Having three children under the age of three means that cleaning the apartment a week before the inspection would have been pointless--it would have inevitably be destroyed within two hours. I'm afraid when you have this many toddlers, the only way to guarantee that the house will stay clean, is to clean it after they go to sleep
I have since discussed this situation with other people who have been through the system. They have brought to my attention the fact that if a guardian ad litem comes into your home and sees it looking perfectly spic-and-span, she is probably going to know that you went through all of the extra trouble just to impress her and will assume that your home is never that clean. And, let's face it, she would be absolutely right to assume that. It is my argument, however, that a guardian ad litem will expect your family to do a little extra cleaning prior to her arrival and if you leave it looking as half-ass as it normally does, she will probably assume that your home is even less clean on a daily basis. It is up to you which side you take on this. We chose to play it safe and ultra-clean the house.
I mentioned before that I have searched the internet up and down for an article about what the guardian will be looking for specifically. The only thing I have learned after hours of searching, is that the guardian ad litem is looking for a child-friendly home in which your child(ren) will thrive and succeed. Pretty generic, I know. So we came up with our own interpretation of what that means.
The guardian ad litem will be looking for a kid-friendly home. This, of course, begins in the child's room.
The guardian wants to make sure that each child has his/her own space and their own bed. I feel like I shouldn't even have to point out that boys should have separate rooms from girls, which may not be an issue with children so young, but no matter how old they are I just find that... weird.
Baby or safety-proofing is vital. We made sure that all outlet protectors were plugged in, the blinds chords were wrapped up and out of reach, and only age-appropriate toys were at the kids' level. I wiped down the dresser and even took the time to wipe out each speck of dust between the bars of Jellybean's crib. The floors were swept, beds were made, and books and educational toys were displayed neatly on shelves.
Now, Ant went a little overboard and began reorganizing closets. I thought that was just a tad overdoing it, as I'm sure we wouldn't be judged for having disorganized closet space. But, I guess we needed a good spring-cleaning anyway and I didn't have to do it so more power to 'im.
I thought the bathroom would be a biggie. The tub, sink and toilet were given a good scrub down. Instead of a lock on the bathroom cabinet, all cleaners were put on the top shelf of the linen closet and the bathroom cabinet was filled with bath toys and baby lotion. A large, green octopus with purple polka dots is our spout cover, and--although the tub is clean--we spread a few toys across the tub for the kid-friendly look. I debated for a moment on putting away the naked-baby-butt-photos we have proudly displayed on the bathroom shelf... But I don't know a mom that doesn't have a few of those for public display so I just left them.
Since this is typically where our family spends the majority of our time, most of the baby-proofing and safety concerns were already taken care of. There is usually one bin of toys left out in the open, a stack of Nick Jr. DVDs near the TV, and a thousand baby pictures covering the walls. Aside from scrubbing fruit punch stains out of the carpet and wiping a few fingerprints off the walls, this room was ready from the get-go.
Our apartment is oddly designed. The first floor is our bedroom (which was actually a second living room that we had to convert into a bedroom when Ant and the boys moved in) and the rest of the apartment, including the kitchen, living room, bathroom and kids' bedrooms, are all located upstairs. Yes, that is different and, yes, it is an enormous pain in the ass.
Anyway, unless your children are spending a great deal of time in your bedroom--and I really don't see why they should--then a quick cleanup will probably suffice. Since our bedroom is on an entirely different floor than the rest of our home and the children are not allowed anywhere near the staircase, our bedroom is pretty much a kid-free zone.
Obviously, this room is pretty important. This is where you prepare food for your family, this is where your children eat and the kitchen table is where they do many of their activities. I stayed up until 1:00 a.m. scrubbing this room down. You all know the basics, mop the floor, wipe off the counters, etc. But if you're going for a really clean look, don't pass over:
- Dirty fingerprints on the refrigerator door. (It doesn't hurt to quickly wipe out the inside either!)
- Inside of the microwave--I guarantee you have spaghetti-o splats.
- The wall near where the children sit. You might be surprised at the splattered food you missed before.
- The wall and floor near the garbage can.
Back to the "kid-friendly look," we set out their Disney place mats and put a few colored pictures on the refrigerator.
So we didn't get to bed until after 1:00 Monday morning, but we could sleep sound knowing that we were 100% ready for this inspection.
Introduction to How To Impress The Guardian Ad Litem
Part I: The Initial Meeting
Part III: The Home Inspection & Parent/Child Interaction
Part IV: Consulting The Witnesses
Part V: Drug Testing
Part VI: Do What The Guardian Tells You