Swimming Upstream

Trying to curtail the chaos that comes with life with small children is like swimming up stream against a bloody strong current and I’m not a good swimmer.  You kicking those legs with all your might and turn those arms over at your fastest pace just to maintain your current position, or at least not drift back so far you end up going over the waterfall (there’s always a waterfall in these metaphors).  The chaos I’m referring to here is the mess, oh the mess.

Over the last three months I have gallantly tried to maintain my toy free/play free zone in the lounge room.  They have three other rooms with toys and books, surely that is enough.  Yet every night I find myself picking up dress ups, soft toys, shoes and discarded socks, books and miscellaneous other items.

The girls bedroom gets a once a week complete tidy when I want to vaccuum the floors.  The rest of the time it’s a complete disaster.  Dress ups and soft toys literally cover the floor in a see of pink sequence and fur.  I kick a path clear as I put them to bed so I have clear passage to get to them when they (inevitably) wake during the night in an attempt to avoid a broken ankle at 4am.  The study (where Mr Good works and I rarely use… it was supposed to be my reading and sewing room) I just close the door to so I can’t see the mess)

The family/meals room at the back of the house, which is where the bulk of their toys live and where I spend the most time, is tidied properly (almost) every evening, all the toys going back in their place and books stacked on the shelves.  This saves my sanity, I clean the kitchen and tidy the toys away and then stand in the clean and organised room just before turning the lights out and leaving that part of the house for the night.  I get up and it’s still clean, but within ten minutes chaos reigns once more, argh!  The whirlwind begins and doesn’t stopped until the end of the day.

It’s every mother’s frustration (actually I’m sure there’s a fair few fathers out there feeling the same way, I just live with someone who ‘doesn’t see’ the mess) that all their hard work is undone in a tenth the time it took to do in the first place.  But there are two things that drive me crazy more than anything else.

1. Soft toys – we have an invading arming of soft toys in every conceivable variety and size.  I put a veto on soft toys as presents two years ago, but yet they are EVERYWHERE.  And I have no workable solution to store them effectively.  I’ve tried, boxes, sacks, shelves, hanging storage and nothing keeps them contained.  They spill from every nook and cranny, being lined up, dragged around, played with and quickly discarded.  And most annoying, we can never find the exact toy that either Miss Two or Miss Four are determined to sleep with on that particular night.  It’s never the RIGHT teddy, or giraffe (yes we have several) or doll.  Is it just me that feels these cuddly creatures are taking over or do others have this invasion at their home as well.  What’s the solution (don’t say give them away, I will one day but for now it would be like ripping the hearts out of my girls or so it seems).

2.  Bags – my girls are absolutely OBSESSED with bags, handbags, backpacks, little jewelry bags, shopping bags, any kind of bag (anyone else know that playschool song “Bags, bags, bags”?  That’s my life!)  It’s not the putting away of all the bags, that’s pretty easy, I just put them all in the dress up box, it’s the fact that they love to put things in bags.  All sorts of things, my things, Mr Good’s things, their own things, even guests’ things sometimes.  Do you know how long it takes to look for a missing USB stick when you have to add looking IN dozens of bags.  The worst scenario so far was the case of my missing work keys (keys that opened every door in the school, so somewhat problematic if I didn’t locate them).  After THREE DAYS of searching they were eventually found in a dress up bag, inside a suitcase, under the bed.  Yep that’s the first place I should have looked, of course.  The things in bags drives me CRAZY.

Today, I attempted yet another re-organisation of the toys and things.  The soft toys are all in the second toy box, in the girls room.  It’s easy for them to get to, but more importantly easy for the girls (not me) to pack them away.  And better yet the family room is looking much more organised and my mind is calmed….. until tomorrow.

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Ease my mind, do you struggle with reigning in the chaos at your place?  What are your strategies for dealing with it?

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16 Responses to Swimming Upstream

  1. fergie51 says:

    A comment I ‘liked’ on a Facebook page tonight supports your dilemma, “Having a two year old is like having a blender you don’t have the top for”. Think it applies to all ages of children in reality. I actually miss a bit of that stuff since they left home, that is until they return and I get frustrated again! I used to keep one of those cheap plastic garden rakes inside for gathering the lego that didn’t stay on the sheet (most of it). Easy, just raked it all together rolled up in a sheet and into a basket. I’ll remember this post too and show more compassion when one of the staff (I’m a business manager in a primary school) says they can’t find their keys!

    • Barbara Good says:

      Oh I like that Fergie, a blender indeed! I don’t like that you say it applies to kids of all ages though, I was hoping this part would be short lived. Is it bad that I have plans for all their current spaces once they no longer use them? I know it’s a LONG way off, but I like to fantasize about these things when I’m surrounded by disaster. And yes, please go easy on those who lose their keys!

  2. Bec says:

    I hear you about the mess!

    However I am ruthless in that if a particular toy has not been played with in 6 months, then it goes to the salvos so another child had the opportunity to enjoy it.
    In saying that, I think we still have too many toys around here but Christmas is coming, so that signifies another clean out just before the big day.
    It’s also good as it teaches kids to share, be charitable & help those less fortunate.
    The problem I’m dealing with here that is making me lose my mind is just the plain rudeness & ungratefulness of my kids lately – seriously it’s like someone had thrown a switch!! I’m not handling the whinging, whining, crying at the drop of a hat, dropped lips, huffs, attitude & exasperation well at all!!
    Can you ahead some light on how I can try and bring my angels back, instead of these monsters that I’ve been left with?????

    • Barbara Good says:

      Bec, I too am pretty ruthless and have just given away boxes of toys. The ones we have left are all heavily used – though I’ve got my eye on a couple I think they’ll be over fairly soon. The dress ups and soft toys are always part of their elaborate imaginary worlds. Though I did draw the line on some of the less popular characters and donated them.

      As for the attitude stuff – I’m living with the queen of the huffs at the moment. Miss Four is just a right little madame at times. She has spent the last two evenings/dinner times in her room for her attitude. My Two year old can also throw a most impressive tantrum, but most of the time she is so polite and says please and ‘tank coo’ for everything. I never have to remind her about this, I wonder how long that will last?

  3. Oh yes! I’m having daily battles with a certain 3 year old at the moment over this very issue. Unfortunately I’m the half of the parental couple who can’t see the mess – drives P mental!

  4. renlikesred says:

    Jake doesn’t really play with toys but he is technology mad – All around the house i find things like CDs, DVDs, amps, electrical cords, and basically anything of his fathers that he is not allowed to touch. Oh, and clothes. his clothes are constantly strewn from one end of the house to the other. Riley on the other hand loves toys. He loves cars and trucks especially but also enjoys upturning buckets of millions of toys and then throwing them (literally) all around the house. I’m like you, I tidy the family/kitchen area every night before bed as its where most of their toys are and where I spend my days mainly but their rooms are always trashed. I’ve just removed all toys from the lounge room in an attempt to localise the mess. I moved this stuff to jakes room cos it’s always a pigsty anyway! I don’t know what the answer is. Patience? Soon they’ll be at school?!?!?! 🙂

    • Barbara Good says:

      Yes, don’t you love when it’s not just their stuff their spreading throughout the house, but also yours, and stuff they are specifically not supposed to touch. Both my girls have gone through a phase of dragging out ALL of their clean, neatly folded clothes from the cupboards and draws and strewing them around their room. It used to drive me crazy, thankfully they have stopped doing that. Localising the mess is key, but hard to accomplish, good luck. And do you think it will be better when they’re at school – I sure hope so. Though I’ll be back at work then too so will have even less time to get the house sorted.

  5. A says:

    My bubba leaves a trail sparse enough I’m always surprised to step on things. I am a fool and shall soon have mini bullbars attached to my slippers, I’m sure. Meanwhile, I’m hoping to get one if these… http://babyology.com.au/toys/put-all-the-toy-animals-in-the-zoo.html

    • Barbara Good says:

      A you haven’t yet experienced the joyous enthusiasm toddlers have for creating mess, just you wait. The zoo thing looks cool, though kind of similar to one of the failed attempts I used for controlling the marauding soft toys. Good luck, my advice, limit, limit, limit!

  6. Jenny Pearson says:

    Hi Barbara, I know just how you feel – swamped – had almost forgotten what that was like in the dim, dark past, however, my strategy, and remember it was a while ago, and kids then didn’t appear to have as many toys (lack of finances maybe!!), was to make a game of picking up certain colours, types of toys, how many of something? etc., that sort of thing, learning whilst cleaning, and the reward was something like a sticker, time at a park, playing with playdough or similar, never food, sometimes a favourite TV show, or me to sit and read more than one book at a time. When it was just myself and my first, the game was sometimes one of who was the fastest, that ended up in lots of giggles and squeals of delight as he most often won (Of course I didn’t cheat!!), but with two, maybe the competition can be used to your advantage – one thing for sure, you also have to join in, and yes they do get better, but you really cannot give up, or you inflict on the world more of your Mr. Goods and their partners won’t thank you!!! I forgot to add that the best containers I used were large storage baskets – easy to toss in toys of a similar vein such as all cars, trucks etc. in one, soft teddies in another, or even divide the soft toys into families, dolls in another etc., only problem is you end up with loads of containers, but hopefully a tidier and hazard free house!!! Good luck, and remember the little people in your life are truly delightful, and unfortunately they are not little people for very long, even if it seems like forever at the moment, and one day they will be asking you to sort this question or similar for their little ones, and so it goes.

    • Barbara Good says:

      You’re so right about not giving up Jenny, we definitely don’t want to inflict more Mr Good’s on their partners. Though I’m also conscience of not wanting them to see themselves as solely responsible for keeping house – as I am, not really leading by example there.

      I do attempt to introduce a game to clean up, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. Miss Two is really good, Miss Four feigns exhaustion, sore stomach, or other tried and tested excuses much of the time. She’s also a terrible loser, so games without winners are the best – there will be a post about that coming up I feel. I’ll keep my eye out for big baskets too.

  7. Jenny Pearson says:

    Sorry Barbara, forgot to say that I tried to achieve the tidy up before dinner, and after dinner was always quiet time and bath etc., to calm them down before bed – not put them to bed after rushing around the house in a game. Hope this has been helpful, and |I also like the idea of the rake for the Lego, wish I had thought of that!!

  8. Oh yeah! We live in a state best described as unmitigated chaos most of the time. 😦 Neither Martin nor I are neat and tidy people so the mess totally builds up. I do insist on the kids clearing their bedrooms each night though for exactly the reason you kick a path clean. Jas 5 and Allegra nearly 4 both clear the floor. If I’m picky I insist things are put away properly but on the slacker nights I do ask that the floor is cleared so I don’t trip over things. They pack up and get jarmies on just before dinner.
    One thing I’ve found that helps is having a home for everything (we’re still working on that one). Another thing is races. If Miss 2 puts away soft toys and Miss 4 the bags (or vice versa) they could race each other to see who finishes first. Or if you don’t want them competing against each other, compete them against the clock so they beat their own personal bests or against you doing one of your tasks. I also try to get the kids to pack up 1 game/activity before getting out the next one. Rarely works but the theory is sound at least. 😉

  9. As for attitudes, Jas (5) is at the ” I’ll be good if you let me do XXX” blackmail age (joy) and Allegra is at the “no! *raspberry*” stage followed by the “I give you a kiss” (to get out of trouble) age. Orik is called Hulk-Smash at the moment as his response to not getting what he wants is to systematically clear the top of every surface he can reach. We’re learning fast to leave cups and plates and anything else breakable out of his reach. 😦
    I just keep hoping they grow out of it soon but then I guess they just grow into a new attitude.

  10. Good to read of others reigning chaos. The soft toys, *ahem* I’m slowly getting rid of. Just quietly it will disappear for awhile and then if it’s not missed, whooshka, off for a holiday (long one) to the opshop. There was too many here too, we live in a small space and I certainly didn’t want to share that small space with so many soft toys, (but don’t tell my kids.) It would nice to have a space that’s clutter free one day…

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