Advice to a young mother, or Why I’m thankful for a long driveway

Confession: my house is often a mess, even 10 minutes after we straightened and picked up.

I’m sure the underlying problem is that I have not sufficiently taught my children to put things away as they go through their day.  While they are very capable at cleaning up their messes, they are not at all capable of preventing a mess in the first place.

baby made a mess

Mothers of young ones, learn from my mistake!

The younger ones learn from the older ones, and bad habits are learned much more easily than good ones.  It’s usually easier to pick up after little ones than to teach them to do the job themselves.  It’s even easier to let the mess accumulate all day and clean up just once after they’re in bed.  But you may find a heavy price to pay in coming years.

Don’t just teach them to clean up their messes; teach them to put away each item as they finish and before they get out a new one.

If your children are older and you have already made my mistake, just move to a country with a very long driveway so you can see company coming in time to do the QUICK! CLEAN UP! That works too.



  1. Any tips on how to do that? I feel like I”m CONSTANTLY asking them to clean up and thats not really fun. But maybe fun isn’t the point. I do make them pick up, but sometimes feel like I”m too hard nosed about it. Sigh. We do great cleaning the bathroom together, but ask them to clean up their room? One of my biggest sin magnets. Ugly mom moments for sure. Yet, we have to be able to walk through the house and that can be impaired quickly in small spaces… help! How do you let them make a mess AND be tidy?

  2. when I was a nanny I always stressed learning to clean up after yourself–something I personally stink at. The thing is, the parents seem to be ok with cleaning up after their kids, where I thought that kids should learn to clean up after themselves, even if it ends up on the floor again or they can’t clean as well or as fast–it’s an important lesson to drive. Now I have dishes to go do *feeling guilty*

  3. Oh – and we have a long driveway, too! “Daddy’s driving in – hurry UP and clear the walkways!!!”

  4. Can I ever relate to this right now! We’re in the middle of digging out in so many ways from a lot of different life events. We can pick up endlessly throughout the day, and within 10 minutes some new mess is made somewhere. First thing we’re almost finished with is decluttering in a major way. When there’s less to make a mess with, I’m finding that helps with about 3.8% of the problem LOL. Next thing I’m working on is the four little girls (ages 9-4) who love to take out a gazillion pieces of scrap paper, color them ALL, leave the stack and markers somewhere – then go take out about 100 books from a shelf to read on the couch….

    Yeah, I’m with you here! Combine this with a husband who is a natural-picker-upper and cannot even think why people don’t pick up after themselves and we have some interesting scenarios. We’ve often said, “If you’re stepping over it (or on it) it’s your job to pick it up. Now.” It’s never-ending, but it’s improving. Slowly. 😉

  5. This is advice I wish I had heeded. I have such trouble getting the kids to pick up after themselves. I also am not a person who is naturally organized or structured, but I am finding that with the size and needs of my family, we cannot function without some level of structure. I will be checking out the Large Family Logistics book that you talked about in your other post.

  6. I’ve been needing to work on that for a while. For a day or two I get the kids to pick up their own mess, but then I revert back to doing it myself because it’s easier and faster.

  7. *sigh*. My kids range from 8 – 18, and not one of them… Not. one…. has a tidy bone is his/body. I’m not a particularly tidy person, and my husband is *even* worse than I am.
    I would love to be tidy (though I know some obsessive mums and I would NOT like my home to be like that – not while I have kids…. I want my house to be a home). But a tidy-ish home would be nice.

    Genetically, my kids were on a loser,,, but it’s so nice sitting down in the evening to a tidy Family Room. So relaxing, compared with when we have to sit in a guddle. We do work at it: myself and our girls – 14 and 16 – tidy every day, and have a to-do list we go by. So it does get done, but it doesn’t come naturally to any of us, so it needs to be worked on.

    Oh well, we are what we are 🙂

  8. Sometimes, when my kids were very smalI, I would purposefully open the pots and pans cupboard (carefully sorted out, so there were no glass bowls) and would give them a spatula so they could “cook” along with me.

    Clean up is important, but so much discovery happens during the mess-making 😉

    I love your blog!


  9. I’ve discovered that when a guest arrives unexpectedly they aren’t really expecting to find us in a clean home. If they did, that might throw off their entire day. Who am I to do that to my guests? So, as a service to them, we try to meet their expectations of a messy house. So far, we haven’t failed yet. Ha ha, ok, just kidding, we try to look civilized too.

  10. maybe surprise them with some toys in the hot spots lol I gave my baby a cabinet of her own when she was smaller and she would climb in and play, then when the day was over we put all of her toys in there for her to begin again the next day. We have since moved and she is 4 now, but I really miss seeing her play in and out of her toy cabinet playhouse.

  11. LOL I’ll better keep up the training part, our driveway is SUPER SUPER short hehe

  12. “Put things where they belong!” This sign hangs in our kitchen but it may as well be in Swahili…..

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this, Kim! Yes, my kids all do plenty of work but if we all were consistent about putting things away right away there wouldn’t be so much to clean in the first place!

    So thanks for this good reminder and for your honesty!

  13. That scene looks so familiar! I finally broke down and installed locks on the food cabinets, the refrigerator, and the changing table cabinet because those were hot spots for the toddler. I was hoping that he would want to play with his *toys* since he couldn’t unload and spill things from the cabinets. No such luck. He has found new cabinets and drawers to get into!

  14. I am the SAME WAY. I wish I would have worked harder on that. :/

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