Does clutter go with raising a family?
“I tend not to believe it”, says a mother we discussed this topic with. She adds; “Growing up was a bit tough, at some point in youth, I had to leave my immediate family to live with some distant relatives. With the training I have received that early in life, it was unthinkable that children could play in the sitting room where visitors were received, and what was worse, made it untidy.
“Where I lived with an aunt, there were four children who, although did not stay there permanently, visited almost every weekend. None of them was younger than seven years but I feared their visit so much because it meant work; work, not in the sense that you washed up, it was not.
“They played rough, pulled everything out of place and my aunt would scream at me, ”Don’t stand there looking, tidy up immediately! So for a whole Sunday, I sat waiting for them to pull the sheets from the bed and then did the bed again. Within a few moments, they were back again to fight with pillows and I would do it again and again.
“They were never scolded and it was the same thing at home where their parents kept many servants. I did not think that it was the right way to train children.
“I can understand toddlers making a mess of the home but a 10-year-old should help in keeping the house tidy. If he can sweep the floor, he knows that it takes energy to keep the environment clean. I think that parents should start involving them in house chores early to minimize the mess at home.
“Children are children and they play without restraint if you are not there to shout; they rip chairs, pull the place apart literally, but the ones who understand their naughtiness come right to their senses when they hear a parent coming. They try to put things right, rearrange chairs because you have made them to see that a cluttered home is not conducive.
“Some mothers do not make a big thing of an untidy home or one that is out rightly filthy. Recently, I heard a young woman who had oscillated from a strong mother’s love to what she called “mistreatment” in the hands of a stepmother. Now, she is a stepmother herself who has acquired two teenage daughters from her marriage to an older man. Her grouse is that the girls make her to clean up for them.
“They messed up the home, left the bathroom in a mess and when it becomes unbearable they move to the adjoining building their father uses as his office. And they are back at it when she cleans up the mess. But I was not surprised when one of her friends advised her to stop cleaning, “All of us will live like that” was what she said.
“Another friend told me how the cousins she lived with would push unwashed underwear under the bed until their mother would fish them out in her spring cleanings.”
We here agree that clutter and a bit of mess is part of living but we also feel that you can control them if you have not convinced yourself that children will still scatter the house.
So when they do scatter, clean up, pick up things as they litter, sometimes, you find that the young ones try to help by picking up a stray toy and handing it over with “Mummy, take.” That is how they learn.
Share the work
Give each family member a chore; even the lazy and stubborn stepchild: “Jim will sweep the floor of all the rooms while Leke sweeps the master bedroom because of the electric cables. Act the Commandant and they will know that mummy is serious. But it may be clearer to draw a time-table and put them in black and white to make it clearer.
“I would never believe it possible but it happened. Two weeks ago, I visited a family of three children-two boys and one girl- they are all in secondary school. There was an argument about whose turn it was to do the dishes. ‘Who washed yesterday?’ Their mother asked, it was the turn of the girl but she did not want to do it.
What was the solution? They decided that the mother could make it weekly to avoid arguments; with daily rotation, it was possible to ‘forget’. But the one who does not like to wash up is not likely to forget at the end of seven days. State if the dishes are to be done after dinner, as in the case of these children who all go to school in the morning and come late in the afternoon.
Write a job description, it makes it clearer and they know what is expected of them. If you have domestic staff tell them early what is expected of them; insist that all dinner things are washed before going to bed. Go round to pick books and toys, where you meet the one who so littered them and he is old enough to pick them up, make him do it himself. Gradually, he would know that a tidy house is good for family life.
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