The second I feel like I’ve got a category of motherhood down, I get thrown through a loop. Either our schedule changes or my daughter hits a new phase. Motherhood is an ever-changing journey.
However, I do feel like I’ve consistently had the cleanup category just short of mastered.
I realized early on that how my house looks has a huge impact on my mood and patience. I care about my home feeling like a refuge, not a place where I see a huge to-do list the second I walk in the door. On the same note, I want to spend more time being home, not cleaning my home. We’ve gotten pretty good with efficiency around here. Here’s how:
I made a small play area in the middle of our house. I keep a handful of toys there and change out what is there every day or two. Sometimes, I change it out twice a day on the weekends, when we’re home more. This eliminates the possibility of having our living room floor turn into a sea of toys because there is only a small amount available. I usually rotate out the following:
- One set of blocks or building toy set (something “dump-able”)
- One or two miscellaneous toys
- A few interactive books
Numerous studies have been done to prove that toddlers play better when they only have a handful of options. They are less like to get overstimulated, treasure the toys they are playing with more, and spend more time playing and less choosing when they have a limited number of choices.
We pick up toys anytime we’re about to leave the house, take a nap, go to bed, go play outside, or play with a different set of toys. I never believed in the power of habits more than the first time I tried to leave the house without cleaning up. I told my daughter we needed to get in Mommy’s car, then she started singing the clean up song.
Learning to clean
Toddlers are plenty capable of learning to throw away their own trash and put their dishes in the sink. More importantly, I feel teaching my daughter how to do these things shows her that the trash and dirty dishes on the table don’t disappear on their own.
For a while, I would watch my daughter make a mess without thinking about anything more than what cleanup was going to entail. I’ve had to throttle back and learn to let her make her messes. However, I always get her to help with cleaning up.
For example, I let her splash as much water out of the bathtub as she wants, but I hand her a towel to help me dry it all up when bath time is over.