Getting Your Kids to Clean

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.


December 1: New Month. New Project.

I am participating in the December photo project once again.  And, yes I do recall last year I only made it to December 15th and quit.  Why not give it another shot?  There are many memories created during the holidays.  We are still at the point in our child rearing years where we see it through the eyes of children.

Today marks the first day of December.  What will December bring?  Family time.  Celebrating Advent.  Special events and programs.  Hopefully not colds, coughs and stomach bugs (we had enough of those in both September and November).  Although we live in a corner of the country that rarely sees snow, I think we secretly hope for some.  For now we will enjoy the handmade flakes we created ourselves.


Six things about the first day of Spring Break

  1. My husband prank called me and I fell for it.  It took me a long time to figure out it was him.  He is still like a little kid playing with the phone…never grew out of it.
  2. My kids really can play on their own all day long.  They don’t need me to intervene all the time.
  3. I continued my track record of not having the right documents at the DMV and had to go home and retrieve them before getting my license renewed.  I am glad we live practically across the street.  Michiganders the DMV = the Secretary of State Office.  Yes, it took me awhile to make the transition.
  4. I can still focus if I have my ipod in my ears even if the kids two feet away yelling and singing loud songs.
  5. I get more done if I take a break from Facebook.  I’m really sick of Facebook.
  6. I don’t think I ever accomplished this much in one day ever.  I got SO much crossed off my “to do list.”  I am seriously in amazement.  I feel high on progress.

Organizing craft items

I am not the most organized person.  I tend to have little clutter piles and I spend a good part of the day “de-piling.”  My husband bought this bin (and I have another one that is the same in the front hallway) for storing craft materials.  Since I now do in home child care we do crafts and creative activities fairly often.  One of the girls I watch said her first day–“Oh yeah I remember this place.  This is the craft place.”  Never knew I was known for that, but I’ll take it.  It took me a couple of months to figure out what craft materials I always want to have on hand and how to store them.Image

Originally I had stick labels on each drawer and that lasted…oh about a week.  They fell off and I found sticky labels all over the house.  This time around I used a piece of felt attached with a safety bin.  I have 8 bins total and the ones I use the most are in our prime crafting area aka around the kitchen table.  I have bins for foam, paper (white drawing paper that often comes from our church’s recycle box, construction paper, and scrapbook paper). letters and numbers (educational items for home school preschool), small craft supplies (like wiggly eyes, fasteners, beads, pipe cleaners etc.), felt, old magazines, paints, and “recycleables” (like toilet paper tubes and cereal boxes). I organized it all a couple weeks and it’s staying organized!


I keep a list of on the fridge of items I have run out of or need for upcoming weeks.  I usually plan my child care crafts 2-3 weeks in advance.


This is my old craft cupboard.  The problem was I had to take almost everything out to get what I needed.  Drawers were way more practical.  I use this cupboard to store the heavier items so they don’t weigh down the cloth drawers like glue bottles, acrylic paint, wooden stamps, plastic animals, etc.


It has made craft time much, much smoother because I am no longer searching for items.  Everything has its own place.

December 14: Special Saturday

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur Saturday with Grandpa and Grandma aka my parents began with a morning of swimming in the Phoenix Inn motel pool where they stayed.


Then then they took our oldest our for lunch (each child got his or her own turn going out for a meal alone with Grandpa and Grandma–so special for them) and brought her to a birthday party.  Later in the afternoon we saw the movie Frozen which I highly recommend.  Then three overly excited kids opened presents from Grandpa and Grandma.


The youngest was thrilled to get her own white tiger!  This soft cuddly creature now shares her bed with her.


The kids each got small gifts for Grandpa and Grandma.  Love it when Christmas comes early!


December 10: Breaking Bad Habits


Our sweet middle son developed a habit when he was an infant. He would chew on his blanket at night for comfort.  We told him if he didn’t chew his blanket for several nights in a row, he could get a Lego Set.  But keeping the blanket in his bed wasn’t working.  Neither was putting on the side of his bed.  As we went to bed, we still found his blanket in his mouth.  So I asked him if he wanted to put his blanket in the hall and he agreed.  Last night he made the whole night without his blanket.

It reminded me how we all have habits we’re trying to break.  I’m notorious for putting so many papers on the bulletin board I can’t find the one I need…


Or leaving clutter spots all over the house…

DSC08974Or else letting laundry go until it is a mountain…


I’m so glad God loves us despite our shortcomings.  Therefore we can show grace to one another since we all struggle with something.

December 5: Homemade Oreos

One of my absolute favorite cookies to make is homemade oreos.  I’ve tried a couple of recipes.  This one so far is my favorite.DSC08936

My kitchen has been busy the past couple days with various baking projects.  I tend to spread myself out when I bake.  Plus I had a six year old, two four year olds, and a baby to help me today…so it was even more busier.  But joyous.