Craft Closet Clean-Up

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One of the first projects I did in our new house was the craft closet. It started out as a bare closet with wooden shelves on the right side. I purchased a shelving system from Lowes and installed it in a few hours. I did this entire thing myself ladies, it was that easy! Then I labeled some tubs that I already had and organized away.

Once every few months I have to go through and re-organize, throw away, and straighten up but now that I have a system that is all labeled – it is much easier. This weekend I tackled the clean up in here and as part of my house purge, I got a rid of a lot of junk that had accumulated. Here is what it looked like when I was done:

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My favorite part of the closet is this over-the-door shoe hanger that I turned into a wrapping station. Now I can always find the tape, scissors, wrap and ribbon! Ahhh. If you like this you can find a million great ideas on Pinterest.

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Now for a few before-the-clean-up pictures…

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How To Get Your Kids to Do Their Chores – Part 1

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Bribes, threats, punishment, rewards, treats, money, toys…I have tried it all to get my kids to happily do their fair share of the household work. But the fact is, I don’t always do my chores with glee either. And, like my children, I have been known to procrastinate a less-than-exciting task hanging over my head.

So, we should understand when our kids don’t run toward the chore-at-hand with dancing feet and smiling faces.

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The goal is to teach them how to be a part of a family. We all pitch in to do the work that has to be done, so we can do the things we want to do. That’s why I do them. Because If I don’t have clean towels, I don’t enjoy my shower nearly as much.

I used to really dislike going to the grocery store. I had panic attacks in the snack isle and broke out with hives in the frozen food section. But it is a chore that has to be done. So I used to treat myself with a home magazine after I finished a big grocery run. After I had put all of the groceries away I would allow myself to sit down and peruse the pages getting inspiration for my next project.

Maybe my kids are the same way. And maybe they deserve a little treat at the end of their most disliked chore too. It doesn’t have to be food, just something to look forward to.

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After taking all of this into consideration I did away with the threats, and bribes and sympathetically approached this as a fact of life. These things have to get done and as a family we all pitch in.

First, I divided the house into similarly sized areas. Each child was assigned an area, or areas, they need to clean. One child has the front living room, another the family room, another the sitting room. Then I divided the basement, where all of our toys are, the same way. One has the kitchen area, another the dress up area, another the bins, etc. And each child is responsible for their own bedroom and bath.

Second, I divvied up the after dinner chores: everyone takes their dishes to the sink, one wipes the table, another sweeps and so on.

Now, here is how I ask them to get them done. While these techniques aren’t perfect, it enables me to stay calm while allowing them to take responsibility for their part.

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Chore Time. With the younger kids, ages 5 and under, I use a time technique. I tell them that 4:30 p.m. is chore time. And at 4:30 before I start dinner we clean up together. Since they require more supervision this gives me time before I am elbow deep in dinner prep. Often I will take the mail with me and sort through or read the latest catalog while I watch them cleaning. Otherwise, I help them out. Once they are done, and in order to keep my house from getting totally trashed again, I put a show on for them while I make dinner.

Chore Deadlines. With the older kids I give them a little more autonomy to choose when they do their chores. They have to have their areas clean before they can go out to play after dinner. This gives them all day to decide when to do them, but a firm deadline with incentive following the deadline.  For the ones that put off their chores until after dinner I like to use statements like, “feel free to go outside and play once your chores are done.” or “you are welcome to play with your friends as soon as your chores and completed.” So they have a deadline, but room to choose – now or later. There is incentive to complete them with the opportunity to play after dinner. And there is a consequence of not getting to play after dinner if they don’t get it done by that time.

Of course I always have to check, because they never get them done well, never. My husband and I share the checking responsibility and sometimes I will have them check each others work. If I don’t have time to check and they did a bad job, the next night they don’t go out at all.

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5 Minute Clean Up. There is one other technique I use now and then. I call it the 5 minute clean up. I use this when the toy room is really messy and no one wants to touch it. On these days I grab the kitchen timer, or the iPod and put some fun tunes on. Then we all clean as much as we can get done in 5 minutes. Then we stop – and leave it. We can make some decent progress in 5 minutes and the next day it isn’t as daunting. I just did this one the other day and we had the entire basement cleaned up in two evenings of 5 minute clean ups.

What do you do?

Chore List by Age

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Our second child was born only 16 months after our first. And I don’t have to tell you that I was stressed. But I will. With two babies I couldn’t get anything done and the dishes and laundry were piling up. I needed some help, somewhere.

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Around this time I was reading a parent magazine (probably in the doctor’s office because that was the only place I had the time or ability to read anything). Anyway, I ran across an article about kid’s chores. My stomach leapt with joy when I read that a 2-year-old could take their dishes to the sink after a meal by themselves. Seriously, I could expect #1 to help out that soon? This was good news. No, this was fantastic news. I had no idea I could expect them to do things this early. I read on. I asked friends. I found out all the things a 2-year-old might be able to help do and I started implementing them.

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I had visions of sitting on the sofa watching HGTV while my 2-year-old cleaned the house and made dinner. Well, it’s not quite like that but it is an important part of learning how to be a part of a family. Here you see #1 feeding #2 some of her water. A little for you – a little for me. Well, now I know she can give the baby a bottle in a pinch. I’ll take it.

So, here is a list of chores by age.

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TIP: I give “promotions” once in a while from one chore to another. The kids love it and it’s fun to see the pride on their faces when they realize they are being given a “higher” responsibility.

Click here for a free printable version of the chores list by age.

Laundry Language

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Laundry. The never ending chore. I don’t dislike doing laundry…when I do it. It’s just a pain to stay on top of it. And then when it gets out of control it’s overwhelming. Unfortunately, this is something that can happen very quickly in my house.

With each additional child the laundry grows exponentially and it is not a chore you can consolidate. It’s just one, big, continuous chore. Some people like to do it all in one day, others have a weely schedule. I have tried it all. So here are some ideas that I have found work the best for this family of 7.

1. CREATE A SCHEDULE – And stick to it because if you get behind it’s going to hurt. Here’s mine:
Monday – towels and sheets
Tuesday – towels and sheets
Wednesday – small’s clothes
Thursday – big girl’s clothes
Friday – rags/whites
Saturday/Sunday – husband and I
* This leaves room over the weekend for any extra loads needed. There’s always at least one.
My schedule is posted in the laundry room for all to see. This keeps everyone on the same page and has eleviated many laundry arguments.
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2. GET HELP – I find that the folding and putting away of the laundry is the most time consuming. So I did some active researched on my kids and found out that at the age of 3 they can help put away their own clothes and they can help move it from the washer to the dryer. By 4 or 5 they can help put things on hangers, 6 they can help you fold and 8 they can do a load by themselves. By the time my oldest was 8 she was capable of putting her clothes in the washer, adding the soap and turning it on all by herself as long as the soap was within reach. At this point I have the two oldest do their own laundry on their day.
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3. KEEP IT SEPARATE – In my house each bedroom has it’s own dirty clothes hamper. Each hamper get washed and dried together and taken right back to the room it came from. This eliminates a lot of sorting. The only mixed load I do is the whites. But I find this to be a huge timesaver.
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4. DON’T PUT IT AWAY – As another idea, I have a friend who has two clothes hampers in each room. One for dirty clothes and one for clean clothes. No one ever has to put clothes away, just take them from their dirty clothes hamper, wash them and dump them in the clean clothes hamper. This technique is often used in my sons room. If you kept the two bins in the closet it looks the same as putting it in your dresser. No one knows the difference. And think about it, no folding, no putting away, no hanging. Simple and fast.
5. MAKE IT ENJOYABLE – I like to put on music while I fold, or treat myself to a break when I am done. Also, I enjoy having the kids work with me. It makes the time go faster and it gives us time to talk.
If this is a chore you don’t like to do either, please share your laundry secrets – I would love to hear them.

 

The Purging of the Closets

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You may, or may not remember how my small kids were destroying their closet – daily – for months. Hopefully you don’t. I had to barricade their closet so they couldn’t get in.

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This was obviously a temporary fix. I just can’t live with chairs out of place and bad traffic flow patterns in rooms. It’s just not OK with me. I like rooms pretty and functional and right.

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Over the past few weeks I have spent time cleaning out closets. This wasn’t your typical closet clean out where you go through everything, fold or hang it nicely, throw out a handful of items, and walk away feeling “successful”.

This was an all out purge. The purgiest purge you ever saw.

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First, I put all of the winter clothes in bins. Away they went to be stored until Fall. Every long sleeved shirt, long pair of pants, tights, sweaters and jackets. I only left a pullover or sweatshirt for chilly summer evenings.

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Second, I went through their clothes and donated any item I didn’t like seeing on them. Shorts I think are too short, shirts that are ugly, dresses that don’t make me smile. Anything I deemed inappropriate because it had shrunk in areas we wish it hadn’t. All of those items my kids always want to wear that I just don’t care for. You know the outfit, you’ve seen it so many times you want to burn it. Gone.

Don’t worry, they won’t miss them. They haven’t even noticed. They still have more than enough.

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So now our closets have about 1/3 of the clothes they used to have in them. This was a real clean out. The mess they make is only 1/3 of the mess they made before. Thank you. I never have to tell the smalls to go put on something more appropriate for the weather because it isn’t in there to put on in the first place. And I never have to worry about them coming down in an outfit I wish my friends didn’t have to experience on them.

This was time well spent. Really well spent.

The Confiscation Technique

I have been thinking about what habits I need to change in order to live with less. There will be changes in buying habits for sure. But this week I was struck by the amount of stuff the little people bring in, and spread around, that we didn’t buy. I mean, it comes from everywhere. Everyone wants to give kids a little “prize” these days. Again a reminder of how our culture has fed this epidemic of too much is not enough. This notion that you need a prize for every little thing you do is ridiculous. Can’t we just go to a restaurant and eat? Isn’t that treat enough? We don’t need a promotional prize for that. How about the dentist, shouldn’t we go because its good for us? A “thanks for coming” should be good enough. Healthy teeth is your prize.

So the past week or so I have taken note of the times when I noticed a lot of garbage about to enter my home. And then I stopped it before it entered!

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Eating Out
We went to a fast food joint to eat the other day for a quick lunch while we were out. They each got a “toy” with their meal. I say “toy” because, come on, it can hardly be classified as a toy. Advertisement, ploy, junk is more appropriate. On the way home in the car, about two “toy’s” hit the floor and I knew those were not leaving the car unless I picked them up. All of the packaging for the toys was on the floor too. Why do we need so much plastic? There was plastic inside of plastic and a bag to hold the plastic.

As we pulled into our driveway I thought to myself “if I let this stuff enter my home I will be picking it up everywhere for the next week”. So I decided to confiscate it before it went in.

I put the car in park and locked the doors. I asked everyone to pick up the trash on the floor and put it in a grocery bag I had laying around. Once it was picked up the door opened and the kids were off – except for the one that was being the pushiest and they got to go throw the bag away.

I thought of some other strategies here that I could use in the future.

1. The person in the car who does not put their seatbelt on when asked can be the one to clean up for the rest of us after we get home.

2. The instigator in the back seat who is pushing everyone’s buttons could be the picker-upper.

But the most important thing is to make myself comfortable while they get their clean up done. So I put on some tunes that I liked, tilted my seat back and relaxed. I could also, pick up a book and read, get out and check my garden, return a text I received while driving. I’m sure we can all think of something.

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The Dentist Visit
I’m so thankful the dentist is sweet and generous with my children but you would not believe how much stuff we came home with the other day after 4 of them had a visit. Four bags to hold our crap, 4 toothbrushes complete with packaging, 4 flossing sticks with sacks to hold them, 4 toys that broke on the way home, 4 toothpastes with boxes, 4 cards with something on them that I didn’t even read – probably an ad. You see where I am going with this. You have more than one kid and this starts to pile up FAST.

Getting better at this game, I confiscated the bags in the dental office before we left by offering to help them carry their stuff. That was easy and it sounded so nice. Once we got home I threw everything out immediately keeping only the toothbrushes, toothpaste and flossing sticks (sans packaging).

It was a ridiculous pile of trash for just a dentist visit. And it would have been all over my upstairs if I had not used the confiscation technique.

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The Last Day of School
Not that this happens often, but man does this day provide a lot of trash. Oh, there is plenty of good stuff to save and ooh and aah over, but there’s a lot of junk too. My plan was to confine and deal with it immediately before it began to spread. So we left it all in the mud room and I asked them to sort it out: trash, keep in their personal tub or keep on their bulletin board. The plan seemed to work! They all did it except for one who decided to throw a fit, so I did it for them. Perfect!

So I learned this week that I need to be vigilant about not letting the stuff come into my home in the first place. Vigilance – that’s the hard part.

In-Home Garage Sale

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I had a garage sale this weekend. In my room. With my 5 children. You know that pile of stuff I had ‘picked up’ for them over the past month? Well, I told them they could buy back anything they wanted. One dollar per item. They made some interesting picks, especially the smalls. I wouldn’t have saved it, but that’s their business. Of course they could only buy as much as they had money for – which made the picking all that more difficult. But I think it turned out the way it should have in the end.

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As you can imagine there was still a lot of stuff left over after the picking was done. So I shifted and sorted and this is what I came up with:

I had 1 tub of garbage. This was all the things that had no business in my home or anyone else’s. Torn clothes, broken toys, doodled on papers, worthless stuff – it was trash, rubbish, waste.

Then I had a second tub of items to donate. Nicer clothes that my kids won’t wear, toys that they obviously don’t care about (and neither do I). And – BONUS – the donation truck came yesterday – excellent timing.

The third tub was a spur of the moment decision on my part. There were things that the kids didn’t care about, but I did. And I could not bring myself to throw them away or donate them because I had paid good money for them and we might need them again. Or better yet, they might ask for them. Oh, then what would I do? I would feel compelled to buy it for them AGAIN. Things like: Hats for costumes, Hawaiian lays for a luau, a game, and a bucket of legos. I have no idea why the Legos weren’t important to someone. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, when you have soooo much of something what’s one more bucket full? And they’re right, who would care? This bin, I will put away in a storage closet for now.

The forth contained clothing items that don’t fit anyone right now, so I will keep them for hand-me-downs later. Fair enough!

I’m thankful to have my room back! It looks so nice and clean.

But this whole process was harder than I thought it would be. It was really hard to get rid of stuff I had paid money for. I felt guilty for having so much extra. I felt guilty for buying it. I felt guilty for not teaching my children to take better care of their things.

In the end I realized I needed to no only purge our home of the excess, but more importantly I need to make a shift in my thinking and my habits.

This will be the hardest part because this way of thinking is pervasive in our culture. Everyone is doing it. We are almost wired this way. Work so we can get the next thing. Things will make us happy. Having an organized, perfect home will make us happy and peaceful.

But it isn’t working for me. It doesn’t bring me peace and rest. I’m more frustrated and frazzled because of all the stuff and even when I organize it to death, it’s still a time consuming job to keep it that way.

To change my habits and way of thinking would be a massive shift. And I’m not even sure what exactly that means right now.

So, for now, I will continue to rid my home of the excess and ponder ways to keep the “stuff” from coming into our home in the first place. Some of this may be my purchasing habits, and some is not.