Take Five

Depending on the day, my house either looks (reasonably) presentable or looks like an entire school of kids came over and played with every toy, crayon, puzzle, and building block. And then neglected to clean it up.

Most of my kids couldn’t care less whether the house is messy, unless it means that they can’t find something “critical“ (like their lip gloss, or a sock, a headband, or something of that nature!). My husband doesn’t really notice it either unless the house is a true hazmat site.

And then there’s me. I don’t mind noise, chaos, or a million kids running around.

But I cannot function when my house is messy.

Since I’m the only one who notices or cares, when it’s time to clean up, I usually experience push back. It’s especially difficult for them to clean up when it’s a disaster, since they get overwhelmed with how many things there are to put away. What this looks like is that I then stand over them having a fit, do it with them, for them, or just plain threaten to take away all their screens “FOR LIFE” if the house isn’t cleaned up!  I.E. Not fun.

Then, a few months ago, I had an idea. What if we didn’t have a cleaning issue, but we had a perception issue?

Let me explain.

What if “clean up your room” was too broad, vague, and overwhelming for my 7 year old, who is a “collector” of items that consistently wind up on the floor. What if I made the task smaller?

So I invented the game “Take Five.” Take five means that you throw out, clean up, or put away FIVE items.  At this point in their development, all of my kids can count to five. And since there are four of them, I figured this meant that TWENTY things would get put away (laundry doesn’t count!). If my husband and I participated, this meant that THIRTY things got cleaned up!

My kids, while they still weren’t wild about cleaning up, instantly liked the manageability of “Take Five.”  I liked that twenty items got put away.

And here’s the beauty of this game. It takes each of them under three minutes to complete the game. At the end of “Take Five” if the house was still messy, we “played” it again. I’ve found that three rounds of this game is both enough to see a distinct difference in the mess, and also the number of items they can each put away before fatigue and protest set in. (Note: I originally tried this game as “Take Ten” but the kids found it was too burdensome, and weren’t willing to do more than one round. With “Take Five” they play 3 rounds with virtually no protest.)

Total time to play 3 rounds: 10 minutes

Total items put away: 75! (5 people x 5 items per round x 3 rounds)

In other words; it’s a win for all of us.

So the next time you’re struggling with chaos, mess, or overwhelm, break it down.

“Take Five” and see how many times you can play it.

I promise, it’s totally manageable, and the relief that occurs when you experience a neat house is… priceless.

Originally published by Huffington Post.

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