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July 15, 2010 / MrsH

A Clean House

In my reading of various blogs and mothering.com discussion boards, I often run across very hardworking, tired, stressed mothers.  One question frequently posed: how do I keep my house clean with little ones running around?  More often than not, the answer is “lower your standards.”  Which is absolutely valid advice and definitely needs to happen.  A home with three children in it all day long can not be as clean (on a regular basis) as that with a married working couple.  However, a common theme among these posts is that the children are doing hardly any of the chores.

I wanted to share a solution that has really helped our family keep a neater, cleaner home: Saturday Chores.  Every Saturday morning, after breakfast, our family gathers and we make a list of the chores that need to be done.  Anyone can suggest chores, and MrH and our eldest often do.  I also frequently have leftover “Kelly’s Missions” from flylady and throw those in there.  We then decide who will do what chores, based on ability.  See below for some examples.

We split up and get them done.  Our eldest usually works independently, with just some help to get started and a few check-ins (except when she’s learning a chore alongside me or MrH).  One of the grown-ups blitzes through the chores, and while we usually have an equal share on the paper list (in all fairness, according to our eldest), the blitzer tends to start on the other parents’ chores fairly quickly.  Why?  Because the other parent is helping our 4 year old do his chores, and minding the toddler.

For motivation we use a few strategies.  First, we cast this as a family time, where we all need to work together to accomplish this task.  Keeping the house clean is not solely my job, it’s our family’s job and so we all pitch in; we’re a team.  Second, music often helps (though sometimes distracts!).  Third, we don’t do fun things until chores are done.  We can get everything done in an hour if each person does his/her part. Once completed, we all revel in how nice our home feels and us parents make it a point to play with the kids.  What’s most striking to me is that we all mostly enjoy Saturday chores.

If you’re interested in this idea for your family, take a look at the types of chores each kid does.  Keep in mind that we’ve been doing this for about a year and a half, and have actively planned to teach our kids how to complete these chores.

The Eldest – our 8 year old does the following (though not each week!):

  • mop the kitchen
  • clean either bathroom (we use all gentle cleaners)
  • vacuum the car
  • watch the toddler
  • sweep any room
  • vacuum anywhere except the stairs
  • put 10 things away (code for: put your junk away!)
  • dust thoroughly
  • organize an area, such as a book shelf or toy shelf
  • help fold laundry – we just started this one, she’s fine with napkins and dish towels, decent with babyclothes, and working on her own clothes now.

The Middle One – our 4 year old will do any of these, with some support and company:

  • wash the table
  • help with sweeping
  • wipe spots off the kitchen floor
  • wipe down kitchen cabinets
  • organize all the shoes in the hall – matching pairs and lining them up nicely
  • put 10 (-ish) things away
  • dust
  • help move laundry along, as well as help sort and fold
  • empty dishwasher, especially the plastic stuff and sorting silverware
  • help with any of the other chores that the grown-ups are doing

The Toddler – we haven’t started our 14 month old yet, though I think she’s ready.  Some things she already does:

  • If given a cloth she already starts wiping the table
  • throw things in the trash
  • “help” sweep with her own little broom
  • I think we can get her to help with a lot of the tasks that her big brother currently does.

All kids also help with lots of day to day things such as bringing groceries in, setting/clearing the table, and maintaining their room in a (mostly) orderly way.  But that stuff just gets in as part of daily routines and requests, not a big family time.  I liked this chart as a very thorough listing of all that kids are capable of.  I’m still blown away by their abilities when they put their minds to it and are given a bit of responsibility.

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