You know how five minutes after you’ve swept the floor, one of the kids comes through and in five seconds voids your work? As irritating as that is, it’s worse during the summer when they are home all day, coming in and out of the house, dragging in mud, dripping water, and letting in flies. How are you to survive until school days come again?
Here are 10 survival skills to get you—and the house—through unscathed.
#1 Dole Out Chores
Let them do the cleaning. Maybe they’ll learn not to be so messy. Try making a list of three chores for each kid. Three is an easy number to remember—anyone can do three chores.
Remember to assign chores that are age-appropriate and don’t set your expectations too high—you’ll most likely be doing most of the work. Think of it as quality time in which you teach your kids how to clean.
#2 Learn to Love the Dust Mop
With kids running around all day long, it doesn’t take long for crumbs and dirt to accumulate on the kitchen tile. Just grab your trusty dust mop. Not familiar with the dust mop? It’s your new best friend. It’s like sweeping and dusting at the same time.
The larger surface area of the mop does a fine job at tidying up the floor in a hurry. You can use it several times a day and push it into a corner then use the dustpan and broom at the end of the day to move the dirt into the garbage.
#3 Go Outside
The best way to keep the mess out of the house is to not let it come in in the first place. Try to keep kids busy outside as much as possible. Save messy activities for morning hours when the heat of the day won’t drive them inside for a drink every 20 minutes.
Have them enjoy drying off in the sun instead of coming inside for a towel after playing in the water. Remember that even in the hottest part of the day, a shady spot can still be comfortable.
#4 Clean Up After Yourself
When in vacation mode, it’s far too easy to drape swimming suits all over the bathroom, dump the picnic basket in the kitchen, and try to ignore the devastating effects of the road trip on the car until you’ve had a proper nap.
It gets easier and easier to put off tidying up until one day you find little piles of stuff here and there all over the house. Make it a rule for everyone—you included—to clean it up now. After all, if you set it down where it doesn’t belong, you end up picking it up twice, which might just become the new mantra the kids will love to hate.
#5 Make a Sanctuary
Set aside a space where no messes are allowed—no excuses. Whether it’s the island countertop that must remain clear, or a sitting room where kids must not step foot, there should be a space that everyone respects as the area where there’s no clutter or dirt. It will create a sense of serenity in your home even when chaos reigns.
The key with maintaining a sanctuary is to fight for it. Make it an absolute rule and be a dictator about it or the summertime creep will catch up with you.
#6 Eat Outside
Limit crumbs and spills to the outdoors by sending them outside with those drippy popsicles and crumbly crackers. Any meal or snack will seem like a picnic when relocated from the kitchen.
You can eat outside anytime in the summer. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner—and everything in between—can go outside. Even if you don’t have patio furniture you can eat outside. Throw down a blanket or sit on the back steps. The kids may opt to continue playing while they eat and that will really make it feel like a vacation.
#7 Take Turns
Introduce the one-at-a-time rule. That is, one toy or activity at a time. Then put it back before you get out a new one. It may take some time for the habit to develop, but it will eliminate a front room covered in games and toys or a playroom that perpetually looks like a tornado has struck.
With a little playtime discipline, you won’t be able to tell at the end of the day exactly everything that the kids did for the last eight hours.
#8 Think Ahead
If you are planning a remodel in the future, it pays to think ahead about the materials you’ll use. What does this have to do with summertime messes? Some materials are easier to clean than others. For example, tile floors are known for being easy to clean, durable, and long-lasting. They will surely outlast your kids and just about everything they can dish out.
Tile is also a great option because, as a natural material, it stays cooler than many other surfaces in your home. It will help you keep your cool all summer long.
#9 Take Advantage of Sweltering Afternoons
When the heat outside becomes too much for your kids, don’t sweat it. Instead of letting them come in and out, arrange for an afternoon full of indoor fun. And just because they barricade themselves indoors for the afternoon doesn’t mean things can’t stay tidy.
Institute activities that will keep them busy and contain the mess. Go to the library and stock up with plenty of interesting books for summer afternoons. Introduce them to your favorite childhood movies. Set them loose with a cardboard box, some tape, and a safe cutting device.
Yes, fighting the cleaning battle is relentless and exhausting. But don’t be so concerned about the cleanliness of your home that you forget that it won’t be long before they are gone—only interested in their friends’ houses or off to college.
Enjoy the summer and allow yourself to play along with your kids. Heck, why not make a few messes yourself?