Cleaning? Come On Down!

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Hello Twin Mamas! I’m a mom of identical twin boys, as well as a twin myself, as well as an aunt to twins and there are twin cousins on just about every branch of our family tree. Even being a twin, you never guess you’ll end up with a set of your own and over the past 22 months we’ve had a lots of adventures (you can read about it at We live in Brooklyn, and while city life can be big, boy is our apartment small. Sometimes that’s a good thing when it comes to cleaning up…

I’ve posted before about cleaning the house with the help of toddlers, but just recently I have been experimenting with getting the boys to help clean up their own messes. As a former enrichment teacher I am very familiar with the clean up song, but that seemed a bit advanced for the under 2 set. As a former seasoned babysitter I’ve employed tricks including siblings competing against one another to fill their bin with the most toys off the floor. I’ve tried race-against-the-clock style cleaning where we see how much we can get done in 60 seconds, and if we’re not done we try to beat our clean up record in a second heat. Again, these seem better for the school-age variety. So instead I invented a few new techniques…

Before the experiment my status quo for cleaning was waiting for the boys to be in bed, then performing a hunched over scurry I’ve perfected to run around tossing the toys that litter the floor (like confetti after New Year’s) into various bins around the apartment.

This evening, however, I rallied the troops to attack the mess: “Guys!” I said in my best Guy Smiley game show voice. “Look at these blocks! I PICK UP the block and I THROW it in the box! Can YOU pick up a block Sam?!” Sam eyes me suspiciously. I demonstrate dramatically how fun this can be and applaud wildly for myself when I score with the block into the box. Sam leaps into action and before I know it he has run a block over to the box and chucked it in. I respond like an entire live studio audience rolled into one. This rallies Ren into the game and as they run back and forth with blocks I call out their moves like a sports caster during a heated playoff. When the boys have finished (and our clapping and jumping for ourselves have concluded), we take it down a notch as we head to the living room and I hand out “really TRICKY tasks.” I give each of them a specific task as if I am a king sending knights off on a Grimm’s fairy tale quest:

“Ren, can YOU take this fire truck into YOUR room, and put it UNDER your crib?” I ask him solemnly. He takes the firetruck and trots off uncertainly. He looks back at me. “Don’t forget Ren, YOUR room, UNDER your crib,” I say as if the world hangs in the balance. I follow him into his room where he is attempting to launch the truck up into his crib. “Remember, not IN, but rather UNDER your crib Ren”. He squats and rolls the truck under the crib where 15 other vehicles are parked. The studio audience immediately returns in full force.

I send Sam off on the wild adventure of putting magnets back on the fridge and am on a roll, when I discover my Achilles’ heel. I ask the boys to pick up the balls that are here, there and everywhere, and bring them all to one shelf. There is immediately a scuffle over who gets the blue bouncy ball, and when I reach the shelf I find no troops behind me. I retreat back to the living room to see them bouncing, kicking, throwing, and rolling all the balls we’ve collected. I try to avert disaster by tacking in a new direction. I bring their attention to a toy box in the corner and ask them to “make a basket” into the toy box with the various balls. Sam pays no attention and continues playing with glee, Ren runs to the toy box and in an attempt to clear it out for his b-ball action, dumps the entire train set inside all over the floor. Ack! We are essentially back to square one. In my head I hear the classic: “wah-wah-wah-waaaaaaaaaaahhhhh”.

As I write this the boys are in bed and I can see from this vantage point: a sippy cup, a beach ball, at least 6 matchbox cars, a popper push toy, that whole train set, a Croc shoe, 2 bean bag chairs, a muffin tin (a muffin tin?!) that I will shortly be taking on in my own game show:  So You Think You Can Dance?  Try this routine: hunch, shuffle, shuffle, grab, toss, shuffle, shuffle, reach, hunch, scurry, dip, and bend.

My goal is to teach the boys the responsibility of cleaning someday, but for now just having them on the “cleaning is fun” bandwagon seems like an accomplishment.

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8 thoughts on “Cleaning? Come On Down!”

  1. What a great post! I wish could say it gets easier. Now we use bribery (I’ll get snacks ready when all the toys are cleaned up) and the girls needs to be alike (if I can one cleaning, her sister will want to be involved too).

  2. I love your writing Abby! I totally understand too – I have 22 mo old identical boys, and I always feel like cleaning the house is a lot like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic…

  3. I think my older son may have a bit of OCD, he’s always been a fan of picking up and is often the one to initiate it!

    I’m really bad about leaving things around and not just picking up as I go, so I’m really trying hard to have him not have this habit.
    Wiley recently posted Preemie ClothingMy Profile

  4. My twin boys are 21 months and one loves to clean and put away toys. Unfortunately the other dumps more out faster than brother puts them away. I half-joke about getting a rake to clean up the living room from the mega blocks and play foods and dozens of other little bits and pieces. I think it’s brilliant! They’d probably want to help more if there were an implement involved.
    Jen recently posted 365: Day 217My Profile

  5. You had me laughing!
    I remember those days of making cleaning to be a game. Now that my youngest are almost 3 it seems that I can be less creative with clean up. I often tell them that if they don’t pick up the toys all the ones I need to pick up after them will get donated to kids without any toys. This most often leads them to pick up their favorite ones and piling the rest for us to donate!

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