Do you have a cooking timer? If you do, then you can make your life so much easier. When my kids were younger we had what we called the “10 Minute Tidy.” Just before we started getting our kids ready for bed we would each choose two rooms: a main room and our own bedroom. We would then set the timer for 10 minutes and we would clean. Not just wander around and act like we were cleaning, but really clean: pick things up, put them away, dust and sometimes we could even get a quick vacuum in if it was needed in between our normal vacuuming. We would really hustle.
The first time that we ever tried the timed cleaning we were all amazed at how little time it actually took to tidy up and get ready for the next day. There was nothing to distract us and the only thing that we were focusing on – for 10 minutes only – was cleaning. A couple of positive things came out this exercise. I didn’t have to clean the house by myself. The kids learned how to better take care of their possessions — and the house was clean when we woke up the next morning.
Another benefit was that the kids didn’t complain because they knew that if they put an honest, full-fledged effort into cleaning for 10 minutes, then they would only have to clean for 10 minutes, and 10 minutes only. Before we started using this method the kids felt that cleaning meant drudgery and that it would last all day long – and sometimes into the night, restricting their personal time.
At first, they didn’t think that much could be accomplished in only 10 minutes. What they found out was that the problem with their previous way of cleaning was not the cleaning, but the attitude. What was only a 10-minute job could easily be made into an hour to an hour and a half job by whining and throwing tantrums. This new way of cleaning also brought out the competition in each other. Everybody, including mom and dad, joined in and we all wanted to “beat” each other by having the cleanest rooms.
As your kids get older and have jobs at night out of the home, you might have to adapt your tactics. But by then, maybe they will be in the habit of taking 10 minutes everyday to tidy up. We can only hope. Even if you don’t get things cleaned up as much as you want the first night, it will only get better and easier as you continue doing it on a nightly basis.
What does this have to do with preparedness? Everything. You are teaching your children that through teamwork you can accomplish difficult tasks, that you can overcome problems, and that their effort is important to the whole. By teaching children how to clean, they will be able to figure out on their own what needs to be done and how to be most helpful. After all, they have been practicing every night for 10 minutes at a time. Taking care of your possessions, taking responsibility for yourself and working as a team is not usually an inborn trait. These are learned disciplines. All is not lost if you don’t start teaching your children when they are young, but it is certainly a lot easier.
After an earthquake in California, Governor Schwarzeneger talked on the news about the problems that the Californians would face after the earthquake. He commented that an earthquake is a good reminder to always be prepared. And he is right. We don’t need to be fearful, but we do need to be prepared.