I love love love British television. In the opening of 'Keeping Up Appearances', the...um...hero protagonist? No. The main character? Better. The MC, named Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) is hand-addressing invitations to some social event she is hosting, likely a candlelight supper. She carefully measures the edges and puts the stamp 'just so'. Her entire life is dedicated to projecting an outward facade just to make the neighbors think she is better off than she really is...much like Uncle Vernon in Harry Potter. And she does no better job of it.
Every time I make a serious effort to 'keep up appearances' I envisions myself as a middle-aged housewife whose sole connection to her children are sporadic phone calls from them needing money and whose days are spent re cleaning shiny things and performing make work. Not my idea of fun at all, I don't even have close siblings to spice up life the way Hyacinth does, I AM the black sheep in my family. So why bother?
Well, why make the bed if you are just going to mess it up again? Because it sleeps better.
Why wipe yourself, you will just use the bathroom again in an hour or two.
It's because there are minimum standards.
Let's go with the minimum standards. This varies from house to house, but like bathing and eating, some things are just better if done regularly.
Get a lazy, fluffy cat. These will do things like lay in any drawer that gets left open and also burrow into clean, warm laundry that is not folded and put away immediately. They leave behind hairs that are more hassle to deal with than just shutting the drawer or folding the clothes in the first place. Also, they will occasionally hack things up, inspiring you to clean your carpets or change your bedding like nothing else will.
Pets lower your blood pressure.
Change out your clothing with each big season change so you are forced to look at each item at least twice a year. Get rid of anything you are not wearing, same for your kids clothes, give away what they have outgrown and make a note of what they will need replaced and likely sizes so you can be on the lookout for only the things you need at any seasonal sales, thrift stores or yard sales. This brings up another point-don't spend more than it's worth. Meaning, a $20 t-shirt is insane, fork over $2 at the Goodwill or .50 at a rummage sale, especially for kid play clothes. There are exceptions for this if you need something nice, say for church or for semi-formal things like dances or funerals, that will need to pass through two or more children. In that case, a good pair of pants on sale for $15 that can get through three boys and still be used make the pants in essence, $5 pants.
Think for a moment, why is your house messy all the time? Yes! Those kids! Do you know what those kids are? Child labor! Being a homeschooler, you can call it Life Experience or Home Ec or Character Building or even Chores! Gone are the salt mines and shoe factories, no picking cotton for the children of today, all they have to manage is getting clothes into a hamper and toys back where they go. Yet, for some reason, moms seem to think they can't or won't or should not have to help with the housework.
This is insanity talking. These are children who can roller skate 3 straight hours, watch tv all day long, they can run on a soccer field 3 days a week for an hour at a time. They can mess up a room in .4 seconds and yet be too exhausted to help pick it up and do you know why? They have been taught that children are messy! Yes, someone along the way excused them because they were young. Probably you.
Does this mean your baby is evil for dumping out a whole box of plastic blocks? Mmmmm...no. No, babies have an innate need to dump things out, no doubt linked to some development phase. But-you can start telling that baby even before they can talk, "Help mama, you put a block in the box! Yay! Smart baby, what a darling you are!" So you pick up 24 blocks and Smart Darling picks up just one and waves it around a while and likely clobbers himself or you with it getting it back where it goes. By the time SD can say 'bwock' he can also put them all away when he is done playing. Not because you have yelled at him and grounded him but because putting them away makes you SO happy every time. He gets a party out of every block that makes it back in the box.
Kids are wired to please and a helpful kid makes everyone happy. You need to overreact for several years about how WONDERFUL it is when they help, make requests to clean up light and part of the play. A kid does not see 'not being yelled at' as the same thing as 'making mom happy'. Set a timer and go nuts about getting everything in the floor back where it goes before the timer goes off. Smack into the door frame and spin around and occasionally try to cram a kid into the toybox, 'mistaking' her for a toy. This is nearly as much fun as 'accidentally' making your kid into the bed and trying to beat out the resulting 'lumps' with a pillow.
Soon enough, the timer is a thing of the past and you just say, "Let's get this room clean!" And they know their role and it gets done.
What if your child labor is older and thinks helping out around the house is lame and would move out and live in the tree fort if you set a timer? Then you pay them. Why not? Yes, they live there and yes, the mess is partly-to-mostly theirs. But you blew it when they were little and would think it was fun and just another part of the day. Now, you make it the new kind of fun, the kind that ends up with a payment at the end of the week. You can give them money, or time. They can earn gaming time or tv time, time with just you or your spouse, time to stay up late and read or watch movies and so on.
After you get your kids in on the game plan, what is next? You have 2 goals and only 2 for a few weeks:
Fold and put your laundry away as soon as it's dry.
Clean your sink before bed-dishes washed or in the washer, that's all.
After you get this down, work to really clean in each room of the house only one day a week, make it fit your own needs such as planning to really clean the kitchen the day before the trash runs so you can toss expired items quickly, or cleaning it just before you go grocery shopping to make list-making and putting the food away both much easier. Or cleaning your bathrooms the day before you normally have company over, cleaning the living room the day before you normally go to the library and so on.
Now that the kids can all read, write and do math, we do no formal lessons in the week. I still sit down with them often and show them what I am doing or help them with anything that comes up. I have become a resource and not a teacher for them.
Get in the habit of putting things back when you are done and don't be confined by how things 'should' be when setting up your spaces. Unusual things can work, such as hanging a big metal sheet or frame on a wall and covering it with magnets to keep your scissors, nail clippers, tweezers and so on in one place. Hoping the tweezers are in the right drawer when you have a stinger sticking out of your arm can result in more stress in a already miserable situation. But noticing the tweezers are not on the wall just in passing can lead to them being found and replaced before they are ever needed again.
Of course you will have to replace towels and tissue more than once a week in the bathroom, but chances are, you can let the tub and sink go another few days and just do it once a week. Same thing in the kitchen, you and your spouse and your kids are in there ten times a day and it's always a mess. Just get everyone doing their part to clean as they go-put cups and snack plates in the dishwasher, wipe up the crumbs, put the bread away. It's mostly about taking care of what you take out, 80% of the mess can be taken care of in under 60 seconds after it has been made. Another 10% in under 200 seconds and the final 10% can usually wait for the weekly deep cleaning day.
Don't get too caught up with the house, it's all so transitioning anyway, the baby stuff gives way to toddler toys and that makes room for blocks and sets which are cast aside for electronics and this whole thing takes barely over a decade. Your job is to keep things safe, fairly free from germs and to teach and show good habits to the people you share space with. It is not your job to do it all, to 'teach them a lesson' or to have a aneurism because the front window is covered in fingerprints. Again. You all live there, don't worry what 'company' might think-make it a space you all can live with.