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 calender 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.