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Cleaning 101.

I have a dirty little secret. No, literally. My house is never nearly as clean as I would like it to be.

I daydream about waking up and the children playing nicely all day, complete with 3 hour naps, while I organize the basement and attic, and super clean every surface. I’m talking tile scrubbing with a tooth brush, scouring every crevice of every window with a Q-tip, until they gleam. Actually having a place for everything, and everything in its place. I have plans and potential layouts for shelving units and storage containers to line the walls of the basement, with neatly printed labels so there’s never a, “Where does this go?” moment. Inside of me there’s an anal retentive person screaming to get out. Where the art cabinet is organized alphabetically, cans are lined up by category and all facing outward in the pantry. And the playroom never has toys that don’t really belong in any of my previously arranged categories.

And then I snap out of it. I realize that I haven’t cleaned the crevices of the windows in a year, there are DVD’s and CD’s that don’t work mixed in with the ones that do, or randomly scattered on the shelf of the entertainment center. The basement looks kind of like a Salvation Army store exploded down there. I keep finding winter items, like a random boot, in odd places, because Goo is kind of like a squirrel and loves to stash items for later discovery. I usually discover this when we need to leave the house 5 minutes ago and I find that her left sandal is in behind the garbage bin under the bathroom sink and my keys are in her sparkly pink pocketbook in the dress up bin.

The bottom line is: I can never get my house clean enough. I’m so busy constantly picking up the day-to-day stuff, and washing laundry like it’s my job, and then pretending that I’m going to put away the laundry, even though we all know that isn’t going to happen. I don’t get time to do the deep scrubbing and perfect organizing that would make my heart sing.

Two days ago, I decided that enough is enough. We’re a big family (well, big-ish), and everyone needs to pitch in more around here. I can’t do the work of 17 people by myself. (Yes, I know there is only 5 of us, but the kids make the messes of 5 people each, plus the Nerd and I. So there you go.)

The play room was a disaster. Goo and Smush had dumped one thing after another, and it was utterly destroyed. I asked Emma to help me out by picking up the toys so I could focus on dishes/laundry/sweeping/vacuuming/dusting/cleaning the bathroom. I then decided to take a series of pictures to document the progress made in said cleaning. This is what it looked like at the start of the process. Don’t judge me.

Forgive the blurry factor. Children were running and screaming and I may have been frantically trying to ignore them so I could take a quick picture.

Sigh. Punkin finds this overwhelming. I can’t imagine why. I know it’s a little daunting for a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old, but in my defense, I give them one category at a time. “Okay girls, while I do the dishes, you focus on blocks. Pick up all the blocks on the floor. Don’t worry about an.y.thing. else. Just do the blocks.”

Half an hour later, it looked like this:

Notice how it looks exactly the same.

This is where it’s less like, “Okay girls, just focus on the blocks.” And more like, “Girls, this is ridiculous. What have you done??? Have you picked up a single thing in the entire time I cleaned the kitchen? Pick. Up. The. Blocks.”

This is what it looked like an hour later, after I did laundry/showered/bathed the baby/picked up the living room.

Progress! See that one little area in the far corner where you can now actually see the ugly carpet? It only took an hour and half to clean that.

At this point, I issue time-out warnings. Because I’ve been running around like a crazy person trying to keep up after things, and this is what they’ve managed to accomplish. What the what? You can single-handedly destroy my entire house in 3.7 seconds, but it takes you 90 minutes to clean a single corner of one room? God help me. No, God help you. Because if that playroom isn’t clean by the end of the day, you’re going to be begging for His help, believe me.

And here, my friends, is what it looked like the next morning.

Mommy wins. Or loses. Probably loses.

After I spent an hour picking up and separating the toys by category into their appropriate bins, then cleaning and vacuuming, using the little corner attachment to get along the edges and behind radiators and such. I know, I kind of shot myself in the foot with this one. What I should have done was issue time out warnings at the beginning, and then painstakingly follow through like those parents on SuperNanny who take 67 minutes to complete a 2 minute time out because the kids won’t listen.

Here’s the only problem with that: I actually had other things to do. We had appointments that day. I can’t call up and be like, “I’m sorry, Dr. Pediatrician, we’re running late because SuperNanny says I always have to follow through.” Sigh.

And after all that, it’s still not my dream room. If I could, I’d have a place to put the bigger toys, too, like the shopping cart and push toy. I know they’re lined up neatly, but I feel like the room isn’t actually clean when there is anything but furniture on the floor. That’s my inner anal retentive person. Dear AR Me: I will let you out one day. Someday, my kids will be in college. And I will have a magazine-perfect home. With breakable things. And something white. I’m not sure what, but something will be white, just because it can be.

In the meantime, I think it’s time to break out Mean Mommy. The one who makes you pick up your toys/books/clothes/animals every. single. day. Until you get it through your adorable little heads that I’m doing it on my own anymore. Now where’s the time out chair…


About Mediocre Mom

I am a wife to the man who was made for me, and mom to three amazing girls: Punkin is eight, Goo is four, and Smush is two. I'm a Christian, a science geek, and completely addicted to coffee. Trying to stay sane one day at a time. Lowering the bar for moms everywhere.

15 responses »

  1. this blog is perfect for my day and yesterday, i actually turned on the computer to try to find positive ways to encourage my children to clean because the porch has been messy since yesterday and me taking away tv and computer time until they clean is not working.

  2. So funny.. I have one child and can’t get things done 🙂
    A friend of a friend who pays a teenager to watch her kids for 2-3 hours so she can clean her house. I mean really clean it! It saves her sanity & is a whole lot cheaper than getting a cleaning lady.
    Perhaps mom’s like us, who can’t afford to hire a sitter, can create a co-op. I’ll watch your kids while you clean then you can watch mine while I clean. You in? The Nerd knows how to get in touch with my bro in law, maybe even my hubby. Or you can message me on FB 🙂

  3. Theresa Gahagan

    Love it! Not at your insanity…. but at the reality of the craziness. May I offer some suggestions. We have a very very very very very… did I emphasize *very* enough (lol) small home. (4 rooms, and yes all 4 kids are in one room!) We lost our walk-up attic/storage and playroom when we moved to this house. I now only have a porch/ mudroom and a basement (Storage only – which I confess I hate going into) SO, where am I going with this…. LESS IS MORE! 3 Girls myself, and now 1 bubba, we have toys. I mean we have a whole lotta friggin toys! BUT, how I manage the clutter and subsequently MAKE THE GIRLS manage their clutter (as we all know us parents have enough of our own) – is make them accountable! I make expectations reasonable, and logical. BUT it started with teaching them what my expectations are! If I make my bed, I expect them to. If I clean up my clutter, I expect them too. But there is a catch to this. We have to facilitate, teach, follow thru and encourage the behavior we want. So how we did all this is simple. First, we don’t leave the bedrooms until beds are made, kids are dressed and cloths are in the hamper. Second, I packed away 2/3 rds of their toys! (Note books are accessible and kitchen set always stays out) But the remaining 2/3 of toys are PUT AWAY! After a week or two, we switch them out and the MOST AMAZING THING HAPPENS… THEY ACTUALLY PLAY WITH THEIR TOYS! When they have all of them out, they have too many options, thus, dump zone! When there are less options, they play purposefully and they actually enjoy it! Then when the switcheroo happens, they feel like it is christmas all over again! A great way to help your insanity and make the kids accountable. Less to pickup = less mess= kids can manage. Then I would also use sticker chart to encourage clean-up = reward system. Also, from another super anal mom over here… THEY CLEAN-UP before lunch, and dinner! Then when it is time for naps, bedtime, you are not frantic to clean-up before bed. It is done, they eat, then bed time, cuddle, relaxation. If you need to manage more time for you and your hubby = this gives it to you. When the kids are napping you can work on a project for you. When kids are in bed to sleep for the night you can spend time with hubs. I sure hope this helps! And, if budget is a problem with purchasing totes, buy a box of contractor bags. Tie and label when you switch it out. That way you can re-use the bags. Hope this helps! 🙂

    • Wow. This is both amazing and a bit overwhelming. I think I could pull it off if my girls were a little older. Punkin could handle it no problem, but Goo and Smush still need pretty much constant supervision. I tried the before dinner clean-up, and it just makes me not only juggle the cooking and whining, but trying to stay on top of their “cleaning” while my pasta water boils over. Haha. I may implement the toy storage idea though, where you rotate them out. I like that plan, and such a good suggestion! It keeps things fresh and exciting, and it’s less clean up every day. Thank you for this!

  4. Oh my gosh..This was my DAY yesterday, too!! Here I am not feeling well and I ask my girls to clean up their room. I give them each one job to do. They don’t do it. I sit on the bed and ask them very pointedly to just pick things up off the floor and put them in ANY box. They don’t do it. I then ask in a more heightened voice what is so difficult about bending over, grabbing, standing up and letting go (over a box). My 6 year old now bursts into tears and my 4 year old is laying on the floor with a blanket over her head. [Throwing my hands up over my head] I gave up on the rest of my house for the day and sat there on the floor sweeping and handing things to the 4yr. old to put away while the 6 yr. old organized the rest of the toys. This Mommy lost yesterday, too.

    • Sigh. I so hear this. I get caught between a rock and a hard place because the 1 year old totally doesn’t get the cleaning thing, the 3 year old needs CONSTANT supervision if I actually want her to accomplish anything, and the 7 year old needs a good dose of speed encouragement to get anything off the floor and into the hamper. It ends up requiring my undivided attention to get them to clean, which mean, SHOCKER, I’m STILL not getting anything done. I’m hoping that if I stay on top of it, once they’re older it’ll pay off. Maybe. Please?

  5. Love it! Its like my house. I swear I shudder any time someone comes over because chances are, my glass coffee table has 1000 fingerprints with peanut butter and jelly globs. 🙂

    • Preemie Mom, we have a giant picture window in the living room. I think you’re supposed to be able to see out of it, but the greasy hand smudges usually get in the way.

  6. Pingback: Two magic words. | Confessions of a Mediocre Mom

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  9. I make the same request of my kids on a daily basis and it ends up about the same way. Glad I am not alone.


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