Most people who know me wouldn’t call me a neat freak per se. Admittedly, I am the type of person who really hates clutter—it really bothers me when the mail piles up on the side table. It annoys the crap out of me when my husband (love you, honey) insists on dumping his work gear in the dining room rather than putting it away in the office.
Before I had kids, keeping my house neat was pretty simple. Then, when it was just us and our toddler, we managed to enforce a decent cleanup routine that involved my son picking up his toys every night before bedtime so we’d all wake up to a nice, tidy playroom. But ever since our now 19-month-old twin daughters started walking (around when they turned 1), my house has been a perpetual mess.
For one thing, because my son’s playroom is loaded with toys whose small parts aren’t safe for infants, we’ve had no choice but to gate off that area so that the girls can’t access it. Since we only have one spare room to designate as a playroom, what this means is that my daughters’ toys are stored in the living room. In fact, other than a couch, we no longer have actual living room furniture. Rather, we have a wide open space where the girls can play with their toys–and by “play with,” I mean throw, kick, and bang repeatedly into the once-attractive hardwood floors we fell in love with when we bought our house.
Not only that, but because I have an open floor plan and the girls have access to much of the house, their toys tend to travel. Everywhere. Just the other day, I almost took a flying leap over a toy vacuum while rushing to get dinner on the table. And it’s not unusual for my floor to be so completely and utterly littered with toys that there’s no place safe to step.
Oh, and it’s not just the girls. I’ve admittedly gotten pretty lax at enforcing the cleanup-before-school routine with my son—mostly because I’m usually scrambling to get out the door and just don’t have time to deal with it. But on the days when my son fails to clean up his toys before school, the perpetual disaster zone that is my house gets even worse. And while it’s usually easy enough to avoid stepping on my daughters’ toys since they’re not that small, thanks to my son’s mess, I’ve been known to succumb regularly to what I call Lego Foot, which is when you step on a piece of Lego and are thereby subjected to one of the most horrible, piercing pains you can imagine.
While I do make a point of getting everything cleaned up before bed (thankfully, often with my son’s help), there are nights when I wonder why I bother, since any attempt to make things tidy will be immediately undone once the kids are unleashed in the morning.
Now I know what you’re probably thinking. I need to chill out and accept the mess, right? Honestly, I wish I could, but it’s not that simple. Living in a messy house truly bothers me. It makes me feel cramped, and claustrophobic, and it truly screws with my sanity.
I don’t have an immediate solution, though if anyone out there has any suggestions, I’m all ears. As a starting point, I’m going to try teaching the girls to put their things away. I’ve even replaced their larger toy bins with smaller ones that they can reach. I’m hoping that if I can manage to turn cleanup into a game of sorts, they’ll somehow get on board. But other than that, I’m all out of ideas. And space. And patience.