The Simple Summer – How to Create the Right Mix of Structure + Simplicity

My kids have less than two weeks left of the school year and that means that summer is upon us.  May has been a doozy with sports, concerts, parties, and all the things.  Anyone else ready to be done packing lunches and craving a simple summer?  I am guessing if you’re reading this you can relate?  I thought I’d chat a little bit about what I do in the summer to balance the relaxed vibe and lack of a schedule with my need for a little order.  From my professional experience as an art teacher of kids k-12, I’m going to tell you that most kids like structure and tend to thrive on the right balance of it.  I make it my goal to strike that balance and make the most of their 18 summers at home.  Curious how I’m going to integrate chores, planned activities, and summer fun for my three kiddos?  I love creating that balance between simplicity and structure – I find it really helpful all year long but in the summer it’s especially helpful. Keep reading for my ideas and tell me yours in the comments…..

My kids range from the ages of 6-12 with one girl and two boys, so there’s definitely a mix of attention spans and interests to work around but I am up for the challenge.  Every summer I share posts on what I do with the kids so you’ll see some links back to those posts, these will be helpful especially if you have littler ones than mine 🙂

Full disclosure: I can’t approach the summer without a plan for a couple of reasons, a.) a loose plan works best for all of us, and b.) I work full-time and even though it’s from home and for myself (Clean Mama and Clean Mama Home), this ensures that I spend oodles of time soaking up my kids but the business gets done too.

The key to a simple summer?  Having a plan.

I start with a summer calendar – I give one away every summer – you can find the 2018 summer calendar here on the free printables page.  I print two – one for planning to sketch out activities and see where everything lands and then one for the things I actually sign the kids up for.

Then I sign the kids up for classes – 1-2 things each works well for us.  The two bigger kids have more activities closer to when school starts but if we need to add something as the summer is rolling we do but I really keeping the activities to a minimum because that’s just more running around than I’m up for.  I love my daily planner for keeping myself on task during the day too!

File the school papers and mementos

You know all the papers that come home the last week of school?  Have a plan for it so it doesn’t sit in a pile all summer long.  We have a bin and file folder for the kids’ special papers and a large file folder for the oversized pieces.  This post details both ideas.

Summer is a great time to deal with toys and toy storage with your kids.  Get them involved in the sorting, tossing, and donating process and take the time to teach them how to pick up as they go and to put things away once they play with something.  This post details how we deal with the toys and toy storage in our home.

Everyone has daily tasks and chores

Before school is out I update our daily checklists to make sure they still pertain to ability levels – our kids do chores and work around the house.  We want them to know how to do laundry, cook meals, run a vacuum cleaner, and clean a toilet.  Not only does this help them but it also helps us!

We use these daily task charts in the kids’ rooms.  They can quickly glance at them during the day and check in on their progress.  They have drastically cut down on nagging and reminding – I’ll take that as a win.

I also make sure that the kids have safe cleaning supplies so they can help too.  Here are some of the supplies I typically keep on hand for them.  I find that we get more tasks done if we get them out of the way first thing in the morning.  If you aren’t home during the day with your kids you can still build a little structure into your morning before you head out for the day.  A checklist helps to give a little guidance for those daily tasks.

After chores come fun and activities

Once we have them completed our tasks we see what we have going on for the day.  Some days we just hang out in the morning and go to the pool in the afternoon.  I typically work for a couple hours in the morning – in the past I’ve utilized a babysitter a few mornings a week but as the kids are older they will do their jobs, I’ll do my daily tasks and work for a bit before we do fun activities.

We do the library’s summer reading challenge every summer – this means we go to the library every week or so, choose new books, and try to read every afternoon.  This quiet time is helpful for me to do a little work for 30 minutes to an hour or just to read with the kids too.  Put a basket out and keep it filled up with library books.  I have the basket in our living room and the kids will independently grab books and sit on the couch and read.  I find that just keeping the books available is effective in quietly encouraging them to read.

QUICK TIP: put on music that’s calming and quiet and have it in the background and it will settle the atmosphere most days 🙂

Stock up on supplies and activities that entertain the kids without cords.  We have activity books and art supplies accessible all summer long.  Yes, it’s definitely a little more messy but keeping these options open and available eliminates the electronics fight.  We do have electronics but there are limits to when they can come out and for how long (it’s minimal and supervised).  Come up with a plan that works for your family for the summer and stick with it 🙂

Have an “I’m bored” checklist – have the kids help you make a checklist of things that they can do if they’re bored and then you can refer them to the list if they need something to do.  Add some chores and fun activities so the list has 15-20 options and idea sparkers.

Stock up your art supplies – I buy extra supplies when they’re on sale for back to school time and save them for the summer.

Keep supplies in a bin for special projects.  My boys love science activities so this bin is pulled outside frequently.

Keep meals simple and let the kids take a turn at helping with planning, prepping, and cooking.  Summer is a great time to give them a lessons in the kitchen.  My oldest loves baking and keeps our sweet tooth satisfied all summer long.

When we have classes we keep things pretty simple at home and typically don’t do other activities.  Fridays when we don’t have a class we choose a ‘Fun Friday’ activity to do.  This is something that we put on a summer bucket list and can be as simple as making ice cream, having a cookie making contest or an activity like going to the zoo or a fun park.  Don’t think that you need to plan big activities to have a great summer – with just a little planning you’ll find that your summer can be fun and simple!

Tell me what you’re doing this summer – do you take the simple approach or keep the kids busy or are your trying to strike a balance too?

Essentials for Organizing Kids’ Papers + Memorabilia

You know that dreaded feeling when the kids go back to school and the papers start to flood in? Or on the last week of school when all.the.papers start coming home? It’s inevitable, overwhelming, and expected. Instead of being surprised, I choose to have a simple method for filing papers and artwork all year long. This keeps things from getting out of hand and it also gives us a plan. This isn’t the ‘right’ way to do things, it’s just how I figured it out – I hope it helps you to come up with a plan for paper too!

I have three kids – two in elementary school and one in middle school – this system has been in place for about 8 years and I can tell you that it works with one, two, and now three kids in school. You should also know that I was an art teacher for almost 10 years so I have a true love for kids’ artwork and my kids’ artwork is no different. This is how and what we save….

I have a couple rules in place for the kids’ papers (this is just what we do, feel free to come up with your own rules):

  • KEEP anything with a handprint or fingerprints
  • Limit the AMOUNT of what we keep – each kid gets a hanging file folder for each school year
  • Go through papers that we keep TOGETHER – this ensures important pieces to both of us are kept.

Here are our 3 essentials for organizing kids’ papers + memorabilia:

Stackable Letter Tray

This is where we keep the daily stuff – if something needs to be filed, needs to be filled out, or needs attention but not today.  The kids each have their own file and they are in charge of what’s in the file.  I help them sort through it when it gets full or if I’m remembering a permission slip for a field trip and go looking for it.  Looking for something similar?  Find it here.

Why this works: This gives the in-process papers a home every day and keeps them off the counters, and out of the bottom of backpacks.

Covered File Box

Each kid gets a covered file box with 13 hanging file folders – one for each year, pre-k-12th grade.  I bought red, yellow, and blue hanging file folders for the kids – they each have their own color.  During the year we put special papers, things with handprints, grades, and other items that we want to keep.  Usually during the first week of summer we go through the folder together and assess what we want to keep longer.

Why this works?  This forces us to keep just a small selection of favorites and curate them throughout the year.  Some day they might not want them but we look through them a couple times a year.


There’s always artwork that’s too big to put in our file boxes so each kid has an archival giant portfolio that hangs out under their bed or in their closet.  This is for those precious large pictures and artwork.

Why this works?  I’m sure in 10 years we won’t hold on to everything in this portfolio but for right now I like having it to look at and the kids enjoy going back through the years via their artwork.

My latest eBook, The Clutter Handbook has a whole section devoted to paper clutter if you found these tips helpful you’ll probably like my approach to clutter and paper clutter.

You might also enjoy this post – click on the image:

Essentials for Organizing Toys + Kid Stuff

Kids and toys and stuff go hand in hand.  One of the most-asked questions I receive is how to contain toys and how to keep the toys clutter-free.  Is there such a thing?  Kids love toys and they love to play with them and leave them out and make messes and forget to pick them up.  If you have a love-hate relationship with your kids’ toys, you’re going to love this post.  You might not love everything I have to say and you might choose to store toys differently but hopefully you can grab a couple ideas for storing kid stuff in a way that makes it fun for kids to play with and easy for them to pick them up after themselves too.

Just remember – everything is a stage and as much as you despise those Legos being dumped on the floor yet again, they’ll soon move on to something different and you’ll miss those Legos.

Sources are linked up at the very bottom of the post.

I just walked through the house and snapped pics of some of the organizing tricks and products I use in our home – I hope it helps you get some ideas.


Group things together – this is just a scene from a bookshelf in my middle’s bedroom.  Nothing special but he knows where to put these puzzles when he’s done with them.

My middle guy’s bed – books and a basket to keep the smaller ones in.  He keeps trinkets in the drawer but this simple set-up works for him.

Everyone has books by their bed – this is my youngest’s – just a fabric basket stuffed with books.  We’ll eventually get him a nightstand but this set-up works for now.

Oh Legos, how I love thee.  The boxes below are filled with Legos and this table stays pretty much like this all the time in my youngest’s room.  He keeps small pieces in those little boxes so he can easily grab them.  The bins are pulled out from underneath the table as he’s building and playing and then the bins go back when he’s done.  It’s not a perfect solution but it’s perfect for him.  My other two kids had completely different set-ups for Legos.  One of which was sorted by color – that doesn’t work for him at all.

Small card games and small games go in small boxes in this basket in our living room.  The coffee table right next to this end table makes for the perfect card game spot.

See those lidded bins?  That’s where we keep our family board games – in the coat closet.  Pull down a bin and play a game.  Pieces are contained where they belong and games are still accessible.

I have to keep Xbox controllers in a cute container.  This works well because it won’t scratch any wood surfaces and it looks nice for me – ha!

We keep library books in a designated basket – this helps to keep them from under beds and intermingled with other books so we keep the fines to a minimum.

Bins on top of closet shelves are great for items that kids play with but not every day.  These store American Girl Doll stuff.

Backpacks and lunchboxes go in an open basket for simple reason that this keeps them off the floor. 

I love open baskets with handles for small books, trucks, animals, and other small toys.  So easy to grab, play with, dump out, and put away.

Furniture that closes its doors and conceals toys is aways a good idea!  

Here are a couple posts about kid stuff if you’re interested….

If you want your kids to clean you might want to put together a cleaning caddy to encourage them.  Here’s what’s in ours.

Contain art and school supplies – I keep this little caddy in our kitchen and its pulled out daily for homework and drawing.  It’s super simple for the kids to pick it up and put it away.

I read the book, Simplicity Parenting about a year ago and found it to be really helpful when thinking through how many toys everyone has and how we store them.  I highly recommend it!


How to Wash Backpacks + Lunch Boxes

My kiddos head back to school in a little over a week.  That means we’re getting ready for the new school year with lots of prepping of our systems, getting school supplies, and just trying to get ready for the new routine.  One of the things we’re doing this week is to check backpacks and give them a wash.  Typically I would have done this back in June but we went on vacation the day after school got out and I guess we just kind of forgot 🙂

Most fabric backpacks and soft lunch boxes CAN be washed – here’s how to do just that.  (I’ve washed numerous backpacks and lunch boxes this way over the years and have never lost one :))

Empty the backpack and/or lunch box completely – open all the pockets and compartments and make sure that there isn’t anything hiding.

Place in your washing machine and wash on gentle with a gentle detergent.  I use (and love) Molly’s Suds.

Leave all the pockets open and hang to dry or place outside to dry in the sun.

We keep backpacks and lunch boxes in our mudroom in this giant basket.  When the kids come home from school, they empty their lunch boxes and take out homework.  The backpacks and lunch boxes are easy for them to access and they have a ‘spot’.  Making sure that everything has a place makes it easy for kids to take responsibility for their own things.


Check out this post for some of my best ‘mom shortcuts’ – perfect for back to school!

Put Together a Cleaning Caddy for Kids

With summer in full swing, structure and routines change.  In our house, the kids are responsible at an early age (I start with simple tasks at 2 years old) for tasks and chores around the house.  It’s helpful for me, teaches responsibility, and keeps the nagging away.  With my cleaning routine I am doing a little bit of cleaning every day and I integrate that into the kids’ days as well.  We all do a little bit every day and it really is just a couple minutes to complete a couple simple tasks.  I have a couple tactics that I utilize with our three kids and today I’m sharing one of my favorites – a Cleaning Caddy for Kids!

I have found that keeping a little cleaning caddy in the cleaning closet for the kids to use is helpful.  I keep it stocked with kid-friendly supplies so we can clean together and learn a little bit at the same time.  Here are the most-used and fought over supplies in the kids’ cleaning caddy.  I am not saying that you should go out and buy new supplies for your kids, feel free to ‘shop’ your current stash and put together a little kit for your kids to use.  If you have a two or three year old, a cleaning cloth, baby wipes, and a small duster could possibly keep them cleaning with you for quite a while 🙂


Want to teach your kids how to help around the house with daily tasks and chores?  Make it EASY and FUN for them to help out!  Keep the tasks simple and age-appropriate for your house.  This cleaning caddy can be used daily, weekly and/or as needed, depending on what works for your family and schedule.

Need some ideas for what kids can do to help out around the house?  Here are a couple ideas to get you started:

  • make beds
  • fold and put away clothes
  • dust
  • wipe baseboards, door handles, light switches (baby wipes are great for this!)
  • dust surfaces
  • wipe windows and mirrors
  • take out garbage
  • wipe counters
  • wipe kitchen table
  • sweep under kitchen table
  • tidy up bedroom
  • wipe bathroom counter and sink
  • sweep/vacuum floors

I also have some free printable chore charts for kids here if you’re interested or need some ideas of where to get started!

(Obviously, you know your children and know what they can/cannot do on this list, this is merely a suggestion and starting point.  Please use care to provide non-toxic cleaners or water in a spray bottle for your children.)



  • microfiber and/or cleaning cloths
  • lint roller – great for helping clean lampshades and furniture (and it’s fun too!)
  • baby wipes – great for baseboards, doors, and door knobs
  • dusting wand
  • hand vacuum – I turn my stick/floor vacuum into a hand vacuum for the kids
  • mini broom with dust pan – clean up little messes under the kitchen table, after a project, etc.
  • scrub brush – use in the sink to clean toys, small animals, cars and trucks or outside to clean bikes, ride-on toys, etc.
  • soap – vegetable-based dish or castile soap – can be added to water and a spray bottle
  • water or non-toxic cleaner in a spray bottle (keep reading for my favorite DIY kid-safe recipe)
  • small cleaning caddy or bucket

Want to make a Kid-Safe Cleaning Spray that works and is safe for your kids to use?  Try this simple mixture:

  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 10 drops essential oils – My kids’ favorite mix is 5 drops of lemon and 5 drops of orange.

Pour into a spray bottle with funnel.  Attach spray top, shake to combine and use as you would any all-purpose cleaner.  (Not to be used on granite and marble; the acid in vinegar will etch the surface.)

You can grab this spray bottle and label in my Clean Mama Home shop here.


I love to include my kids in cleaning – not only does it teach responsibility but teaches them great life skills as well!  Go here to see all the posts I’ve written about cleaning with kids.

Slam Dunk Summer Tips: Routines, Tips and Tricks to Ease Summertime Transitions

Summer break is creeping up on us. Having kiddos home with downtime, activities and a looser structure to the day can take some adjustment for all parties. With that in mind, I am always on the hunt for shortcuts, tips and ideas that make the transition to having kids at home easier. Peruse all these ideas and tried and tested tips that we have implemented with success in our home. Make this summer your best one yet!


Summer Schedule Printable

Daily Checklist for Kids

Teach Your Kids How to Do Laundry

Boredom Buster Activity Kits for Kids

Quick Sanity Saver Tips for Moms

Organizing Snacks and Lunches to Encourage Independence

Summer Boredom Busters – No Screen Time Required

Organizing Art Supplies in a Caddy

Mealtime Cutlery Caddy

Cleaning with Kids and Printable Chore Cards

30+ Things Kids Can Clean

Put Together a Kids Cleaning Caddy

Preschool Cleaning Tasks

School Age Cleaning Tasks

Simple Chore and Reward System

New here? Get on the list!

Daily Checklist for Kids + Free Printable

With summer upon us we’re updating our household chores and expectations around the house.  At the beginning of the school year I tried something different with my older kids (upper elementary) and I am happy to say that it was really effective and a great way to gently remind them of their responsibilities.  You can see the post from last September on Instagram here.

Summer calls for a different structure and list – want to see what my kids are up to this summer?

You can make one of these for your kids (or yourself) – it’s super easy.  This is more of a reference list than an actual checklist.  I’ve found that by simply having it in clear view in their bedrooms with the combination of asking if they’ve made it through their list, is so simple, easy and habit forming.  You can use the one that my kids are using or create one just for your kids.

What you’ll need:

  • list – typed or written
  • laminator (if you’d like)
  • paper trimmer or scissors
  • clip to hang

Here’s the list my kids and I came up with – they understand each task and know HOW to complete it.  I’ve also included ‘now what activities’ on the list.  These are open-ended things like reading, drawing, writing a letter to a family member, working in a workbook, doing something nice for someone else, etc.  You can have these ideas posted somewhere or just talk about them.

Steps to Take:

  1. print your list (grab the one that my kids are using for free here)
  2. trim to size
  3. laminate if you’d like
  4. hang with a clip, on the refrigerator, or on a bulletin board

Simple, effective, and oh-so helpful for ending the nagging and reminding.

If you’re looking for ideas on what kids CAN do for chores and responsibilities at different ages, check out these posts:

Chores and Responsibilities for the Preschool Child

Chores and Responsibilities for the School-Aged Child

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There are affiliate links in this post – go here to see my full disclosure policy.

Let’s Do Laundry – Simple Tips to Teach Kids

Laundry can be all-encompassing, overwhelming, and time consuming.  Over the years I’ve developed lots of shortcuts and easier ways to make it through the piles.  Today I’m going to share the method that I teach my kiddos to help them learn to do their laundry with the hope that it might help you teach your kids too.

If you’re new here you might want to check out my laundry routine – I do at least one load of laundry daily and I’ve found that it’s a huge time saver.

A couple things to point out first:

  • Each of my kids have their own laundry basket that stays in their bedroom closet. I find that this really helps because there isn’t any sorting to see whose clothes are whose.  One basket, one kid, easy peasy 🙂
  • No sorting through the clothes and separating whites from colors – new outfits go straight into the wash by themselves on COLD to set the color.  My oldest is 11 and we’ve been doing this since then and guess what?  No white t-shirts have been dyed pink or light blue 😉  I do separate my husband my clothes because we have enough whites and darks for two loads.
  • I wash the kids clothes on COLD and rinse on COLD and I use this laundry powder and white vinegar for softener (this also helps keep clothes colorfast) and wool dryer balls to keep the static away.

Let’s Do Laundry – Simple Tips to Teach Kids


Here’s the process we use for sorting, folding, hanging and putting clothes away.  My littlest one will help me as I fold and hang his clothes by putting away undies, socks, and folded clothes.  Having your littles a part of the laundry process is a really easy way to inactively teach them how to do their own clothes. Now, my older two are old enough to manage the process, they already know what to do and just need some guidance.  It’s a win-win!

Start with taking the clothes out of the laundry basket – as you take them out separate them out into piles – socks, undies, shirts that are hung up, pants, shorts, skirts, etc.  Lay them out on a clean floor, bed, or table.

Once they’re all separated out, start by hanging up your shirts.  We use this method – I mentioned it on Instagram:

  1. Grab your hangers – have them all facing the same way (it’s easier to quickly hang the clothes this way)
  2. Put a hanger on the first item on top of the stack
  3. Fold the hanger over so it’s still on the stack but not hung up
  4. Keep going until everything in the stack is on a hanger
  5. Hang up the stack

Fold pants, jeans, t-shirts and anything else that needs to be folded.

Once you have everything folded or hung, put it away!  That’s it – a method to help tame the madness that is laundry!

Here’s one of my favorite kid laundry tips – straight from my book Simply Clean – have you grabbed your copy?

Boredom Buster : Activity Kits for Kids

As my kids are getting older I’ve been putting together activity baskets and bins with supplies for ready-to-make activities. I put these kits together for all of us : they encourage creativity, independence, and critical thinking. The kids can grab a bin, do an activity or two or three, put everything back in the bin and move on to something else.  Of course, a closet or drawer with oodles of activities available works too, but I find that when they have a ‘kit’ like this they are more inclined to be all-in to that activity for awhile.  It’s easy for them to put it away and then they can move on to something else.  These are my favorite bins (linked below) for this purpose because they come in two sizes and stackable with the lids.

One very popular activity bin is our science bin – a handful of supplies, a great science book and the kit is ready for creativity.  Come see what I put in the bin (all the links are at the bottom of the post in the shop the post images).

  • science book
  • ingredients for slime (baking soda, glue, saline solution, food coloring)
  • science tools – beakers, goggles, funnel, test tubes, eye dropper
  • scoops, pinchers
  • water beads (those teeny tiny dots are magic for kids 3+ (with supervision) – add water to them and they grow.  I put them in a large food storage container and the kids will scoop, measure, and play with them forever.

My older kids (upper elementary) are more into finding science experiments in the book and making them and my little guy (pre-k) will play with the science supplies, water, water beads, and colored water for hours.

If you like this idea, you can put together other kits like this – here are some ideas to get you started:

  • play-doh kit
  • slime kit
  • sewing kit
  • knitting + crochet kit
  • drawing kit
  • scratch-art kit
  • perler beads kit

Come see my favorite mom shortcuts in this post:

Mom Shortcuts : Saving Your Sanity One Quick Tip at a Time

As a mom to three kiddos I love a clean house and while this might sound like an oxymoron, it can be done.  What’s even better than a clean house? A house that takes little effort to keep clean.  With a minimalistic style and simplified routines, I’ve found that keeping things tidy most of the time isn’t as difficult as one might think.

I talk a lot about this concept in my new book, Simply Clean – if you haven’t grabbed it, order your copy today!

Here are a few of my favorite shortcuts, simple things I do that make life just a little simpler.

SIMPLIFY LAUNDRY – I don’t sort the kids’ laundry – I simply wash any dirty clothes together on one day of the week.  To avoid any sorting, I wash each kid’s laundry separately and the older kids fold and put away their own clothes –  yay!  Each child has their own hamper in their closet – I think this keeps things easier from dirty to washed and put away.

DON’T USE A TOP SHEET – this saves time for changing sheets AND it keeps things easier for kids as they are learning to make their own beds.  Simply pull up the quilt or duvet and toss on the pillows and the bed is made.  Wash the quilt and/or duvet cover as you would sheets.

USE A PLASTIC TABLE CLOTH FOR PLAY-DOH AND CRAFTS – I keep a plastic table cloth in the play-doh bin and throw it down on the table before embarking on a play-doh or crafting session.  Clean up is a breeze and everyone has more fun 🙂

PREP FOR THE WEEK – Don’t let a new week surprise you, do a little something to get ready!

KEEP A SICK KIT – You know it’s going to happen – keeping a couple items on hand keeps those late night trips to the store to a minimum.

USE BINS FOR COATS AND SHOES – This is especially helpful when we have guests over for more than an afternoon and there’s lots of running in and outside.  Put a couple bins by the door and let the kids drop coats and shoes in the bins in lieu of shoes strewn from one end of the room to the other.

ENCOURAGE INDEPENDENCE – Plan for snacking and lunch-packing by keeping good food choices at the ready.

BOREDOM BUSTERS – Keep screen-free activities handy for kids to grab and use (especially in the summer!).

USE A BASKET FOR BOOKS INSTEAD OF A NIGHTSTAND – When kids are little or if you don’t want to invest in a nightstand, use a basket for books by the bed.  This creates a place for the often used items and it keeps things neat.  Use a clip-on light to illuminate the space in lieu of a table lamp.

BASKETS, BASKETS, BASKETS – my favorite tool for organizing kids’ stuff – open baskets.  They look nice on a shelf and kids can easily see what’s in them at a glance.

KEEP LIDS FOR WATER BOTTLES IN A BIN – I keep lids separate from water bottles – this allows everything to thoroughly dry and it saves space and keeps lids from falling on my head.

HOMEWORK CADDY – keep school and art supplies in a caddy for homework and crafting, grab the caddy, draw, do homework, and put everything back in a minute.  Once of my favorite tips, ever.

CUTLERY CADDY – Simplify mealtimes with a cutlery caddy.  Keep often used items handy and easy to grab.  This is great for little ones setting the table and for when you forget something – no need to get up and grab it as soon as you sit down.

I’d LOVE to hear your shortcuts – leave them in the comments!


If you liked this post, you might enjoy this one:


Be Prepared : Make a Sick Kit

Ah, ’tis the season for all sorts of viral, stomach and random bugs and sicknesses. If your community is anything like mine, it seems like everyone around us has fallen sick this winter, including us. It never fails that sickness creeps in at the most inopportune times like the middle of the night or when the thought of bringing all the kids to the store makes you want to run and hide. In an effort to avoid running to the store while helping my kids feel better at the same time, I like to keep a basket stocked with the necessities. I have found myself reaching for it and increasingly thankful that I have what I need on hand more than ever. Keep in mind that what I choose for my family when they are under the weather may be different than yours, but the concept remains the same no matter what. Having what you need on hand when sickness strikes is so helpful and makes tending to those who are sick a wee bit easier. Of course, check with your doctor or nurse line with questions and suggestions when in doubt. On to the good stuff! I keep a well stocked sick kit for just about anything that may come our way. Let’s take a peek at what I have in ours and what we use it for.  Some of the items I keep in the refrigerator and others are kept in the kids medicine bin in our linen closet.  I’ve linked just about everything up at the bottom of the post if you’re looking for sources (affiliate links used). Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes– I like to wipe down the germ hotspots, bathrooms, and other germy areas to minimize reinfection. Rubbing Alcohol Wipes– I use these often for wiping off thermometers, remotes, game controllers, tablets, and handles.  You can easily make your own with a cotton pad and rubbing alcohol. Biokleen Bac-Out– this works really well on carpet and clothing stains should the need arise. Rubber Gloves– because no one likes to touch that nasty stuff. Applesauce– easy on the tummy to digest when under the weather. Be sure to get the no sugar added kind. Chicken Stock or Broth– again, this is easy on the tummy and can help hydrate while adding a some nutrition without any additives. Coconut Water– this is our favorite beverage for rehydrating without any corn syrup, sugar or other unpronounceable ingredients. Berry Well this elderberry concoction works wonders at minimizing sickness and shortening the duration. We have not just the sick people but other family members take this when we come in contact with sick people or someone in our family has a bug. Essential Oils– there are so many options when it comes to essential oils. Do some research and see what may work for your family.  When the kids are sick or around illness, I use the kid-safe roll-ons from Plant Therapy (my favorite is the Germ Destroyer). Epsom Salt– Another favorite use for essential oil is to add a couple drops of lavender essential oil to a detox bath with 1/2-1 cup of epsom salt in a warm water bath.  Again do your research on this but it’s helped shorten the duration of a cold and lower a fever in our house. Mint Tea – helpful for sore throats and upset tummies, we always have a box of this on hand. Cough Medicine– because those middle of the night coughs are the worst!  I try raw honey first as that does a great job of soothing a hacking cough in a hurry. Motrin/Tylenol– when we need to bring a fever down in a hurry, we use these sparingly. Activated Charcoal– we use this when the stomach flu or nauseous tummies are on the brink. It can help avoid throwing up when you can catch it early. Activities/Movie– it helps to have something new or novel to watch or play with when day two or three of being sick is on the horizon.  I like the Color Wonder coloring books for little ones so they can stay on the couch or in bed and do a little mess-free activity. Toothbrushes– we replace toothbrushes after sickness strikes.  It’s nice to have a couple on hand just in case. Getting sick is never fun for anyone, but hopefully the inconvenience and duration can be minimized with a well-stocked sick kit on hand. What do you like to keep on hand for when sickness strikes?

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Summer Boredom Busters : No Screen Required

Summer Boredom Busters - No Screen Required - Clean Mama

As the school year winds down I/we get really excited for the summer.  For me, I love the relaxed mornings, trips to the pool, a little vacation time, and less structure.  I also know that we need a couple boredom busters to carry us through the summer because everyone needs a little downtime/ rest time, right?  Best thing about this list?  It doesn’t require a screen, an outlet, or a cord – hooray!  You could re-purpose this for trips, things to do with a sitter, rewards for extra chores, etc.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • grab a basket, a bucket, a bag to gather your boredom busters – look for something that you have and can reuse.
  • collect existing coloring books, workbooks, and other resources that you already have around the house that you know your kids will enjoy during the summer.
  • add some new activities – I like to keep things in a couple categories to captivate the kiddos for an hour or so.  Art, strategy, brain exercises, tactile activities, puzzles….
  • put together the bucket or basket and HIDE IT until summer – it’ll be a great surprise when the ‘I’m bored’ comments start!

small summer boredom busters

These are all items that we have, have used, or have bought for the summer – I know you and your kids or grandkids, or friends’ kids will love them.  This list is best suited for the elementary-aged crowd, but there are definitely some preschool, pre-teen and early teen crossovers here as well.

Summer Boredom Busters - Clean Mama

Kids go crazy for this fun book that contains 50 3-D models of creative and silly monsters. The pages are perforated and tabbed to make construction easier.  Papertoy Monster


Star Wars meets paper airplanes. What’s not to love?  Star Wars Folded Flyers


Step by step directions make paper airplane making easy and fun!  Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes


This book is full of various brain games and puzzles to stump and challenge all minds.  Kids Big Book of Games


This puzzle book is so fun! Various mazes, word games, visual and logic puzzles, and more will keep kids busy for hours.  Brainiest Insaniest Ultimate Puzzle Book


Fun facts and challenges encourage kids to use their brains in new ways as they learn and solve puzzles.  National Geographic Kids Brain Games


These intricate dot to dot puzzles range from 300 to 1400 dots. Intricate and challenging to encourage high level thinking skills.  Extreme Dot to Dot Animals


Great for a variety of ages and skill levels, this book is full of fun and thought provoking problems that are sure to engage and challenge.  Word Winks


Intricate color by number artwork that is ideal for building concentration and encouraging relaxation.  One for animal lovers : Color Counts: Animals


And one that would be great on a road trip : Color Counts: Travel the USA


The element of surprise in this coloring book makes it extra intriguing.  Mystery Mosaics: Book One


Who doesn’t love a good maze? The details and twist and turns in this activity book make it extra fun. Extreme Mazes


These simple but intriguing water toys are a blast from the past. Tomy Pelican Water Game


Tomy Dolphin Water Game


Encourage higher level thinking with this ingenious puzzle cube. ThinkFun Adams Cube


This gravity powered logic maze is wonderfully versatile for various ages and skill levels.  Gravity Maze


Encourage spatial thinking and logic with this addictive and challenging game. Rush Hour


Mesmerizing and challenging, this three dimensional maze is fun for any age. Perplexus Epic


And of course there needs to be one for me – The Inspired Room Coloring Book – it comes out July 1st, just in time for some lazy summer day coloring 🙂


Have any other favorites to add?  Here are a couple more posts that might help you get through the summer!

Kid-Friendly Cleaning Caddy + DIY Cleaning Spray via Clean Mama

Simple Chore Chart and Reward System Your Kids Will Love via Clean Mama

How to Organize Snacks + Lunches via Clean Mama

Essentials for Getting Kids Involved In Cleaning + Organizing

Essentials for Getting the Kids Involved In Cleaning - free printables and tips that work! - Clean Mama

Let’s just say it – it’s not easy to get the kids involved with cleaning and organizing.  It takes thought, planning, educating, and lots of patience.  Most of the time it probably feels like it’s easier to just do the cleaning and organizing yourself, but it’s worth it!  Involving the kiddos around the house not only encourages independence and responsibility, it helps kids learn lifelong skills for caring for and maintaining a home.  Today I’m rounding up my favorite posts all about kids, cleaning, and organizing – take a peek, print something out, and include those kiddos in the care of your home!

Create a simple homework caddy to cut down on misplaced supplies and homework chaos.A Simple Homework Caddy via Clean Mama

Teach your kiddos how to help with cleaning with these printable chore lists.  Laminate to make it a reusable list with the help of a dry erase marker.

Let's Clean House - 2 Free Kids Cleaning Checklists - Clean Mama

This simple chore and reward system helps encourage independence and add a little fun to the routine. Includes free printables to get you started!

Simple Chore Chart and Reward System Your Kids Will Love via Clean Mama

How about a room-by-room guide of things that your kids CAN clean?  This guide is the perfect place to start30 plus things your kids can help clean - a room by room guide for the home via Clean Mama

Wondering just what you can expect your school-aged child to do when it comes to cleaning and helping around the home? These lists are the perfect place to start. Includes printables too!

Chores and Responsibilities for the School-Aged Child via Clean Mama

Just because they are young doesn’t mean your preschooler can’t help with simple cleaning tasks! Check out these ideas and printables to help foster pride and independence with your child.Chores + Responsibilities for the Preschool Child via Clean Mama

Put together a cleaning caddy with fun tools and kid safe cleaners. Includes great ideas, DIY cleaner recipe and resources to make cleaning more fun.

Tools for Cleaning With Kids via Clean Mama

Have a tip or struggle to share?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Essentials for Getting the Kids Involved with Cleaning- Clean Mama



Kids Willingly Cleaning Their Rooms? It Can Happen for YOU!

Kids Cleaning

I’m so excited to have Amy McCready here today sharing her tips on kids cleaning their rooms.  I’ve collaborated with her to bring you free webinars on positive parenting topics like getting kids to listen and I just know how much you some of you have loved her webinars.  Keep reading for her amazing ideas AND to check out her brand new book!

Amy McCready

By Amy McCready, Founder of and author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic.

Three simple steps can be the start of tidy rooms without bribes, nagging, or hand-outs.

Ever feel like you’re fighting for your child’s attention against a huge host of distractions (think Legos, binge TV or the latest Instagram updates) and not necessarily coming out on the winning side? Now, toss in an expectation that kids should actually CONTRIBUTE by way of helping at home – heaven forbid! If you’re like some parents, you may be tempted to throw in the towel – after all, isn’t is just easier to do it ourselves rather than face the complaining and negotiating? There is hope however and it doesn’t require magic – though it might feel like it when you see the results.

Getting your kids to clean their rooms and help around the house WILLINGLY doesn’t have to be – well, a chore. In fact, if your goal is to raise kids that DON’T feel like they are entitled to everything, including having you act as their personal wait staff, then it’s time to put some serious un-entitling parenting tools in place. What it takes is a little language fine-tuning, a powerful shift in attitude and behavior, and some practice.

Let’s take a look at three steps that can make a difference in YOUR home:

  1. Watch your LANGUAGE. No, I’m not talking about THAT language; we all know to be mindful there already, right? I’m talking about removing the word chore from your household commentary and to-do lists and replacing it with the word contribution, or more specifically, family contribution. The difference? How it makes your kids feel. Think about it. The word chore conjures up the idea of burden, work, and the exact opposite of fun. The word contribution, on the other hand, is empowering (something kids need anyway) and makes them feel like they have influence, they make a difference and they’re part of the larger team. As a team, when everyone contributes and pitches in – the house runs more smoothly, things get done faster and there’s more time, energy, and resources to have FUN together.
  2. Let them know you NOTICE. Let your kids know the impact of their contributions and what it means to you. The truth is no one likes unloading the dishwasher, sweeping a floor, or cleaning out a toy chest – but when your kids notice that you NOTICE it changes everything. Let them know their efforts make a difference, such as, “Hey, you really helped out the family tonight. Now we have extra time to play a game, go for a bike ride, bake some cookies, etc.” It helps kids connect the dots – and feel significant. It also means you’ll have fewer power struggles and better cooperation and that’s a win-win you can count on.
  3. Let routines RULE. Let me share one of my favorite tools from the “Un-Entitler Toolbox” of my new book, The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic – A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World. The tool is called Let When-Then Routines be the Boss and it is amazingly simple yet effective for young kids through teens. This tool puts the ROUTINE in the role of negotiator. Here’s how it works: Structure your child’s less desirable tasks to occur before those things that are very desirable. At the same time, let kiddos know you’re not there to wait on them hand and foot and with privileges (those things they want and want to do) come responsibilities (family contributions). For example, “When you finish your daily family contributions, then you can have phone time.” Or, “When you finish folding and putting away your laundry, then you can enjoy your 30 minutes of TV time.” Now, after clearly communicating your When-Then, (and here’s the key) – leave the room or do whatever you need to do to block out the protests or negotiating that’s sure to follow. Then, stick to it. Eventually, your kids will not only get with the program, they’ll get a boost of significance when they finish the task and can access the privilege.

Like any shift in mindset and behaviors, putting these tools in place takes time, practice and patience. When you feel that shift take root in your home, it will not only be rewarding in the NOW, but you’ll set the stage for your kids to grow into hard working, contributing adults. And here’s a bonus – they’ll learn valuable life skills they’ll need to take care of themselves and their OWN family down the road. (Seriously, no one wants a 30-year-old who doesn’t know how to do the laundry or make a sandwich—or worse, feels like they are ENTITLED to have someone else do those things for them—right?) That’s great news – well beyond tidy beds, sorted socks, and swept floors, wouldn’t you say? Good luck and happy parenting!

Amy McCready is the author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World. Available August 11, 2015 wherever books are sold.


BONUS: Get FREE COACHING with Amy McCready when you PRE-ORDER The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic. Learn more at


Everyone who pre-orders the book can participate in 3 free coaching webinars with Amy on the following topics:

  • Allowance & Chores: Tuesday, August 18 at 1 PM EDT
  • The No-Rescue Policy for Consequences: Tuesday, August 25 at 1 PM EDT
  • Raising Grateful & Compassionate Kids:   Tuesday, September 1 at 1 PM EDT

Chores and Responsibilities for the School-Aged Child + FREE Printables

Chores and Responsibilities for the School-Aged Child via Clean Mama

As a mom to three children, two elementary age and one preschool, I can firsthand testify that our home runs more smoothly when everyone pitches in. As children grow older, their ability to contribute to household tasks and chores increases as well.  If you haven’t included your children in tasks around the home or if you’re struggling to come up with age-appropriate tasks, you’ll love this post!

I recently featured a post full of all sorts of age appropriate, helpful tasks that the preschool age child can help with. Today I am featuring tasks and chores that are geared toward the elementary and up aged child. You will notice that quite a few of the tasks are similar to the preschool tasks with a twist, like not just matching socks and folding hand towels, but folding an entire load of laundry.

As you go through these tasks and determine what work for your child and household, keep in mind that there is a developmental difference between a young elementary aged child and an older child in middle school. While you may not expect your first grader to roll the garbage and recycling to the curb, it is certainly an appropriate task for a sixth grader. Pick and choose what is appropriate for your child or children and watch your home run that much more smoothly when you delegate tasks and chores.

Household Chores

  • wipe baseboards/cupboards
  • help sort laundry into whites and brights/darks
  • help start and switch laundry loads
  • help fold laundry
  • help put away clean clothes
  • clean windows with damp microfiber cloth
  • pick up toys and activities, put books in bookshelf
  • help unload groceries
  • water plants
  • take care of pets
  • gather garbage
  • take garbage and recycling to the curb
  • get mail
  • dust surfaces
  • sweep floors
  • vacuum corners and edges along baseboards
  • vacuum floors using a lightweight upright
  • clean clutter from bathroom counter
  • wipe bathroom counter with dampened microfiber cloth
  • wipe doorknobs and switch plates

Morning/Evening Chores

  • brush teeth
  • brush hair
  • wipe face with a warm, wet washcloth after eating
  • make bed- pull up comforter/duvet and flat sheet up and put pillow at the top
  • put dirty clothes and pajamas in clothes basket
  • get dressed in the morning and pajamas in the evening

Mealtime Chores

  • simple mealtime prep help
  • pour beverages
  • set table with plates, glasses, napkins and appropriate silverware
  • bring dirty dishes to sink when done eating
  • put away leftovers
  • rinse dishes before loading in to dishwasher
  • load dishwasher (remove knives and sharp utensils until age appropriate)
  • dry and put away dishes
  • wipe down table
  • sweep up crumbs using a small dustpan and broom or handheld vacuum

How about some FREE printables to make implementing responsibilities for school-aged children a little easier?  I made 2 different simple chore charts and I also put the chores and responsibilities that I listed on a free printable.  Grab the zip file with all 3 free printables here and save and print what you will use and get your child(ren) started with some simple and do-able responsibilities.

Free Chore Printables for School Aged Children via Clean Mama

Here are a  few more ideas to encourage cleaning up – click on the images to go straight to the posts.

Chores + Responsibilities for the Preschool Child via Clean Mama

Tools for Cleaning With Kids via Clean Mama

Simple Chore Chart and Reward System Your Kids Will Love via Clean Mama

30 plus things your kids can help clean - a room by room guide for the home via Clean Mama


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If you like these FREE printables you’ll love my HOMEKEEPING SOCIETY and the organizing printables in my shop!

This post is part of my SIMPLE SUMMER CHALLENGE – throughout the month I’m sharing ways to keep up with routines while having lots of fun in the process.  Go here to see the introduction post, and here to see all the posts in this series.  Make sure you’re following me on Instagram for more on this summer challenge!

Clean Mama's Simple Summer Challenge via Clean Mama

Overwhelmed? Find success in your homekeeping with my latest book, Simply Clean! Dismiss