cleaning: my daughter’s solution

Goodness.  It’s been quite a trip since I’ve last written–literally and figuratively, since we sold our beloved house and moved 1,100 miles late last summer.  However, lately I’ve been craving the catharsis that comes from blogging, so I’m back!

Today’s topic: house cleaning.

I must admit, cleaning is not one of my favorite tasks.  I like a clean house, but I don’t like the process of getting there.  When my kids were small (smaller than they are–I’m sure in a few years their current ages will seem “awww” worthy), I managed to keep up with things by assigning myself one task (or series of tasks) a day to complete during the first 20-30 minutes of naptime.  (I even blogged about this glorious system in my post the mediocre housewife (part 2)!)  This system served me well for several years…but recently it fell apart.

Much of our house looked something like this for the first month after our move.  It was not a very relaxing way to live.

Much of our house looked something like this for the first month after our move. It was not a very relaxing way to live.

It happened after our cross-country move.  First of all, it’s very hard to clean a house which is completely and obscenely cluttered by stuff which you are failing to unpack because a) you are trying to paint your entire house and would rather not get paint on everything and b) your new carpet will arrive in four weeks and it doesn’t make sense to put everything away just to have to pack it all up again and have it shifted from room to room as the carpet is replaced.  In addition, kids tend to be very needy while settling in after major life events such as these.  And to top it all off, about the same time we finally got our carpet, I dove into homeschooling.

So, there we were, a family of five living in utter chaos.  I tried to return to my cleaning schedule–I really did.  But my youngest gave up napping, and somehow three is not a good number for playing, so there is almost always someone looking for my attention.  At the end of a week, I counted myself lucky if I had completed ONE day’s worth of cleaning tasks.  One week I remember rejoicing at having cleaned the toilets during the week.  We were at an all-time low.

And then, at the least likely possible moment, genius struck.  It was a Friday.  The kids were finishing lunch, and I was surveying my disaster of a house.  One of the kids started in with, “Mommy, after lunch will you–” and I interrupted.  “After lunch, Mommy is CLEANING!  I keep putting it off over and over to do things with you kids, but this house is a wreck and it has GOT to be cleaned!”  And then came my daughter with her perfect solution:  “What if we help you, Mommy?  Maybe if we all help, it will get cleaned faster.  Maybe we can even get a prize for helping!”  Querying suspiciously, I investigated the “prize” aspect.  “Maybe like a special snack or something,” she suggested.

And The Friday Cleaning Blitz was born.  Almost no cleaning happens in my house on any other day.  Sure, the dishes get done, we wipe up spills, we put away our dirty laundry–but the big cleaning all happens during The Friday Cleaning Blitz.  Every Friday while the kids finish up their “work” and play some computer games, I make our list: toilets, sinks, and floors cleaned in the bathrooms, toys and craft supplies picked up and put away, rugs rolled and shaken outdoors, floors vacuumed and washed, laundry sorted, bedrooms returned to some semblance of order…  After lunch, we start our blitz.  The kids each choose a task (potty cleaning is the favorite!) and go to work, writing their name next to it when they finish so I know who to call if something is not satisfactorily completed.  While they do their work, I sort through the accumulated junk mail, switch loads of laundry, wipe down the kitchen, keep them motivated, and do other things better suited to Mommy.

One of Mommy's Special Snacks, invented using whatever we happen to have in the house at the time--usually including some sweet treat.

One of Mommy’s Special Snacks, invented using whatever we happen to have in the house at the time–usually including some sweet treat.

It’s quite a process, and by the end zeal is usually flagging, but the Special Snack makes it all worthwhile.  It doesn’t have to be anything amazing–a snowman made of two oatmeal cookies with a few M&Ms for details, a pretzel-winged butterfly with colored goldfish filling the wing spaces and a Dum-Dum for a head–but the knowledge that it is somehow special is enough.

It’s not a perfect system–often I wish I were one of those people who naturally kept their homes clutter-free and spotless at all times–but it has solved our immediate cleaning crisis admirably and allows me to feel like my house is an acceptably un-disgusting place to raise my kids.  In addition, my kids are learning skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.  And you know the best part?  Everyone loves Cleaning Blitz Day.  “Yeah!” squeals my three-year-old at bedtime.  “Tomorrow is Cleaning Blitz Day!”  Chimes in my five-year-old, “Yeah, Fridays are my favorite, too.”


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