Cleaning isn't my favorite part of managing a home but there's no better feeling than a freshly scrubbed floor that shines like the day we moved in and having everything in its place. Now that all three kids are out of school for the summer, I'm realizing how much harder it can be to keep it that way!
It's become my mission to find ways to both occupy their time so they aren't in front of a screen all afternoon, and delegate some of the extra chores that don't get taken care of on a weekly basis. I've found a few ways to do all of that without any whining or sour attitudes so I wanted to pass along my new tips in case you've been the only one at your house picking up the vacuum, too. It may not be quite as squeaky clean as the day we moved in but we're getting there!
Let It Go, Let It Go
Everyone knows it's hard to keep a tidy home when it's brimming with stuff. We're a little late to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up game but Brett read it earlier this month and then went to town on each room in the house. No closet was left untouched, no dark corner of a cabinet unturned. Seriously though, most of our excess stuff came from the kids' rooms in the form of outgrown toys, random art projects leftover from school, games with missing pieces, and clothing that won't fit next season. We bagged items to donate, set aside a few things to sell, recycled what we could, and trashed the rest.
Some of you may be able to get your kids to help declutter their own stuff but others just can't bear to let go of anything. Pre-parent the situation in a way your kids will respond best. If they aren't able to pass along a toy they've outgrown or a favorite shirt from two years ago, put those items in a storage container and tell them you're just going to move them to a new space for awhile such as the garage or attic. If they still miss them in a few weeks, assure them you'll bring them back into their room. This way they don't feel like their stuff is gone forever but can still enjoy the simplicity of fewer things to put away and clean. If they completely forget about that old shirt after your designated time, feel free to find it a new home.
Make Cleaning Appealing
Sometimes it's all in the presentation. Tell them you need a brave fairy to climb a mountain and vanquish the dust monsters on top of the fan with their magic wand and watch how quickly those blades get wiped down. We keep our ladder stashed away for safety reasons so it's always a treat for the kids to get to use it when we're changing bulbs or dusting window trim. They love the chance to get up high and I love that they want to help!
I've used feather dusters in the past and then had to vacuum up the dust bunny mess after finishing up the fan blades. This Swiffer 360 Duster keeps the dust mess to a minimum so its easy for me to let the kids use it without worrying about them getting covered in dust, too. This one is perfect for those messy jobs that aren't as accessible on a daily basis and really build up over time. My A/C vents are next!
Another tactic is having a scuff mark scavenger hunt. Ruby is old enough to help point out those marks on the walls that have been there for so long that I have stopped seeing them. Have your kids walk through a room with you and help you find all of those crayon marks on the walls or rubber scuffs on the floors that need the Magic Eraser touch. If there is a playful sense of urgency to find more than you, they might find themselves having a little fun!
Yeah, it'd been awhile since we'd cleaned the fan blades. I'm going to say over a year. Ewwww.
Assign Chores According to Age
If they can walk without falling, they're old enough to help in some small way. Now, this doesn't mean you won't have to redo it when they're done or clean up after they help a little too much but taking a minute to encourage their enthusiasm at any age will likely reinforce repeat behavior.
Smith is at that independent age where he wants to do it all himself so I try to offer him plenty of opportunities to tend to the upkeep of our home. Not all of our furniture is kind to the original hardwood floors in this house so he got to help me put these pads on the bottoms of chairs and tables. We also like to let him work on cleaning the windows and coffee table with a spray bottle of water so he can join in the busy work without me needing to tend to his every move.
Create An Easy to Reach Cleaning Station
We used to keep certain cleaning items in various parts of the house depending on what they were needed for. My problems started when I'd run out of bathroom or all-purpose cleaner downstairs and spend ten minutes searching which cabinet or bathroom I'd left the other bottles in upstairs. I'd use up the tiny amount of momentum I had working in my favor just hunting down everything I needed to get started.
I finally wised up and started to corral everything in one location. I made sure it was out of Smith's line of sight but still accessible for the big kids if they needed to clean up their own mess or get started on chores. Almost everything we use to clean is non-toxic so it makes it much easier to hand a spray bottle over to one of the kids when they are responsible enough to use them. It's also nice knowing that they can clean up their own spills without me having to hunt down the clean wash rags or find the only full bottle of all-purpose cleaner in the house.
Offer Incentives for Extra Help
Our older kids have daily responsibilities to help around the house but we also offer a list of chores they can do to earn some fun money. We want to teach them a good work ethic but also want to create a little room for them to have a choice in the tasks they put that energy towards. It has proven to be a more productive strategy for jobs that get finished with a good attitude!
They also really enjoy the tasks that involve using fun cleaning gadgets. We have always used a Swiffer Sweeper to mop our floors but the Swiffer WetJet is the new favorite because the big kids love getting to spray the cleaning solution with the touch of a button. It's like the cleaning version of a nerf gun to them! I briefly showed them how to pulse it twice or hold it down for two seconds to make sure they weren't going to use it up halfway through the house before they were unleashed. My floors have never been mopped with more enthusiasm.
Find Out What Motivates Them
If they are too cool to pretend they're fairies or don't feel the need to earn a few extra dollars, try scheduling a play date or sleepover depending on their age (and your sanity level). When my kids know their friends are coming over to play they are always more willing to tidy more than just their rooms in order to have some fun when they're done. Maybe a family trip to get ice cream or a movie night with a fort in the living room will spark that enthusiasm to finish their tasks. Sometimes turning on some Taylor Swift and having everyone do chores at the same time can bring a sense of teamwork that makes cleaning more fun.
At the end of the day, everyone wins. Your kids are learning practical life skills that they'll be able to use to make mom and dad's jobs a little easier and you'll someday send them out into the world knowing how to take care of their own spaces when mom isn't around to do it for them. Whether they keep their new spaces as clean as you prefer is another story but at least they'll know how to use a mop!
Swiffer and Mr Clean sent over a cleaning kit with a few of these products to enjoy and I welcomed them into my new cleaning corner because they are all tools we've purchased on our own in the past. It was perfect timing to get the kids pumped about summer chores! I also got to join in a Twitter chat hosted by Jonathan Scott! Between chatting with Mr. Scott and being featured in the same magazine as Chip and Joanna Gaines, I'm practically part of the HGTV family. Ha!
If you've got kids, how have you been successful (or not) in getting them to contribute with household cleaning and other chores? Share all of your secrets with us!