State of the Car

Getting home from a road trip can be rough.  Besides unpacking, laundry, getting back on schedule, and going through stacks of mail, there is the state of the car.  And our car is usually always a disaster zone after trips (despite the fact that we do a mini clean up at every gas stop.)  Here is a sneak peak at what our car looked like after our recent 40 plus hour road trip.

Because the state of the car is always a disaster, we have the kids help us clean out the car when we get back from trips.  Why do we do this?  Because it’s fun…no way.  Because we bond together as a family…uh no. Because it’s faster….heck no.  Because we are crazy…yes! Bingo! and because I am hoping that maybe if the kids have to clean up their mess each time, they will be less likely to leave it the next time.  So far it hasn’t worked, but I am sticking to my theory.

Here are a few tips to survive cleaning out the car with kids after a road trip:

1. Lower expectations.  Realize this is not going to be fun or fast or even productive.  You will yell; kids will complain, and everyone will want to quit.  When that is what you expect, it is not so disappointing when it happens.

2. Give yourself time. Plan for cleaning out the car to take 3 hours and then when it only takes 2, it seems like it was fast.  Or break the task up into 2 parts.  First, just get everything out of the car and put away.  Then after lunch or even the next day, tackle actually cleaning the car.

3. Involve everyone. Give children age appropriate tasks so they can stay engaged and involved.  The tasks are not equal, but their ages and abilities aren’t equal either.

Elle washed windows.  Doesn’t she look happy to be helping?

Crew vacuumed.  He looks happy too.

Croft was assigned to pick up the garbage and put it in the sack.  She really was happy, but then again she hadn’t even started yet.  There was nothing in her bag.  (I love the outfits she chooses to get to work.)

4. Don’t expect perfection.  Crew did not vacuum as well as I could have.  Elle’s windows were streaky.  And Croft was slower than molasses.  But remember, it is not about perfection; it is about forming habits and encouraging responsibility.

5. Give helpers a reward.  Cleaning out the car is not fun so it helps to have something motivating at the end like play dates with friends or ice cream (just don’t eat it in the car!).  Give the kids a reason to want to finish quickly or it will take all day.

Good luck! I’ll need it too. We will be cleaning out the car again next week when we get back from Boise.  Do you think my kids will be any happier to help or that it will go any smoother?  I am not getting my hopes up.

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