Cleaning and de-cluttering is an emotional issue for me. I struggled with it for years and years. Which makes me feel like I may not be the best person to dish out advice. However, I have learned a lot over the years especially from my husband who is more naturally organized. So please understand most of what I have implemented is from lots of trial and error and learning from my own mistakes. I did not want to blog about it until we had several weeks of “drama free cleaning” and I can safely say we have.
Last spring the kid’s bathroom was getting so nasty last year with toothpaste blobs all over the sink, laundry thrown all over the floor, and toys from the family room somehow ending up on the counter. I about lost it. We actually kicked the kids out of their bathroom for a couple of days and they had to use the one in the laundry room on the other side of the house. I got tired of their rooms becoming cluttered, their beds being sloppily made, and laundry thrown everywhere but the hamper. I found myself organizing their rooms only to see them go back to that state a week later.
I started to feel like the “mom martyr” declaring how I was the only who cared and I am the only one who cleans. If that’s you, the problem is you are not giving your kids enough responsibility and they don’t care about the mess because they don’t have to. Why clean if Mom is going to do it anyway? Or I don’t know what to clean or how to clean because Mom never showed me how. So by that point I felt overwhelmed by the mess, and I also felt like a bad mother for not giving my kids enough responsibility. Once my pity party was over, I could actually make some changes and see some results.
We tried a number of different things and settled on something quite simple. I make a chart each month–one column per week. Each weekday the kids have the chance “to earn a star” which is a simple sticker put next to their name. To earn a star they have to 1) make their bed properly for their age level (I have had to do Bed Making 101 a couple of times and sometimes they need reminders) 2) have their room mostly clean (no laundry on the floor, toys put away etc.) I tell them if I can vacuum without sucking up toys, it is usually clean. 3) bathroom mostly clean. Most of the time they have to pick up towels and wipe down counters. They don’t clean the toilet, bath tub or mop the floor during the week. This needs to be done before school. So sometimes this means packing their lunch (which I don’t do at all anymore–they do it), laying out clothes, and getting homework finished the night before.
My husband or I inspect usually right before they leave for school or right after. They have not gotten a star everyday. They are starting to feel the pinch when they don’t get one. It is motivating them to try harder the next day. All three kids have different personalities and some are more organized than others. But all three have adapted to this system and are motivated by it.
If they earn a certain number of stars (we say 4 per week which gives them one day of grace) they get some type of reward. It has been anything from a doughnut from the bakery, a candy bar, or a can of pop. In January we tried earning stars for the whole month and they got lunch from Mc Donalds delivered to them at school. I think I like the weekly reward better–it is just more work to find weekly rewards that are not expensive.
It hasn’t happened yet, but it could happen that one child does not earn the reward while the others do. That is life–you don’t do the work, you don’t get the reward. However we do try to show grace and give lots of encouragement for certain situations.
The heavier cleaning like the toilets and sinks, vacuuming, trash, and disinfecting high traffic areas gets done on the weekends–typically Saturday mornings. We divide it up among the kids. The kids have been doing this on Saturdays for over two years now and it is part of their routine. Since I started in home child care, we also have to do some cleaning Sunday late afternoon to get ready for Monday. If we did quite a bit on Saturday, this does not take very long.
I was de-cluttering their rooms while they were in school when I had an afternoon off from child care. This was happening once every 4-6 months. Then my husband remarked that it is their room and they need to be involved in the de-cluttering. Is it more work? Yes. But they don’t learn responsibility if you did it all for them. So we decided we would do this with them about once a month or at least every other month. Some of the kids need it more often than others. My husband and I take turns helping them with this. I did it at the beginning of the school year and he did it closer to the holidays. Some of the kids need it again soon.
As for cleaning other areas of the house, I don’t have a great rhythm for that right now. I tend to clean throughout the day rather than one block of time. I know areas get neglected so I may go back to a chore list. I try to keep the laundry at a steady pace so I don’t spend an entire day doing laundry. With busier weeks, this gets difficult. Laundry is one of those areas I need to help the kids take more responsibility so this is a goal for 2015.
What has helped me the most is having my husband on board and taking initiative in their chores. I am not one of these moms who thinks they can do it all. It has always come very natural to us to share in the housework, cooking, shopping, etc. We both work, exercise regularly, are involved in our church and kid’s school–it makes sense to share in the housework too.
All in all I am happy my kids go off to school with clean rooms and a decent looking bathroom with little to no drama anymore. They are doing so much better taking responsibility and I know they are learning valuable skills that will pay off when they fly the nest one day.