Tag Archives: cleaning

My Maids, Beezus and Ramona

Lily: Mommy, I want to play Ramona!

Me: How do you play Ramona?

Lily: Well, I’ll be Beezus and Rose will be Ramona and Violet will be Roberta and you will be Mother.

Me: Ok… what am I supposed to do as Mother?

Lily: Well… you sit there and do other things like cook and clean and read and take care of Roberta. And I’ll help you by… dusting! Can we dust?

Me: Sure! But you just dusted the living room a few days ago. Why don’t you wipe off the bathroom counter?

They LOVE dusting for some reason. For the next hour and a half, I played with the baby or tooled around on facebook while they sprayed things and wiped them down. I cleaned NOTHING, but my house looks so much better! The bathroom was in desperate need of a scrub and now it is spotless (except for the toilet)! They also wiped down the upstairs bathroom and the downstairs hallway and have been dusting the living room on a regular basis. As far as I’m concerned, they can play Ramona every single day all day long! I didn’t realize Ramona and Beezus cleaned so much, but I’ll never correct them on it.

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Cleaning OCD (or lack thereof)

A few months ago, I read a blog post on Rage Against the Minivan about how to make your kids only play with one toy at a time. Apparently at Montessori schools, each kid has his or her own little rug to define their play space. You can only have one set of toys out on the rug at a time. When you finish with one toy, the limited space of the rug reminds you to put away what you have before you get something else out. The mom at Rage Against the Mini-Van claims that using these rugs at home kept her kids keeping the playroom neat and only taking out one thing at a time.

I’ve been meaning to try this, but haven’t bought the little rugs yet. I mentioned to Lily that I wanted to try something I’d seen on the internet to keep the playroom neat. She wanted to see pictures of what I meant, so I showed her the blog post.

She translated it to the playroom carpet being a little rug and that she could only have one toy out at a time. Suddenly the playroom was neat. Painfully neat. In fact, Lily wouldn’t let anyone mess it up.

The second a second toy came out, she would put it away. She refused to go to bed until everything was clean. She yelled at Rose if Rose took out more than one toy. She cried if we had friends over because they’d mess up her toy room.

My husband told me that between the blog post I showed her and my nagging/yelling at her to keep the playroom clean over the years, I’d given her OCD. I worried about it and explained to Lily that sometimes a little mess was a good thing.

It really is ok to be messy sometimes, especially when you were a kid.

And with that, I screwed up the whole thing. She immediately stopped cleaning.

She doesn’t have OCD after all. The playroom is a mess. I have trouble even getting her to pick up at the end of the day. She moves like molasses putting toys away and it drives me insane.

Maybe I need to show her that blog post again and actually buy the little rugs. There has to be a happy medium. Surely the girls can pick up the playroom on a regular basis without being totally anal about having things clean. It’s not like my expectations are terribly high. I just want to be able to walk through there in the middle of the day without tripping. A girl can dream.

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Things That Make Messes

Here are a couple of games that Rose made up that SOUND creative and simple, but in fact make the biggest, most annoying messes in the world faster than you can imagine.

1) Shopping/Library
Rose loves books. She “reads” constantly, as does Lily. Lately, however, she’s taken to play a game she calls either “library” or “shopping” depending on her mood. She takes all the books off the shelves and over to the couch claiming she is “buying them” or “checking them out”. She talks to an imaginary cashier/librarian and says “Hello, I want to buy this! And this! And this! Here’s my money!” (alter for library. It’s usually a bookstore though, which is interesting because we rarely buy books yet we are at the library every other week or so.) It makes a tremendous mess very quickly and Rose doesn’t really clean yet. She might half-heartedly put a book or two back on the shelf, but then she gets distracted and that’s it. I haven’t discovered how to get small children to clean before they encounter the peer pressure of daycare/preschool. If there’s a secret to this that doesn’t involve me becoming anal about picking up the toys every 5 minutes myself, let me know.

2) My Little Ponies and Strawberry Shortcake Throw a Birthday Party
Thanks to a garage sale, we have probably 20 My Little Ponies. They live with the Strawberry Shortcake stuff because Hasbro toys have nearly identical accessories. Everyone comes out at the same time with their teeny tiny accessories by the dozen. Then Rose takes out the fake birthday cake, which has six velcro pieces that can be topped with strawberries, blueberries, flowers or Oreos, of which there are six each. There are also six plates, six forks, a cake serving set and a platter. All of the Hasbro toys come to the birthday party and eat cake. There are probably 300 individual pieces of toy strewn about the floor for this event. Happy birthday, ponies! It’s creative, but it destroys the playroom in about 10 seconds.

3) Puzzle Building
Puzzles are great learning tools. I’ve always encouraged the kids to do them and they are very good at them for their age, but 24-100 pieces create a mess immediately. I cringe the second a puzzle is dumped on the table by Rose because I know she probably won’t complete it and there will be pieces EVERYWHERE.

4) Play-Doh
I don’t think this even deserves an explanation. We all know Play-Doh is ridiculously messy and has way too many accessories.

5) Drawing
I keep a little table out for the kids all the time. It has crayons, paper and coloring books so they can draw and color whenever they want. They love to draw and do it all day long. I’m glad they love it. I feel like they are doing something to improve their minds even though I’m ignoring them while trying to tame their fussy baby sister, but mostly thanks to Rose (and a little bit thanks to Lily), this is what the coloring table looks like within one day of my cleaning it.

Why do I blame Rose? Most of the drawings on the floor are hers. Lily’s drawings all end up in a neat pile on the counter because she doesn’t want Rose to get her hands on them and color over them. I don’t want to discourage drawing. I DO encourage/require cleaning it up, but sometimes it’s just easier to pretend like the drawing table does not exist and to step over the mess. I also often pretend like our whole playroom doesn’t exist. This would be a lot easier if our playroom had a door.

Actually, it would be a lot easier to pretend like the whole entire house didn’t exist because every single game/role-playing event my kids do results in chaos.

For a few weeks, I stupidly thought we had the mess under control and that Lily was cleaning too much, but that’s another story for another time.

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How to Control 4,200 Photos

When I was a teenager, my room was knee-deep in laundry and random stuff, but you better believe that my CDs and books were always in alphabetical order. There is always one area of my life that is hyper organized to make up for the chaos that is the rest of my (lack of) housekeeping skills. Now that I’m a mom, the only thing that’s impressively organized around here is our photos.

I take pictures of the kids obsessively at a rate of about 300 shots a month. We end up printing about 1/3 of them. As a result, we have approximately 4,200 photos in 21 albums from the past 4.75 years. All of the photos are put into albums in chronological order. It’s pretty insane to see them all lined up.

Because it wasn’t enough to have all the photos in chronological order, I numbered the outsides of the albums so they would always be in the correct order on the shelf. The kids love to look at the albums and were leaving them all over the floor. I’d go crazy trying to remember what order they belonged in, so I labeled all of them. I also write the date range for the photos on the inside cover.

But if that wasn’t obsessive enough, I label the back of every single photo with people’s names, the month/year and where we were when the photo was taken.


Zig Photo Signature pens seem to work best. They are the perfect size for writing small and they dry very quickly so you can put the photo in the album immediately without smearing the ink.

When I tell people about my albums, they seem most impressed that I’m able to know what month each photo was taken. This part is actually really easy. I print the photos about once every 6 months, but it’s relatively easy to keep them in chronological order because Walmart (I ALWAYS order from Walmart. I’ve found their shipping/price per photo combo to be a better deal than the alleged “free” photos you can get elsewhere) sends them in the order you uploaded them. I keep the photos in data folder by month, so it’s easy to see what photo goes to what month. Since the pile Walmart sends me comes in chronological order, I just need to know what the first and last photo is for March and then label each photo in between as “March 2012″.

Why do I do this? Why not just label the page the photos are on with the date ranges? I don’t know about what happened with your parents’ photos, but at my parents’ house most of them ended up in boxes in our china cabinet. They are completely out of order and it’s impossible to tell what YEAR most things happened in, let alone what month. None of the photos are labeled and my sister and I were practically identical as babies and wore a lot of the same clothes. I have a lot of trouble knowing at whom I’m looking when I flip through photos. If there is an estranged family friend or long deceased relative in the photo, I don’t know who they are unless I ask. Sometimes even my parents don’t know who the people are in our pictures. Even if a photo was in an album, sometimes my sister or I took the photo hostage and you can’t tell what happened around that time.

I didn’t want that to happen with our photos, hence the hyper-organization. If a friend or classmate is in a photo, I make sure I put that friend’s first and last name. I include the names of all aunts and uncles. We think our kids will remember these people, but who knows what will happen. There’s a chance these people won’t be in their lives later on and even if they are, maybe they’ve aged in a way that makes them unrecognizable in the pictures. Also, as an adult sometimes you “meet” and befriend someone from childhood, only you don’t remember knowing them as a kid. Having these photos labeled will let them know and marvel that as babies they sat topless in a swimming pool with the boy they are crushing on in high school.

And all that worry led to the most obsessive thing I do– the only thing I’m organized about. And you can be too. It’s actually not that big of a time commitment and we LOVE looking at our 4,200 photos and pulling them out of the album to see how old people were and where we were visiting.

See? I can be neat and organized. Just don’t look in my closets, cabinets or drawers.

EDIT: I spend about $150/year on the photo printing and albums. I get my 200-picture albums with cloth or faux leather covers at Hobby Lobby for $7-$8 a pop.

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Toy Brilliance

The girls got these wood blocks for Christmas.

Do you see the top of the box? How it’s a shape sorter?

This is the most brilliant thing a toy company has ever ever done. Why is it brilliant? Because the blocks are never ever left out. Every single time they finish playing with the blocks, they put them away without my having to ask them. They put them away because they think using the giant shape sorter is the most fun thing ever.

So, not only do they get the fun of playing with wood blocks, but they also think cleaning up is fun. The blocks are apparently the best toy in the whole wide world because they play with them endlessly despite having the choice tons of plastic toys that make noise and light up. And that’s great. But the real great thing is how clean the playroom is after they play with them.

If only all toys could be put away through a shape sorter.

Or would that get old?

Hmmmm…

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Cleaning the Car for a Roadtrip: A Fruitless endeavor

Whenever we travel, I make it a point to clean out our minivan. Our minivan could stand to be cleaned every single day. We often eat snacks or lunch on the run since Lily has daily afternoon preschool and we try to get stuff done or see friends during our limited morning hours. It doesn’t take long for the kids’ snack wrappers, toys, various, receipts, socks, shoes, gloves, clean spare diapers, coupons, crumbs and mail to clutter the whole car. Often when I drop my daughter off at preschool, I’m embarrassed when a teacher comes to pick her up at the car because they can see the horrible mess– a mess that was often made in less than a week.

I worry that family members will judge me when they enter a cluttered car, so I always clean right before we leave. It is all in vain. By the time we finish an 8 hour car ride, the car looks exactly the same as it did before we left. In fact, it’s worse. In addition to snack wrappers and empty juiceboxes, there are Color Wonder Markers, books, DVDs, a fresh coat of dog hair from the traveling dog, new crumbs and discarded stickers all over the place.

So, by the time we get there, it looks like the car hasn’t been cleaned in years. In reality, it was spotless 24 hours before.

Why do I bother? To have less mess when we get there? I don’t know if anyone can see through the debris of our trip to know the difference.

I dream of a day when I have a clean car to present, but the reality is it wasn’t all that neat BEFORE I had kids. I just had less people looking in my car then.

But, because I’ve had to clean up after kids instead of just myself, maybe things really will be neater once the kids stop trashing the place?

A girl can dream. Or, you know, start picking up after herself better.

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Clean Up

My husband keeps going upstairs with the girls to help them accomplish their favorite mess-making game. They climb in Rose’s crib or bed (she has both) and pile every single blanket and pillow in the room (and there are a TON of them) into it and crawl around and giggle and scream. It’s great fun for sure, but it’s a lot of work to clean it up because hey, that’s a lot of pillows and blankets to put back in order. I kept coming upstairs to put Rose to bed hours later only to discover I had a lot of work cut out for me before her bed was inhabitable.

The last time they played this “game”, I confronted my husband about the leftover mess. I said the game was great, but could he PLEASE put the pillows back when they were done. He said he didn’t see what the big deal was.

What’s the big deal indeed. That’s clearly no work at all. All of those pillows and stuffed animals will magically go back in their strategic places across the room. The bed will remake itself.

I took this picture to show him what the big deal was. He shrugged.

I hope he was mocking me. Because seriously. No.

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Kids Play: Let’s Yuck It Up!

Earlier today, Lily and I cleaned and vacuumed the playroom. It was spotless. When we went back in the living room, her dad was busy trying to fix our cable connection. Both kids were a little too interested in what he was doing, so I announced “Ok, we’ll all go into the clean playroom and mess it up!”

Lily ran ahead of me and started throwing all the toys off the shelves.

“Let’s yuck it up! Let’s yuck it up!” she cried, throwing more and more toys.

Next time I will choose my words more wisely, no matter how true they may be.

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