Maintaining a neat and orderly home can seem overwhelming, especially when Mom and Dad are forced to handle all the cleaning on their own. A messy, cluttered home not only zaps your energy, but can also make it impossible to find the things you need each day. Rather than resigning yourself to rings around the toilet or piles of stuff covering every available surface, implement new traditions and rituals to transform cleaning into a family affair.
Family involvement in housework takes the burden off the parents and redistributes it to the entire household. Things like daily or weekly cleanups not only install a sense of respect for the each other and the home, but also teach children vital life skills that can help them on their path toward independence. Setting up routine cleaning times also helps to make neatness a habit, which can reduce reluctance from the kids.
As you incorporate these new cleaning traditions into your household, remember that homes with kids rarely look perfect. If you're determined to keep things spic and span all the time, getting your kids engaged in the cleanup process will be extra difficult. Instead, focus on keeping the house presentable and acknowledging one another's efforts as you spend time together as a family.
Read on to learn about our favorite family cleaning traditions.
To keep your home neat and organized, start each new season with a family day devoted to deep cleaning and de-cluttering. While most families have the day-to-day chores pretty much under control, tackling the big stuff and preventing a clutter buildup can be much more difficult. Set a family tradition to begin each season by neatly storing last season's clothes, toys and sporting goods to make way for this season's stuff [source: Ewer]. Toss or donate items your kids have outgrown or worn out, and examine each current piece of clothing to make sure it's worth keeping.
The change of seasons also signals the need to identify problem areas that prevent you from maintaining a clean and orderly home [source: Kockler]. Families plagued by backpacks and jackets strewn across the kitchen counter can set up an organized landing area or mud room at the front door, with storage space to hold these items. If you find yourself arguing with kids about keeping their room clean, use the family cleaning day to explore new storage solutions, such as ceiling-mounted nets to hold a stuffed animal zoo and fabric cubes to keep shoes paired up.
This is also the perfect time to finally tackle the big projects you never seem to have time for, like cleaning out the garage or basement and cleaning the carpets.
Weekend Cleaning Session
If your family is just too busy to clean during the week, designate Saturday or Sunday as a group cleaning day. You'll be surprised just how much will get done when no one is rushing off to work or school, particularly if you set a firm policy that no one leaves the house until it's clean. Use this time to complete big chores that you can't fit in during the week, such as cleaning out the oven or the fridge or washing the mountain of laundry that's been steadily piling up. Even younger kids can help with jobs like dusting, picking up toys and vacuuming.
As you clean, reinforce to your kids (and spouse, if necessary) how quickly you could be done if everyone picks up after themselves throughout the week. Point out areas where they could make small changes each day -- like taking out one toy at a time and putting it away when they're done -- to free up a lot more free time on the weekend. If you don't mind a slightly messy house during the week and your days really are jam-packed, just knowing you have a regular cleaning day ahead can make it easier to ignore feelings of guilt on days when you can't seem to find the time or energy to wash the dinner dishes.
When the job is done, consider following up with a fun family outing as a reward for everyone's hard work.
Family Chore Chart
If uncooperative family members keep derailing your plans for a clean house, try creating a chore chart that sets clear expectations for each member of the family. Sometimes kids (and even spouses) can simply forget about certain tasks, and sibling arguments over whose turn it is to take out the trash or clear the table can leave any parent frazzled. A chore chart lists all the daily tasks that need to be completed to maintain a neat, comfortable household. Posting this list in a central location and teaching kids to check it at a certain time each day helps to remind them that everyone plays a role in keeping the house clean [source: Mallory].
Engage children in the process by creating the chart as a family, and decide together which jobs are best for each person. Include yourself and your spouse on the chart, so kids have a good example to follow, and make sure each child has a clear understanding of how to do each task. If your children are young, focus on simple, age-appropriate jobs that can get them in the habit of helping out around the house, even if they're not really much "help" right now. This can include gathering old magazines and newspapers for recycling, collecting dirty laundry from each bedroom and helping Mom and Dad put away groceries. Use stickers or rewards to reinforce a job well done, or allow the child who completes his list the most thoroughly (or fastest) each week to choose a special treat.
Annual De-clutter Marathon
For many families, clutter serves as one of the biggest obstacles to a neat and tidy home. The more stuff your family has, the more time you'll spend moving these items to clean around them. Too many possessions can also lead to time wasted searching for the more important items, like your keys or your child's favorite toy.
Cut the clutter with an annual weekend dedicated to purging the house of things you no longer need. Schedule this cleanout session in the spring to prepare the house for a big seasonal cleaning, or wait for back-to-school time or the holidays, when many families find themselves adding plenty of new purchases to an already-packed house.
Start on Friday night by setting up a series of boxes with labeled "Trash," "Donate," and "Garage Sale." On Saturday, have each family member tackle their bedrooms and other private spaces to get rid of clothes and objects they no longer need or want. Be sure to do a sweep of the linen closet and kitchen, too. Set a rule that anything you can't create a permanent place for has to go. De-clutter family areas like the living room or basement on Sunday morning, then reserve Sunday afternoon for dropping off unwanted items at the dump or your favorite thrift shops.
If your kids are having a tough time parting with old toys or books, take them with you as you donate these items to shelters or schools. This provides a teaching moment by showing children that their donations are going directly to help others in need and can give kids a new perspective to help them let go. Another option is to hold a garage sale and allow them to keep any money they earn from selling their things [source: Kockler].
After-Dinner Clean Sweep
It's no secret that dirty dishes and dust bunnies can quickly pile up and take over the house, particularly for families busy with school, work and other activities. Rather than allowing dirt and clutter to build up until you have time to clean, set aside a period of time each day dedicated to tackling the messiest parts of your home. It can be first thing in the morning, right after dinner or just before bedtime, as long as every family member participates.
The best thing about this strategy is that it allows you to get daily cleaning tasks over as quickly as possible, leaving more time for fun. Use a timer or play a few songs, then race to clean and de-clutter within this set time frame [source: SC Johnson]. Keep younger children engaged by encouraging them to compete to see who can pick up the most toys or tidy up their bedroom the fastest. If you have older children, assign each family member a specific chore, such as dishes or vacuuming, then swap jobs each day to keep the process fresh. You can also devote this time to having everyone collect personal items like shoes, jackets or schoolbooks and put them in their proper place. This prevents these items from cluttering up common rooms.
Combine short daily cleaning sessions with reminders that everyone in the family should pick up after themselves throughout the day to minimize cleaning time while still maintaining a tidy home.
What are good traditions for families during the summer? Read about 5 summertime family traditions at HowStuffWorks.
More Great Links
- CNN. "How to Clean Your Home in 19 Minutes." July 27, 2007. (Aug. 8, 2011) http://articles.cnn.com/2007-07-27/living/wlb.rs.clean.plan_1_marla-cilley-shower-handheld-vacuum?_s=PM:LIVING
- Ewer, Cynthia. "Season Clothing Declutter--What's Living In Your Closet?" Organized Home. (Aug. 11, 2011) http://organizedhome.com/cut-clutter/clothing-declutter-living-your-closet
- Halperin, Rory. "Say Yes to Chores." Parents. 2003. (Aug. 18, 2011) http://www.parents.com/kids/printables/chore-charts/say-yes-to-chores/
- Ice, Danelle. "Decluttering With a Big Family." Minimalist Mom. April 20, 2011. (Aug. 11, 2011) http://www.homeeverafter.com/minimalist-mom-decluttering-with-a-big-family/
- Kockler, Diane. "Declutter Your Home and Life." Seattle Insider. Nov. 30, 2006. (Aug. 11, 2011) http://www.eliminatechaos.com/pdf/SeattleInsider-DeclutterYourHome.pdf
- Mallory, Daphne. "How to Maximize Your Schedule With a Family Chore Chart." WAHM. (Aug. 11, 2011) http://www.wahm.com/articles/how-to-maximize-your-schedule-with-a-family-chore-chart.html
- Mihaly, Julie. "Out With the Old -- 25Ways to Clean Out the Clutter." Good Housekeeping. (Aug. 11, 2011) http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/organizing/clean-out-clutter
- SC Johnson. "Share the Love of a Clean Home with the Ones You Love." Feb. 8, 2011. (Aug. 11, 2011) http://www.scjohnson.com/en/press-room/press-releases/02-08-2011/Share-the-Love-of-a-Clean-Home-with-the-Ones-You-Love.aspx
- Seifert, Sheila. "Age-Appropriate Chores." Focus on the Family. (Aug. 11, 2011)