I love the expression, “Cleaning the house with kids is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.” Doesn’t get more real than that. When lots of people, especially children, live together in a contained space, messes happen. But don’t despair, there are house cleaning hacks for everyone.
First, let me tell you up front, I am a proponent of conscripting children for chore duty. That means everybody has a job, and there are very few excuses to exempt them from helping. I’ve been through three broken bones with two different children, and they learned how to sweep one-handed. Yeah, I make Miss Hannigan from Annie look nice. But hey, my kids all have real life skills, so no one is going to wake up one morning wondering why the cleaning elves went on strike.
I know what you’re thinking. Children cleaning just means that you have to re-clean later. Maybe. Okay, yes, you’ll likely have to redo at least part of the job for a while, but if you train them to do the job right and expect them to do it well, then one day you’ll have very capable helpers.
No child is born knowing how to sweep the floor or how to put away the silverware, but they can learn. As an added bonus, sweeping encourages gross and fine motor skills – the development of coordinated and refined movements. We often think of this with babies, but young children continue to develop these skills through everyday work and play. Sweeping fits the bill. Sorting silverware into a tray is like a real life game of sorting beads, but with shinier objects that won’t fit up their nose.
While training, show the child how to perform the task. Break it down into several steps to make it a manageable lesson. Don’t forget to give him the tools (like a broom) to perform the chore. Then, correct any mistakes and praise even small successes. Make it as kid-friendly as possible to gain more cooperation. Remember, your attitude toward cleaning becomes their attitude toward cleaning.
When you expect them to do the job well, they know when they’ve succeeded. If that means calling them back five times to re-do a sloppy job, they will eventually do it right to avoid the hassle. Keep the chores age and ability appropriate. My toddlers could sort silverware, but they couldn’t sweep until they were old enough and tall enough to handle the broom. My 7-year-olds could put away dishes below the counter, but my older (and taller) girls had to put away dishes in the higher cabinets. Letting them climb on the counters to put away dishes is an ER-visit begging to happen.
To jump start your own house cleaning hacks list, here are my top 11 House Cleaning Hacks:
1. Keep a trash can in each room. When you tell them pick up the tiny pieces of torn paper, they will have a place to put it. Otherwise, they pick it up to redistribute it two minutes later.
2. Do a clean sweep through the main living areas each evening. I assign each of my children a room to pick up. Toys, books, crayons, socks, movies, hair bands. We often look like Wal-Mart exploded in our living room. When finished, nothing should be left on the floors or transferred to a flat surface. Everything has a place to live, or it goes in a give-away bag.
3. Wipe down the bathroom counters after everyone finishes brushing their teeth and washing their faces at night. Use the hand towel and throw it in the laundry basket when you’re done. If you wipe up the toothpaste early, you won’t need a paint scraper later.
4. Fill a spray bottle with two parts water to one part vinegar to spritz down counters and sinks. Germs are not meant to be shared. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant, and the smell evaporates quickly. Keep one in each bathroom and the kitchen.
5. Teach children (especially little boys) to wipe down the toilet seat when they’re done. Their future spouse will thank you one day. This is a big one. I’ve seen gas station bathrooms cleaner than my girls’ bathroom. A nightly clean saves you the need of a hazmat suit on the weekend.
6. Keep a laundry basket(s) in the bedrooms or bathrooms or both (wherever people change clothes) to catch dirty laundry. You may need to explain the difference between dirty and clean many times. Many, many times.
7. Load the dishwasher after each meal, and start it when it gets full. If you can try to keep up with dishes, your kitchen will not look like a bomb went off. I won’t tell if you want to pull the clean dishes out at the next meal rather than putting them up. I’m all for saving an extra step. This one is a big struggle for me. I know I’m not the only one who rearranges the dishwasher after someone else loads it. Don’t they understand about optimal spatial placement?!?
8. Take out the trash when it gets full. I know that’s a bit obvious for most people, but after a long day a heavy trash can isn’t calling my name. On the other hand, I hate to pick up trash up that has fallen out of an overflowing can. And on the other, other hand, a stinky trash can does not set the tone for a good morning.
9. Fold and put away laundry straight out of the dryer. Seriously, it’s not going to get any more exciting to put away five loads of laundry at once if you let it pile up. If you have a place you usually dump clean, but unfolded laundry, get rid of it. This isn’t a trap for us because we don’t have any place to keep multiple loads of laundry without folding it. It has to be put up as soon as it comes out of the dryer.
10. Make up the beds every morning. I can’t say that this gets done without fail, but it definitely makes the room look neater.
11. Throw away junk mail as soon as you get it. It won’t suddenly become important in a month. We keep an incoming mail basket, and I sort it and dump it every day or two. I shred junk mail and credit card offers. Bills go in one pile (an ever-growing pile, sigh), and other mail to keep goes in a basket to be filed, if necessary. I try to keep as much digitally as I can, but I haven’t completely tamed the paper monster.
I realize some days are more conducive to cleaning than others, but spending just 10 minutes a day spot cleaning with these house cleaning hacks makes a world of difference and keeps you off the Clean House reality television show.
Share your house cleaning hacks in the comments. We can all use some help.