It wasn’t until I was staying home with three kids 24-7 this spring that I realized how much the clutter in my home drains me.
It was one of the many personal realizations that we all had when Corona came to town. I was suddenly stuck inside and faced with the fact that I didn’t have any systems in place to make my house a peaceful home. Instead I had a bunch of coping mechanisms that allowed me to escape my stressful surroundings or somewhat manage the stress of living in disorder. But when the playdates, gym membership, and even church shut down, I was forced to face the issue I had created.
My home consisted of three children who had no set systems or standards for cleaning up after themselves, and two adults who rage cleaned after bedtime. There was no joy in this tidying up.
It was after another Corona-crisis day of stress-cleaning the constant clutter, stress-eating chocolate when my best efforts failed, and maybe just a little stress-yelling at my little clutter-causers that I realized our family needed a change.
As I often do in times of stressful parenting, I brought the topic up with my husband, Johnny. I complained to him, and he began brainstorming ways we could help teach the girls to clean up after themselves. So naturally, I got offended, shot all his ideas down, and blamed him for everything…as one does in these situations. #facepalm #workinprogress
Thankfully, I have a gracious God, and a gracious husband, so after talking it out with God, and apologizing to Johnny, we came back to the table to figure things out. Eventually, we worked out a system.
Life Hack: The Clean Sweep
Almost every day, I set the stove timer for 5 minutes. My two older girls, ages 4 and 6, run around and clean up as many items as possible in that time period. They know that for every item they pick up, they get a penny, so the stakes are high.
My four year old usually gets about 10 things then gives up. Like I said, we’re a work in progress. My six year old, however, will usually find 150-200 individual things to put away! Markers…blankets…toys! And then there’s the occasional day where she claims 400 items and I see that she has broken apart the 300-piece puzzle and put it back into the box. Smart kid!
After the timer goes off, I pull down the big jar of coins from the cupboard and pour it onto the counter. My six year old gets to count out her reward, and makes sure a dime is tossed to the 4 year old, who promptly loses it.
My six-year-old then trades her money up to dollar bills, calculates how much more money she needs to buy that thing she’s been saving up for, and we talk about how much will go to the church and what amazing things will be done with it there.
Even before the clean sweep hack entered our family, we had a rhythm of allowing the girls to come into worship with us every so often and join us for singing and giving in the “Spirit Room” (my four-year-old calls the sanctuary that, which makes my heart so happy we all call it that now.)
During our daily 10 minute clean sweep routine, we’ve had conversations about envy, frugality, saving, giving, sharing, and hard work. My six-year-old has shared her dream of saving up enough nickels and dimes to buy a horse barn, and we’ve decided upon a fair price to charge for lessons and birthday parties. If your kid has a birthday coming up, though, don’t hold your breath. I have a sneaky suspicion a horse barn costs more than the “four- or even five hundred dollars!” my kid thinks it costs.
The clean sweep has drastically changed how we approach tidying up our home, but I know it’s not a perfect system. At some point, I’m going to have to address the fact that we help out around the house because we all live here and we all make a mess, not because we want money. There’s also a good chance that right around the corner I’m going to have to stop my kids from intentionally making messes right before clean sweep time so they can rake in the money.
But for now, my kids are learning how to clean up, we do it joyfully and together, and I’m doing a lot less rage-parenting these days as my house feels more like a sanctuary and less like a rat’s nest.
Danielle Miller is mom to three girls and has been married to her husband, Johnny for 10 years. After 14 years in the medical field, including almost a decade as a nurse, she is enjoying being a stay at home mom with all the coffee and play dates that go along with that. She also enjoys eating out, running, gardening, and lake vacations.