I stopped cleaning up after the kids and this is what happened


SPOILER ALERT: The picture above is not what happened. Sort of.

I’m naturally a very untidy person, but I like neat. I learned long ago that in order to get neat, you have to do tidy. In fact, you have to do tidy again and again and again, over and over, every single day until you die. It’s no wonder I find myself cleaning up after the kids. I mean, what sane person would do the tidy thing if someone else did it for you?

Let’s face it, I wouldn’t tidy either if I knew someone else was going to swoop in and pick up my stuff. It wouldn’t even bother me if that person wanted to be a PIA martyr about it and nag and whinge at me while she did it. As long as she’s doing the tidying, I’d be prepared to put up with A LOT to keep her going.

++ This one too: We need to stop being so available to our kids ++

It’s not about the love

It’s not that I wouldn’t love her. Possibly I would love her even more because she was saving me from doing something so utterly boring I would rather live in mud than do it myself. I would probably feel a twinge of guilt about that. Especially when she started in on her, “Nobody appreciates what I do around here” speech. But, you know what, there’s not enough guilt and love in the world that would make me want to clean up if I knew she’d do it for me.

Cleaning up after the kids - stop

The most boring thing, like, ever

Tidying up is boring as batshit. It’s, like, the least interesting thing you could possibly do with your life and the ONLY reward is having a neat home / life. If you don’t care about the neat, you sure as hell wouldn’t care about the tidying. Which is why in homes across the world, parents are relentlessly cleaning up after the kids. Most kids don’t GAF about order and cleanliness and things looking nice. Not when there’s other stuff to do.

It wouldn’t even bother me if that person wanted to be a PIA martyr about it and nag and whinge at me while she did it.

No longer GAF

Which is why I decided not to GAF either. Well, not about their own bedrooms, at least. I still cared deeply about neatness in the general areas of our home. In these areas, I worked out a system long ago that had maximum impact for minimum effort. 

++ Try it: The Sunday Box: A solution to messy kids ++

The bedrooms, on the other hand, were a different story. I nagged, cajoled, begged, yelled and, shamefully, occasionally, cried to get those rooms in order. However, most of the time, I simply got in there and cleaned them. “It’s unhygienic,” I excused myself. Meanwhile, the dust and dirty laundry kept piling up and I just kept on removing it, and thus the resentful cycle continued ad nauseum.

Current status

But I don’t do that anymore. One day about six months ago, I just decided to stop cleaning up after the kids and here’s what things look like right now. The kids are at school, I’ve not warned them about this post (sorry kids). I simply stood in the door of their bedroom and took a snap. Disclaimer: I love all my children equally forever and ever.

Bedroom 1

There are small signs of care-factor among the general DGAF mess. Laundry is not a priority for this one, but I know the child will scrape the floor on Saturday morning after I threaten to throw it all in the bin. Dusting, sweeping, vacuuming and general cleaning are all low on the list, as is airing the place in general. But not. too. bad. really. From time to time, threatening to ban all screens until the room is clean (“to my standard, not yours”) helps enormously.

Cleaning up after the kids

Bedroom 2

Is mid-Marie Kondo method and has been for about a month. Which is to say everything this child owns (and, trust me, will ever own at this stage), is in the middle of the bedroom floor. Child has created a path from door to bed. I found nine bath towels in there yesterday when I braved the rubble to look for bath towels. Child claims that the tiny folder method of decluttering is more challenging than anticipated.

Cleaning up after the kids

Bedroom 3

Is neat as a pin. This child was possibly my least neat child prior to the retirement of the cleaner (me). By removing the cleaner, this child immediately stepped into the void and keeps the place neater than ever. Child has morning and evening routine and the room always looks immaculate. I could weep! Okay, I do in fact regularly weep!

Cleaning up after the kids

++ This one: Helping kids develop good daily habits ++


As you can see, we’ve got a mixed bag on our hands. I’m confident that bedroom 2 will be Kondo-kompleted in the next couple of weeks. I’ll help create a system to keep it that way and then leave the kid to it. It will require re-Kondoing within the month, but at least we’re trying.

Bedroom 1, while superficially in better condition than I ever hoped for, I will probably try never enter again until the child moves away. Turns out, some people really, truly don’t GAF about cleanliness and not just because someone else will do it for them… 

Are you still cleaning up after the kids, or semi-retired like me?

Feature image and 1 by Sarah Dorweiler 

Written by Bron Maxabella

Bron is the founder of Mumlyfe and is so happy to welcome you here. Bron has been writing in the Australian parenting space as Maxabella for more than seven years and is mum to three mostly happy kids and wife to one mostly happy husband. Mostly happy is a win, right?

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