So, you want a clean house, a happy family and time to yourself. We asked our family style maven, Liz Lange, for her advice on how to keep your home in order when the kids are about and you've got no time for housekeeping. Believe it or not, it's possible!
You seem like a really organized person, so let's talk about clutter. How do you discard the stuff you don't need, store the stuff you do need and make the distinction between the two?
One of the things I like to do is "spring" cleaning. It doesn't have to be spring '- you just have to feel inspired. I like to go into all of our closets. Cleanup can be painful, but I learned when I was pregnant how much easier it is to have a few things that you like, rather than having a lot of tightly packed clothing that you have no intention of wearing obscure the things you actually will wear.
Use a cold, hard eye. Be realistic, and discard anything you haven't worn in a year. If I can't throw it out for sentimental reasons, I like to pull out these flat clear boxes from the Container Store. I put a few important things in there '- perhaps items that belonged to my mother or grandmother, or items that I, as a designer, should keep because of their design history '- and slide the box under my bed for out-of-the-way storage.
With kids, it's easier, because they outgrow their clothing every three to six months. I go into their closets and get rid of what they don't need or donate it to worthy places. If your kids have been telling you that they don't like certain items, now is the time to accept the fact and donate them. We're all surrounded by people and causes that can use this stuff.
How can you instill the neatness bug in your kids '- and get them to clean up after themselves?
As far as neatness goes, we have a point system. We keep a star chart in the kitchen '- the heart of our home. We discuss, as a family, some of the things that are great to do that would earn them stars, as well as the things that are bad to do that would cost them stars. They know they'll get stars for clearing the table, filling the hamper and cleaning up after themselves and their friends. Kids want everything, and rather than always telling them no, when they've accumulated a certain number of stars I let them pick an item from the list I keep of the things they've asked for over the year. Of course, that's incentive for them to do their little chores and it keeps them motivated, but I think that just by doing these chores over and over, they get into good habits.
I don't love toy chests, because if the toy is hidden they won't play with it. So they keep their things in open baskets '- and I do need to go through them frequently. It's amazing how often broken, unwanted toys turn up.
I look through any gifts they've gotten, all the new games and toys. It's a good time to figure out which ones they're going to play with. It's smart to try to get rid of old toys if there's a new group of favorites. Things they've outgrown or gotten bored with can be donated to worthy causes. I have a seven-year-old and a five-year-old, and I find it's best to do it when they're not home. If they haven't been playing with it, and they don't see it, they won't miss it.