Re Set the mess


Dear Oliver and Leo,

 I hope you are having a wonderful day at camp.

I am writing to explain to you some changes we are going to be making around our house.

Arriving home today I found toys in the driveway, shoes, bathing suits and crackers in the front hall, art supplies, dishes, toys, shoes, clothes and sports equipment in the kitchen, snacks, toys, wii remotes, open cabinets, clothes in the family room, pjs, and toys in the living room, bedding, clothes, toys and bathing suits in our bedroom, moldy lunchboxes, shoes and backpacks on the floor of the mudroom, back packs, sports equipment and toys near the desk. On the stairs going up I found a sleeping bag toys nad dirty laundry, in the hall there were toys and clean laundry and dirty laundry, in your bedroom (which is your business) I found my iPad. I don’t know what is in the playroom because I could not open the door.

Dada and I have made it too hard for you to take good care of your things. We have given you too many toys and clothes and snacks. If you had fewer things it would be easy to put them away, and find them again when you need them.
Here is the new plan. We are hitting the re-set button. I am sorry I gave you way too many things to keep track of. It is simply too much.
You have tonight to put away everything you want to keep and feel you can take good care of.
Taking good care of things means keeping them where they belong.
  • Wii remotes belong in the closed wii cabinet
  • Books belong on the bookshelf
  • Clean laundry belongs in the dresser and closet
  • Dirty laundry belongs in the laundry basket or washing machine
  • Bedding belongs on the bed
  • Sports equipment, coats and shoes belong in the mudroom behind mudroom doors
  • School work belongs in the red basket or wicker basket
  • Art supplies belong in the closed art cabinet
  • Snack boxes belong in the pantry
  • Dishes belong in the dishwasher
  • Completed art work belongs in the playroom
  • Toys belong in the playroom or in their containers in my work room
Tomorrow morning, Wednesday, I will either throw away (the moldy lunchbox) or bag up (everything else) and store everything that is not in its home. For this week stuff that is out of its place I will throw away (if it is garbage) and or store. We are learning what things are easy for you to take care of and what things are not. Once we have that information we can begin one at a time bringing toys, shoes, backpacks, lunch boxes, iPads, etc back into our lives.
Then we will get back on track with our evening contributions and our team work tidying. However for this one week it will be up to you boys alone to show us which of your things you can handle and which things are too much.
We are lucky to have so many things, but right now we are drowning in them. Lets take control together.
This is not forever, and I am not angry.
Hey dear readers…want to feel better about your house? Here is a picture of the boys “playroom” which they have never been required to clean. I wrestled open the door just for your relative contentment. Also, if you haven’t been to our house… this is the only room that looks like that. The rest is much much closer to the place a sane (ish) family might live.  Also I’ve written about the mess before…and come to a different conclusion.  Imagine that?

Stepping in Destiny.

During our 4 day road trip Steve and I had a chance to talk about a lot of things. One of them was about our evenings.

What had begun as a mindful disregard of what the kids were up to in order to encourage their independence had devolved into a chaotic mess.

In short, we had no evening, routine and we were all paying the price. Legos: everywhere. Table: cleared but not CLEAN. Homework: potentially done, but probably not in backpacks. Teeth: brushed in a rush. Books: squeezed in to one kids with the other hopping around on one foot trying to pull up his pjs whining “wait” “Wait” “WAIT”. Contributions: largely ignored until the weekend. Yes, the kids were master of their destiny, but their destiny was getting all over our floor.  And it hurt to step on.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but for a while we really were stumped about what to do.

If only someone had created a family friendly app where you could set a routine, and then make everyone accountable.


So we built a marble jar. And on day three I will tell you things are  great. I broke my own main rule and Steve and I set the thing up without the boys. I plead the “they were being quiet in the car and in 18 hours this was our first peace” argument. Ideally the whole family agrees to the actions together.

Marble Jar Action list for evening routine
If you could scroll down you would see 5 mins general tidy

We added four marbles for the actions that we all needed to take, like clear the table, and 2 for the boys schoolwork, and one for group tasks such as washing the dishes. Each night we fill the jar, and if it is before 7:30 we get free time. Which for the past three nights has been used to watch “performances” where my son who is tone deaf goes on for 17 minutes and my son who can carry a tune goes on for 17 seconds.

The next night we copy the jar and are ready to go again. I wish I had taken a picture of the desk area before night one of the 3 night general tidy. Here it is post night 2: 

Just imagine each and every one of those legos on that rug. Ouch. After three day and 30 minutes a day we also have clean bathrooms,2 folded (and mostly put away) loads of laundry thanks to Oliver, Stainless polished appliances, and nothing at all on the floor of the main level of our house.

But you should see upstairs.

We have also had a great time doing “school stuff” where Oliver does his homework and Leo practices writing. Although it is worksheet central it feels good to have a dedicated time. Despite not creating the list the boys are IN. They like to set the timers, and cheer each other on. During the group cleaning period the first day Leo sat on a bench and opted not to clean. We were a little stumped so we asked the boys how to keep it fair. They decided that not participating during group clean meant that that person had to do double the time cleaning alone when the jar was all full except that one marble. That has worked so far.

Like every tool the marble jar app has come in and out of favor in our household…but there is no questions it is helping us practice a better evening routine, work together, and celebrate each other’s accomplishments.

Upon reflection maybe the “10 Mins School Stuff ” action should have 3 possible marbles not 2.