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Company Ready

As busy mothers we battle for balance. With so many things demanding our time, attention and energy it’s easy to crumble under the weight of responsibility. One of the first things many of us find ourselves letting slide is the condition of our homes. I want to offer hope and a little help. It is possible to maintain a reasonably neat and tidy home with little attentions often.

I like to keep my home “company-ready” for two reasons. I prefer not to find an unexpected guest at my door only to shrink back in horror at the thought of letting them enter. And secondly, my own family deserves a tidy home to live in. But let me be clear about something. In my mind, company-ready does not mean perfection. It simply means my home stays in a condition where things can be put in order in 5-10 minutes, tops.

My family of 9 consists of Dad, Mom, 5 boys and 2 girls. The children have been trained from the time they could walk to do simple chores and their responsibility increases as they grow older. We have used endless systems and chore charts over the years but we always default back to the very basic approach of dividing the house up into what we call zones. Let me give you a look at how it works in our current home:

Micah (15)- Family Room and Deep Clean Van on Fridays, Kitchen Duty on Thursdays
Nikolas (14)- Basement and Backyard, Kitchen Duty on Fridays
Alexander (12)- Dining Room, Kitchen Duty on Mondays
Hannah (9)-Kitchen (this is a general clean-up of any mess created BETWEEN meals), Kitchen Duty on Tuesdays
Abigail (8)-Bathrooms, Kitchen Duty on Wednesdays

And here is a breakdown of what each of those assignments look like:

Family Room-Sweep entire floor, sliding out couches to get crumbs and dust. Note: He only moves the couches once a day, not every time we do a zone cleaning. Dust bookshelves and return any stray items to the proper room.
Kitchen-Sweep floor, wipe counters, wash up any dirty cups/dishes and return stray items to proper room.
Dining Room-Sweep entire room, including under table/chairs and highchairs. Wipe down chairs and table. Return stray items to proper room.
Bathrooms-Wipe down sinks, toilets and bathtub. Remove trash. Restock toilet paper. Sweep once a day. Wash mirror once a day.
Basement-Organize bikes, skates, skateboards, exercise equipment, stroller. Sweep when needed.
Backyard-General pick-up of stray toys and any trash. All chairs are scooted back in around the table on the porch.
Van-Clean out and vacuum. Stray items are returned to proper rooms. About once a month everything is wiped down.
Kitchen Duty-Wash, dry and put away dishes. {We do not have a dishwasher} Wipe down counters. Store any leftovers.
A few notes regarding the above assignments –> Each person is responsible for their own room which is tended to during zone cleanings. Everybody shares a room with a least one sibling which requires a unified effort to maintain somewhat equal responsibility. I do all laundry and then sort and distribute into a pile for the boys and one for the girls. They are responsible for folding and putting away their own, which happens at whatever point I make the announcement that they need to retrieve the baskets. I fold all towels, extra bedding and of course, my husbands clothing along with my own. I am beginning to have my toddlers help with theirs, but that is more to keep them occupied than because they are capable of folding properly. Also, you may have noticed we have only assigned Kitchen Duty through the weekdays. That is because I head up KP over the weekend and everybody just pitches in to help me. And for those of you who are wondering, we do occasionally switch up the assignments.

A peek at a few rooms of my house to give you an idea of my minimalist approach…

LRcollage

Storage-Collage

bedroom collage

A few tips I use to make this system work…

I am a minimalist by choice, not nature. I do not keep excess anything. If it is not useful now or in the very near future, I find it a new home. This keeps clutter to an absolute minimum.
I organize using baskets, mason jars and various containers. I find my shelves and cupboards stay much tidier if things are placed in something rather than just left to hang loose. I have never invested in matching baskets or totes, so I am not going to win any decorating awards, but my closets and cupboards stay organized.
I keep a laundry basket by the closet that houses our washer and dryer. Everybody brings all their clothing to this basket and I attempt to empty it again every day. This keeps our laundry at least moderately caught up without my having to sweat and struggle through load after load on any given day!
When we exit the van everybody is supposed to grab all their own things. I’m going to be honest…I have a few not-so-efficient-belonging-grabbers which means by Friday each week there are some things that have floated under the seats. Before Micah heads out to deep clean the van I have everybody go out and run a check for their stuff. Micah distributes any unclaimed items which usually amount to stray socks and sippy cups tossed by the almost two year olds.
Yard work is a shared job and everybody pitches in.
Here’s the nitty-gritty. Every day, several time a day and at random because I am TERRIBLE at adhering to any kind of actual schedule…I call out for a quick zone cleaning. Everybody is required to stop what they’re doing and get down to business. Do they ever complain, you ask? Well, sometimes but not often. They much prefer the 5-10 minutes of cleaning it takes to get the house back in order over the hour of labor required when we let things get out of hand. And truly, each session only takes 5-10 minutes max. Why? Because of our little attentions often approach.

Our toddlers don’t yet have a zone assignment. They get to help me. They love to toss laundry into the washer and pull it out of the dryer. They will happily push the filled basket back to my bedroom where we sort it. They pick up their own toys and take them to the toy box. They put their books back on the bookshelf. They help Daddy every chance they get doing all the man jobs! They will be well prepared when they graduate to independent zone assignments.

And for those of you who don’t have a larger family but want to utilize the same approach, I have a tip for you. Just assign each child more than one zone. Clean-ups might take a few minutes longer than they do at my house and for younger kids you may want to simplify the requirements for each zone, but it is totally doable. It’s what we did when my first 5 kids were small and one or two of them weren’t capable of having their own assignments. I was a bit more involved then with overseeing the jobs than I am now, but it established excellent habits even while slightly reducing my load.

This is an investment in the “adults” we are raising these kids into. A little training now will benefit them many times over in the future.

Your turn: What tips can you offer the busy homemaker?