SummaryBusy homeschooling moms do not have time to clean all day. Patricia Purcell gives tips for getting the kids to help keep the house clean and organized too.
There are times, golden magical times, when everything comes together at once. My house is clean, the dishes done, and the laundry put away. And it’s a wonderful 24 hours.
Then reality hits again and the clutter and mess is back.
The problem is not that my family members are all slobs, nor is it that we don’t clean enough. It is that as homeschoolers we are here a lot, eating, cooking, playing, reading, studying, conducting science experiments, and making art projects. When we’re not here, we’re rushing off to activities.
We are a busy family and as a result something usually has to give. Since I learned long ago that I can either have a perfect house or teach my kids, more often than not it’s the housework that suffers.
So I’ve had to develop a few tricks to keep my house reasonably clean while actually living here.
1. Get the Kids Involved
Over the years my husband and I have tried various systems, from chore charts to chip systems, to get the kids to do their chores (and do them well). The key is to make them excited about it (or as excited as one can be about cleaning) or the whole system is doomed to fail. Some tips for success include:
- Rotate the duties. It’s only fair to let each child experience the easy tasks like setting the table, as well as the icky ones…garbage anyone?
- Offer a deal. The kids want cookies or a ride somewhere? Make them understand that your oven won’t turn on and your car won’t start until the chores are done. Hint: don’t fall for the “I’ll do it later” line. They never do.
- Choose a special helper. Pick one child to help you with a task (such as changing the sheets or loading the dishwasher), and rotate who gets to be the special helper. This gives you an opportunity to demonstrate how to do the task correctly. Be patient; much repetition may be neocessary before the kids are reliably doing the chores to your satisfaction.
2. Have a Party
- Laundry Party. If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll love this. Really. To me the hardest part about laundry is sorting the clean clothes and putting them away. I don’t have time to match socks! That’s where the kids come in. When the clean laundry piles up, invite them all to a mandatory laundry folding party. Provide them each with an empty laundry basket, put on an audio book or some good music, and you’re ready to go. Go through the clean laundry piles and toss each item of clothing to its rightful owner. My kids love to try to catch the flying laundry with their baskets (and of course block their siblings from catching theirs). It’s loud, it’s chaotic, but it gets the job done. As long as it ends up in their drawers when we’re done, I’m happy.
- Invite People Over. When your kids realize that their friends might witness their slovenly tendencies, they might just be inspired to clean their rooms before the company arrives. If not, you can tell them that the play date will have to be canceled unless they tidy up.
Most kids love to mark the passing seasons by putting up the appropriate decorations. Make the change in décor work for you. Before you pull the first box of baubles from the attic:
- Have a clean-up. Have the kids help with tasks like dusting and vacuuming. Bright decorations won’t look good against a layer of grime.
- Rearrange the furniture. This is especially useful before Christmas. You need to make room for that tree! Take advantage of the opportunity to clean out dark corners that rarely see the light of day.
- Discard. This is also a prime opportunity to make some room. When picking up the stray clutter, evaluate whether each item is still used by anyone (or would even be missed).
Having everything in its place makes the whole house feel roomier, and it also makes it easier to see what is needed.
The problem is that with kids around things don’t tend to stay organized for long. Combat clutter by getting the kids involved.
- Come up with catchy names. In our pantry we have Can City, Snackville, and Spice Island, to name just a few. No, we don’t have one of those super-size pantry rooms that are common on cooking shows. Our pantry shelves are just named for what is supposed to go on them. My youngest particularly enjoys seeing that every item is put away in its own neighborhood.
- Label the drawers. When my kids were little, I would put pictures on the outside of their dresser drawers that illustrated what belonged in each one. There is no need to go searching through every drawer to find a pair of socks.
5. All Hands on Deck
There are certain tasks that require everyone working together at once. My hubby finds this especially useful with yard work. Sometimes, as when we’re closing the pool, it literally is all hands on deck. Let the kids know beforehand when you plan to have a family work day, and make the most of it. Consider rewarding everyone after the job is done with a well-earned pizza (then you won’t have to cook).
6. Living in Your Clean Home
Unless you have a live-in maid, keeping a neat home can be a challenge for homeschooling families. We tend to be home more often than other families, and kids just have a way of attracting messes. Happily, there are ways to involve the kids in keeping things neat and tidy.
Most likely, your entire house won’t stay in perfect order at all times, but with daily maintenance, it can be both clean and comfortable.
How do you manage to keep your house neat and actually live in it?