Homeschool Troubleshooting: Messy House

I have a new series I’ve been working on for you called Homeschool Troubleshooting. I hope to give you some honest advice (and commiserations) about some common homeschool struggles.

homeschool troubleshootingFor the first post in our series I want to address a lament that most homeschool moms can relate to, at least once in the year:

homeschool messy houseMy house is constantly messy.

We’ve all seen the memes, right? The first one was something like, “Pardon the mess, my kids are making memories.”

Then the neatniks shot back with a meme of their own: “It doesn’t have to be messy to be memorable.”

And then the honest moms responded with, “Pardon the mess, my kids are making memories…of me yelling at them to clean up this mess.”

So it goes.

Here’s a fact of homeschooling: it will, at least on occasion, be messy.

Get over it, the end.

OK, that’s not a great inspirational blog post so I’ll try to put on my helpful hat. Here are my top three troubleshooting tips for Homeschooling and Messy (or not) Houses:

Have routines that work for you (and your children)

What’s your top priority as far as general house tidiness? Do you need everything put away before lunch? Or would supper be a better goal?

Do you want everything contained in one area? Or is storage spread throughout your home?

Can you find pencils, paper, rulers, math manipulatives, maps, and all your other “school” paraphernalia quickly? (Reality check: your children also need easy access to these things.)

Can it all be put away fairly quickly? (Another reality check: children can’t put things away if they can’t reach.)

There aren’t right or wrong answers here, because only you know what clutter pushes your buttons and what routines your family needs.

For me, I expect the days to be a bit messy and chaotic. But I like a tidy house right before supper. (Or just after supper.) We don’t “do school” at our dining room table very often, so that’s not a huge deal at our house. But if you do, then you need your table clear before meals.

Children respond to routines and habits. If you ALWAYS put your schoolwork away before supper, it’s harder for a child to fuss about helping do that task. (It’s not impossible, because children can fuss about anything if they put their minds to it. *cough*)

Do not have an hour of deep cleaning a day if it doesn’t work for your schedule. Don’t get up at the crack of dawn to do your laundry if it makes you irritable for the rest of day. Just because you know a homeschool mom who does so DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO. Do not expect a five year old to complete tidying or cleaning tasks without a lot of supervision and “checking in”.

(Want to see an entire post about laundry? I wrote one: Taming the Laundry Monster)

shelves in the boys closetHave storage that works for you (and your children)

I’m one of those weird people that loves looking at posts and pictures of organizational stuff. (I have a particular joy browsing pictures of pantries. It’s weird, I know.) I love those closets with all the matching boxes and decorational labels.

Here’s two things I’ve learned about organizing stuff:

  1. Get rid of a bunch of your stuff. Seriously.
  2. Any organizing system is only good if you actually use it.

Putting things inside boxes and hiding them away is not really going to work for us. There are two reasons for that: if we don’t see it, we sometimes forget we have it and (this is a big one) if it takes more than two steps to get something out or put it back, my children lose their minds. #aintnobodygottimeforthat

Homeschooling is a lifestyle.

So hang those maps and timelines in a spot that suits you. Fill your rooms with shelves and books. Put all the loose papers in pretty folders or files (whatever works for you). Keep the math manipulatives accessible and the markers high out of reach. (Just us?)

Can I tell you a secret? Even if you have a room of your house dedicated to homeschooling, you’ll still need to tidy it up. You will not want to spend a major part of your day in a space that’s chaotic all the time.

So, you decide: what should be accessible (pencils, paper, maybe?) and what should be put out of reach (markers, paints, maybe?) in order to maintain a tidier house? For us, we put up all the board puzzles because a certain member of our family enjoys dumping out all the pieces and not putting them back together. I get one or two down per day so he can dump a few but the clean up is a lot easier for me.

One of my philosophies of homemaking (and yes, I have some): put similar things together in clear jars. Boom! They all look better now.

(I do this with glue sticks, glue, pens, pastels…basically, if it can fit in a jar, it’s going in a jar and on display.)

Have a long-term mindset

Teaching your children how to tidy and how to clean (and how to cook, and how to do laundry, etc.) isn’t going to happen in one day. These are things that your children are learning the entire time they’re under your roof.

And they should be learning to do them.

Listen, if you are the only one cleaning and the only one tidying and the only one cooking and the only one doing yard work at your house, that needs to stop, TODAY. You are the mother, not the maid of all work.

Let me give you a hint: life skills are part of school work. Really.

We could probably all think of a college kid that did really great on standardized tests and had no clue how to do his / her laundry. That person’s education is incomplete, at best.

Do not feel guilty for cutting short a history lesson to clean house before Grandma comes to visit. Call it life skills and mark it on your homeschool portfolio or whatever you need to do, but cut out the guilt.

A long term mindset also means understanding that your house, on a given day, may not be “Better Homes and Gardens” ready.

Hopefully, it is. But if it’s science experiment day and your kitchen is full of baking soda and vinegar volcano remnants, that’s OK.

Stop apologizing for living in your home.

This is not a showplace. (And if, by some accident, you’re needing to sell your house while still living in it, may I recommend homeschooling at the local library or a friend’s house for a while? I’m only partially joking.)

Your home is where you live. Your home is where your children live. Stop comparing yourself to a false standard and start living.

homeschool troubleshooting pin

Need more homemaking or organizing advice? I’ve got some great resources to share with you:
Simplified Organization

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