*Use cloth napkins. Not only are they reusable, but they can be pretty and add charm to your table. I use a holder or basket filled with vintage, mass-produced, and handmade napkins in a variety of colors and patterns. A small pile of ironed, neatly folded napkins makes a great housewarming gift, too.
*Forget the paper towels. Yes, there are times when a disposable towel for truly disgusting jobs makes some sense. Most clean-up, though, can be done with dishrags, kitchen towels, and a stash of retired towels and t-shirts. I keep my stash in a clean pail under the counter of my laundry room. When they're clean I just toss 'em in there.
*Kids can do chores. It's easier just to clean up myself, rather than spend the time cultivating a sense of personal responsibility in my children. The whining and complaining is sometimes beyond my capacity to take. But, when they're rooms are clean, they feel good about themselves. What matters here is regularity. My children clean their rooms on Sunday mornings. That's just how it is, and they know to expect it. Other chores might be unloading the dishwasher, feeding the dogs, or putting the chickens up at night. Despite their complaints, they really do want to participate. And, families bond over more than trips to the zoo or the ice cream shoppe; We bond over working together on the care of our home.
*Let it be messy. A house is not a museum where we show off our finest objects. It's where we live, make babies, chat with friends, cook and eat. It's where relationships are cultivated. Yes, a house should be healthy and livably tidy. But, the floor doesn't need to be mopped at the expense of time with the people we love. (Besides, your guests might actually feel relieved that your abode is just as imperfect as their's are.) Here's a poem my mom said to me when I was small and then had printed and framed. My kids love it, and it is a great reminder to me...
Cleaning and scrubbing can wait 'til tomorrow
For Children grow up, we've learned to our sorrow
So, quiet down cobwebs
Dust go to sleep
I'm rocking my baby...
And babies don't keep.