Toddler Thursday: Toddlers and a Clean House? Choose Your Battles

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We are about 2 or 3 years out since the toddler years, but I remember those days very clearly. I’ve got twin boys and their older brother, who is two years older. In the early days, when the twins were babies and not walking, it was a bit easier to keep our household clean. My biggest worry was whether or not the main floor washroom and front hall were presentable for guests who came often. The rest of the house stayed pretty orderly and clean.

As my two year old became more independent and turned three and the babies turned into one year olds, crawling and cruising around, playing with more toys and progressing to solid foods, my priorities began to change. Feed three kids and wait to clean up the disastrous mess on the floor and the dishes and play with them to keep them entertained, or feed them, clean the mess, wash the dishes for 20 minutes and let the kids entertain themselves with their toys or a TV show? I often chose to hang out with the kids and let the mess wait. I’d get to the mess…eventually!

Messes build up fast, however, so I also tried to pick the spots I wanted to keep “mess free” or as mess free as possible, because my boys seem to leave a trail of stuff here and there, no matter how hard I try! I didn’t have the energy to be constantly cleaning every room of the house. There are three of them and only one of me!

So I chose my battles. I chose the rooms I was willing to see get a bit chaotic and messy, such as the TV room, which quickly became the toy room, because I could see it from our kitchen and know the little ones were safe, while I did take care of other business…like nursing my cold cup of coffee at a distance.

Aside from that mess under the highchairs and the piles of bottles and sipToddler twins in high chairspy cups in the sink waiting to be washed, the kitchen was a “mess free” zone. I kept it kid free and mess free if we were not having a meal. I was not the mother who allowed my kids into the cupboards and bottom of the stove to pull out pots and pans to clang on for hours on end. They had other noisy toys in the toy room just for that reason! I kept a baby gate up so there would be no toddling or crawling throughout that mess free zone. Pots and pans strewn across my kitchen floor would have been yet another mess to have to take care of and for any mother of twins or more, you know the minutes in the day seem to whiz by and before you know it it’s time for you to go to bed. I did not have time to be picking up these random messes in every room of my house.

Other ways I tried to contain the mess included:

interlocking mats
As found on www.walmart.com

Using foam interlocking mats beneath the twins’ high chairs, which worked as a catchall and were easy to either sweep or pick up and shake off outside or in the sink and wash down. Sometimes I’d throw them in the tub and soap them up for a really good wash, then air dry. They were really helpful with avoiding constant mopping of the kitchen floor.

I chose to keep the pile of toys contained in decorativstorage boxe closet boxes, such as sweater boxes, which looked like they were just a decorative part of the room. I stacked them at the end of the couch, which was farthest from the toy room (aka TV room) entry and the least visible spot.

I am sure there are many other ways to keep a house orderly when you have little toddlers going two or three different directions all day long, but these were a few of my proven and favourite ways to go about it.

Moving forward in life, when toddlers grow to school-agers, I can’t say that containing the mess gets any easier and the messes will begin to move into other rooms, but you can always strategize, strategize, strategize new ways to fight the mess!

Yet there will always be the kind of day where you’re getting ready for work and come out of your closet area doing the “I just stepped on a Lego Storm Trooper head” painful dance that will remind you that you can’t always win the battle of the mess.

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