Last year I told you all about my daughter (then six) and her fantastic talent for what we call ‘Poopcrastination‘. Since then, not only her allergy to tidying become worse, her baby brothers have become mobile and impressively destructive. Yep, my name is Mom… and I have three kids that won’t clean up. After a couple of months of swinging between embracing the chaos, and chasing them around like a headless chicken with a sponge and trash bag in tow, I’m done. I’m worn out and have come up with a plan of action.
I touched on this a few weeks ago… I am in purge mode, in a quest for mild minimalism. But the household is working against me… Between Husband, addicted to buying random junk from Walmart, and my three kids who have gone wild with Arizona-summer-cabin-fever, it feels like two steps forward, one step back.
I continue to work on the ‘tidy up game’ with the twins, they’re totally into it but unfortunately it’s so much fun they insist on throwing everything they’ve just tidied away in order to clean up again… the video explains what I’m talking about:
They’re only 20months old so for now we’ll cut them some slack on the tidying. But do they really need to throw everything? I swear I’m bringing up two olympian shot put throwers. However, my real problem is my darling Elsie. She has many talents, but tidying up is not one of them. No exaggeration here – many times we have spent an entire day trying to get her to tidy a few toys off the floor. A five minute job becomes a five hour job.
Tried, tested and failed remedies for kids that won’t clean up:
- Share the tidying up – results in Mom tidying and Elsie playing while pretending (badly) to tidy up;
- “If you tidy up we can go out to crazy golf!” (She loves crazy golf… who doesn’t). Results in tears and no crazy golf;
- “Tidy up before lunch please,” Ten minutes later… “You’re not having lunch until your play area is tidy.” Results in rolling around on the floor, screaming and crying due to extreme hunger… even though it’s not even lunch time yet. (Don’t mess with Elsie’s food… she’s like her father).
- The trash bag method… “You have 10minutes to tidy up, then I’m coming up with a trash bag. Anything still on the floor goes in the bag.” This method worked a few times, until she called our bluff. Everything went into trash bags and she had to earn the toys back through the following week. Trouble is, the toys were in such a jumble, Mom had to spend ages sifting through the bags to find out what went with what in order to return ‘the box of Shopkins’. Plus the drama caused by American Girl doll Julie entering the trash was quite traumatic for all, including Julie… ugh, back to the drawing board.
It doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally the words of my mother-in-law pop into my head. Some time ago, when I was talking about tidying up, she said
“When we were children, we were only allowed to play with one toy at a time.”
In that moment I didn’t think much of it, after all, some of the best games are those involving a Shopkins/Barbie/Toy Kitchen mash-up. I often see Elsie creating a picnic for all her toys, or allowing My Little Ponies to sinfully shack up with Calico Critters. I consider myself a creative, and I hate the idea of dampening my daughter’s imagination… but I’ve reached the end of my tether.
Kids that Won’t Clean Up… Enter the Toy Library
Elsie loves the library, always has done. So rather than telling her all the toys were going to be separated and shut into a cupboard, I told her we were going to create a toy library.
“What do we do when we go to the library? We take back the books we’ve finished with and check out new ones.”
Elsie was instantly sold. No more sea of toys on the floor, no more open boxes for the twins to take handfuls from and throw across the room.
Two Weeks Later
I’ve tried so many things, I’m going to be honest… I didn’t hold out much hope for the magic toy library. But, it has worked wonders and delivered unexpectedly positive results. The toy library came just in time too, because I managed to trip over the dividing baby gate in our playroom and demolish it in the process; so the twins are now on the loose full-time. They love it; because there’s more stuff to throw, whoop! But, slowly we are removing more and more stuff, to allow one big space for simple games… all three bouncing on Elsie’s bed together has become a favorite.
A slightly unexpected side effect… all three are playing together; a total mom win, even if some of their activities are questionably dangerous. It may be a coincidence; the twins are just reaching a more playful age. But I would suggest that removing Elsie’s toys from the play room has encouraged inventive, creative play that works for all ages. Perfect for kids that won’t clean up because there is minimal mess to tidy! The dress up box is still out, because all three love dressing up and it’s much easier to tidy up than Shopkins and Barbie’s wardrobe.
So, we may have lost the opportunity for a toy mash up, but we’ve gained the opportunity for siblings to play together, awesome result I’d say. Now when Elsie checks out a box, she tends to bring it to her brothers… they love seeing what she’s going to pull out!
And the checked out toys do make it back to the cupboard… most of the time.
- The Need for Minimalism: Confession of a Hoarding Mom;
- Poopcrastination: A Child’s Guide to Difficult Questions;
- Cabin Fever: 5 Ways to Combat a Case of the Crazies;
- Kids with Phobias: A Fantastic Fear of Everything;