Sunday, August 14, 2011

Clean Up, Clean Up

"Cleaning up with children around is like shoveling during a blizzard." - Anonymous

This was someone's facebook status this morning, and I just had to use it. It perfectly sums up the challenges of trying to keep a house clean with a toddler around. (Actually, i'm sure it applys to any age child, but my experience right now is with a toddler.)

Since we live in a small apartment, clutter gives me anxiety. It used to be so easy for me to run after Stephanie, cleaning up whenever she was done playing with something. I'm a big believer in "everything has a place," and I make sure that every time a new toy arrives in our house, it has a place to call home. But lately it's been harder and harder for me to keep up.

Part of the problem is that i'm trying to teach Stephanie to clean up after herself, and that once she's done playing with something it needs to get put away. She loves the "clean-up" song, and will help me clean up if I sing it. (She even sings along.) But she's only 18 months, so her attention span isn't always long enough to completely finish cleaning up an activity. Then by the time i'm done with it, she's taken 3 more things out...and moved onto something else. And of course, everything has a million pieces, which have often been strewn from one end of the apartment to another, so half of the cleaning time is spent searching out each part of a toy. (And try asking an 18 month old where something is. She'll head off to look for it, then get distracted and wind up making a bigger mess.)

I also lack the energy right now to really enforce the "one toy out at a time rule." I'm moving slower than usual, and it's hard to bend over to pick up toys. So what usually happens when I see 3 more things out is that I give up. (Such bad parenting, I know.)

By naptime our entire apartment looks like Toys R' Us exploded. We don't have a playroom, so there are toys in the living room and in Stephanie's bedroom. But they also migrate to the dining room, the kitchen, and the master bedroom. And if she's gotten into the bathroom at all during the day, there are bath toys flung all over that room as well. It drives me CRAZY but right now there just isn't anything I can do about it. I also tell myself that it's going to be worse than this when the baby comes, because we'll be sleep deprived on top of taking care of two little ones. Maybe if I can train myself to relax about the clutter now, it will help me not to freak out then.

The best i've been able to do is make sure that it's all cleaned up every time she goes to bed. I do one big "clean-up" sweep at naptime, and another when she goes to bed. Then I have a few hours of serenity when I think "wow, our apartment can look really nice." Until, of course, she wakes up and the cycle begins again.

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