Emergency Visitor Scramble

s cutleryHave you ever walked around a display home or perhaps one of your friend’s homes and admired the perfectly arranged, tastefully decorated and incredibly neat rooms? On occasion I have to confess that I have wished for a house that is always “visitor ready.” With 6 homeschooled children however, the reality is that our house is functional, never filthy, but sometimes slightly (oh, ok downright) untidy.

It also seems that it is on the days when things are at their worst that the phone rings to let us know that someone is just around the corner and about to pop in for a visit. Thus, the emergency visitor scramble was born.

All the children have regular daily responsibilities (chores) and throughout the week we cycle through the main cleaning jobs so as a general rule, the house isn’t too far from presentable. We are working towards the long-term goal of fully equipping our children in all areas of responsibility relating to running a household so that by the age of 14 or so they will have all the skills involved in being able to manage their own homes well.

Because we have taken the time to train them to clean the house, organising our visitor scramble wasn’t too difficult. I simply call out “Emergency Visitor Scramble, come to Mummy!” and all the children report for duty. Knowing that the visitors are only a short time away gives us the incentive to work hard together, knowing that it will only be for a short time period.

The house is divided into zones and these areas are quickly parcelled out. We all dash like crazy to get the worst of the mess stowed and tidy before the knock sounds on the door. The little ones are paired with an older sibling or myself who give them specific small jobs to do (pick up the dinky cars) or are sent on deliveries (take the socks to the laundry basket etc.)

The toilet is checked and spot cleaned, the floors are picked up, bedroom doors shut and offending items tossed out of sight. Some families like to have a list for this, but I prefer to just look around and tackle whatever is the worst at the time. The older children who have enough initiative are sent to the most conspicuous areas with their little helpers while I direct the others.

Another strategy that we employ on a regular basis is a whole family house sweep. It works very similarly to the scramble, except instead of everyone heading off in different directions to try to cover the whole house, we all start in one room and work together until it is done before moving to the next area and so on throughout the house. This is a 5 or 10 minute per room tidy-up, not a deep clean and Mum and Dad are the directors. The eldest children who have enough initiative to handle it choose what they will tackle in each room, while little ones are given specific instructions to complete small bite-sized tasks. The adults do whatever else needs to be done while marshalling the troops.

We now can transform a pigsty into a reasonably tidy looking house in a very short time. All that’s left to do is throw a brush through my hair and fling that door open with a cheery smile and the visitors are none the wiser!

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The new year organisation and tidy-up continues…

Christmas has come and gone and left behind lots of new toys and belongings to store and old ones to be sorted out and passed on. The spring clean and cupboard empty continues throughout the house. (My husband thinks I’m nesting – I think I’m just getting the house under control again before school starts up and a new baby makes these projects all but impossible!)

The previous year’s projects, papers, drawings, paintings and crafts need to be sorted, chucked or saved. Some of the methods we use to keep precious projects under control are outlined below.

Desks/Ledges: Each child has a designated ledge, windowsill, shelf or desk for displaying models, junk modelling and any other bulky items they have built. When the area is full, they have to decide for themselves what comes down. No mean Mummy throwing out things they love, they make all the culling choices for themselves.

Digital photographs: To make the transition to the bin easier, we photograph the models with the digital camera and print them out to be added to their scrapbooking albums or personal homeschool diary writing books so they have a permanent record.

Pinboards: The children’s rooms have pinboards for displaying their artwork and other projects. When they are full and they want to add a new item something must go into the bin or move to their workboxes. A limit of one item per child is displayed on the fridge at any one time otherwise the forest of paperwork on there gets quickly out of control.

Workboxes: Each person in the family has an A3 box with lid that we long ago covered and decorated with coloured contact. Throughout the year, all paperwork that is not on display (other than homeschool work) is placed here if the children want to keep it. Even Mummy and Daddy have a workbox for all the pictures, paintings, crafts and cards given to us. We show they are valued by keeping them in our special place and try to remember to date them as they go in. As the children’s boxes get filled, they empty them out and only put the most precious items back in again, throwing out the rest. After some time has passed it is easier for them to be more objective about what is and isn’t precious. EVERYTHING is precious when they have just finished it!

New Year House Tidy and Re-vamp: Kids Bedrooms

This week our whole house spring clean has begun as the new year approaches and bedrooms are the focus. With twins soon to go into big beds, we have had some major room overhauls and re-arrangements to our previous systems, but I thought I’d post how we previously managed room cleaning as it has worked well for us for many years.

Tidying their bedroom is one of our children’s morning responsibilities and must be completed along with a couple of other chores before they come to breakfast. (Nothing like food as a motivator!)

One of the best tools I have found for assisting children to tidy their rooms to the standard I am expecting is to photograph every single part of the room as you want it to look in it’s tidy state. Each child has a poster of these photographs in thumbnail size (plus labels for those who can read) pinned on their bedroom doors.

They simply start at the top of the list and work their way down, making each part of the room look exactly as the picture does. It gives those who struggle to know where to start a specific order and system which helps them not to be too overwhelmed and the older children simply use it as a check after they think they have finished to make sure they haven’t forgotten anything.

When you make your poster, break down the room into the smallest parts or jobs you can think of and photograph each one individually, it’s as simple as that. Our door posters end up with around 12 or 14 pictures which sounds a lot but really helps the little ones to break a large job into smaller parcels that they can easily tackle. The same system works well for any room in the house.

If children come out and report that they are done when they have not completed areas, all I have to say for example is “Does your desk look like it does in the picture?” The child is forced to admit that it does not, which eliminates whining and arguing. I couldn’t begin to count how many times before we started this system a child has come to me and said their room was done (and fully believed this to be the case) when I could immediately see a dozen things that still needed to be put away. Children just don’t see mess through the same eyes we do!!

A few of the photos we have used are included below to give you some idea of what you may choose to photograph in your own child’s room.

A picture of their fully made bed with teddies in place is included, along with a picture of dirty clothes in the laundry hamper and pyjamas under pillows.

Tidy desks and a picture of the inside of drawers too as certain children who shall remain nameless like to tidy their desks by simply sweeping everything into the nearest drawer!

Shelving and contents as they should look.

Yes, this is a picture of the carpet, or in this case a mat on the floor. How else do you show a tidy floor?

Empty bin. The children do not have to empty their waste paper baskets until they are full but before they are overflowing!