When you spend all day at home you use your home and the stuff inside of it. In preparing three meals and two snacks per day, the kitchen is almost constantly in use. Cutting boards, knives, dishes, and utensils get dirty and then cleaned. Crumbs need to be wiped from the counters and table, and swept up from the floor. Sometimes it seems like I spend just about all my time cooking and cleaning.
While I'm in the kitchen, the kids are usually playing. (Sometimes they help in the kitchen; sometimes they don't.) By the time I get to them, I'm not interested in cleaning anything else.
But I Always Want It Tidy
The problem is that I want it tidy. I like things to have a place and for them to be in their place. However, sometimes the fluid play of interest-based learning leaves a trail of imaginary worlds that extend from one room to the next.
Sometimes We Don't
So sometimes we don't bother cleaning things up. The massive Magnatile space station occupies its rightful place in our universe while the wooden block forest grows down the hall, which leads to a LEGO doll world built next to a blue blanket ocean.
That way the kids can jump back into their imaginary world whenever they want.
Sometimes We Do
A day or two usually passes and the wake of pretend play leaves the once-intricate world looking as though bulldozers have plowed their way through my home. The space station has been disassembled by Fearlings, the hallway forest felled, and the LEGO world destroyed.
My tolerance for the disarray hits its limit and I insist that it is time to clean up.
That is until one day my kids asked me, "why?"
"Why do we have to clean up today but we got to leave it yesterday?" they asked.
I had to think on my feet and came up with a plausible and acceptable answer for us all. "I've noticed that sometimes you leave your toys and come back to them and other times you don't," I said. "You haven't played in this room all day so I think we should clean it up."
And they bought it!
When and Why You Should Clean Up Toys Depends on the Answer to this Question:
Does it invite creativity?
If the mess is a mess and something your child has forgotten or forsaken then it is time to clean.
Learning Their Process, Living with Others
By having the answer to the question "Does it invite creativity?" as criteria for cleaning, I believe a lot of things can happen. You won't be in a perpetual state of cleaning. Your child will begin to learn his or her creative process. Together you will practice honoring each other's wants and needs, and living cooperatively in the shared space that is your home.