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Tips for keeping the house neat (and entertain your toddler at the same time)

Carlotta Cerri

As I write this, I feel like I’m lying to you: my house is not clean and neat at all time. Not at all. Sometimes I look around and all I see is mess—messy wardrobes, messy rooms, messy living room, messy kitchen—and I wonder how we got here; other times I go from room to room trying to organise, but I soon realise I’m just moving the mess around; sometimes I finish cleaning and I feel like I should start all over again.

Over the years, though, my husband and I recognised a few tricks that always help us keep the house neat and make us (uhm, make ME… Alex doesn’t stress about this stuff) feel less stressed in the long term. Lately, then, I discovered that most of these easy chores are easily done with my 2 year old, and he actually enjoys them greatly. So here they are, some might seem obvious, but I learnt that when it comes to parenting… nothing is obvious!

  • Keep the dishwasher always empty: when it's clean, take the habit to empty it right away. This way, dirty dishes don't accumulate in the sink and you don't get to the and-now-where-do-I-start point. Oliver loves passing me plates, glasses, tools and cutleries to put away: as he climbs up the dishwasher door to pass me a glass, sometimes I do fear for its life, but it's a small risk to take to have the kitchen always clean and Oliver entertained at the same time. And no, my kitchen is not *always* clean, but you get the point.
  • Get a big basket for your laundries. This is one of my favourite activities lately, because it's very time consuming (for the toddler!): Oliver puts all the dirty clothes—one by one—in the basket, drags the very heavy basket from our bedroom to the balcony, and puts all the dirty clothes—one by one—in the washing machine. The magic words here are "one by one" ;-)Also, between 1.5 and 2 years old, it's the time when a child needs (and seeks) maximum effort to develop strength, and "intelligent" activities—that have a purpose—on the road to his independence. Doing the laundry this way provides both: the heavy basket develops his strength, and the purpose of having clean clothes makes it an "intelligent" activity.
  • Declutter often. I love to declutter, I take pleasure in throwing away things I don't use. I haven't always been this way, I used to be one of those let's-not-throw-anything-away-I-might-need-it-one-day kind of person, until I met Leo Babauta and his zen habits. Thanks to him, I learnt the power (and pleasure) of decluttering, and thanks to my husband I actually put it into practice. It's therapeutic! Keeping little stuff—and stuff that I actually need—makes me feel so good!When we declutter, we usually use Oliver as our trash manager: I give him things—one by one—to go and throw in the trash or in a dedicated bag, and he happily runs back and forth for quite a while if I make it sound like his task is an important one (and it is!).
  • Get rid of boxes and baskets. This is a lesson I learnt recently, when studying about Montessori: boxes and baskets are a magnet for mess (because you end up filling them up with stuff), and for me that's especially true in the bathroom. By removing baskets and boxes, you actually see how much stuff you have that you don't use: the few boxes and baskets we still have around the house get easily filled up with unnecessary things, and that's why they are always my first go-to place when I'm in decluttering mood.
  • A place for everything. This is a habit we are still trying to create, as it's way easier said than done. Every time we run into an object that doesn't have a dedicated place in our house, we either throw it away or we find a place for it: so far, though, this rule hasn't really worked well—that's how my hobby drawer (aka messy dump-in-everything drawer) was created. But it's definitely got potential!I have been more successful at doing it in Oliver's room: all his toys have always been neatly organised and displayed on shelves, and each and every one of them has its own place. Today, I can really see the benefits of this habit when Oliver tidies up after himself, and puts away a toy before taking another one (often, but not always).

BONUS: clean! Oliver loooooves cleaning, especially when I let him use water (it depends on how much I feel like cleaning after him)! Almost every day he uses his cleaning set by Melissa & Doug, which I highly recommend because it’s beautiful, very sturdy and it really cleans (even I use it when Oliver doesn’t see me!).

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