My friend Sarah, the same one I interviewed for my homeschool series, sends out a Friday email to family and friends recounting happenings from the week, thoughts she’s been mulling over, recipes, her kids’ perspectives on life, and so on. I found last Friday’s edition, Friday Is Cleaning Day, especially entertaining, perhaps because I so well remember my countless attempts to wring order out of chaos (see How To Clean A Room and Constant Vigilance! and My Lot). I asked her if I might share the email as a guest post and she agreed, lucky us! I hope you enjoy Sarah’s spin on The Struggle as much as I did!
Some time ago at homeschool group, a group of us parents were discussing how we handle chores for our kids, especially room-cleaning. Later that week I got a text from one of the participants.
“So what happens when Friday comes and rooms are not clean?”
I love being asked for advice on parenting, so I wrote a lengthy response….
With Sam at this point a reminder is usually sufficient. With Asher sometimes I help — though the rule is he has to clean, not play, while I’m cleaning — or sometimes break up the task with something appealing: clean for a bit, then get X (a short video, playtime with me, etc., then clean again).
Other things that have worked in the past:
- Make it a game: you’re the clean-up robot and I program you in a funny tickley way for each task.
- Clean with music on.
- Assign a stuffed toy or vehicle to clean an area/category (takes longer but is more fun).
- Trade jobs: I clean the room, they do something unappealing to me that requires similar effort OR trade jobs with another kid.
- Let the room stay messy but they’re required to clean up any paper scraps, dirt, mess tracked out of the room and I will not enter the room.
I also have spent a lot of time explaining reasons for cleaning the room: fire/nighttime safety; not attracting pests (once in Florida Sam found a big cockroach in his uncleaned room and it made a big impression!); being able to find things and use the space; my need for order for my mind to feel calm and happy. I also comment on the room when it’s clean: “It’s so nice for me to be able to play in here with you and have room to walk and sit,” or “Every time I see your room I feel happy because it looks so neat and clean,” or “That was the fastest I’ve ever seen you clean your room. Would you like me to do something fun with you for X minutes because I have time?” Things that point out the impact of their actions.
I’m guessing you already have tried a lot of these things. For me it helps to be open to multiple solutions that get our needs met, and know that different things will “work” for different children/ages. I also don’t worry a whole lot about ruining intrinsic motivation to clean because I recognize this as MY need, not theirs — some children and adults are perfectly happy living in a state that would make me flee the house!
not cleaning, not in the least
This week Asher had outdone himself in the scattering and strewing of toys, books, clothes, etc., all over the upstairs and migrating down. The hundreds of cardboardians had come out and were mixed with the Legos. The dress-up box was dumped on top of dozens of Lego instruction papers. On and on, making me want to quote The Cat in the Hat: “This mess is so big, and so deep, and so tall…”
So I helped with some of it, and used a bribe to speed along the rest: You have an hour to clean, and as soon as it’s done you can watch videos for the rest of the hour. He didn’t get it done within the hour, but it was close.
floor briefly free of toys
Sam picked up in his room and the bathroom, and vacuumed upstairs. I vacuumed downstairs and in between other tasks I mopped each room after it was cleaned and vacuumed. Whew, clean house!
…But not for long.
aaaand back to making messes
“Want to see me drop this paper onto the landing? It flutters!”
Love to all,
This same time, years previous: four meal deliveries: what I learned, of mice and men and other matters, for the time change, maple roasted squash, bierocks: meat and cabbage rolls, let me sum up, crispy cinnamon cookies, brown sugar icing.