The Discipleship of Cleaning

Life with three babies hasn't left much room for writing - or really much of anything - lately.  Nap times are not coming so easily, and because of that I've felt as though I can't take charge of my days. My house seems to dictate my days, and I've been drowning in my regular chores.

The Lord has been ministering to this area in the last few weeks, however, as I've learned some root causes and solutions to the battle of keeping an orderly home.  Today I'll share about solutions, and later on (if I can keep enough order to have time!), I'll share about the root problems I've struggled with.  This might seem backwards, but in this case, implementing the solutions is the best way to attack the root.  More about the 'why' behind that later!

Thinking and praying through solutions to living in survival mode became a concern of my heart several weeks ago, when during a moms' group that I attend, a friend shared that even though her mom was great at keeping the house clean, her mother didn't teach her how to clean. I realized that was the same in my home growing up, and two women in our mothers' generation shared with me the same thing about their mothers!

I simply can't be the only one who keeps house.  I. Just. Can't.  And that means that I have to get my kids moving on the cleaning.

What I'm understanding, however; is that there is a general idea that simply enforcing a clean house is enough to pass on the practice of keeping house, but oh my, it is not.  Holding to this approach has led to much more yelling and threatening to give things away than I care to admit, and has generally made cleaning days tense.  At these ages (6, 2, and 3 months), it would be easier for me to simply do everything on my own.  I could get it done faster and without pulling my hair out. But that is a short term solution, and I want to parent with godly principles that last for the long haul, for their benefit and for mine.  I don't want to be cleaning up after teenagers, and I want them to be motivated people.   

And here is the truth:  Housekeeping in an art and one that needs to be taught with intention, even as an act of discipleship.  I can't just shout out commands like a, Mefaked, a Drill Sargent.  I have to work with them so that they can find their own solutions to a mess, growing a character that helps them persevere rather than becoming overwhelmed and shutting down.  We want to make overcomers, after all, even when it comes to tackling the house.  They won't get it if I don't instruct, which means I've had to be still and search the Lord's heart for order. 

And I have prayed.  I've wanted to rise above the crazy cycle of boundary pushing and power struggles, and really enjoy family life. 

As I've been praying about this, how do actually be a clean and oderly person on my own, and then how to disciple in this area,  the Lord has given me two strategies (though I'm going to share three) for my kids. These are straight from Him to me. Not something I found on pinterest or learned from a book.     The great disclaimer here is that I'm not sharing because I'm an expert who has a super clean house (I don't), but because it really has been helping us take charge over our home, taking authority over our space, rather than being ruled by bad habbits and too much stuff.  So...  This is what we are doing: 

1.  Keep a Weekly Routine

I like to clean on a weekly schedule, giving myself one big chore a day outside of a few normal things such as dishes, counters, and the general pick up  that happens every day.

Friday is the Big Bedroom Clean Up (BBCUP) for the kids since Aviel (age 6) is home from school that day (Israeli schools are Sun-Thurs). We do a really focused job on their shared bedroom after breakfast, before mini pizzas.

I've already been intentional about teaching them this rhythm, and talking through the week about how if we put things away, it makes the BBCUP shorter and easier.  This is a principle of reaping and sowing.  If they sow tidiness during the week, then they will reap easier effort on the BBCUP.  It has taken about a month, but they are finally getting it. 

Now for the the new ones.  They overlap so the ordering here is mostly about an easy read and not necessarily a rigid way of getting things done. 

2. We work "Big to Small." 

Whether we are doing the BBCUP,  the living room, or laundry, we start with the big stuff, and work our way down. Big to Small is an easy visual concept that even 2 year old Lydia can grasp.

I ask them, "What's the biggest thing in the room?"

For our bedrooms, its the beds, so that's where we start. We change sheets every other week, so we'll either do that, or we'll simply make the beds on off weeks.

Then they identify the next biggest thing, which is usually clothes and coats, and then shoes... so we put all of that away (more about that in number 3).

Then its toys, again by size.

In the living rooming, we fold throw blankets and put them in the baskets, and then do the pillows on the couch- because the couch is the biggest thing in the room. Books and DVDs are almost always second, and then toys.  Sometimes, though, a certain toys can be the next biggest, like when the Duplos are out -or tracks of any sort.

They help me with laundry, too. Sheets and towels are the biggest... undies and socks are the smallest (more about that in the next category).

Interestingly, the kitchen we work Small to Big, taking care to put away utensils, then cups, then plates and pots and pans, before wiping the bigger areas such as the table and counter tops.  Even though its opposite, it works out logically as its easier to clean the pots and pans when the sink is empty.  They get it, so we go with it. 
3.  We Organize by Category 

When there is a so much stuff that its hard to get started, we use the Big to Small method, but we pause before putting things away, and first put things in piles.

We stack all of the books, and all of the DVDs.

If people did not put clothes in the hamper, we put them in a pile.

All of the Hot Wheels cars together, baby dolls, markers, etc.

Then we work Big to Small based on pile size.

Aviel's bed is in a loft in the kids' room, which requires climbing a ladder.  He can get his bucket from his room, put his pile of Hot Wheels in the bucket, and then carry them up the ladder all at once. Instead of doing tons of trips back and forth, sorting by type and putting them all in together consolidates effort! This works both for living room clean up and the BBCUP. 

Sorting and organizing  also works with laundry

I have them sort the clothes according to who they belong to.  Every family member gets a pile, and then we fold Big to Small for each family member. 

Again, first we do sheets and towels (the biggest overall), and then we choose the biggest pile in the family, which really changes with every load, and start there. Abba's is usually biggest with lights, Aviel's with darks, and either of the girls with colors. 

We use the same strategy of sorting and organizing clothes types (shirts, pants, socks, undies, etc) and then fold Big to Small in each pile. 

These methods are bearing fruit! 

The underlying idea is to give them an intentional strategy so they don't look at a mess and feel overwhelmed, but rather have a method that they can use to tackle the mess. It gives them a problem solving tactic that they can apply each time, rather than me micromanaging, and threatening with consequences the entire time we are working. It helps in our relationships, but also, I hope it is something they will carry with them through out life, so that they can grow into orderly and efficient workers in their careers and callings, as well as their home life. 

I hope this helps some of you, and if you have strategies of disciplining in the area of house work, then please share in the comments! 


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