I like to keep our main floor, the one on which most of us spend most of our day, in relative tidiness. I feel particularly stressed out if there is a lot of clutter on surfaces, so I do my best to keep those clear most of the time. It is inevitable, though, with seven of us home all day that there will be some mess. The key, for us, has been to manage the mess with frequent, regular tidy times. For years now, we have tidied the main floor:
- before mealtimes
- before Daddy gets home
- before bed
- before anytime we leave the house
This ensures that the children and I learn to pick up our things after we use them, or at least relatively soon after. Charlotte Mason was a huge believer in training children in good habits and orderliness is one habit that did not come easily to me. I want it to come much easier to our children.
However, my children would tell you that they don't enjoy hearing me bark at them all day to pick up their stuff. I don't enjoy barking either. So, I try to use a variety of things to make tidying time more pleasant. The first is attitude. We are tidying because it brings us pleasure and calms our minds to have tidy, serene surroundings. We can find things easier and we don't have to shove stuff aside every time we want to use a table or an area on the floor. It is also much less embarrassing when people drop over. It feels good to be able to welcome them in without having to worry that the place is a mess! So, cultivating the attitude that tidying our home is a blessing to us and others makes it more pleasant to do the work than to leave the children thinking tidying is a punishment.
As far as the actual tidying part goes, I find the best way to get the children to tidy happily is to work alongside them. This can be a hassle if I have something else to do, like making lunch or caring for a baby, but it makes all the difference in the world. What looks like just a few things to you can be an overwhelming job for young children, particularly if you have a child who is not inclined to look after their things. One of my children, when told that it was tidy time said, "But Moooooooom, I can't clean up because I'm toooooo lazy." Isn't that the truth?!
Finally, I have found that some kind of encouragement along the way works wonders. I have a little song that I sometimes sing while we tidy. I learned it from the Waldorf school years ago when we attended a parent and tot class. However, you can easily make one up to a favourite tune (Row Row your Boat, Twinkle Twinkle, etc.). Basically, you just start singing about what you are tidying up, or what needs to be tidied up, while you work. The children just seem to join in like magic. It doesn't work every time, so I like to mix it up a bit.
I also use the high five system, which is a particular favourite. I will tell each child one thing at a time that needs to be tidied. "Please pick up the puzzle and put it in the bin." Then, as the task is completed the child runs to me for a high five. This works really well and helps keep things from being overwhelming. Before they know it, the room is done.
What things do you do to encourage your children to tidy their surroundings? I'd love to hear some ideas.