Living in a small house may mean you have fewer rooms to clean, but it also means you have nowhere to hide — the crumbs under the table, grimy sneakers by the steps, dirty piles of laundry in the hall, dishes that never seem to get cleaned. You’re taunted every which way you go.
I have a low tolerance for clutter and can’t function in a messy room. I’ve also noticed we are all generally happier and get along better when the house is clean. Specifically, the kids are more focused on what they are doing when they are playing with one toy not every single toy scattered throughout the room. Happy kids = happy parents.
For a while now, I’ve been thinking: How can four people live together better? How can we all do our part to make sure our stuff is put away? How can we make cleaning a part of our daily life and not a giant burdensome chore we do in a mad dash before guests come over?
The solution: Develop a week-long schedule that with minimal effort every day (15-20 min max), will lead to a clean and somewhat organized house week after week. Have tasks of varying skill levels so all members of the house can participate. Provide rewards/days off to celebrate success. And here’s how it works, day by day.
Monday we focus on the top floor (two bedrooms and one bathroom). We wash sheets and towels and clean all surfaces in the bathroom. The kids enjoy ripping the sheets off the beds.
Tuesday is for the kitchen and dining area. The kids help vacuum the rug under the table, we sweep the kitchen floor, empty out any questionable food remnants from the fridge, make sure all pots and pans are clean and returned to the pot rack, and wipe and clean all surfaces (there aren’t many so this doesn’t take long).
Wednesday is declutter day. We sort through mail, recycling catalogs and paying bills. We go room-to-room making sure toys and sporting equipment are put back in their proper bins, jackets and clothes and shoes are off the floor, and electronic cords are stored and out of sight.
Thursday is make-up day. I’ve purposefully left this day free in case anything didn’t get done the days before or if we need to do a load of laundry, which we usually do. Is this not the face of a happy helper?
Friday is our day off. If we’ve worked hard all week, we deserve a day off. Jack’s old enough for an allowance, so he earns $1 for his work (this makes him infinitely happy).
Saturday is “special projects” day. There is no mandatory cleaning, but this is the day we can work on big projects as needed — a re-organization of a closet or laundry area, home decorating or art project, gardening, etc.
Sunday is family cooking day. We slow cook chili and soup, simmer apples for homemade apple sauce, bake cookies for lunches, and do any other prep needed for the week ahead.
Baking cookies doesn’t really count as work though…
We’ve been on this schedule for three weeks now. I’ll admit, week one was a miserable failure. Nothing got done. Some complained, some questioned my “definition of clutter” and some thought chores were things like doing homework, brushing your teeth, and putting on pants. I realized I may have overwhelmed them, so we talked it out and everyone agreed to try harder the following week.
Week two was much better. When I started cleaning out the fridge by myself, the kids ran over saying, “I want to help!” And just the other day, someone decluttered a bookcase without even being asked.
Success? Perhaps. Progress? Definitely. I’d love to get rid of the schedule eventually, but I think we’ll stick it out a little longer. My 6-year-old seems to enjoy the structure; my 3-year-old, well, he’ll do whatever his big brother is doing; my husband just wants to keep the peace and if that means cleaning a toilet once a week, he’s game.
Do you have any tips for keeping your house clean and organized? Do you prep your meals in advance? Does your whole household help out?