Here they come. Barreling through the front door, fresh off the school bus. One backpack gets flung at a living room chair. The other gets slung to the sofa. Shoes drop like bread crumbs from the front hall to the back den, where bags of chips are ripped open, crumbs falling to the floor.
And you know what? I don't care. I used to care, but I don't anymore. Do you want to know why? Two words: Dirty Thirty.
The Dirty Thirty is something I created to restore some order around here. It's a 30-minute block of time allocated to the picking up, cleaning up and sweeping up of everything that's been scattered and strewn and basically slob-lobbed all over my nice house.
Here's how it goes: Each day I choose a time to cheerfully announce that it's time for the Dirty Thirty. At that point the electronics dim, the mouths close, the attitudes change and we begin a fast and furious overhaul of our dwelling.
Doesn't matter if it's not your mess or it's not your room. Because it's "our" pad, therefore "our" mess, thus a group effort, as we load the dishwasher, take out the trash, unload the dryer and find all the remotes.
We go room to room and do not move on until all is as it should be. We hang up clothes, we put away dishes, refresh the cat box and pull chips from the sofa.
Now here's the cool thing: Since we do this every day, we can actually get our house together in about 15 minutes. So does the Dirty Thirty become the Fevered Fifteen? Absolutely not, because there's always something to do, and this is the brilliance of the 30-minute rule.
This is where we go above and beyond. I get the kids to hang fresh towels, match the socks and stand up all the boots in my closet. Color-code my sweaters, label the pantry shelves, sort the utensil drawer and figure where that funny smell is coming from.
They do what I tell them to do for 30 minutes. Heck, they prepped a taco bar today, like I really want to shred lettuce and grate cheese. I had them do it. I didn't get my necklaces untangled, but there's always tomorrow.
It's awesome. It's understood, uninterrupted and universally accepted, now that I'm allowing music to be played. In fact, tomorrow after they untangle my jewelry, think I'll get them to organize my playlists and get my pictures on that cloud. Maybe download some cooking apps. They'll think it's great. They'll practically be gaming and might get a decent meal out of it.
And then tape $5 to the fridge and tell them at the end of the week it's theirs. Then everybody's happy. They earn a regular allowance and you have a clean house and get to wear necklaces again.
And all the socks match.
Tracy Lee Curtis is a humorist, writer and speaker. She writes family humor for the Charlotte Observer.
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