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The One Thing That Made My House Calmer

In a house with two little boys calm can be hard to come by, I generally don't mind the rather rambunctious antics, but I sure was excited when I discovered a fairly easy way to cultivate peace and relative quiet.

No one in my family is particularly neat. The boys, like most six and two year olds, are particularly skilled at tearing a room apart. At some point I think my husband and I had just given up on trying to stay on top of it. They would play and create a toy tornado and we would wait until they went to bed to straighten up—or not—depending on our level of exhaustion. Only to have them rise at dawn and destroy it once again. It was a little like playing servant to tiny Vikings.

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The New Year brought many resolutions and one of them was to attempt to keep our living room and kitchen neat. My goal was to not feel embarrassed if someone stopped by, but it had an amazing side effect: my children were more calm and focused. They played quietly with each other or on their own for significant stretches of time. Yes you read that right, a picked up house creates peace and quiet. Our house is by no means immaculate, but we do our very best to keep the living spaces tidy, and while this requires a significant amount of work, the payoff has been huge.

I know it's popular to invoke a messy house as a sign of happy kids, but as much as this naturally untidy mama wishes it were true, I've found the opposite to be the case.

If you would like to try this as well, here are a few tips. First, get rid of stuff. We did the KonMari method a while back and it's very helpful to have less to clean in the first place. Second, limit or ideally eliminate, the amount of visible toys in the living space. We stash a fair amount in a closed cabinet and the rest are stored in the kid's closet. Third, enforce the one toy out at a time rule. I'll be honest, this one is hard. It takes a fair amount of reminding, or one might say nagging, the six-year-old and helping, or more accurately following behind, the two-year-old. Fourth, get your partner on board. Once my husband saw how chill the kids were when the house was clean, he was a believer. With both of us working to keep the house picked up, the task is much less daunting.

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I know it's popular to invoke a messy house as a sign of happy kids, but as much as this naturally untidy mama wishes it were true, I've found the opposite to be the case. Kids feel overwhelmed and overstimulated in a cluttered room, just as most adults do. My house isn't always clean and my kids aren't always quiet, but a tidy house has undoubtably led to a calmer home. Plus, a picked up floor makes it much easier to bust out spontaneous pre-dinner dance parties without fear of stepping on a Lego.

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