HOUSE CLEANING AGAINST THE ODDS
Help your children keep track of chores by setting up age-appropriate schedules
3 Simple Steps for the Working Mom
Is it possible to maintain a sparkling clean house while working full time AND raising a herd of little children? Yes, it is call hiring a maid cleaning service. Am I right? Joking aside, that used to be the only way I could even imagine my house getting clean. When I decided to return to work, it was a difficult adjustment for my family. There were some nights when chores like dishes and laundry felt never-ending. How could I ever tackle anything else when chore time was consumed with dishes and laundry? Ignoring these two is not an option, believe me, I tried. Unfortunately, unless you want to resort to eating off paper plates each night, dishes have to be washed. And soccer uniforms get pretty smelly after a game, so it is kind of important to wash them before next Saturday’s game.
So how do you get it all done when the odds are stacked against you? Here are three cleaning tips for keeping your home clean, even when you are short on time.
Step 1: Determine Your Priorities
While this may seem like an obvious first step, I can’t stress enough how important it is to really think through your priorities and write them down. This goes beyond just what chores need to be done. Write down everything that you hope to accomplish in a day and order them according to priority. Think of this in the same terms you would a budget. Only in this case time is the currency that you are working with.
When creating your priority house cleaning checklist, make sure to include time with family and time for yourself. As a working mom, especially, you don’t want to look back and realize you’ve missed moments in your children’s lives because you were too busy wiping down baseboards. And you certainly don’t want to get burned out by not prioritizing time for yourself.
Once you have determined your list, it is time to decide specifics for each one. Since we are focusing on housecleaning, write down all the chores that you want to accomplish each day, week, and month. My list reads something like this:
- Daily chores: make beds, straighten up, dishes, laundry, clean surfaces, sweep, and dust
- Weekly chores: mop floors, vacuum, wipe baseboards, wash bedding, clear clutter
- Monthly chores: clean windows, wipe down kitchen cabinets, polish furniture
Now that you have a realistic picture of both your time and what you need to specifically accomplish, you can set a workable schedule.
Step 2: Create a Realistic Schedule for Cleaning the House
A schedule is the best way to stay on task. Your cleaning schedule should be simple and easy to follow. While it is a good idea to decide on a general time to work on chores, don’t get too specific by scheduling down to the minute. Life happens. The baby will cry, someone will get hungry, or a friend or relative will call with an “urgent” question.
Create your schedule with whatever format you are comfortable with and get in the habit of following through with it. There are plenty of free cleaning apps available for download. Or you can create a daily checklist on your phone or with good old pen and paper. I personally am a big fan of spreadsheets and created a schedule that way. Make sure to include all the daily chores on your schedule, plus any weekly or monthly chores you plan to tackle that day.
Keep in mind any activities you need to account for when planning out your daily tasks. For example, if you have children involved in extracurricular activities in the evening make sure to factor it into your schedule. You may not want to add anything extra other than your daily chores on nights you are away. You can also do a power cleaning on Saturday mornings to cover weekly chores that you can’t get to during the week. The key is keeping the schedule simple and realistic so that you can successfully stick to it.
Step 3: Involve the Children in House Cleaning
By involving the children in household chores, you both benefit. There are a number of studies out there that prove chores are good for children. They help them with building a sense of responsibility and self-reliance. However, it is important to keep a few things in mind as you develop a chore schedule for your children: don’t expect perfection, be consistent, and praise them for doing a good job.
Here are some examples of age-appropriate chores:
- Ages 2 – 4: put away toys, pile books, dust, put dirty clothes in the hamper
- Ages 4 – 5: make bed, check the mail, clear the table, water plants, empty waste baskets
- Ages 6 – 7: clean bedroom, rake leaves, sweep floor, sort laundry, help pack lunch
- Ages 8 – 9: load dishwasher, vacuum, put away laundry, help make meals and snacks
- Ages 10 + : unload dishwasher, fold laundry, clean bathroom, change bedding
Help your children keep track of chores by setting up age-appropriate schedules. Young children are motivated by charts listing daily responsibilities and rewards. Older children are often motivated by allowance or privileges. I use a dry-erase board posted in the laundry room to list everyone’s chores for the day. The reward for finishing chores is usually “screen time”.
Initially, it can be time-consuming to involve your kids in the chores. You will have to teach them how to perform the tasks you assign them. Plus, you will have to teach them how to follow the schedule. They usually seem to pick up on the reward part pretty quickly. However, once your family has a system down, you will find that it’s not only a good lesson for them but quite the time-saver for you!
If you follow the three simple steps of prioritizing, creating a schedule, and involving your children, it is possible even for working moms to have a clean house!
— Jennifer Lester