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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Big Cleanup

The other day I wrote about The Big Mess that had occurred during the first weekend of the school holidays. 

The rain was partly to blame. When it's wet and miserable outside, the kids easily get bored.

However, there's no excuse as far as I'm concerned, because my boys know the rule: One toy/game at a time.

So, just to refresh your memory, here's a collection of the BEFORE shots of the house:

Messy, huh? Now, here are the AFTER photos, taken less than 1.5 hours later:

The formal lounge - back to normal (apart from a few finger prints on the glass table top).

The kitchen. The shop is closed. Phew.

The 4yr old's room. We can see his mat again!

The formal dining room is still Lego Central, but at least it's contained - and off the floor!

In truth, still a bit of work to do in the 7yo & 9yo's bedroom
(look at that bookshelf!), but a HUGE improvement.

The family room looking a little tidier now. 

The Lego remains in the formal dining room, but that's okay. It's school holidays, and having it out all the time means they can go build - at the table - any time they like. That's fine by me. However, I did make sure that nothing else was left on the table other than Lego, that pieces not on the sheet were placed back on it, and that all the pieces that had fallen on the floor were picked up.

The boys did pretty much all of it. I just helped the four-year-old with his bedroom, because he's still learning about organisation.

So, how did I achieve it? Here are the steps.

Step 1 - The Threat
Don't underestimate the advantage of using a good old fashioned threat with your kids, people.  Threatening the loss of an upcoming play date or missing out on a piece of freshly baked chocolate cake can work a treat.

For example, the nine-year-old and seven-year-old were having a play date the following day, and I threatened that if they didn't clean everything up, I would phone the mother of the two brothers coming and call it off. (This was risky. I couldn't call it off, because the mother was working the next day and had organised a sitter for the afternoon only. Sometimes, though, it pays to take risks.)

With the four-year-old, I threatened no Maltesers at the movie we are planning to see later this week. (The kid LOVES chocolate, and is easily bribed by it.)

Step 2 - The Plastic Garbage Bag
I've used this one before, and it's a winner. Get out a large, plastic garbage bag. Be sure to open it up in front of your kids and FLICK it open dramatically before saying, "See this bag? ANYTHING left out of place after the allocated cleaning time GOES IN HERE. Then it GOES IN THE BIN outside. Okay?!"

Of course, this works better if you've used this tactic before and you've followed through. I have. They quake in their tattered sneakers whenever I get it out. ;)

Step 3 - Put on the Timer
Telling your kids just to clean something up without a game plan is like an open invitation for extra play time during the cleaning process, and it will take hours. They'll pick up Lego and start building something with the odd pieces they've found under the couch. Or they'll start flicking through a comic book they started writing and illustrating, chuckling at their own jokes.

For the Family Room, for example, I gave them 20 minutes. I put the kitchen timer on. They raced around like crazy people moving stuff from the family room to their bedrooms and packing other items away that belong in there. We then went through the rooms, allocating 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there, then finally - 30 minutes for their bedrooms.

Done. And since then, they've been tidying after each project and tidying their bedrooms each day, with me saying things like, "See how quickly it gets done if your do a little every day?"

Now, if I can just teach the dog to do this, I'll really be ahead of the game...


What strategies do you use to get your kids to tidy up? 

~top image~


Sim said...

Good work. I love a bit of bribery. x

Miss Pink said...

Love it. Threats totally work here. I've done the putting things in the bin thing, and once you do it once and follow through, they don't mess with you again.

Maxabella said...

My Vacuum Cleaner Trick is a lot like your Garbage Bag Flick. The vac sucks up any item that is not put away and it is gone Forever. I demonstrated the power of the vac years ago and it still works a treat. If they slack off during the clean up process I just give the vac a couple of revs and they're back in the tools in a jiffy. x

E. said...

I am so going to be using all these thongs next week. Maybe even starting tomorrow afternoon.

Of course, I'm hoping to get rid of a bunch of stuff tomorrow before they get home.

Wish me luck, on both counts!

Mum on the Run said...

That feels better! :-)
I'm a fan of the garbage bag (and vacuum, Maxabella) strategy.
Magoo has just turned three, so I find breaking the job into smaller parts helps.
Nice work Captain Clean Up(s)!

Jayne said...

My girls are at the age where waving pocket money around works quite well. I also use the threat of losing a privilege - youth group on a Friday night for instance. I've followed through a couple of times so that always spurs them into action.

River said...

Bribery works very well, always has, always will.

MummyK said...

Omg great job! Mine doesn't understand bribery yet, I need to figure something out fast :)

Megan Blandford said...

Hahahaha! Love the added dramatic effect of the garbage bag and the timer! Taking notes...

Jill of All Trades said...

Oh that was funny and all too real. I remember those days but ours was Barbie food and shoes. I'm glad to see it cleaned up nicely!