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Top 10 Tips for Managing Multiples' Messes

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Got multiples? Then you've got mess! It is amazing how even the most well-organized home can deteriorate into destruction when twins or triplets take over. Every age and stage of childhood is accompanied by "stuff" that accumulates throughout the house, whether it is baby equipment, toys, school supplies or clothing. These strategies will help you manage the mess.

1. A Place for Everything

"A place for everything and everything in its place." Implementing this classic phrase will keep the clutter under control. Designate a specific, child-friendly place for everything, from toys to schoolwork to shoes to pajamas. Further, designate per child: "Jennifer, hang your coat on this peg; John, your jacket goes here!" Label bins for "Daphne's Dolls" and "Cody's Cars." The more you identify and specify, the easier it will be for children to keep things in order.

2. Create Routines

Establish routines that reduce the mess before it gets out of control. As the routines become part of daily life, they are easier to maintain. For example, have children clear the table and put dishes in the sink immediately after they're finished eating. Put school supplies away in a designated location as soon as homework is complete. Make clean up the logical conclusion to play time by building in an extra ten or fifteen minutes of time at the end to put toys away.

3. Divide and Conquer

You'd think that a team of twins or triplets would be able to cooperatively clean up. Not the case. Cleaning up together usually leads to playing, or worse, squabbling. Assign individual jobs in separate rooms if their clean up efforts disintegrate into chaos. If necessary, use a timer to give everyone an equal opportunity to contribute to the process.

4. Use It or Lose It

The ample potential for hand-me-downs among singletons encourages famiiles to hang on to toys, clothing and other gear. But when you have twins or other multiples, everything gets used at once. Therefore it becomes necessary to adopt a "use it or lose it" approach. When your kids outgrow things, get rid of the stuff. Certainly, if you have younger siblings, you can put them to use. But don't waste valuable storage space with unneeded gear; sell it, donate it, or throw it away.

5. Identify Ownership

Make each multiple responsible for their own mess. Clearly identify ownership of toys, clothes and other stuff around the house. Labeling or color coding can be a helpful way to keep things straight. Come clean up, each child is aware of their contribution to the mess, and it motivates them to take care of their own belongings.

6. Ten Minute Tidy Every Night

As a family, spend ten or fifteen minutes putting things away every night. You don't have to do a massive cleaning, but spend the time straightening up a few things in each room. In the morning, you'll be able to start the day with a tidy home. Make this routine a habit that your twins will carry into adulthood.

7. Assign Age-Appropriate Responsibilities

No matter what their age, kids can contribute to household responsibilities. The key is to identify age-appropriate jobs. When they feel confident about accomplishing their chores, they are more likely to actually do them. Visual clues are always effective with kids, so consider a chore chart or a list to illustrate jobs. To keep things fair and interesting, create an alternating system by assigning chores on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

8. In The Car

Multiples don't just mess up the house. Busy families spend a lot of time in their cars, and they end up unkempt also. Make it a rule that "what goes in, must come out." Encourage your twins to remove their toys, books, sports equipment, clothing (how does that get there??) and other items from the car every time they ride in it. Keep a trash bag in the car so that debris can be immediately discarded instead of littering the floor.

9. Stash and Hide

Make quick pick ups easier by providing a "stash and hide" emergency place in each room. It can be a bin, basket or other container. Just be sure to empty it out and put things in the proper place later.

10. Challenge: Make It Competitive

Take advantage of your twins' competitive natures and challenge them to a clean-up contest. Set a time limit and have them beat the clock. Or, offer rewards for consistent achievement; for making a bed every day of the week or for putting away clothes the same day that they're washed. As they work to outdo each other, they'll also overcome the disarray.

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