I spent a large part of the day yesterday restoring order to the house. The toy store that threw up under our Christmas tree was sorted through, and homes found on shelves and in closets for all of our new arrivals. I enlisted the kids' help cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, mopping, and getting the dishes done. Let me tell you, having a child old enough to provide productive help, as opposed to "help" that teaches responsibility but must be properly done after they've moved on, is wonderful. My two year old, V, and my four year old, S, are both willing helpers; they're at an age when cleaning is fun because anything Mommy is doing is fun. And certainly, there are some chores they can do well. But my eight year old, N, is actually at an age when he can truly help around the house. Of course, he isn't always such a willing participant... But he sucks it up. I think it helps that I lavish praise upon him for how appreciative I am for his help.
In all disclosure, the urge to get things picked up is a new habit I am still working on. For all of my adult life I have naturally been disorganized and lived in a cluttered home. A few weeks ago though, it was like something broke. I went on a rampage and cleaned up everything! Clear counters, a clean and orderly playroom the kids can actually play in, a dining room table we can fully sit down to. I even went through and emptied the various laundry hampers that have been sitting neglected in corners, holding random bits and pieces that we haven't missed. You don't want to know how many twin sheets we were holding on to all this time. Suffice to say they've all been washed and Goodwill is getting a sizable donation.
The motivation to clean really comes from having a clean house to start with. I've started a new system of morning chores, evening chores, as well as weekly and monthly chores. I printed out my system and have it framed in the kitchen so I can use a dry erase marker on the glass to check things off as I go, then wipe clean and start again the next day. It is really helpful, and I've started making true habits. The first two things I do every morning are make my bed and wipe down my bathroom counter and sinks. The trick to making a room look orderly no matter the state of the rest of it, is to have a clean focal point, that one thing your eyes are immediately drawn to as soon as you step into the room. Obviously, in a bedroom the bed is the focal point. Same goes for the counters and sink in a bathroom. It has gotten to be such a habit to do these two chores every morning that I don't even think about them anymore. The same goes for the kids. N and S make their beds (V "helps" in the way a toddler does), then N cleans their bathroom counter and sink. I had to remind him for the first few days but then he caught on and every day he'd already done it when I asked. Now I don't even have to ask. I am hoping that by instilling these basic habits in them while they're young that the kids can avoid the same pitfall Levi and I have grown up with of not having clean and organized habits. It truly is so much easier to clean up as you go, rather than wait until the mess overwhelms you and you just can't take it any more.