|Somehow, that life lesson escaped me, and I am dying to teach it to my kids.
I totally understand. I'm a tidy person by nature, but we grew up with a maid service when I was a kid, so the nuts and bolts of how to keep my home looking beautiful without a huge time investment took me a while to figure out.
I think habits -- the kind that become second nature -- are the most important aspect. I've done the "be super-disciplined and have a cleaning schedule" approach, and that works. But the flow of my day feels much more relaxed if I do a tiny -- tiny! -- bit of tidying as we move around the house.
I have quite a spacious house (6 BR), with two little home-learners and a new baby. It probably helps that I'm a big multitasker. I can't just sit and stare into a saucepan as something simmers; I get bored. So the kitchen gets cleaned as we go, rinsing and wiping while things simmer. My daughters empty the dishwasher (dishes live in the lower cupboards to make it easier for them), clear the table, load the dishwasher, etc., while I wash pots or water the windowsill herbs or wait for something to rise, or all three simultaneously. As we sing! LOL. We have a fun kitchen.
In the evenings my husband and I tag-team dinner, so I'll clean as he cooks, and we talk about our day.
The tiny bits of stuff as you follow the normal flow of your day, that's the biggest thing for me. I'll absentmindedly pluck misplaced things up as we move from room to room. My MIL has a great phrase, "never waste a trip!" Or like the vacuum: I adore my vacuum (this makes a difference, LOL!) and I'll grab it as I go up or down the stairs during the day, depositing it on the different floors, and then as we're hanging out in a room later on, I'll take a couple minutes to run it. It's literally a three-minute investment while I'm in a room I'd be in already. That kind of cleaning melts into the day and becomes effortless, or at least it feels like it.
Let's see, what else? All those Flylady hints: wipe down bathrooms after showers, sort mail before putting it down, etc. It sounds like effort when I write it down, but you don't even notice. The kidlets and I have a playtime and organizing session where we all clean up the day's messes together, making up silly operas and singing to each other as we toss things around. I move laundry whenever I pass the laundry room (and fold it right out of the dryer into a basket... and then pick the basket up because it will take 10 seconds to get it into the right room, and then put the clothes away because it will take 10 seconds to do that, and then take the basket back to the laundry room and keep doing what I was doing two minutes earlier, and suddenly all the laundry is magically done; you see how it works?). If my daughters are bored, I hand them the feather dusters and they do the Feather Fairy Ballet (don't ask, LOL). We'll head outside for some nature time, and I pull weeds and plunk bulbs and seeds into the ground for fifteen minutes, and then spread out a quilt and play with my baby. The work disappears into the day.
Eek, I wrote a book! LOL. I wish everybody could have house peace. We all deserve to love our homes. If I can pass on any area of household-running discipline to my daughters, it would be this one. To get into the habit of invisibly doing things, of maintaining without even thinking about it.
I like to live in an environment where play and education and daily tasks and raising children, and enjoying food and family time and quiet time, and being productive and enjoying the moment and doing "meaningful work" together with my little ones are all intertwined, a part of life. I want my daughters to grow up with these kinds of habits so that their own homes will be a haven for them, and so that they'll have more time to spend with their babies, too.