The Mess of Strewing: An Unschooling Conversation


This discussion appeared recently on the Christian Unschooling Facebook Group:

JENNIFER: Ahhhh!!!!!! I’m all for strewing, but my whole house is full of strew???? How do y’all manage it???? I can’t tell ya how many times I have stepped on a marble, or a pattern block or a Cuisinaire rod, etc… only to get into a very unpleasant conversations with my dcs. Do I just pick them up? ANY suggestions would be helpful… thank you in advance!

LEANNE: Yep. Having the same problem here.

JENNIFER: So glad I’m not alone! LOL

MISSY: If it bugs you, pick it up. 🙂

VANESSA: We try to keep things in sets, and ask that the boys pick up when they are done with something before moving on to the next.

LEANNE: Um…Vanessa, how do you remember to do that? I can’t seem to.

SARA: Yes! I have been thinking about this a lot lately since reading the articles on strewing. I have come to the conclusion that we are overwhelmed with stuff so it impossible to even see what I am strewing. I have to reduce the amount we have – I think we will all feel better.

Regarding stepping in things: I think it is ok to ask for common areas of the home to be safe and as orderly is as comfortable for your family. Anything that is “in progress” could be in their bedrooms maybe? I have a one year old so I have to be the Lego police all the time!

JENNIFER: Missy, I have – many, many times – only to find it all over the place again…all within a span of an hour! LOL I know this sounds whiny, so please forgive me…For the most part, clutter doesn’t bother me, but it does bother my husband. So, when he gets home after working a minimum of 10 hours a day, he would really appreciate a less cluttered home. I HATE charts – I’ve made so many of them only not to use it, so I don’t want to have a chore chart of anything sort. I would love to find a way to manage it…sigh…thanks for letting me vent. 🙂

MISSY: Bins. Invest in LOTS of bins. Everything goes in a bin. We’ve simplified and pared down and made sure that everything in the toy department fits into a bin. It takes 15 – 20 minutes to clean up if necessary. I know it’s frustrating. I am often frustrated with the clutter in my house too. It’s especially hard because homeschoolers really LIVE at home, instead of just visiting there evenings and weekends, so there’s a lot more mess than for people who both work full time and their kids are in school. I try to ask for help every time I clean up. Sometimes I get help, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes my kids clean up without being asked – and it is AMAZING (it’s taken quite some time to get there).

I’ve also had to talk with my husband and explain the stress we’re under when he expects the house to be a certain way. I’ve explained that if he wants things to be neat he’s going to have to pitch in, so before he leaves for work in the morning he takes cares of clutter in the living room and dishes. It has helped me tremendously. I also asked him which things bothered him the most. He said the living room, so I try to have that relatively clean when he gets home and I let the rest go. My place is the kitchen. I like it to be clean, but it doesn’t bother the husband at all. So I clean the kitchen before I cook.

And shelves. Shelves and drawers are a blessing.

DONNA: We race the teapot for clean-up before dad come home. I put the kettle on for tea/hot chocolate and we pick up until the kettle whistles. It’s a race with a reward at the end.

AMANDA: Without knowing how old your kids are, and with the disclaimer that all of mine are young, while we HAVE a bin of blocks, a bin of Legos, a bin of lincoln logs, etc, we only get them out one at a time. Most of them are stored on the top shelf of their closet or high shelves of a bookshelf so I can control it. Usually we’ll leave one down for a few days or a couple of weeks, then when I see it isn’t getting played with, I’ll switch it out, or put it away and not get another one down until someone asks or I need a distraction. It keeps pieces from getting everywhere, and it keeps toys from getting old. (And just so you don’t think my house stays clean, craft stuff? It’s usually all over the kitchen: table, floor, scattered into the living room … my monster!)

VANESSA: Yeah, most of our stuff (with exception of toys that all, including toddler can play with) is kept in bags/containers up high. So games, dominoes, colors, etc, get taken out as needed and put away when done. We don’t have legos yet, but imagine we’ll be entering lego age soon. Not sure how we’ll do that. We’ll probably have to do the same with a big container or something (so baby/toddler don’t get them and eat them). I know it’s not ideal for just letting things be “found,” but I do need some sanity in the house if even just for safety’s sake.

They know they can go through stuff and do stuff if they want, I just have them in the habit of knowing this is a “house rule.” It’s also a rule that if you leave things out and your two-year-old brother gets ahold of them and spreads them everywhere, that you have to pick them up. That’s just always been a rule, LOL. They know that some things are better done at the table or out of brother’s reach if he’s awake. (Especially with baby coming, I’ll be preoccupied more and 2yo will be on the loose…)

And it’s never really an argument. Like earlier I said “can you please pick up the dominoes, since you are done with them and playing Xbox now? Dad is getting up in a minute and I’m sure he’d appreciate being able to walk downstairs into the living room without stepping over dominoes.” 😛

LEANNE: My living room looks like it strew up on itself.

TRACI: Not gonna lie. We have precedents here. (Trying not to use “rule” because it’s not really stated as one, it’s just always been the way we do things LOL!) If the legos are going to be left out long term, it has to be upstairs in the unfinished attic space. If they want a fort left up for weeks, it better be in the family room downstairs. If they are doing shorter-term toys, building towers with blocks, painting a picture, etc… all that can happen in the living areas but one thing is cleaned up before the next project starts. Our living areas have to be considerate of all of us. Personal space, like bedrooms, I’m not concerned as much about. But shared spaces … well if we lived in a communal environment with other people we wouldn’t toss our legos all over for them to break their ankles on, so we don’t do it here in shared spaces either. So floors, furniture, and work spaces in the living areas are just known to be tidied a few times a day. (We’ll set the timer and race.)

As for stuff that I strew, I put it in the big baskets/antique crates that I leave beside the couch, chairs, etc. I also have a big wooden library desk that the tv sits on and I’ll put stuff on it too. Right now I have a centerpiece on my kitchen island that has flat river rocks with different words written on them. They end up making sentences out of those too when they are waiting for lunch, etc. Another thing that I strew is menus. When I grocery shop I’ll sit and make a menu of possible lunches. The kids will come and sit at the counter, my son reads it out loud and they order from “Mama’s Café.” They have to pay me too, which is good because they count out the change together. (Out of the communal piggy bank we keep around for games like that.)

HEATHER: Getting rid of the non-essentials/things that don’t get used is what helped us. Even if it is wonderful and marvelous, if no one uses it or plays with it out the door it goes.

MISSY: I love the river rocks with words idea,Traci!

TRACI: Missy, it’s fun cuz there are words on both sides of each rock. They mix them up to make different phrases to leave out for people to see.

JENNIFER: Such great ideas are “strewn” (strewed?) here! Thanks so much. My 7yo daughter enjoys the process of things (i.e., enjoys making the mess), but is all of a sudden very tired and can’t find the strength when it’s time to pick it up! 😉 It particularly bothers me because I see myself so clearly in her! LOL. I have beat myself up about my habits and don’t want her to have to go through it too. I am learning to accept myself and her. Having the bins and shelves and drawers will probably be much more for me than her! LOL. My 4yo son is a good student of his sister! Lol I suppose this is all a process…for all of us! 🙂

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