Tackle Housekeeping with Your Kids
By Natalie, Contributing Writer
Let’s face it, girls. Keeping the house clean probably isn’t on anybody’s top ten favorite-things-to-do list. Yet do it we must. And the feeling you get when you survey the results (even if it only lasts for five minutes) is peaceful satisfaction.
But getting the motivation to hop-to-it is hard to come by when there are so many other, more intriguing things to do. We need an attack strategy. And if you have kids, you’ll want to get them involved in the battle, er, fun.
I’ve tried my share of complex chore systems complete with all the applicable gizmos and doo-dads to get us going. They work for about a week, and then what I’ve got to show for it is more stuff to organize right along with the little people. Last year I threw out all the stuff and decided to give paper and pencil a try. Well, and a white board.
My Favorite Tool to Kick Me Into Gear
A friend of mine recently told me her smart phone is her brain. I wish I had either one of those, but since I don’t, I must rely on lists. I keep a running monthly calendar and daily “to-do” list on my big white board. For me, it is cathartic to wipe things off the list with a simple swipe of the finger. Done. Voila.
The white board is great for tracking immediate responsibilities–things you want to be certain you carve out time to do. So as soon as one of those nagging “things” occurs to your brain…you sprint over to the white board and write it down.
For example, let’s say you are putting the silverware into the drawer, and it dawns on you that the drawer contains the remnants of 6 months worth of meals in the form of tiny, dried-up particles as well as some smeary stuff on the drawer face. You COULD clean it right then and there. But if you are in a rush and don’t have the time at that moment…go write it down.
Now that it is on the white board…it will stare at you annoyingly until you clean out that drawer.
I usually assign myself 3-5 of those “things” on my whiteboard per day. In the morning, there they are. At bedtime, they are gone. I sleep better knowing I won.
But What About the Kids?
When you are knee deep in diapers and Duplos, you’ll be doing all the cleaning yourself, unless your favorite tool becomes a cleaning lady. But as those chubby toddlers get older, you can start sharing some of the fun with them. It’s amazing how fast they grow and learn.
And if you play your cards right, after several years it is possible to work your way out of cleaning all together.
Plan of Attack
First, make a list of all the areas in your home (master bedroom, family room, baby room, etc.) and everything that needs to be done in that area on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.
(And keep in mind that you don’t need anyone else to tell you WHAT needs to be cleaned in any given area. You get to decide. If you choose to overlook the window treatments until they start to look like the ones in Miss Havisham’s house, you can. I did.)
- Main Bathroom Daily: empty trash, wipe down sink, put up clean hand towel
- Main Bathroom Weekly: clean toilet inside and out, clean sink, wash floor, wash tub/shower, dust shelf
- Main Bathroom Monthly: declutter drawers and wipe them out, wash down walls and doors, clean vents
- Main Bathroom Yearly: clean grout, clean light fixtures
Once you’ve got this done for every area in your home, assign age-appropriate jobs to your children. They will each have daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly chores. Put this in a Word document and post it in your kitchen so they each know what is expected of them. Once you’ve got the routine down, you can throw them away. Yes, you can!
The more kids you have, and the older they are, the more jobs get covered. Be sure to assign yourself chores, too. No kid wants to be cleaning the toilet while Mom’s eating pickles on the couch. My primary domain is the kitchen. If the kitchen is dirty, it’s my problem.
You can divvy up the jobs a few different ways. One way is to assign “jurisdictions” to each child. For example, our oldest son is in charge of the downstairs bathroom and the storage/laundry room. It’s all his. If those areas aren’t clean, we know who to call on to remedy the situation. He will have daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly tasks to keep those areas in tip- top shape.
Another way to get it all covered is to assign related jobs to different children. This is the BEST way to train your kids in various jobs like: cleaning the toilet, washing a floor, dusting, washing a sink, etc. A child might be in charge of cleaning all the toilets each week. Another child might wash all the bathroom floors. And a third child might clean the sinks.
They can rotate as they each learn those tasks, and when they get older, they will know all of the different “jobs” necessary to keep a bathroom clean, and they can be put in complete charge of one bathroom. This will serve them well when they go off to college and have a roommate…or when they get married.
We do our weekly chores on Saturday morning. It is true that by Saturday night it looks the same as it did on Friday night. But I can’t fret about that. There’s more to life than cleaning…
You can assign mealtime jobs, too. Little kids can set and clear the table. (We found out right away that our wedding dishes weren’t practical for kiddos-in-training. After most of the dishes bit the dust–literally–we invested in a lovely set of Corelle and haven’t looked back since.)
Older kids can wipe the floor and table, rinse dishes and load the dishwasher (or wash them in the sink and actually get them clean), and even help with meal prep.
I do 2-3 huge loads of laundry every. single. day. You hit age 4 around here, and you are old enough to put away your own clothes. Each child has their own laundry basket, and I do all the sorting.
The kids put their clothes away when they run out of things to wear. And yes, some do attempt to make the laundry room their closet/dressing room. You can’t win every battle.
Age Related Job Suggestions
- Ages 2-4: pick up toys, dust playroom, set table, put shoes away, make bed, wipe off door knobs and light switches, wipe cupboard faces
- Ages 5-9: dust furniture and shelves, clean room, wipe table, clear table, rinse dishes, use dust vac, wash sinks
- 10 and up: vacuum, wash toilets, wash floors
So that’s it in a nutshell, er, blog post. Nothing very profound, but I hope it encourages you to trust your cleaning instincts, make a plan of attack, keep your kids in the game, and enjoy keeping your home reasonably clean.
great article. i loved your daily/weekly/monthly list for the bathroom. would you consider sharing lists for the rest of your house? i could use some help getting organized.
Hmmmm…maybe in a future post? 🙂 Basically, though, if you just walk into each room and figure out what “bugs” you about it (you know…what you’d love a cleaning lady to clean FOR YOU if you could just pay to have it done)…write down those things…and then divy them up according to how often you wish they could be cleaned. Some ladies are more particular about certain areas than others…and this is YOUR home…so you get to decide what you are most comfortable with. (You can also ask your husband, if you are married, how he feels. Sometimes they have ideas about what they like to see “clean” more often too. Be prepared to be slightly offended at first. After you recover, you can work on making your home comfortable for both of you.)
love love love the whole article. great advice to ask your husband what his expactations are and then follow up with a compromise, I was so overwelmed when I found out my husband thought the floors should be mopped once a week not once a month but he didnt know I get down on my hands and knees and scrub them while he takes the swiffer and pushes everything to the edges of the floor. yay for comunication.
Try the FLYlady at flylady.net. If you sign up for it she will tell what to do each day to keep your house clean. I like her approach of building routines into habits.
I totally enjoyed your post! I wish I would live in a cleaner house sometimes but my motto is (framed, right as you come in my home) “Dull Women Have Immaculate Homes. I think that yo have done a great job with your children. I like that by the age of 4 they are putting away their own clothes. Good for you!
I WANT THAT QUOTE hanging on MY WALL TOO!
There’s another one I’ve seen that says “My house was clean last week. Sorry you missed it.” That would be me. 🙂
Or how about, “My house was clean an hour ago. Sorry you missed it.” That describes our Saturday. We clean in the morning, and then I sigh in the afternoon as I survey the brand new mess.
My grandmother raised 6 children. She kept a sign outside by her door that read, “If you came to see me, come on in. If you came to see my house, make an appointment!”
These are some fantastic ideas that I will save for the future. Right now we have a two year old and a six month old. Any advice for this stage? The house is a WRECK and I just want to cry. 🙁
Dear Rebecca, first of all…you need to just have a good cry. Seriously. You will feel slightly better when you’re done. Then make a list of everything in your home that is driving you bizerk. Put a number next to each item on a scale of 1-5, with five being the MOST annoying and overwhelming. Get a white board…and if you can’t afford one…just google a calendar download, print it off, and tape it on your wall. Write down one of the items that got a “five” rating down on each day of the week. If it’s a really big project, then break it down into reasonable, bite size stages. Then write down one item that got a 1-2 rating for each day of the week. Now you have two things to do on each day. Just two. You can do it!!! Forget about everything else…you’ll get to those things another day. Do your two things and then relax and enjoy those little ones as you care for all their needs. When you do their laundry…marvel at the tininess of their socks. Before too long, you’ll be in a new season, and their socks will be three feet long and really stinky. I promise. : )
Natalie, I think that is some of the best advice ever, from the list making/prioritizing of tasks right down to the marveling at those little socks. 🙂 And great post, too! I know you well enough to know you get the things done that you plan to get done. Your system is working for you. 🙂 Funny, I’m reading this as I’m recovering from a nasty illness that “forced” me to just stop and rest and now I want to just CLEAN! Haha. So, I guess illness can stir up motivation, too…but I don’t suggest that. Your attack strategy sounds much better. 😉
LOL Courtney! I totally get that feeling when I’m recovering from illness. I’m bored to tears and just want to DO something. You really appreciate feeling GOOD after you’ve felt so ROTTEN. There’s a silver lining in everything…
Thank you so much for this post! My oldest is 6 and I’m always trying to figure out ‘where exactly’ he is with regards to how much he can handle, etc. This gives me a good idea. He is VERY helpful already, though his younger sister (4) is not as helpful and I have to make it more fun…or sometimes she is ‘too tired’. Often I will just give her a section to do otherwise it’s too frustrating. What age recommendation do you have for loading/emptying the dishwasher? I try it with my 6 year old but it’s definitely not something he does every day, I feel it takes sooo long and he gets distracted. So I get him to wash the big pans in the sink, or at least try 🙂
Hi, I love all the wonderful ways you organize to care for your home. My family (well the girls and I) have a cork board chart and it works great for us to remember the daily/ weekly chores each of us have. Then the other chores that we have like cleaning up after our own selves (toys etc.) I try to keep them all doing that. ( I have four -13, almost 10, 4, 3) We also each have our own laundry baskets and the kids all put away their own laundry and I am blessed to have two daughters to help with the actually washing of the clothes. My husband loves a clean organized home, so we try our best. Thanks for sharing
I really like how you made the cleaning personal:”it’s your house.” I get tired of reading blogs or books trying to teach me how to clean MY house.
Your cleaning system and my cleaning system are very similar but you have given me some food for thought on ways I could tweak mine to work even better. Thanks for the great post.
I loved this post! I’m working through a lot of these things myself. Teaching the kids to clean the house is an investment of time, but it’s already paying off. I have a favorite cleaning service that comes when things just get too crazy, but for the most part, the kids and I manage. We do most of the cleaning on Saturday. My two older kids are definitely learning how to do a job properly, and sometimes even do something without being asked. It’s so wonderful when that happens!!
Getting the kids involved is my #1 tool. Yes, getting kids to help often takes longer when they are small, but it pays off! To the commenter who finds her son takes too long with emptying the dishwasher – don’t give up! (and definitely don’t vocalize the idea that he is taking too long and therefore that’s why he sometimes gets out of the chore!) Try getting him to just clear part of it if you really don’t have time. Most chores are easier if the family does them together!
There are two other things that I do to help manage the housework not mentioned above. 1) We evaluate our “clutter” and get rid of anything that is not being used frequently / bringing great joy or quality of life. Cleaning around clutter adds approximately 40% more time to the housework, so having less means you spend significantly less time cleaning.
2) We evaluate the housework we do regularly and find ways to reduce it / head off messes before they happen. The laundry is a good example. I too used to do several large loads a day (not including cloth diapers!). Then I read a comment somewhere that pointed out my great-grandma used to spend hours once a week doing laundry by hand for her much larger family than mine. Now we have automated machines, but the average amount of time spent doing laundry has actually gone up! That made me re-evaluate WHAT I am washing and how often, and I reclaimed a lot of that laundry time.
Thanks for the great post. I find that my children actually enjoy chores… it gives them the feeling of being older and a feeling of responsibility. Besides involving them in chores around the house, I make it very clear to them that they are in charge of keeping their playroom organized :-). Here are some ideas on making that a little easier:
“I usually assign myself 3-5 of those “things” on my whiteboard per day. ”
The word “things” really doesn’t need to be in quotes. It is distracting and incorrect. There are things, not “things”, that you need to do.