessed day, my two year old is finally learning to share. Discernment takes time to teach and model as does sharing and decision making. We often joke as moms about how difficult it is to teach sharing but we have a great opportunity in decluttering to practice what we preach. Ouch. I have shared items that I didn't want to share and it was so, so good for my children to see it. A mom in need asked for cloth diapers. Silly, I know, but I had a hard time letting go. When I did, I was so excited that my children saw that I shared even when I truly needed that item for our own family. Shortly afterwards, we received "upgraded" organic cloth diapers as a gift. Sweet poetic justice.
The systems in a home help CREATE a deep trust and happiness that I cannot quite explain. Children enjoy rhythms and dependability. And happy children, a clean home, aaahh this CREATES the sacred space that our family needs.
Blessings for your journey!!