Have you ever felt like your home is noisy and cluttered? Perhaps you have heaps of toys, but your child never wants to play with them?  Do you make lists of activities and tasks, but never get to any of them? Maybe you can’t recall the exact location of that beautiful cooking set you bought last Christmas, or that great book you set aside to read? You may be experiencing ‘household chaos’ and you are not even aware of it!

‘Household chaos’ is a term often used by parenting researchers and psychologists to describe a home environment which is noisy, crowded, full of clutter and without a set routine. This may happen for your family during school holidays or perhaps you recently experienced this during your COVID isolation / quarantine.

The home environment is the backdrop to parenting. Raising children in a calm and organised environment helps to build safety, predictability, and nurturing relationships, which have a positive impact on child development. We know that household chaos is an ever-increasing phenomenon in Australia, especially due to both parents needing to work to support their family. When you finally get home after a long day at work, after dealing with traffic, all you want to do is get dinner organised and your kids ready for bedtime. If you’re anything like me, decluttering or cleaning are not on the priority list!

So to help, we wanted to share some questions you can ask to check your level of chaos. But most importantly, some strategies to support you to move from chaos into calm.

The statements below are used by researchers to help determine the level of chaos in a household. Read each one and ask yourself – to what degree does this apply to your household: ‘not even a bit’, ‘maybe sometimes’, ‘quite a bit’ or ‘all the time’.

  • There’s not much noise or fuss in our home
  • We can find the things we need, most of the time
  • We’re always running late, even when we try very hard to be punctual
  • Our home is an absolute zoo
  • In our home, family members talk to each other without interruption
  • Someone is always quarrelling about something or other at home
  • We try to make family plans, but they never seem to work out
  • I always end up getting pulled into someone else’s argument at home
  • Our home is a place where I know I can rest and relax after a hard day
  • From the time we’re awake until we go to bed at night, our home has a predictable routine

Did you spot any problematic areas? If you did, read on for our strategies to get you started on the ‘tidying up’ mindset.

  • Start with a Schedule

Sit down with pen and paper (or a notes app on your phone) and figure out when to schedule what. Divide the day into major blocks, such as early morning 6-9am, late morning 9-11am, lunch 12-2pm etc. Ask yourself how much time each family member requires to get ready for work and study and begin with wake-up time. Plan out mealtime, work time and entertainment time. You don’t need bathroom breaks, but the idea is to work out a rough timeframe that will get the whole family to participate together.

  • Cancel all Unnecessary Appointments

This is the best time to review your extracurricular activities list and do a serious clean up. What kind of lifestyle do you want to have? You can’t get one child to chess class if it’s at the same time the other needs to be at ballet. Spend some time researching more convenient options. Consider cancelling any unnecessary overlapping appointments to start fresh.

  • Start Thinking, Sorting and Decluttering

If you have household chaos, pick a place to start. If your issue is noise, try to figure out how to reduce the noise level. For example, try television/device-free hours and instead use that time for circle time or family group time. If it’s about clutter, start sorting – you can start off small, get a bin or basket going, go through one section at a time and declutter room by room. Once you get started, you will find joy in the items you have and feel more at peace at home, plus you will be motivated to keep going.

  • Stop Comparing

Just because the family next door has two toddler trikes, does not mean you have to have the same. You especially don’t need two if one of your children is already on a full-size bike! Don’t try to keep up with others’ routines and belongings. This is a process for yourself, for your family and the result will mean you have a clutter-free home and can enjoy time interacting with your loved ones.

  • Remember Teamwork

As shared in our other blogs, children are capable helpers. Involving children in the tidying up process teaches them accountability and community contribution. Give each family member an area to focus on. Children can always start with their toys. Have an honest conversation with your child about what toys they should keep and what should go. Whilst it’s hard, you and your child will realise that holding onto baby toys when they are pre-schoolers does not bring them joy. When they are done sorting, you can take a quick look and add in any others. As long as the items are in good condition, consider donating to a local op-shop or women’s shelter to help someone in need.

Give these strategies a try and say goodbye to household chaos and hello to a calmer home!

In-depth reading resources:

How to Facilitate a Positive and Safe Play Space and Reduce Chaos https://connectability.ca/2011/03/21/how-to-facilitate-a-positive-and-safe-play-space-and-reduce-chaos/

Specifying the Links Between Household Chaos and Preschool Children’s Development (2012) – Martin, Razza and Brooks-Gun https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3422884/

Household Chaos May Be Hazardous to a Child’s Health (2013) – Ohio State University https://news.osu.edu/household-chaos-may-be-hazardous-to-a-childs-health/


Blog post by Yolanda Mui-Normand – Manager, Specialist Programs