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Mendo Lake Family Life

Yes, You Can Get the Kids into Cleaning

By Christina Katz 

If there is one major mistake most moms make, it is obsessing about always having a clean home. 

Loosen up, Mom. If your home has to be perfectly clean all the time, guess who is going to have to keep it that way? 

Declare your home a cleaning cooperative instead. Maintaining a pristine lifestyle is no longer your job alone. Besides, a more cooperative approach gets the whole family on the teamwork track and sets a great example of how many hands make lighter work for all. 

If you work side-by-side with your spouse and family, you might even pick up a few chore shortcuts as you observe how others get things done. Instead of you doing all the dividing and conquering, let the whole family pitch in and transform chaos into cooperation. Here’s how. 

One for all and all for clean! Involve everyone and remove the lion’s share of the cleaning responsibility from your shoulders. You are the leader or you and your spouse can co-lead. But from this day onward, care of house and home is a group effort. 

Teach as you go. The first few times you show your kids how to do something, put some energy into your demo. If you teach them with a flourish, they will likely remember what you’ve said and done, even if they are trying to tune you out. Kids learn faster when they can watch and imitate. Younger kids can learn by watching older kids. 

Check their work. With exposure to your methodology, your trainees will pick up on the most effective ways to clean. With repetition, what they try themselves will become habit. Train them once and check their work twice; then check it another time in the future when they don’t expect it. If they pass muster all three times, then you are ready to teach them something new. 

Take it one floor at a time. Rather than spread the family throughout the house, tackle one floor at a time with a couple of people in each room. There is something genuinely encouraging about watching the house quickly transform from chaos into order right before your eyes. Your teams’ effectiveness will keep everyone focused and boost spirits. 

Move briskly. When the troops are flagging, put on some upbeat music. If this doesn’t help, practice a little “ready, set, go.” Set a timer and see if you can beat your record from your last cleaning session. You’ll only be competing with yourselves. 

Tackle tasks together. This means one person gathers the clothes, another sorts them, another runs the washer and dryer and everyone folds. When everyone is in charge of everything, kids learn to just jump in and do what needs to get done, which will pay off now and in future teamwork situations. 

Try temporary amnesia. Rather than try to force squabbling siblings to get along, which will slow down the entire operation, why not teach them that they don’t always have to get along perfectly to work together and get things done. They can learn to temporarily put aside their differences in service of a common cause. 

Let someone else lead. Maybe the fearless leader needs a reprieve. If you are tired, cranky, or under the weather, why not appoint someone to lead the troops in your place? Rotate leadership on a regular basis and watch your kids rise to the occasion. 

Forget pristine perfection. Imperfection is your new normal, so get used to a more wabi-sabi standard of living. I doubt anyone is on the way over to photograph your home for a magazine shoot, anyway.  

Christina Katz is a freelance writer at