Managing Messes

First off let me start by saying that I have learned to let go of a lot of control when it comes to perfectionism and cleanliness in my home.

I do also think that it is some sort of cosmic joke that I spent 10 years having a full-time nanny/housekeeper when I worked and had my TWO kids. Now I have FIVE kids and none of that!

Lupita was amazing at taking care of the kids and the laundry and keeping the house clean and sometimes even putting dinner on the table at night. All I had to do was go to work and make a living.

Don’t get me wrong, I worked my ass off behind the chair and managing those salons.

The upside to that was that when I got off work I was able to come home and really enjoy my kids. I’m just not the type of person that can really sit still if the house is a mess. It’s hard to relax if there are dishes in the sink or mounds of laundry everywhere.

One of the downsides I realized was that my kids had no idea how to help around the house. They were like little piglets and not very good at cleaning up after themselves at all because Lupita always took such good care of us.

Needless to say, things have changed a lot in our household. We have 4 older kids who do not need someone to be home with them all the time, and this time around I want to be home with Lincoln.

They needed to learn how to take care of household chores on their own and learn to pitch in so that the whole family could take pride in our house. It is time to learn some life skills.

As I sit in my living room right now, I see baby toys on the floor and the ottoman has been moved closer to the couch… probably so our three pre-teen daughters could do cartwheels while Dad and I stepped out for drinks with friends.

There are signs (billboards if you will) of lots of people living in our home.

There are scuffs on the walls even though we just had it painted this summer. Some of the furniture has scratches and none of the pillows on the couch ever seem to have the perfect cleave that you see on the design shows for homemaking.

Oh well, I take the time to straighten up the house after the kids go to school and I walk around with my coffee cup and I admire it once in a great while, but mostly it’s never perfect.

Most days I grab my coffee and run out the door to my supposedly part-time job that is mostly a full-time Real Estate job.

It certainly is not perfect, it’s a cleanish casa. It functions well for what we need for our five children in the different stages of their lives. It’s a warm home.

We have baby Lincoln who is currently nine months old. She is very active and of course has all of the baby accessories like a pack and play, big plastic toys for learning to walk with and little toys for playing on the floor with.

We have three preteen daughters in the throes of various stages of becoming women. Some of them are very interested in makeup, and some still ride scooters in the front yard. They have all of the accouterments from the school like backpacks and paper packets to come home every Friday full of their work for us to look through. It’s a shitload of STUFF!

They are little ladies and one big redheaded gent who have not yet totally learned the art of cleaning up after themselves and for the most part, it takes a lot of bellowing to each of them by name.

I’ve got a few tricks that really work like having a home for everything. Hooks for backpacks, racks for shoes, blah, blah, blah. No matter, I still, nearly every day, remind them to put their bags on the backpack hook and their stinking shoes on the rack.

They also like to craft, paint, sketch and are fairly artistic children. Of course, that’s a lot of stuff to do and I don’t want to spend my days cleaning up after them. It’s an art form sometimes to get them to do one project, finish, and clean it up before they start the next.

I refer to this as “the sprawl.” They start one project and leave it, a big fat mess. Then they want to go on to the next thing, leave that mess in there too. Before you know it we have piles of different projects around the house. When you multiply that times the seven people that live here, that can be a lot of projects going on. Crap everywhere.

So job number one is getting them to clean up their own messes. The second part of the story is we expect all of them to pitch in on daily housework.

They get an ample allowance for participation. They get one dollar per year that they are alive per week. So for example, our 12-year-old gets $12 a week that is $48 a month. Out of that money, she is expected to manage her account and have a savings and a charity of 20% each and the rest of it she can spend as she wants.

That money is supposed to be used for when she goes to the movies, wants something at the store, and so on. Lots of times they just want a $20 to walk over to the local shopping center and have lunch with a friend. They usually save what’s left over and use it during the week for little things they want like gum, etc.

I really like the allowance thing because if they squander their own money I don’t feel so bad and they really do work to earn it. They pay for the majority of their school clothes with this money and use it for expenses like school carnivals and buying their own phones.

I am not a big believer in letting them buy a bunch crap like stuffed animals and junk that gets stored in the house. We just don’t have room for five kids’ stuff so generall, they use the money more for experiences. If we do let them buy an item of clothing I always make them bring me three items of clothing that they no longer use to donate. I’m a big advocate of battling clutter and I’m trying to teach my kids that as well.

I can tell you that I am always reminding myself not to waste too much time criticizing the work that the kids do to get this allowance.

We have a very, very hairy and shedding St. Bernard and German shepherd mix. He’s about 140 pounds, very lovable, cuddly and sweet but he is like a walking carpet. With the four big kids able-bodied, I have tried to get each one of them to vacuum once a week. None of them are especially good at it yet and none of them enjoy this process but it does help to keep some of the hair at bay.

As I write I’m sitting here looking at a HUGE fur ball that my daughter missed the first time she was vacuuming and evidently when I reminded her to go back and get it she didn’t get it the second time either. Is it annoying? YES!! Am I motivated to get up off the couch and go do it myself? Hell no!

They clean out the dishwasher, but that does not mean that our plastic storage drawer does not suffer. It’s a disorganized mess. Who cares if it’s stacked perfectly? Not me. It probably will be when I’m in my 60’s. I don’t have time for that kind of perfection right now.

It’s a lesson in patience for me and also my kids are learning life skills for later on down the road. This is their training ground.

As I write this and I think about it, I am so proud of my family and how far these kids have come together to become a family. They have systems to work out most disagreements. They do rock-paper-scissors to decide who gets to sit in the front seat, who has to clean out the dishwasher, whose turn it is to vacuum and they are able to work all these issues out by themselves for the most part.

It is what it is, and no life is perfect and I don’t want to be one of those women that attempt to live in a perfectly sterile home because it would be impossible with our family. And totally weird.

Also, all that perfectionism is a great way to suck time away. A time that I can watch my kiddos play, fight and grow. I don’t want my kids to look back at the time we had together and think of how rigid it was in the name of “house pride.”

It’s such a short time really. Childhood is gone in a blink. I want them to remember spontaneous walks to the beach, surprise tickle fights, family wackiness and dancing in the kitchen.

I don’t want them to think that I was always just after them to clean up. I’m trying to strike a balance between teaching them how to live in a neat and organized home and also how to be relaxed and joyful in our home.