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A room of their own

A room of their own

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You finally get the kids to bed, and you start picking up the disaster they’ve left behind. As you make your way through the house, you begin to realize that their toys have infiltrated every room. There are forts made out of the living room cushions, battle scenes carefully laid out on the dining room floor, art supplies covering the table, scooters and bikes strewn across the porch, and Lego on any given surface. That doesn’t even count what they’ve done to the room they’re currently sleeping in.

Part of this is just having kids. They create disasters. They’re not good at cleaning them up. You can force them to a certain degree, but you’ll always end up with messes you’ll need to take care of yourself, and you may as well get used to it. Part of retaining your sanity as a parent is giving up on having as clean a house as you’d like.

On the other hand, you would like to see the floor occasionally, and having every room a disaster all the time just means cleaning all the time. Whether you’re hounding them to clean or doing it yourself, it gets wearing after a while.

So, we’ve instituted a new rule that’s been really helpful. We’ve made the front room of the house into the toy room. It’s the place (the only place) where they’re allowed to play toys. It’s where the toys stay. They don’t go in any other room, not even their bedroom.

We’ve said that the bedroom is for sleeping. The living room is for reading quietly, doing homework, or (on weekends) watching television. The dining room is for eating. The kitchen is for cooking. Only the play room is for playing. And the house has almost magically become so much easier to clean.

Sure, the play room is a mess – and I mean an overwhelming mess some days – and this mess does occasionally spill its boundaries, but mostly its contained. We make sure that we’re consistent about keeping toys in that space, so that we can have the normal use of our other space.

It’s a rule that’s been really helpful to our family sanity. Give it a go and see how it works for you.