There are days when I'm working in and around my house and I feel a strong sense of accomplishment. Why? Because I've managed to finish cleaning a room without my youngest following behind me. It means the room can be avoided for a day before I have to go back in there. Or maybe I was left alone long enough to wash, dry, and fold a load of laundry.
Then there are times I feel like I'm just moving a pile from one area to another, fooling myself into thinking I've completed a task.
Take, for instance, what I've done the past two days. For a variety of reasons, the middle child in my house had watched her room morph into a mess. She can only do so much, and I realize this. So we focused together and cleaned out her closet of clothes that don't fit, went through her dresser for the same reason, and did some other cleaning in the room. There is a lot more to still do, but here's hoping the finished product holds up a bit longer this time around.
This weekend I plan on doing something similar in my son's room so that by the end of the summer, both school-aged children will know what they have, where it is, and what, if any, clothes they may need for the fall.
As for the rest of the house, I'll be honest: it's a struggle. Truly, it's the one thing I haven't created any hacks for since joining the stay-at-home ranks years ago.
For instance, there is a media rack in our family room where I keep a bunch of movies. I have them in a certain order so that it is easier to find what I'm looking for whenever I feel like watching something with my wife.
Frequently, I'll watch our two-year-old take a toy shopping basket, walk over to the rack, and fill it with about 10 movies. They she walks over to the TV, puts the basket down, and repeats the process.
I don't mind, but what's funny is that the movies are located next to the area designated for her toys. And once she's moved the movies, she heads towards her toys and will act like the cats in the house. If something is on the table, she'll knock it down. If something is on the floor, she'll kick it. She plays with plenty of what's there, but we're still working on the picking up part of the process.
Back up a bit to the musical mess, though. I've figured out that the quickest way to get things clean is to purge. I found a bag's worth of things no longer needed in my daughter's room. I'm sure I'll find a similar amount in my son's room. And it's not like it's all in one place. A shoe box here, a piece of paper there, and so on. More frequent once-overs in these places will help their rooms stay neater longer, right?
Same goes for every room in the house. Do I really need to keep this receipt? Is this magazine that interesting? Dump it, recycle it, do something with it.
Eventually, the music will stop and I'll be able to sit back with the kids during some day this summer and we can play a game. Or watch a movie during which they can insult me.
Take this gem from my son the other day. I had stopped for lunch and decided to find something to watch on TV while I ate. I settled on E.T.
As Elliott and his friends took off over the government agents, I got chills. Like I do every time.
"Wow, my birthday is next month and I saw this movie a long time ago, but I still get chills every time I see this," I said.
"Why, because it makes you feel old?" asked my son.
"No, it makes me feel young," I corrected.
And that's the point of all of this. The more work I get done, the better the quality of time I get to spend with my kids. And seeing things through their eyes always makes me feel young.
Howie Balaban is a stay-at-home dad who wishes there were more hours in a day. These are his adventures.