This is a post from Brienne Vanderweert of My Place in This World
Keeping up with the large family mess is a never-ending project, seldom accomplished in one swift singular act.
Here is my story of mess and how I’ve managed to keep up with my large family.
I wasn’t formally introduced to mess growing up; I came from a family of eleven where my parents kept things basic. We didn’t have many toys and we had just enough clothing per person for the week. If we had one of something we were never likely to get duplicates. I grew up and met mess on the job; he sort of sabotaged my nanny responsibilities which had to be balanced if we were to stay acquainted on payroll. We worked out an agreement, mess and I, we would only hang out on the books, never stepping into personal waters or visiting on days off.
I met my dear husband, soon discovering that mess was his best friend. Before I knew it, mess wedged itself into our lives like an old fuzzy blanket left on the couch, the one with the mistletoe print and fleece balls mixed with lint. Mess rarely left on weekends, always showing up Monday morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I’ve caught mess a few times with my camera. My mother in law has even commented on mess when she saw what he could do to a small house. And despite my ability to clean actual dirt and window streaks, mess is glued to clutter and stuff which doesn’t go away that easily. Since all my children are related to my husband, we’ve had to adopt mess as a permanent fixture around here. But moving three times in one year has taught me that mess doesn’t have to come out of the closet everyday. In fact mess has been slinking around a lot these days. We personally think he’s just getting on in age and likes his quiet time. Or maybe it’s because I’ve become a bit more strategic with how I handle mess in a large family.
Here is how I personally deal with the mess. And I’m not just talking to bigger families. While more people leads to more mess, you can still use these strategies with one child or on your own. I have been referring to a large family mess though because if you have a bigger group you will always have more stuff which someone has to clean up before the mess gets out of control.
Strategic move number one. Never obtain more than you need. One set of blocks is fine, one set of dishes, one seasonal coat. If you have six beds and only eight sets of sheets that’s acceptable. Only have one weeks worth of full outfits per child? Don’t sweat it, you will keep up on laundry better when you absolutely must do wash. I went from a tiny house, to a 1,000 square foot rental all within a year. The more you have the more you must find a place for. If you have more than you need, give it away, sell it, donate it, but never keep it. Find out what you need on a daily basis then toss the excess.
Number two. Have a place for everything. Lots of people equals lots of stuff, even if it’s things you’ll need daily, you still have to find a place for it. I like baskets. I have a few empty ones in every room; some are partially filled, some are actual containers for loose items. When something is hanging out like extra blankets in the living room, slippers by the bedroom door, play shoes in the entry ways, put it into a basket. These baskets can be pushed to the side or literally shoved into another space if you want a room to look more put together. Corral loose keys, lunch boxes, mail, anything and designate a basket or container for it. You won’t easily loose things if they are contained, and who said the inside of a basket has to be perfectly sorted? Just throw it in until the next use.
Finally, keep a maintainable mess. Listen, everyone has a mess, each family just has a different kind. There are paper messes of home school accumulation. Others have sports equipment, music lessons, art classes. Some have work messes, crafting messes, infant messes of bibs, bottles and wipes. We have husband hobbies of playing games that pay real cash, as well as fishing, tools, gardening. If we don’t maintain the stuff though it will spill over into our spaces of activity such as kitchen counters, bedrooms, entryways and vehicles. Know your problem spots and keep up with making the mess disappear. I like to do a quick nightly tidy of putting things left out back. If your child can walk your child can pick up and drop. Have them help you, it doesn’t have to be perfect but it must get done. Even if it’s a once a week thing, it has to happen at some point.
I hope this helps to give you an idea of how to keep the mess at bay. This method is working for our family at the moment but I am always on the look out for new ideas and quick solutions for keeping up with the mess. Because mess, like a family, is always changing and growing over time whether we are ready or not.