Cleaning with Kids – a toolbox

A few years ago, a friend visiting told me my home felt like a “big hug.”  I thought a lot about that comment and my husband and I decided to make an ongoing effort to create a home environment that would feel like a “big hug” for all who entered.  Part of providing that is having the space relatively clean. Such upkeep has not always been my strong suite. In fact, as a kid, even young adult, my living space was anything but.  We’re talking cups caked in leftovers for months, a deep “carpet” of clothes…you get the idea. Gross.  

I was actually taught to clean though.  I still don’t claim to be any kind of house-keeping master (my sister gets that award), but as a researcher, teacher, and now parent, I have gathered some strategies that help.  As I recently watched my 2 year old daughter clear her place and wipe her table after a meal, my heart smiled and the thought occured to me…maybe I have a few tools that could help others in this arena.  Here is my toolbox for cleaning with kids:

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1. Everything has a place.  This may seem obvious, but I find messes creeping in when something new enters our home and we have yet to find it a set space.  Antidote for a hoarding: if you don’t have a place for it, let it go.  

2. One activity at a time.  Provide some limits so that when your child finishes playing with one toy or set of toys, s/he cleans up before heading to a new activity.  Okay, this is the ideal and who is so on top of their kid(s)’ activities that this can be upheld at all times? Work toward this goal though.  Allowing every toy in a room to be rolled out before you try to clean up tends to lead to you and your child feeling overwhelmed.

3. Offer 2 Choices: Do you want to put the chalk away or wipe down the board first?  Are you going to gather triangle or square magnetic tiles first?  Your child may propose a 3rd option and if you can live with it and that option moves things forward, I see no reason to object.  Limited choices simplifies and helps speed up the decision making process.

4. Make cleaning fun!  This can be a wonderful way to provide your child with positive attention by letting him know you are watching and appreciate his work.  Playful language like “put the blocks away quick as a wink!”, singing or listening to a clean up song (here’s our new favorite), or choosing encouraging language, especially to acknowledge when he does clean up (e.g. “Our floor looks so clean where you swept.  I appreciate your hard work.”)

5. Rotate toys.  Maybe look at them like a seasonal wardrobe- pull out and put away a toy or two each week.  When something isn’t getting much use, maybe lend it to a friend who you know would enjoy it.  Getting out toys that have been out of sight for a while tends to make them more interesting. This keeps things fresh, more intriguing and allows fewer items to be available for making a huge mess around the house.

6. Build cleaning into your routine. Have little tidying tasks that become habitual. Ex. Everyone clears their own dishes as they leave the table after each meal or make your bed as soon as you get up each morning, before leaving the room.

7. Include your child in cleaning when she shows interest. When your child expresses desire, find a way to let her help!  Research has shown it pays off to welcome little ones’ help cleaning.  They will learn to appreciate and be more willing to help later in life.  If they are shooed away at a young age, the motivation will be gone later in childhood when you want your child to clean. NPR produced a great story about this you can read about here. 

Finally…

 

8. Keep your eye on the prize.  There are always more tasks to be done, another floor to mop or dish to wash.  As you navigate the care of your space and family/work/health, keep a balance. Sometimes you can’t get sufficient sleep, all the dishes from dinner washed and read your child a bedtime story.  Even the perfect routine gets interrupted. Be flexible enough to choose one or two elements to relinquish on those nights. Dishes can wait until morning. A good night’s sleep and story usually can’t. 

 

There are tons of ways to get a house clean, but it takes the whole family to keep it clean.  You can often find cleaning tools for little bodies in the local grocery, book, department or even dollar store.  I also really like For Small Hands for their quality and variety for both indoor and yard care.  

Maybe you find housekeeping a breeze.  If so, I kowtow to you. But if not, hopefully you’ve just nabbed a skill or reminder to help make your life a little happier and easier.   I certainly know a clean space helps me feel more at ease. May you find a little more peace in your week ahead!

 

New Resolutions or New Approach?

It’s a New Year, so…..out with the old, in with the new you!  Right?  Let’s be honest, are you just setting new goals because you feel like you’re supposed?  Do you even feel an urge to say goodbye to anything from 2016….or maybe a lot of things?

Confession: I love fresh starts.  That new energy when I feel motivated, energized, excited for change- that thrills me.  Consistency and routine are much harder.  Maybe one or two people reading this can relate (it’s okay to admit if this is you).  Let’s get real, a lot of us struggle with persistently working towards goals and building a routine that sticks.  We jpsearsclaim to do this to become more of the person we want to be, hence the countless jokes  and unused, but newly acquired gym memberships (you may want to check out JP Sears’  latest youtube episode on this trend if you haven’t watched it yet.

This year you are invited to join me in trying something a little different.  If you are tired of January/February guilt, and by March completely forgetting your unaccomplished goals, here is a little exercise to reflect and set some intentions.

First, consider: did you notice something in your life in 2016 (and maybe 2015, ‘14, etc.) that you hung on to but really isn’t serving you anymore?  Is there a habit, tv show, snack, maybe even a relationship that is draining and not really benefiting you?  I’m not talking about something you aren’t ready to let go of.  I’m referring to something you are ready to tell: “thanks for the memories and it’s time for me to move on.

What isn’t serving you anymore- or maybe never was- that you’re ready to say “ADIOS!” to?

Next, is there something or someone who came into your life in the past year that you are -excited about? -want to invest more in? -can really help you grow?

How can you spend more time kindling that new, excited energy?

tonyrobbinsTony Robbins says that “goals are like magnets.  They’ll attract that which makes them come true.”  I think that for big dreams you really desire, this is true.  Sure, plenty of resolutions get easily dropped.  When you start really forming a plan, make some investment and talk about (the research actually says regularly report on) your goal, my experience and that of many people is that dreams come to fruition- and the supporters we need arrive to help us on the way.

Right around thanksgiving a friend handed me a copy of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.  An interesting concept is raised in this allegory about pursuing one’s deepest desire.  Coelho writes that when we try something new, we tend to have beginners’ luck; this pulls us in.  Then, after a little more delving in, we reach the struggle and muck that inevitably is a part of any journey.  stuck-in-muckI can absolutely attest to this being my experience.  After a flow of encouragement and what looked to be an easy transition, I’m currently enjoying the resistance and challenging muck * of setting off on a new career.  Most of these elements are my own mental barriers (fear, procrastination, feeling overwhelmed with all the learning and to-do’s).  Don’t we all do this?  Hence why a little mindfulness and meditation (a.k.a being aware of my thoughts and moving to the next stage of accepting, dismissing or countering them with a new idea) are key.

So what are you ready to ditch?  What are you ready to give more umph to in your life?  Whatever these are, I hope the next time you find yourself reconsidering what doesn’t benefit you , or putting off what you do want, you remind yourself why you wanted the shift in the first place.  If you digress or meander a bit, that’s a part of your path.  It doesn’t need to be a cause of shame.  Like a cloud, see it, and let it go.  Then move forward with your day -whether it’s stormy or sunny today- one thing is sure- that will change.  But ultimately, you get to choose to let clouds move on.cloud-watching-sunbath

Happy Cloud Watching!

*stuck in the muck image from: https://www.weasyl.com/submission/987782/stuck-in-the-muck

Manifesting Your Magnificence

Brightly shining rays  

Masked by “should be’s” and “to-do’s”  

What will you peel off?

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Do you realize how great you are?  How awesome your talents, passions, quirks and curiosities are that make you you?  For a long time, I didn’t.  I pined for compliments but struggled to actually let them in.  It wasn’t for a lack of love from others.  It’s just hard to feel love from outside  when you don’t accept yourself.  As I’ve worked towards appreciating and accepting who I am, it has helped to consider what traits I particularly value in myself and others, and letting those shine.

American yogi, Baron Baptiste, poses the question:

“What do you want to manifest?”

As I began to contemplate and journal about this, I pondered what manifest means.  How often is the term used as “how others perceive someone”?  Yet, consider for a moment, how manifesting something isn’t just acknowledged, but how it actually impacts people.

Looking at the sun, one might say it manifests light.  My perception is that I see light.  Yet my skin feels warmth.  Plants receive nourishment.  Your emotions can actually be lifted to a more cheerful state and alert/wakefulness is more prone to align with light than darkness.  These are just a few ways the sun’s light impacts us.  So…

 How could you make a difference in the world through what you emit?

Think of Gandhi, a human with true purpose and sense of self.  Can anyone know all the details of responsibilities he held, relationships he maintained, words he spoke?  Yet, consider how many people know what his sense of purpose was.  He was a bold human rights activist.  His life centered around bringing awareness to others that people with brown skin should be treated with the same liberties and respect as people with lighter colored pigmentation.  He manifested human dignity, progress through pacifism and equal rights.  These ideas were not just people’s perception of him.  These were the rays he spread, brightening the world so that others felt his passion and joined in the movement.  Change came to India, the British Empire and the world because one person, to start out, was willing to recognize and unabashedly share his passion.

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There was only one Gandhi.  I certainly don’t aim to replicate who he was and all he accomplished.  You and I can, however, decide what we want to manifest.  Day by day, with focus, we can hone in on how to shine with a sense of purpose.   We can peel away distractions, responsibilities we put on ourselves that aren’t really necessary, biases or prejudices, fears, habits and even addictions that prevent us from remembering, expressing and being what we truly want to be about.

So far, I’ve narrowed down that I want to manifest love.  I surmise that this yearning to share love is strong due to years of depression, self-loathing and a sense of inadequacy.  I know all too well what a lack of love feels like. I know many of us can relate by being in or having been through that lonely place.  So I want to give and facilitate for all people a sense of self-love, acceptance, and openness to feel the love of others.     That is what I wish to spread on the earth.

What do you want to share?

Patience, Presence, and Practice

We live in a culture that values productivity, a term that seems to be defined by the rapidity in which a task is completed. As a millennial, I am a child of this ever-expediting culture, the “hit refresh if you don’t have the information in 1-2 seconds” generation. Even educations are now being offered on a “fast-track” or in “bootcamps.”

What does all this fast-paced living get you?

Recently a friend and I reflected on this culture that inspired the movie “Click” starring Adam Sandler.   The film speaks to this growing trend to be in such a hurry (to get through experiences) that we miss savoring the moment we are in. At what cost?

Are you missing all that much?

Have you ever been asked on a Monday morning “How was your weekend?” and struggled to even remember what you did?   You may be busy, but are you present and finding aspects of each moment to enjoy? In other words:

Do you satiate each moment?

Recently I have begun a more intensive yoga practice, admittedly struggling at times to find it worthwhile to pause my endless to-do list to take time for a suggested morning and evening meditation. I try to live meditatively, and yet I still find myself running around to find my cellphone or sunglasses: a tell tale sign of my lack of presence in action- and the hit it takes on my life.

Being fully present in each moment takes work, a skill, like most, that requires practice. Consider a baby learning to walk. Think of how many fallen attempts precede even the first step, let alone mastery of the new skill.

 

If you were willing to fall as many times as a baby learning to walk, what could you accomplish?

Thomas Edison had the perspective that each unsuccessful attempt to invent the incandescent light bulb was not failing, rather, he was learning ways that did not work.  As you learn ways that do (and don’t) work to succeed, will you have the patience to be present so you find ways to enjoy the journey of practice until you reach (or even surpass) you goal?

Living Life Fully: Today and Every Day

As I sat in a leadership session at work about 16 months ago, my boss dispersed gifts to each staff member: copies of Daniel Rechtschaffen’s book: The Way of Mindful Education.  Gradually, I’ve dabbled in it for over a year, but the last few weeks have been a time of stepping into a life more cognizant of and aligned with my goals and what truly brings me joy.  One of my great loves is uplifting, contemplative reading.  So the Mindfulness book has become a frequented part of my daily quiet time.

In a culture that focuses on multi-tasking and increasing productivity, slowing down to focus on the present moment and surroundings seems  counter-intuitive.  But research is picking up on this concept and finding that it actually develops greater focus and productivity, on top of some other spiffy perks including lowering blood pressure and decreasing anxiety.

“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future (Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life).”  

Recently I found a quote on a friends FB page that really hit home the importance of fully embracing the moment.

“Oh my God, what if you wake up someday, and you’re 65,or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written: or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy: and you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid?  It’s going to break your heart.  Don’t let this happen.”  -Anne Lamott

So what are you wanting to try that you haven’t yet?  What have you put off or been too afraid to attempt?  If it’s laughing more often, pick up a funny book (I recommend my recent gem of a find, Parenting is Easy: You’re Probably Just Doing It Wrong by: Sara Given).  Want to try your hand at poetry, take 15 minutes and just try to write a haiku verse about whatever is outside your window.  Plan on your attempts being full of flaws initially, but if you don’t try, you will never master something, let along know if you even enjoy it.  So embrace the moment, listen to the sounds, smell the surrounding aroma, acknowledge how you feel, and take in the view before your eyes.  Now is the time to enjoy your life.  So consider how you want to spend your time and go for it.  What have you got to lose?

For some great illustrations and a simple step-by-step mindfulness exercise, I really like the blogpost by hworsham: Mindfulness: An Excuse to Eat Asian Food .