Sunday, March 16, 2008

This month’s Marvellous Mums theme: MANAGING THE MESS!

Okay so from speaking to other mums, I do not feel alone in the challenges of ‘Managing the Mess’ or controlling the clutter that seems to creep into my house on a regular basis. The two times I have been pregnant I have found myself ‘nesting’ which has helped but during the months and years when it does not seem appropriate to be cleaning out cupboards at 3am; what am I to do?
How can I deal with the chaos that I so often find myself in so that it does not drive me insane and give me grey hair before I am 35?
Well I am on a journey to whip my household into shape and I will share with you the things that I am finding most helpful…

STEP 1-In our house, our study is located upstairs…. this was my first problem. Now while I have not been able to move the study down, I did decide that I needed a “spot” to manage my household’s affairs that was somewhat closer to the activities of everyday life.

I created a ‘base’ where I could spread out with my calendar, diary, computer, birthday invites, bills to pay, receipts etc. I ended up putting a desk in our nursery (now that both children are in their own rooms) that allows me to email, store files, print etc. I keep the area stocked with highlighters, pens, paper, white board markers and a small bookshelf full of all my parenting resources. It has saved my kitchen bench from a lot of unnecessary paperwork and ‘junk’ being dumped there because it needed to be attended to or it was too far to cart it all upstairs.

STEP 2-It can feel so chaotic when there is a mess as well as being a distraction when trying to get things done. I know when my house is a mess I feel like that is a reflection of me. By having children though, I realise that I have opened myself up to a period of time where toys and games are a big part of their daily life, and with that comes…MESS!.

As my children are still rather young (one and two and a half) they can assist with packing up their toys to some degree, but there is still a lot of clutter that gets created and left for me to pick up.
If I could name one thing that I try to achieve and teach my children it is that ‘everything has a home’. So I say to my kids “Go and put this truck back in its home”. It is my responsibility to have established a ‘home’ for the toys that is ‘user friendly’ so that my children achieve success when they attempt to pack up. I am also trying to instil in my children’s minds that there are certain areas of our house that are not for taking toys and playing with them e.g. where our more formal couches are. So I will say, “Please take these toys back to the play area…this is where you can play”. Unfortunately at this stage they usually want the ‘play area’ to be right next to wherever I am!!

A while ago I bought different sized, clear tubs that could fit various toys and activities. Also, by limiting the number of toys that I put out at the one time, it is much easier to pack up at the end. Today, for example, my children were playing with their cooking tub of toys (plastic food, saucepans, dinner set etc) as well as the tool bench and tools. At the end of the day they were able to put all the items away into a clear tub ready for next time. Another couple of handy hints are to regularly clean out your children’s toys and weed out the ones that they’ve lost interest in or outgrown. I also have many tubs which display a laminated photo of what is meant to go in that container to show children where to put the toys when they pack up.

Step 3- One of the greatest contributors to mess is the pace at which I leave the house… I try to reduce the possibility of leaving the house in so much of a rush that when I return I can’t remember whether I was just really out of control or whether I’ve been burgled! My point here is that I really try to be organised when I leave the house so that when I return my family and I feel a sense of gladness and appreciation upon arriving home. Our home is our refuge and a place where we can relax and be ourselves. It will not feel like this if we leave it looking like it’s been hit by a tsunami.
When my kids were babies I sat down with my sister and brainstormed a list of items to remind us what we had to take out with us when we went somewhere. This can be found on my blog: for anyone who wants it. It was great to use when leaving in a rush or as a checklist for items to grab for the nappy bag etc. Now I just pretty much leave a bag packed with snacks, nappies, drinks etc and then just pack sandwiches in the morning. It also helps to decide what each person is going to wear the night before and lay the clothes out ready.
Step 4- Write a weekly menu planner. This idea is something that I have done on and off in the past and I really don’t know why I don’t do it every week but anyway….I am endeavouring to try it again! Considering that the average mum will prepare over one thousand meals a year, there are so many benefits to doing this. Firstly it means not having to wander the supermarket aimlessly thinking of meal possibilities on the spot and then neglecting to purchase half the ingredients, secondly it helps you avoid standing at the fridge wondering what you’ll cook that night and how come there’s no ingredients that seem to go together, thirdly you save money by only buying the ingredients that you need for the meals on your planner instead of ending up with left over vegetables etc that didn’t get used….need I go on? I know I’ve convinced myself!

Step 5- Finally, have a weekly cleaning schedule. I am yet to implement this one so you will have to watch this space to see how it goes but I love the idea of it. By following a cleaning schedule (which you just adapt to suit your needs) you have a checklist of jobs for the week, fortnight or month, which helps you, achieve your goals and saves a build up of things that never get done. For example weekly chores may include vacuuming, toilets and microwave while a fortnightly task could be cleaning the fridge out and monthly might be airing the doonas.

Step 6- There’s one final thing to keep in mind. I need to remember that ultimately my objective is to create a wholesome, enjoyable and nurturing environment for my family to thrive. As Jill Savage so rightly points out, “If you become too busy to read your child a book because you must have a perfect house, you’ve lost your proper focus. If you become angry because your child did not fold the shirts correctly, you’ve focussed on perfection rather than teaching and training. If you have such a desire for organisation and cleanliness that you don’t allow for playing with Play-Doh every once in a while, you’ve taken house keeping to the extreme. As you manage your home, remember the difference between being organised and being fanatical”.

From my mess to yours, I wish you the very best of luck!

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