How to get the kids to help clean the house

The house was a mess.  Well, it is always a mess.  I needed a new plan, a new system to keep it clean.  It really wasn’t dirty, it was just the clutter, the clothes, the toys, the dishes.  If everyone just helped, a little.  And then… it came to me.

“Boys, I have a new plan.  It’s called Gimme Five.  Every evening before we retire, I am going to set the timer for five minutes.  Everyone is going to give me five minutes of their time.  This means, look around you.  Pick up your papers,  put your dishes in the dishwasher, hang up your jackets.  Whatever you see that needs to be done, we will do it for five minutes.”

And it worked.  It was beautiful.  They raced around the house, picking things up, putting things away, folding blankets, even wiping down the counters.  In five minutes, my house looked great and I was so grateful.

Sometimes I forget the power of speed and competition.  I had the boys compete for the cleanest bedroom, but they seemed to lose momentum if there was no finish line.  One time Asher spent hours cleaning his room and organizing every toy and trinket.  He was really into it, which was great, but the other boys didn’t stand a chance with that level of dedication.  I found I got a better result if I limited the “contest” to 15 or 20 minutes.

Another way to get help from the kids is to ask, “Who wants to set the table?” The child that opts for that chore will get out of subsequent clearing the table, dishes or sweeping.

It’s funny when they ask, “What are the other chores going to be?”

“I don’t know.  It’s a risk.”  They’ll usually choose the known versus the unknown chore.

When Asher was small he was a big appliance guy.  He loved the blender, the mixer, but his favorite appliance was the vacuum.  He received a Shark Bagless Vacuum for his second birthday.  It was his favorite “toy.”  We had it plugged into the kitchen outlet so he could clean up at anytime.  Ben received a mini vacuum to sweep up crumbs on the dining table.  That was a hit as well.   Mini Desktop Vacuum

My boys don’t have set chores.  This is a failing on my part.  I just couldn’t follow through on the enforcement.  It’s really a conservation of energy issue.  If I assign a certain chore to a certain kid and he’s unavailable, then it doesn’t get done, or I do it. Then there are fairness issues.  Too much paperwork.

Of course, there is the old standby of cleaning for punishment purposes. (It can’t always be fun.)  I needed Asher to watch Ben for me for a couple of hours.  And he refused with the excuse, “Not feelin it.”  I left the house with a list of chores for him to accomplish by the time I returned.  This method was also quiet effective. Sometimes I forget, I’m the boss.

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