This year I started homeschooling the kids. I talked about why I love homeschooling last week and mentioned that my house is the tidiest it’s ever been. Now, granted, if you happen to pop in unexpectedly, that may not be the case since we do live here, but overall we go to bed and wake up to a clean home and, best of all, chores are done daily. I’ve had other mothers ask how I run a household (or better yet, my tips for how to get kids to clean). Having three kids (two tweens and a toddler) home 24/7, and I have to say it has taken a few attempts at finding what works but we are in a groove that is not only good for our home but also wonderful for character building.
Naturally, every family is different, but here’s are my tips for how to get kids to clean — picking up after themselves, and otherwise contributing to making the home a generally happy place.
- Enlist the entire family. I mention this topic first because if you have children it doesn’t do the children any good if you (or your spouse, housekeeper or nanny or the grandparents) do everything for them. The children need to learn how to be responsible, clean up after themselves and maintain a tidy home. In our home everyone has responsibilities. We have a large whiteboard between our mudroom and laundry room, right off the kitchen, that is updated daily with chores, sports schedules, and other important family news. The kids check it every morning and know what they are supposed to do and then they do it.
- Be the example. If my husband and I don’t keep our room clean it’s silly to hound the kids to keep their rooms tidy. If we never hang up our jackets we’re telling them it’s okay to toss theirs wherever they want.
- Keep expectations high. Yes, we live in a busy time where most kids are overloaded with activities, copious amounts of homework, and late-night sports. That is why it’s important to hold our children accountable when it comes to contributing to the family. Helping with dinner, setting the table, and after dinner clean-up should simply be a natural occurrence. The key is to call them on any transgressions ASAP. For example, if one of the kids dropped his or her jacket on the floor when they arrived home I’ll ask them immediately to to pick it up and place it on the proper hook. I did this a few times and they are now in the habit of hanging up their jackets and putting away their hats and gloves. Now, if a jacket ends up on the floor it’s because it fell off the crowded hook rather than their laziness.
- Clear clutter. “Throw out, donate or put away” is our clean-up mantra. This is on-going for my family. Before the holidays I’m guessing we donated eight bags of clothes and other household things to Goodwill. This will never stop. Right now I’m working on the master closet. Next will be my toddler’s room and closet. The kids are learning to part with their outgrown things. It’s not easy, but it’s a good lesson for them to learn to let go.
- Everything needs a place. This is still my biggest challenge because we sold a lot of furniture when we moved and still need to buy some bookshelves and dressers, but in the meantime I’m doing my best to give everything a home. When everything has a home, it’s easier to put away and find again when needed. Having market baskets or special places for the things also give the kids no excuse about where things should go.
- Vacuum the floor. My sweet husband bought me a Dyson cordless vacuum cleaner for our downstairs floors and it has been the biggest help of all as far as cleanliness goes. It takes a matter of minutes to clean our floors now, while sweeping seemed to take forever. Today my toddler spilled garlic salt all over the floor and I joked that it was like an infomercial when I used the vacuum because it picked up every last grain in one swipe. The best part is the kids have a much easier time using a vacuum than trying to use the broom and dustpan, so the floor is automatically cleaner.
- Reminders. In my laundry room (see photo) I have a little free standing chalkboard that reminds me what sports are coming up so I can ensure the proper gear and uniform is clean before that day which avoids the “It’s time to go and I can’t find my…!!!!” meltdown. No more. Again, this is setting an example for the children that preparation and avoiding procrastination makes a more pleasant life. And isn’t that what we’re all striving for?
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