I’m not often a shouting sort of parent.
But yesterday, I raised my voice. I’d spent a couple of hours tidying and cleaning; went upstairs for a quick shower and came downstairs to utter chaos. “WHY ON EARTH HAVE YOU GOT ALL THIS OUT?” I yelled. “BECAUSE I’M PLAYING,” Flea yelled back.
“WHY ARE YOU YELLING?” I demanded.
“Oh, I thought we were playing a game,” said Flea.
Sigh. I have zero authority.
Anyway, I am currently trying to teach Flea about being tidy. This is important to me because, well, I’m basically borderline OCD. I alphabetise my spice rack and, in times of trouble, knowing my socks are ordered by colour, ranging from black to white, makes me feel the world is a better place.
So I put in place a cunning, three step plan for having a tidy home even when there’s a child in it.
Step 1 is the use of circle rugs. Costing just under £7 from Ikea, these are a useful way of encouraging children to define their play space. We have two in the lounge and a larger rug in the dining room, and the optimistic idea, which sometimes works, is that Flea plays on the rugs, and doesn’t spread her toys ALL over the floor.
Step 2 is the strategic deployment of baskets. Rather than keeping toys in unnecessarily big boxes or unwieldy bags then trying pile them up on shelves, we empty everything into baskets containing specific sorts of toys. So there’s a basket for Playmobil people, a basket for animals, a basket for action figures, and one for soft toys. The upside of this is Flea is able to reach all of her toys, she knows where everything is, and she’s able to put things away herself. Also, I think it looks prettier. Yes, I’m shallow.
Step 3, my final line of defence, is the play table. For
everything that doesn’t fit in a basket, there’s the play table. We
bought ours from GLTC for about £150 about three years ago, and it’s
been one of our best investments. It’s another great way to give kids a
defined play ‘space’ and the plain side is great for drawing, modelling
and so on, while the other side has a landscape that makes it great for
playing trains or cars. It has two giant drawers underneath – one
containing craft toys, the other containing Playmobil and Lego.
Despite all of my efforts, Flea delights in subverting my plans. This is because children are evil. Flea does not care that I prefer books on a book case to underneath beds and sofas, and she doesn't really understand why I might think it’s a bad idea to keep tiny Playmobil scuba diving masks and bits of seaweed in the bottom of the bath (ouch). Such things are, to her, the irrelevant details of a bourgeois mind.
Some days it feels as though I do nothing but pick up after her. For someone who doesn’t have a natural affinity for housework this is a problem. I think we need a couple more steps in our tidy strategy – so tell me, what works for you? Or have you stopped worrying and learned to love the chaos?