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Ode to a Better House

In all my years as a mother, I've struggled with how to physically manage a household. I shared briefly about the stretch marks on the inside. The situation is getting better, but I have a long way to go.




clean windowsill

I watch every organizing show I can think of for parents. I read clutter-busting articles from tons of magazines. I pick up books from Heloise, Kathy Peel and Julie Morgenstern. I love shopping for books and organizing tools at places like Ikea or Pottery Barn — but you'd never know from my surroundings.

Give me an international corporation with a billion dollar budget, not a problem (when I worked outside of the home, I always cleaned my desk before I left the office). But give me five children whom I don't want to stand over and nag all of the time and a husband who's resistant to "doing what our parents did to us," and big problems — or rather, messes — arise.

When did I lose control? When did I give in?

When my oldest was younger, we lived in an 810-square-foot town home with not a single room big enough for both a bed and a dresser. Because my daughter was the first grandchild on both sides, she received everything you could imagine. I was grateful for the gifts. We were in grad school and we couldn't possible afford these things, but it made our life pretty congested.

One day, on our way to church, I had to go to the grocery store for the third time because I couldn't find tights and my 2-year-old daughter said, "Mommy, you have to keep my stuff together. This rushing and buying stuff all of the time makes me tired." There you have it folks — another example of "bad mommy" being outed by innocent child.

It only got mildly better with a bigger house, because with a bigger house, we got an even bigger family. Our relatives felt bad when they got rid of things because they always thought, "Oh, the kids could use this," and we just accepted it all, even when we didn't need it or didn't want it.

This unwillingness to sound ungrateful or unappreciative has finally reached its long-awaited end. I am sick of stuff and now I have to get my entire family with the new program! I've settled and accepted for way too long. Dust off the permanent markers, borrow the label maker (which I secretly covet, but I have to woo DH before I make this "frivolous" purchase), and grab the color-coded stickers — it's time to get this place into shape! (imaginary audience cheering, shouting, "You can do it!")




clean schoolroom

Where do I start? My favorite tool is the dreaded chore chart. It worked for me when I was growing up. Most of the kids can read, and for those that can't I put a picture next to their names (I did in-depth research and downloaded a ton of free charts until I found something that worked for us). Then I decided to get a little creative. The creativity helps soften my obsessive perfectionist tendencies. I wrote a couple poems that I'm having my kids rewrite and recite until they — like me — get some better habits.

For the bathroom:

Every Day
With all my heart
I will strive
To do my part
And make my space
A neat and clean place
So I will STOP! Brush my teeth,
Hang towels, put toothbrush away
Put away my clothes, yes I know how it goes
Because in my family
I will be the best me I CAN be!

For the bedroom:

Every day
With all my heart
I will strive
To do my part
And make my space
A neat and clean place
So I will STOP! Put my dirty clothes away
Lay out my clothes for tomorrow
So that I can prepare for the next great day!
In the morning, I'll make up my bed
So that I can come home and feel a little ahead
Because every day I'm striving to be
The best me I CAN be!

See, you gotta make this fun for you sometimes, too!