Originally Posted by dkenagy
Any hints/tips/tricks for someone determined to be a good housekeeper with no such training/role model from childhood on? For a homeschooling mom of going-on-five 7-and-under?
Well, I had four 5-and-under at one point...the sheer numbers of little ones underfoot makes for some very challenging housekeeping.
Laundry: Mark the kids' clothes with the spot system and they'll be able to help by sorting and putting away their own (and siblings') clothes. First kid's clothes get one Sharpie dot on or near the tag, second kid's get two, third kid's get three...etc...when you hand something down, add a spot. We don't fold kids' clothes, they just tumble them into their drawers (one drawer for underwear, one for jammies, one for tops, one for bottoms)
Socks - socks are all identical (white crew socks) and color coded, or you could do all smalls in one color, all mediums in one color, etc. One basket for each size. You never have to pair them, because they are all alike. In our house some sizes have two kids in them.
Washcloths and kitchen towels (and diapers, when we did them) get tossed in baskets or deep drawers, not folded. My kids learned to fold towels around age 6-7, so your oldest two might be able to handle that.
Laundry was my biggest beast for a long time, so getting a good system for handling that helped tremendously.
Don't have any more toys than your kids can reasonably put away at the end of the day. I've had each kid choose their 2-3 favorite toys or categories of toys (help figure it out for your littles) and the rest goes into temporary storage. If they miss something or ask for it, bring that thing back out or have them trade something else for it - this is how you sort out what they really love and what can be kept in storage or decluttered. The less toys out, the less mess, the easier to clean up, and the more they'll play with the few things they do have out. I learned the hard way over too many years that my kids didn't need all our toys and we were all saner if they had fewer. For example, these are the categories that have endured: dolls/stuffed animals, dressup, wooden blocks, duplos, "little guys" (Playmobil or other figures for setting up), books, games, art supplies, musical instruments, dollhouse and castle and ship, trains, soft balls for throwing indoors. When we had babies, it was also rattles, shape sorter, stacking blocks; when my kids were littler they had a kitchen with play food. That's it.
Everything has to have a place. I am a fan of baskets and drawers. Doll basket, blocks basket, train basket, etc. We have a train table with drawers but baskets around the outside of the room work just as well - as do banana boxes from the grocery store (sturdy, good-sized, easy handle holds for carrying, and not unattractive if you use just the bottom part).
My basic routine with little ones was to clean off the living room and kitchen floors in the morning and sweep or vacuum, and put the diapers in to wash. LOL. Now we also do a big cleanup before dinner, every single day. If I don't have a set cleanup time, it piles up. Having a set time helps the kids build a habit over time where they are less likely to resist (and mine were resisters for a long time). For me, getting the crumbs up off the floor daily was a sanity-saver.
Oh, also, if you have an art/craft area, keep a trashcan and a recycling can nearby for easy cleanup, and again - easy to use containers for putting things away in.
It helped me to have one designated day per week where we never made any plans, stayed home, and I could focus more on mucking out the mess on that one day a week.
Above all else, remember that it will get easier as your kids grow older. We are in that zone now and it is fabulous.
You'll get there.