10-minute cleanup!

*2006 post*

Unfortunately, it's become a habit around our house for our children to play with something in one room for awhile, and then leave the toys where they lay and move to the next room. They enter the next room with a collection of toys from the original room, and as they meander through the house during the day, they deposit toys in every room! (Does this sound familiar to anyone?)

At the end of the day I try to straighten and pick up the toys. But at that point, the kids are sleeping in the rooms that the toys belong in, so... things don't always get to where they belong.

Having stepped on and tripped over too many toys laying on the floor, I have recently begun trying to instill some good cleaning-up habits in our home.

Truthfully, I'm almost embarassed to write this post because it's likely that most of you already have a system in place (and probably a better one!), or have been doing something similar for ages.

However- our "system" has been working so well for us, I thought I'd share.

A couple of weeks ago, I gathered up all the toys that I found on the floor of our playroom and stuck them into a laundry hamper. I then set the hamper in the middle of the floor and explained to my children that I was going to set the timer for 10 minutes. I told them that when the timer beeped, if there were any toys still in the hamper, they would go into the garbage (!)

On that first occasion, I helped guide them a little to ensure that everything was going away in it's proper place. I think it is important for everything to have a spot in order for this to work. We have a larger version of one of these:

so it's easy for our kids to see what belongs where.

When the timer went beep, the hamper was empty. And our children were elated and proud of themselves for doing it well before the timer!

I only used the hamper that first time. Now I just periodically call out, "10-minute cleanup!" I give a bit of instruction as to where I'd like them to focus their energies, and they scramble about to beat the timer. I've been doing this about 3x a day, (once before lunch, another in the afternoon, and another before bedtime). And this has worked wonders for the cleanliness of our home.

In addition, the kids love it. My daughter, especially, is really into this. She gets a little frantic that things might get thrown into the garbage and becomes a speedy little cleaner-upper. I've heard her often call out her own "10-minute cleanup!" instruction to her little brothers as she sees things getting messy. It's very cute.

For the first time last night, I set the timer for 5 minutes and told them to clean up the little cars and a few other toys they'd been playing with. My daughter ran about cleaning up, but my son chose to play during the 5 minutes instead. We noticed he was doing this, and encouraged him once, but let him continue playing. When the timer went off, my husband and I headed into the room with a garbage bag, and packed up all the little cars he'd been playing with. There were many tears from both of our children. My son plays with those cars every day, many times a day.

Now, we didn't actually throw the cars away. We just packed them up and took them away. We explained that they wouldn't get to play with those toys for a day (Mark says it should have been longer, but I had to come up with something spur of the moment because I hadn't pre-thought this part of it!) My son, especially, was very disappointed and tearful but understood it was because he had played instead of cleaning up.

Anyway, that's our system.

What's yours?

1 comment:

  1. Aug. 18, 2006 - Same system!
    Posted by toughmutts
    OMGoodness! We have a VERY similar system here! I have one child, and cleanup time is once a day, right before bedtime. I give her a half hour, set the timer, and if she finishes before the timer goes off, she gets extra cuddles and storytime. When there's the five minute warning, I remind her that toys a, b, and c are still out and the garbage can is coming out.

    We don't actually throw 'em away either, but if they're not that important to her, we agree to donate them to "kids who don't have any toys."


    Aug. 18, 2006 - good idea
    Posted by MicheleinNZ
    I've been wondering when my oldest daughter will be old enough to introduce an idea like this because I am getting FED UP with all the toys on the floor! And like you said, the room where they need to go is the room where they sleep, so it's difficult to clean up when they're sleeping. And of course the kids need to learn to pick up after themselves. She's almost three now so I think we'll start today! I personally wouldn't mind if we had half as many toys as we do, so perhaps we can start making them slowly disappear, particularly with Christmas not that far away.

    At the moment we have pickup time before lunch (which is right before naptime) and before dinner, with Dad. That seems to work pretty well. I really need to work on teaching them to play with only one toy at a time and then putting it away, but I am a horrible example of this as I'm not the tidiest person in the world either. Sigh. I wish I was perfect.

    Thanks for the inspiration!


    Aug. 18, 2006 - Hi Amy and Stacy
    Posted by AussieinAmerica
    We are working on picking up after ourselves too..I don't know why it is so hard for me!
    I like your system.
    I have posted a question on my blog about having 3 kids or more. When you get a chance, would you please stop by my blog and leave some feedback..I would love to hear what you both think about this.


    Aug. 18, 2006 - Untitled Comment
    Posted by Tiany
    We also have a very similar system! We use the 5-minute clean up and I set a timer for 5 minutes usually when I see too many toys being left out. I also use a basket that I throw all the toys in when needed and I have also tossed toys that were not picked up in a timely manner (they are hiding away :-) We also have a rule that they are not allowed to take a toy out till the previous toy or toys have been picked up and put in their proper spot. It does work!!! :-)


    Aug. 18, 2006 - Many thanks to both of you
    Posted by AussieinAmerica
    I really appreciate you both taking the time to visit my blog and leave a comment reagarding the 3 kids or more question. Very thoughtful and insightful.
    Thank you


    Aug. 18, 2006 - Great system!
    Posted by Michelle
    As our kids get older, the system has gotten a little tougher...the clean up should happen without us having to tell them....for example, if Brock leaves his room and certain things are left out on his room floor, he is not allowed to play with them for a day (or week, depending on what it is, and how much trouble we have had with it lately)....and thank you for the reminder, because I have slacked off on this some lately....as I get more consistent again, I will be sure to tell them it was "thanks to one of Stacy's blog posts!!" ha!! Love ya!!


    Aug. 19, 2006 - For those who commented...
    Posted by reformingmama

    toughmutts- How fun that you have a similar system! I like the extra cuddles and storytime part! :) I may have to implement that.

    MicheleinNZ- Oooh... I'll bet she's old enough. And yes, I feel the same way about the amount of stuff we accumulate. I'm trying to make it a habit to get rid of stuff, too!
    And I'm a horrible example of the tidying, too. Something I am purposing to change in myself, too! :D

    AussieinAmerica- Thanks for your comments, and thanks for inviting us to comment on your blog! Fun to do, and great question! :)

    Tiany- Great point- that your boys aren't allowed to take another toy out until the previous toy or toys have been put away. I'm working on that one, too! :)

    Michelle- Oh, yeah. Be sure to blame it on me. Brock will love me for that! Just remind him of the time I thought he should get an extra 10 minutes of computer time that one time... :)

    Blessings, all.


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