Friday, March 22, 2019

A Super Easy Family Cleaning System That Works!

Recently I shared a post on my Instagram about our new Saturday morning cleaning time and it got some votes for its own post with allll the details. I mean, figuring out systems to get your kids to actually DO stuff can be so frustrating, so I'm happy to share the details with you! This has been working really well for us, so I hope it helps you, too!

A simple family cleaning system that works! Flexible for all lifestyles and ages - see how we do it! |

During the week, our house falls apart a little bit at a time, and our busy schedules leave us feeling really tapped out and unmotivated to put it back together. I found myself feeling like I was stuck in an endless loop of repetitive chores that were undone minutes after I completed them, and I was in maintenance mode far more often than the rest of my family members. Not fair, right? RIGHT.

But it can be hard to say, "hey guys, your room needs some help" and then expect them to put down their screens and fun weekendy things to jump up and happily get to work. Weekends are their freedom in this age of hard work and high-pressure schooling. So our compromise looks like this.

Screens Are Free on Fridays

My kids are not allowed to have screens (video games, videos, etc....some TV after homework is ok) Monday through Thursday. Before setting this regulation, they would zip through their homework without focusing or putting effort in so they could race right to the screens. As soon as we took the possibility away, they did a better job. However, the negative side to this is that they developed a certain entitlement about having a screen free-for-all Friday through Sunday. We work to regulate it with timers, but they weren't really "earning" that time. They forgot that it was a weekend privilege and mistook it for a guarantee.

I know the value of a fun, mindless activity when you are a wound-up ball of stress, and the great relief and fun in doing whatever you want when you finish school on a Friday. So on Fridays, they earn their screen time just by getting through the week. (They can, however, loose it with bad behavior.) For the rest of the weekend, though, I wanted to them to start earning it! (This can work for anything your kids love to do, naturally - my kids are just especially fond of video games.) So I decided that they would have to complete a list of tasks on Saturday morning before they were allowed to dive in.

example of our family cleaning check list

Mom Makes A Checklist

My boys have swimming lessons early on Saturday mornings, and since it's easiest to deal with the boys dressing room, Matt usually takes them. So I sit down at the computer with my morning coffee and using a pre-made spreadsheet document, I make a checklist for the entire family. I will usually take a walk around the house to pinpoint the problem areas, and then I make the list based on our needs and what each of the boys are reasonably capable of. I make a list for myself as well, and Matt usually texts me things he wants on his list while he's sitting in the viewing area of swimming.

Morning Cleaning Time

When I'm finished with the check list, I put it out on the kitchen table with a pen and a highlighter, and the boys know right where to look for it when they get back from swimming lessons. We put some music on, and then get busy! They follow their own lists, check them off themselves as they go, and manage their own responsibilities.

The idea is that we are all working together - no one gets out of it, and no one has to watch others sitting around while they're working hard. Here's the one thing to note, especially if you have younger kids: they typically ride a roller coaster of emotions during family cleaning time. There will be defiant moments, denial moments, angry moments, sad moments, and moments where they are unsure of what a task requires them to do. You will have to coach them a bit (as I'm sure you're already used to doing), and put your own list on hold while you guide them through theirs. After a few weeks, though, they get used to most of the chores and are familiar with the routine, so there's less and less resistance.

The Chores

Hopefully you can see my lists well enough to get some task ideas for your own lists, but just in case you can't, some of the things we often assign the boys are: making beds, dusting, folding towels, washing windows, collecting dirty dishes, collecting dirty laundry, picking up sticks in the yard, changing out garbage cans, pet related tasks (like brushing them, washing their food bowls, putting their toys away), finding things to declutter/donate, and putting away or scrubbing specific messes they've made.

The Rewards

We have a minimum start time of noon for screens which does two things - ensures that they don't rush through their chores without doing a good job, and allows everyone time to catch up on their list so they can start using screens around the same time. If early finishers start playing, it's really hard for the stragglers to stay motivated to keep going. I will also sometimes have a treat planned that we'll sit down at the table together and enjoy after lunch (like cookies and tea, or something similar).

checking off his chores during family clean time!

Tips For Making The Checklists

There are a few notes on how I make the checklists that I thought might be useful guidelines if you try this out yourself! First, I give every child the same amount of tasks (they are quick to count and compare!) UNLESS one of them volunteers to totally overhaul their bedroom themselves. That means mom-level cleaning! If they do (and only my two oldest are really capable), then they only get  1-3 chores. Otherwise, everyone gets 6 assigned to them with 1 blank spot that we leave empty in case we come across something as we work that we want to add on.

I start each of their lists with "Hug Everyone" as a momentum booster. It's so easy to accomplish and cross off so it gets them moving and sets them up with something to succeed at. It's also a sweet gesture that helps diffuse some of the "oh man we have to clean" anguish. You'd be surprised how easily this little task turns their attitudes around!

I try to change their chores up from week to week which does a few things. They don't know what will be asked of them ahead of time, so there's an element of surprise when they get home from swimming lessons. They race over to the list to read it. It also keeps things from getting stale so they don't get sick of doing the same thing over and over again. I mean, maybe it's not realistic because I'm 1000% sick of doing the same things over and over again, but they need a little extra variety to keep moving.

Bonus Time + Allowance

If they finish all of their assigned tasks before noon or before everyone else is finished, they can work on "bonus time," and all extra tasks completed during this time earns them allowance. Their list of tasks is kind of their "everyone earns their keep" responsibility (along with helping keep the living room clean, putting their dishes in the sink and their laundry down the chute every day during the week). They earn their allowance by doing more than what's required of them. That doesn't mean they have to come up with the extra tasks themselves - they can ask what they can do to help, or they can look at other people's check lists and complete tasks for them. Luke will often step in and make beds, dust, or put things away on another family member's behalf. (He's also the most entrepreneurially inclined lol.)

family cleaning plan

The Results!

Usually by lunch on Saturday, the obvious pressing tasks of the house are finished, the floors are swept and vacuumed, candles are burning, and it feels SO GOOD! Everyone has free time, and it's guilt-free without the pressure of looming tasks. Sometimes it takes longer than the morning to get through things, and sometimes Matt and I will carry some of our tasks over to Sunday. If we have Saturday morning plans, then our entire cleaning time moves to the afternoon, or Sunday morning if need be (though we try to avoid that). It helps us start the week with a clean slate and the motivation to KEEP things clean so we don't have to spend as much time getting through our tasks on Saturday. It also helps show the boys what it feels like when the tasks you've completed get undone by someone else, so they're less likely to make messes or walk away from them. Which of course doesn't mean they've stopped making messes - haha. They just might think twice about some of them.

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Phew! That's a lot, I know, but I wanted to cover all the bases! There's so much flexibility and variety involved with this plan - schedule it for any time of day or day of the week that works for you! Choose any chores that apply. Come up with any reward system you're comfortable with. The bottom line is that everyone works together, each of the kids take ownership of their own lists while earning privileges, and the house gets cleaned!

Let me know if you give this a try - I'd love to hear how it works for you!!

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