Messy House and It's 4 Against 1! - Springfield,OR

Updated on September 06, 2011
M.B. asks from Eugene, OR
15 answers

I have a family of 5. It's my husband and I, our 5 year old daughter, our 2 year old daughter, and our 4 month old son. Our house is ALWAYS messy and the main problem is that no one in our house cleans up after themselves. So I will clean up our living room and a day later, it is trashed again. Now I am not blaming this all on my family members because I realize that I am the problem too but I am the only one who cleans up so I feel like it is 4 against 1. I just can't keep up! I get overwhelmed and frustrated. So I have a couple questions. Obviously cleaning up after myself doesn't come second nature. I only clean up when it is out of control and I need to change that. How do you make cleaning up second nature? How do you keep up with the constant cleaning up? Next, how do you teach your kids to clean up after themselves. My 5 year old already groans when I say we need to clean up. My hope if after I work on myself and the kids, I can work with my husband. I can't nag on him when I am not doing it myself.

I know a lot of people on here use Fly Lady, but I am looking for other ideas. I love Fly Lady but it is hard to create routines when I am always picking up messes. I do apply some of her techniques, but I am hoping other techniques are suggested. Thanks!

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answers from Portland on

This is what I finally had to do when it all got way too crazy! First, everyone has to help clean up - even my 18 month old twins know how to unload the dishwasher and put dirty laundry in the hamper. My 5 year old really struggled to clean up her room or pick up after herself, so a few trips to the container store a lot of consulting and some serious clearing out of exess and organizing has made it possible for her to clean up by herself because everything has a home. My husband who is unable to throw away or let go of anything has unwittingly donated thousands of items over the years to Goodwill. If he hasn't looked at, touch it or even thought about it in 2 years, it's not needed.

Then for the daily clutter, I tried FlyLady and couldn't get started regularly. I have a very shiny sink and that's about it. LOL! What I do now is a quick run through the house every evening when the kids go to bed and then I wake up with it being a fresh start. I pick one room every couple of days to thoroughly clean, organize and sort and I am getting to where this is all easier as the excess gets cleared away and stuff slowly gets organized and put into it's proper place.

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answers from Philadelphia on

In my house everything has a " home " and must be put back after it is used. Trash is immediately thrown in the trash. Your 5 year old and even your two year old are old enough to help put away toys. Your 5 yr old can help with the dishes. I guess I am lucky I am naturally fairly organized. If I loose my shoes I can usually find them in my closet where they belong although I don't remember putting them there:0).
My best advice is just to try to clean as you go. Don't put the mail on the counter to be dealt with later just take care of it in the moment. Make your bed the second you get up, put wash away immediately after taking it out of the dryer, put the ingredients you used to cook away as you use them. My dinner dishes are all done except the plates we will use and the serving dishes used before I sit down to eat.

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answers from Chicago on

When things get overwhelming I do the laundry basket trick (You can use a box if you don't have extra laundry baskets).

I have a laundry basket for each person in the house, including myself. If I need a room cleaned I have everyone help me (or sometimes I do it myself) and everything that does not belong in that room (like the family room) goes in the laundry basket of the person that the item belongs to. It's amazing how quickly you can pick up the family room when all you need to do is put the item in the laundry basket.

Then the laundry baskets go on that person's bed and they are responsible for putting the items in their place.

My daughter likes to help that way, it's easy for her. Sometimes we race to see who can get the items in the laundry basket first!

I like how an area can be cleaned up in stages. First get everything out of the family room. Breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the fact that the family room is clean!

Later you can put your stuff away. The laundry basket makes it easy to put things away, too.

I also do FlyLady, and remember, she says BABY STEPS!! She doesn't say create your routines all at once. She says BABY STEPS! So maybe try her method again? If you fail at the FlyLady, then you're doing it wrong. Her system is no-fail IF you do it like she says--BABY STEPS!!!!!!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Medford on

Do the opposite of what I do.
Dont buy too many toys.
Dont buy too many clothes.
Dont put all the toys they have out at once.
Dont put all of their toys where they can reach them.

Once you have not done all these things, this is how you clean.
Get a snow shovel and a big box, bin, or garbage can.
Scoop the toys/clothes up with the snow shovel and put in bin.

But if youre like me, you will buy too much, let them have it all out and have a garage so full you cant even find the snow shovel.

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answers from San Francisco on

Pair down your things a couple times a year. Less stuff = less to clean up.



answers from San Francisco on

Great suggestions here, but think also about the cleaning up process. You can't expect people (especially the little ones) to follow it if it's complicated, confusing or hard physically. Do their toys go into specific places that make sense? Are there bins they can easily pull down or stow away? Do they really understand what's expected of them?

My 7 yo daughter TRASHES her bedroom with barbies and all the accessories, Simply facing the idea of cleaning it was overwhelming to the point of tears. I sat down with her and we made a list of what had to happen to qualify as a clean room. Once she had manageable steps she could follow (1. put away Barbies. 2) put away barbie clothes...) then she actually did it with enthusiasm and excitement.

Face the problem as a family, call a meeting and take down all thought and ideas: what are our problem areas in picking up after ourselves (shoes and coats on the floor, putting away toys), what are simple steps we can take each day (I will hang up my towel to dry after I shower, etc) and how can we make things easier on ourselves (install a rack of hooks by the front door for easy hang-up). Don't face this alone, treat it as the family issue it is. Approach it openly, enlisting people's input and guidance instead of blame and annoyance, you'll get a lot more cooperation!



answers from New York on

Hello my TWIN. I know how you feel and I live right there too. We just moved and I need to begin the huge process of unpacking. In my unpacking I have determined that I will be taking things away and throwing things out. We have too much stuff. I must be certain there is a place for everything and everything is in it's place. This is my unpacking job. If there is no place for that item I am allowing myself 1 week to acquire the proper place or the item must be discarded. I am looking forward to this huge process but it must be done.

Nagging never works on husbands.

My maternal grandmother was a housekeeper and she could keep house like no other but she threw things out. If something wasn't in it's proper place she would just toss it. This would teach you to keep the toys where they belonged if you didn't want them tossed.

Another thing I am learning is dealing with the mess right now. If something needs to be tossed, toss it. If it needs to be folded and hung up do it now and not later.

If the job seems too large break it down to a small area or just focus on one thing in the room and get that one thing done so you can have the sense of accomplishment.

I love you my TWIN. We can do this together. Children learn by example.


answers from Gainesville on

I had a spotless house until baby #3 came and then my life has been a wreck and a half....which is totally sympathized by my husband and he tries to help.....just dont know how unless i spell it out very C.L.E.A.R.L.Y.
And nagging or acting out my overload, just makes him ignore me and he wont help at ALL.


answers from Detroit on

Lead by example. Yes, you need to start cleaning up after yourself, but your hubby & 5 year old are more than capable. My 3 & 6 year olds made a Summer Wish list of fun things they wanted to do this summer. They are pretty good kids, so I didn't do anything like "if you are good or if you do that, then we will do this." BUT, I started getting soooo frustrated when they were done eating and did not bring their plates and cups to the kitchen counter. I made 5 boxes on a piece of paper. Each time they "forgot" to clear their place setting, I colored in a box. 5 strikes and I took away a Summer Wish. Crazy how quickly they learned once they lost 2 wishes! Maybe make some incentive like going out to eat or to the movies or bowling if everyone puts their dirty clothes in the baskets, puts the mail in the proper spot, puts shoes in the closet and not just on the floor and so on. You slip up, you get a strike. It HAS to be a team effort. I always tell my kids that I am ONE mom and I do not want to do all the work myself. I don’t take out the toys, I shouldn't have to put them all away on my own. Takes time, but it can get better.



answers from Phoenix on

Go to and see if her sight can help. I think a schedule of when to do things helps as well as enlisting the help of all family member (who are over the age of 1) to pick up after themselves and help clean. Your 5 and 2 year old can both dust (mine loves to help), use a damp sponge to wipe finger prints from the arcadia door or where ever they are. They can pick up toys, make their beds, pick up dirty clothes. Be creative and make it fun for you all.


answers from Eugene on

You are not your husband's servant. You have to get a household cleanup agreement with him. What does this man/child think. We women should work 96 hours when he works 40 every week. Householder is an unpaid job but let the turkey try to pay wages for what he demands done for him and he'll be broke in a flash.
Make family clean up nights. That is what our family did when our children were growing up. Everyone took a task, husband included. I'm a grandmother now so your husband is really way too macho for the times.
And, can he cook real food? I would never marry a man who could not cook. He can cook two nights a week.



answers from Seattle on

I haven't read through all the answers, so apologies if this is a duplication of other suggestions...

First, make sure everything has a home -- this makes it easy for everyone to help (which everyone should be expected to do). Toys go in bins -- doesn't matter which bin, just put it away -- mail can go in a basket, dishes go in the dishwasher, or the sink, but only if the dishwasher is running, clothes in the hamper, coats in the closet, etc.

Once you've got homes for everything, make sure you follow-through with the expectation that everyone, including yourself, puts things away where they belong. And you don't move onto the next toy/project/outing, etc. until you've put away what you were just playing/working with. Period. No exceptions.

I couldn't get into FlyLady -- too many steps for me, albeit baby steps -- so I just follow the two minute rule. If I find myself thinking, "eh, I'll just do it later" I stop myself and ask, "can I finish this in less than two minutes?" If the answer is yes, which it almost always is, then I just do it.

For kids, sing a clean up song, ring a bell or have a secret, spoken code, to remind them that they have to put things away before moving on to the next thing. They'll pick up on the routine really quickly, if you're consistent with it. It's like giving a five minute warning at the playground before you're heading home.

Now all this said, things will get missed/left behind if you're in a hurry or if the kids are cranky and it's not worth a fight (aka dinner time at my house). And that's OK. Don't beat yourself up, or blame anyone, just do a quick sweep through the house at the end of the night to put things away so you can start the next day clutter-free.

If you notice something consistently left behind, try to think why is this where it is? My husband, for example, always left his keys and wallet in random places around the house. So I bought him a small basket that is mounted to the wall by the front door and now he has a landing zone for stuff when he first comes in. Everything has a home so no more mess.



answers from Detroit on

You really need to start expecting more from your husband and kids. The 5 year old is plenty old enough to help clean up toys and stuff, especially if the mess is hers, and the 2 year old can start helping pick up things and put toys away too. The 2 year old will need more guidance but they both can be expected to clean up if you are there to help them. Think of it as a team effort and don't feel like you can't ask hubby to pitch in too - he might be at work all day but you are taking of the kids all day and can't be expected to do all the housework. He lives there too, he uses the bathroom, eats off the dishes, so he can help with the upkeep. Don't worry about the 5 year old whining and groaning - if she starts to complain, take away something she enjoys (watching TV, playing on the computer, a certain toy, etc.) until she decides to buckle down and get to work. I have to remind my daughter daily that if she listens and cooperates, life will be a lot more fun because Mom will be in a better mood - if she chooses to argue and give me a hard time, she's going to miss out on something. You could always do a sticker chart and reward them with a special treat at the end of the week if all the tasks are completed each day. Get in the habit of cleaning up after yourself as you go so it's not so much work later.


answers from St. Louis on

Okay first of all I really don't think the four month old is making that big of a mess, yet. :p

You need to start by picking up after yourself. Ya know, not making a mess. Exactly how is anyone supposed to learn if no one cleans up after themselves.

So start with yourself because it is easy to control yourself. Then start watching the kids. They get something out they put it away when they are done.

It will be lot of extra work in the beginning but you will find after a few months you have all this free time you never imagined. :)


answers from Chicago on

We are in the same boat over here, but I am insisting upon my kids helping me clean up THEIR messes. If my 2 yr old throws food during meals, he cleans it. We all clean up the toys together to help stay on task.

I don't let them go on to the next fun activity until they've picked up their stuff. Sometimes this means that they fight me and never get to the next activity and they are mad at me for being firm. Other times it means that they rush to put their things away, we do the next activity, and everyone is happy.

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