With a large family it takes very little to quickly clutter up a room, any room. If there are six in the household and each person leaves out one book, one coat, 2 shoes, a half-empty glass, a pile of school papers or mail, then scattered around the living room, front hall, etc. are at least 6 books, 6 coats, 12 shoes, 6 glasses, and 6 piles of papers and mail.... anyway. You get the picture. I found the picture example online, where I had literally hundreds of choices.
Two strategies I used periodically with my kiddos to help stem the encroaching lava-flow of clutter:
Each [and every] person in the house is responsible for picking up and putting away properly any 5 items that are where they don't belong. The items do NOT have to be theirs. They can be anyone's. [If the person left them where the items don't belong, the person loses the right to complain if someone puts them away.] This does not thoroughly clean a room, but it has three benefits: 1-It is a fast route to improving the clutter. 2-People quickly learn which things are easiest to put away quickly. 3-The family sees that working together they can clean up what working together they messed up. A possible benefit: The person/s that are the worst offenders quickly see that.
Five-Minute Room Rescue:
We set a timer for five minutes. [Anyone can spare five minutes!] Everyone [adults included of course] runs around picking up and straightening up as much as they can until the timer dings, when they can stop no matter what is still left. Again, ownership of the mess is not a part of the discussion. I should note that this is the one time that careful running is allowed in my house [an unusual and coveted treat for my kids.] It is a wonderful way to teach how little time it takes to make a really big difference when everyone is working. Yes, some do more than others, yes some do it better than others, but the rule is just that everyone is doing it for five minutes. [When I first started this we used a timer set to only THREE minutes until they got older and better.] We even pitch in to work together and do a room rescue in a child's bedroom if it gets ahead of them and they feel overwhelmed. It usually gets them going and gets it well started.
Favorite times to call a Five-Minute Room Rescue: Before Dinner, Before we head out for a Saturday Adventure, and best of all..... when the phone rings and someone we didn't expect says they are on their way to the house!
I am a lifelong educator, writer and author, a foster, bio, and adoptive parent, happy mom of five daughters, Grandma to six, Nana to four, and church and theater musician. Oh yes, and all-round optimistic, crazy lady.