Family Pick-Up Time (Or The Benefits of Random Intentionality)

Before a 5-minute pickup at

Five times five equals twenty-five.

For real. It totally does.


A few years ago, though, five times five equaled three. Sometimes seven.

I’m talking about minutes. Five people doing a five-minute pick-up equals twenty-five minutes of picking up.

But in the beginning, when Family Pick-Up Time was a totally new thing, five people times five only equaled about three minutes worth of progress. On a GREAT day, maybe ten.

Let me clarify, just in case you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow. She is so good. She’s been training those kids on the five-minute pick-up every day for years, so of course it has paid off!”

Not so much.

I gave this post the alternate-title of The Benefits of Random Intentionality for a reason.

I’m all about intentional parenting. Setting guidelines for TV and video game time? That comes  naturally to me. Saying “no” to excessive commitments that steal family time? Got that down.

Sitting around the table together, eating a home-cooked meal almost every night of the week? Yep. A total no-brainer.

But consistently doing a Family Pick-Up Time? Almost never occurs to me.

It’s why I check “Focused 5-Minute Pick-Up” off the Daily Checklist whenever I happen to be going through the checklist. If the kids are around, they help. If not, I go ahead and do it and then tell myself we’ll do another Pick-Up together later. (My house never doesn’t need a second Pick-Up.)

Notice I said, “tell myself . . . ”

Because that’s the issue.

While homework and family prayer time enter my mind consistently at the exact same time each day, stopping to pick up before bedtime does not.

I wish it did, but it doesn’t.

But I am here to testify that Random Intentionality is better than Non-Existent Intentionality.

Because of my innate randomness in certain things, I’ve often struggled with a “What’s the Point?” attitude. After a certain number of failed we’re-going-to-change-how-we-live-starting-right-now attempts, knowing that consistency will be my biggest enemy can make me lose heart and justify not even trying.

But that’s wrong. My kids are now 7, 10 and 11. I’ve been at this deslobification thing for more than four years. They know what a Family Five-Minute Pick-Up is, even if it isn’t a daily thing.

Back when they were younger, I wouldn’t have believed they were learning anything from our five minute pickups. As I pointed out every single toy or paper on the floor, it all seemed so futile.

But they did learn.

Being intentional here and there when the thought struck me? It paid off.

And now, on days like last Sunday, I can set the timer and see real benefits from a random five-minute pick-up.

5ish Minutes Later at

Not that it’s perfect. Certain picker-uppers took advantage of the fact that mom spent the first three minutes in the kitchen, sticking frozen pizza in the oven.

But after adding a few extra minutes, we were able to watch Rudolph in a much-less cluttered room. And then this morning, I was able to remove the way-too-small table and TV trays and feel ever-so-much better about the room.

The Family Five-Minute Pick-Up at

Go ahead. Be intentional today. Even if you forget tomorrow, it will be worth it.



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--Nony get-how-to-manage-your-home-without-losing-your-mind-wherever-books-are-sold


  1. 1

    I don’t do five minute pickups. My kiddos don’t do well with the timer–they tend to not be very effective if I time them. Instead, I tell them, “Everyone pick up {insert number between 10 and 5o} items.” Or now that we have done this drill enough times, “25, everyone.” I choose a number based on how messy the room is–and if it is really messy, I add, “starting with the biggest things.” Because, if you tell kids to pick up 50 items in a room, they will walk past the coat lying on the floor 50 times, and pick up 50 minuscule bits of paper so that you don’t need to run the vacuum when they are done. But you do still need to pick up the coat. When they finish, I evaluate and assign another number if necessary. All this counting has done wonders for my first grader’s math skills.

    • 2

      I love this method and will totally try it!

      • 3
        Dianne@Baking4Six says:

        I do the timer sometimes… with my older children when they help me one on one. I say, please help me for 5,10,15,30 minutes. I set the timer and then when it’s off they know they are done for the day.

        However… I use the pick up _____ items frequently and it works well w/my four children. It also motivates quick pick-up because the first to start picking up gets first choice at the _____ number of specified items. 🙂

    • 4

      When i remember to be intentional i combine the numbers and time to make it a game. We either do whoever picks up X amount the fastest “wins” or whoever picks up the most in X minutes “wins”. With 3 boys they turn everything into a competition, i might as well capitalize on that!

    • 6

      I do something similar to the “pick up X number” thing. I found that my older children were getting really frustrated with their younger siblings for not doing as much during pick up time. So, I started telling them “Pick up as many things as your age” or “pick up as many as two times as your age.” Add the ages of five children together, and that is a lot of things being picked up!!! Even the two year old can help easily.
      I will add the 5 minute pick up, too, though. When I think of it. 😉

    • 8

      I just may have been anal enough to count the pieces of clutter on the floor, and divide that by the number of children working. It never works. They always find a way to find something so miniscule that I didn’t bother to count it. Repeatedly.

  2. 9

    Hi! I just found your site! I just want to let you know that your header and page menu don’t completely show on my cell phone, (Droid RAZR Maxx). So, I can’t get to all of your sections. The blog posts show up fine. I thought your webmaster might want to know…

  3. 11

    PS: I also have a WordPress site. I used the “Custom Menu” widget, and the menu turns into a pull down menu in mobile.

  4. 12

    We used to do commercial boogies (boogie being a term I picked up from FLYLady). We’d watch a movie and during the commercials jump up like mad men and pick up. You have about 10 minutes of commercials per every 30 minutes so it really adds up. My kids are older now, two grown and gone, two teens, but I still do commercial boogies myself, I’ll turn on a show, and pick up the room during the show and put things where they belong during commercials or run to another room and pick it up.

    I also had my kids doing things like windows when they were five, yes they were streaked, but by the time they were 8 they had it down, me-I can’t get a streak free window to save my life.

    • 13

      That’s a great idea!

    • 14

      I used to do this! But along the way it became too difficult to move quickly or get comfortable later (my joints think I’m 90 even if I’m less than a third of that), and I started watching commercial-free TV, so it fell by the wayside.

      When I was packing my house, without my partner’s help for involved reasons, I set timers for 45 minutes and 15 minutes. Work 45, rest 15. As I got tired, I would reduce it to 30 and even 20 minutes, with 10 minute breaks. It REALLY helps for those big projects like packing a house or completely re-orging and scrubbing a room. By the end of the day I might be only working 20 minutes at a time, but I wouldn’t have conked out by noon!

  5. 15

    I love the concept of many hands make lighter work…I just wish my kids loved it as much as I do. I’m going to have to try the family pick-up time. I’m a lot like you in that remembering to do it is a problem. However, I’ve recently learned to use the alarm on my cell phone. Maybe I’ll try using that as a reminder. 🙂

    Love the picking up during commercials, Valerie. When do watch television, I usually get up and march in place (or pace) during commercials…but I could alternate between that and picking things up. 🙂

    I also like Tracy’s idea…a specific number of things…starting with the big things. 😀

  6. 16

    “But they did learn.”

    Thank you for the encouragement. My kids are 5, 3, 22m, 10m, and 9m (a mix of biological, adopted, and foster). When it was just the two oldest, I was SO good (only a mild eye-roll) at enforcing instructions and teaching “diligence, not dawdling” character qualities. But then everything went crazy when three more babies showed up within one year. We DO do “put-away time” every day before lunch and before Daddy comes home (I’ve learned to cling to the consistency for survival). But on days like today, I become completely unglued trying to keep the two oldest on task, teach #3 how to help, and keep the babies (who are now crawling and their own brand of “intentional”) from undoing it all. Today I was in tears; I collected my bigs and just prayed for patience and wisdom regarding the balance between first-time obedience and age-appropriate expectations. I’m not sure if this was the intent of your post, but thank you for the reminder that mommas are in it for the long-haul, not just today’s performance.

  7. 17

    “Because of my innate randomness in certain things, I’ve often struggled with a “What’s the Point?” attitude. After a certain number of failed we’re-going-to-change-how-we-live-starting-right-now attempts, knowing that consistency will be my biggest enemy can make me lose heart and justify not even trying.”

    This paragraph jumped out and grabbed me by the throat. Wow. You said that well, and you described me perfectly. I got to the place where I was scared to announce a new organizational plan, because my kids would start rolling their eyes, and I would just crumple. I made several attempts that never got past the first day. Consistency my biggest enemy…wow. Just wow. Thank you for the insight.

  8. 18

    I have found that giving each child a different item to focus on really helps. I’ll assign the youngest shoes, the next kiddo dog toys/items, the next one clothing, and so on and so forth. (The benefit of having 8 kids-you run out of items before you run out of children).

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