No bummer summer!

I read somewhere that trying to clean a house full of kids is like trying to brush your teeth while eating oreos.  It's officially summer, which means school is out, which means kids are home! Which means the house is a disaster!  With my obsessive compulsive brain, I will admit that usually by the end of summer I am more than ready for a routine, and ready for the kids to go back to school.  But I really do try to embrace the fact that they get to be home with me.  And for the most part, they want to be home with me.  That probably won't last for too many more years.   While I like a clean home, during the summer I just have to let it slide more often.
With 5 kids, toys are constantly leaking their way out of every nook and cranny.  One way we have minimized this is by taking some of the more special toys that have lots of pieces or are collections, and putting them away for awhile.  Then when we are having an "I'm bored" day, we pull out the bin and it's like new toys all over again.  They stay out for a week or so and the kids really do play with them, A LOT.  And then when I can tell that they are starting to scatter, and the kids seem to be done with them, we clean it all up, pack it in it's box and put it away for awhile.  It's been a great system and the kids get more excited when we get these toys out.  When we take out these special boxes, I generally have them play with them in a different part of the house, other than the playroom.  That way the pieces don't get lost amidst the other everyday toys and when its time to put the away the pieces are, for the most part, easy to clean up!  That means for about a week, the parlor stays looking like this.  And I'm ok with that. (for a week!)

These toys are just so fun, even I can't even help but play with them!  

We call this the Downton Abby House!  Isn't it dreamy!?

This really helps minimize messes in other areas of the house that are mostly off limits to playing (like my bedroom).  A few years ago,  I got so sick of cleaning toys out of every space of the house that I literally took all of them and put them in "jail".  After 4 months of earning tokens, the kids were able to buy back some of their stuff.  But they learned a thing or two about being responsible for their stuff.  And we ended up getting rid of a lot of it.  We really don't have a ton of toys.  We learned that less is more.  The more they had, the more it just got dumped out and stirred around the room.  And the kids were overstimulated with too many toys.  It was like they just didn't know what to do with it all!  And what happened to a good old fashioned cardboard box and a stick!?  I'm definitely not anti toy, but I do like to encourage reading and fort making and swords-out-of-pvc-pipes-found-in-the-garage-kind of play!
 For the most part they know where they can play and where it's ok to make a mess.  The playroom gets a weekly clean by the kids.  They know if they make a mess, they get to clean it up, but again it's the oreo analogy so we just do it once a week. We take this time to throw away broken toys, missing pieces and the many candy wrappers that have been shoved under the couch.  It usually begins with lots of tantrums when I announce its time to pick up the playroom!
 Here is the playroom on a normal day, and it actually looks like its in good shape compared to how it usually looks!

There are lots of areas in our home that are ALL kid!  The playroom houses most of the toys, but the kids also have a few of their more special toys in their bedrooms.  Like special lego mini-figs, glass tea sets and favorite books.  We have an entire playroom dedicated to toys, games, movies, reading, lounging, screaming and making messes!  My parents added this room on when I was in junior high school.  I always tell the kids during the baby's nap, "If you want to be loud, go in the playroom!"

And here it is on a rare afternoon all clean!

Notice the red crayon drawing on the wall?

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