I am notoriously distractible. When I was a kid, I was totally one of those kids who goes to clean their room and ends up re-reading their history notes from last year with papers strewn across the floor.
OK, I'm still like that.
But instead of fighting my nature, I've learned to embrace it. I noticed that when I was trying to put things away, I'd end up going into a room to return a book and discovering something that needed to be done there, and following this chain reaction all around the house.
So I made a game out of it. Because putting things back where they belong is: a) excruciatingly boring, b) essential to my sanity, c) something I do every day, and d) an important skill for kids to learn.
The object of the game: To visit every room in the house.
To play: Start in any room, and find an item that does not belong there. Take the item to the room in which it belongs and put it completely away. (It doesn't count to move your dirty socks from the hallway floor to your bedroom floor... they have to make it to the hamper!) Then look around the room you ended up in, and find something that doesn't belong there. See how many rooms you can hit on your tour OR how long it takes you to find a room that doesn't have any misplaced items. I've heard that this sort of thing is theoretically possible, but I've yet to encounter it.
Get everyone involved! Turn on music! Run from room to room if you must (but careful on the stairs)!
Note: this is not an efficient way to put things away. This is, like, the opposite of efficient. This has you running needlessly all over the house, potentially back and forth between the same two rooms carrying only one item at a time. But the funny thing is? It works. If you play this game for ten minutes every day with your kids, over time you will notice far less vagabond items. Also, you will have to establish a home for every item beforehand, as it is impossible to put something away when you don't know where it goes. That's okay. If you come across a truly homeless item, either at least put it in a room that makes sense, or decide then and there where its permanent home ought to be. It is remarkably freeing!
Doesn't it sound like a blast? Let's play a round right now, shall we? Oh, and feel free to get distracted along the way... that's part of the fun!
We start in the front hallway, where I see a nature journal left out from this morning's nature walk. Tsk tsk! You don't belong here!
Off to the bookshelf in the family room, where all such items live:
Alright, so what's going on in the family room, while we're here...
Empty sippy cup on the floor! Off to the kitchen with you...
That's better. Alright, so what's in the kitchen that doesn't belong?
The cookbook I used for last night's soup! To the closet shelf with you...
Right there with the other cookbooks, next to the double boiler. Excellent. Now, what's lurking in this hallway?
Reusable grocery bags! Better put you back in the car...
That's better! Now I'm all set for impromptu shopping adventures. Now, we find ourselves in the garage, which is such a haven for misplaced items, I can't even begin... I just can't even look at it or think about it right now. I am walking right out of here empty-handed, and I'm just going to keep walking until I see...
A stuffed rat on the living room floor?? Uh-uh, I don't think so...
Silly rat. You belong in the stuffed animal basket under the family room coffee table. Obviously.
That's better. Oh man, something's out of place here... Ah, it's the bane of my existence!
Couch pillows on the floor? How many times a day do I put them back? Let's not think about that right now...
Ahhh, I can feel my blood pressure lowering already.
You will ignore the gaping hole in my couch. This couch has been through a lot, man.
What happened here? It looks like a little froggy bath toy lost a game of chess and threw some pieces around. That's no good.
First, we reassemble the board:
Now to return our froggy friend to his rightful home...
Reunited, and it feels so good... While we're here in the kids' bathroom... uh oh!
Who made this big mess? Nevermind, let's just tidy it up...
Phew, I feel better now! What's this on the bathroom counter?
Nope, not where those belong. Into the five-year-old's room, to the basket of hair thingies on her dresser!
This room is surprisingly tidy, but I do notice the crape myrtles out her window are blooming. Ooooh, pretty!
And the game quickly devolves as I wander into my own bathroom, find this morning's coffee cup still on the counter (oops!)...
...take it down to the kitchen, and get permanently distracted by the presence of a beetle on some wheatgrass growing on the kitchen counter. Woah!
And game over. Because of course the beetle belongs outside. And once outside, I am pulled by a gravitational force quite beyond my control into the garden. Ah well. I didn't hit every single room, but there's always next time.
Believe me. There is always next time.