Two weeks ago I started a new rule. Five minutes of cleaning before TV (in addition to putting away your clean laundry and toys).
Five minutes is nicely between more than before (zero) and mutiny (ten).
“I’m going to empty that drawer and put everything back in it.” (Let me wipe the drawer while it’s empty.”) “I’m not going to put all the books together.” (Make sure all the books in today’s drawer are in one pile.) “I won’t do my room, I’ll do my desk.” (Still counts.)
I was good. No gloating lectures when he found a mini-con Transformer or Lego people hat. No over-emphatic sneezes when shaking out the dust cloth. No dancing in each square inch of floor as it was reclaimed. The only exception was magazines and instructions. Those get ripped and damaged if not cared for properly. I grabbed them as they went by, and put them in the magazine box or instruction binder, as appropriate.
And it paid off.
Adult readers would probably say, “Do thirty-five minutes at once. You could tackle bigger projects, and earn TV for the whole week.”
Five minutes was close to mutiny. Thirty-five? Even I know better than to mention the idea. I also want them to see that baby-steps are worth doing, and not let them associate cleaning with burn-out.
Another benefit is they started planning what to clean tomorrow. It’s like cross-stitch — half the joy is before you put it away, following the pattern with your eyes and imagining it develop — but a different type of joy. They straighten one drawer, and as it closes smoothly they see the one above it sticking out. As they put the recovered mini-con in a vehicle, they think of all the mini-cons in the other drawer, and how much stronger Optimus would be if they were by his side. Next week is too far ahead for this type of thinking.
Today I decided to do the windows. As an adult, I do a full thirty, and often do it while they’re home. No complaining, just doing.
Let me describe how to get to his window. Walk mostly-straight through the first part of the room. Step over the gate of box lids which was protecting the clean laundry. Sneak around the foot of his bed. Squeeze between bed and shelves. Reach over shelves to window. Hope I don’t step on something precious.
I asked him to clear a path. He asked me to do his window last. Fair enough.
The upstairs bath, master, and daughter’s windows got cleaned. (How do second floor windows get dirty?)
While clearing a path to the window, he reasoned that the shelves would be more useful if he could reach them.
The clean laundry went into the drawer that, as of last Thursday, was no longer stuffed with too-small clothes. The box lids that were protecting the clean laundry went onto the Lego boxes. The Lego boxes went under the bed. The box of soft toys and his rock box went to the basement, the cardboard collection went from against the wall to recycling (finally!), and that part of the wall got a shelf. Dresser went to where shelf was. Bed was moved to newly-free wall, and the formerly un-accessible shelves are one step closer to being useful.
Then we realized that only three of the six blocks under the 40 year old bed (one per leg) moved with the bed.
He’s always wanted a raised bed. Actually, he wanted a bed on the bottom and desk on the top, but a bit of measuring convinced him to go with the raised bed.
He already had tons of great, cheap storage. Shelves that were too high. Plastic dressers that grabbed. Boxes that slid under the bed if you were careful. Anything he actually used got left out.
This time, we decided to do it right. Daddy spent the evening planning the new bed, then built it on Sunday. Painting will wait till summer, but for now, we’re all happy.