We all dream of having a perpetually clean home. But with kids running around, it’s significantly harder to make it happen on a regular basis.
Kids naturally create chaos in their wake where ever they go. Curbing the chaos takes some serious intentionality on the parents’ part. We’ve got to create habits and systems and teach our kids to be responsible for their part of making the home run smoothly.
It takes a lot of extra time and effort to clean with kids and show them how it’s done.
But it’s important, and it’s totally worth it.
Otherwise, the parents (usually mom, let’s be real) gets relegated to being the family servant, cleaning up after everyone and doing things that the kids could totally manage themselves, especially as they get older.
Follow these tips so you don’t have to be the family servant:
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TEACH YOUR KIDS TO CLEAN
A major key to keeping the house clean when you have kids is to teach them to participate in household chores as soon as they are able. For example:
- One-year-olds can learn to pick up toys.
- 5-year-olds can do their own laundry and unload the dishwasher.
- Eight-year-olds can clean the bathroom and wash dishes.
Of course, you’ll have to provide supervision and help until you’re sure they can do it on their own. At first, it will take longer and take more effort than just doing it yourself, but don’t let that keep you from doing it.
The work you put into training your kids is an investment. It’s hard now, but it will totally pay off in the not-too-distant future when they can take care of their chores on their own.
CREATE ROUTINES TO KEEP THE HOME RUNNING SMOOTHLY
- Everyone always works together pick up toys in the living room before meals.
- Take 2 minutes to help them tidy up their bedroom before they go to sleep.
- Everyone clears their place after meals and puts their dishes directly into the dishwasher.
It might seem pointless to put toys away when you know they’re going to get them right back out again. But you might be surprised if you take the time to notice how long it actually stays clean.
If you clean up toys before lunch at 11:30, and then do quiet time/nap time immediately afterwards and they stay there until 3 or 3:30 PM, that’s nearly four hours of time that you get to enjoy living in a tidied environment.
If you pick up again before bed, it’ll be clean all evening, all night, and then if you have anything outside the house planned for the next morning, it won’t get messy that entire time either. In that case, an evening tidy winds up giving you 18 hours to enjoy your clean home.
It’s worth it.
STOP BUYING STUFF TO ACHIEVE A CLEAN HOME WITH KIDS
One of the best ways to keep a clean home with kids is not not have much stuff in your house that can get strewn about everywhere.
Kids toys are an especially guilty culprit when it comes to clutter. We tend to think that if we buy more toys for them, they’ll stay entertained for longer. When really, the opposite is true. They’ll play much better with a few quality, open-ended toys than they will in a room full of plastic junk that sings at them and makes noise.
Resist the urge to buy tons of new stuff for your kids at birthdays and holidays (and yard sales).
GET RID OF STUFF SO KIDS HAVE LESS TO CLEAN
If you struggle to maintain a clean home, it might be time to consider that you have too much stuff already.
Go through your kids toys and box up almost everything. You can leave out classic toys like the blocks and baby dolls, but everything else goes in a box and into storage. If they ask for something that’s in the box, they can totally have it back!
It’ll be so much easier for them to clean up toys themselves if there isn’t so much to put away. It’s way too overwhelming for a little kid to walk into a room full of dozens of different types of toys and be expected to put them all away properly.
But if all that’s available, are some blocks, kitchen toys, and a couple of dress up costumes, that’s much more manageable for them and they can totally learn to take care of that mess on their own.
HOW TO MOTIVATE KIDS TO CLEAN THE HOUSE
Now you know what your kids are capable of. But how do you get them to actually do it?
There’s a few ways that I’ve found to get kids to join in with the cleaning:
CRANK UP THE MUSIC
There’s a reason The Clean Up Song from Barney got so popular in the 90s. You don’t actually have to sing this particular song, but turning on some fun tunes to dance around the room to while you put things away is a great way to make it fun.
SET A TIMER
Some kids love to move in slow motion. It’s great that they want to live life in the slow lane on their own time, but we really need them to kick it up a notch during clean up time. A timer can be surprisingly effective to get kids moving at a reasonable speed and get the job done. You can choose the time frame: 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes…it’s totally up to whatever you think is appropriate.
Sometimes I dangle a consequence or reward for when the timer goes off. If they get everything cleaned up in time they get X reward, but X consequence if there’s still a mess left over.
Often, though, I find that the ticking of the timer alone is enough to motivate them to get stuff done!
PICK UP 10 THINGS
Another variation of ways to make the mess manageable for kids is to instruct everyone to pick up 10 things. Some kids will be better at this than others. My 6 year old can run around the house and accurately keep track of how many items she’s picked up and put them away in their proper place. But I have to follow the 4 year old around and make sure she’s doing it correctly.
I love this tactic for when there’s a lot of random clutter scattered around the house. Not so much when the main mess is hundreds of pieces of legos all over the living room floor.
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Melinda worked with children for years in a professional setting before becoming a full-time stay at home mom. She currently has three young children, and enjoys sharing tips and ideas about parenting and how to manage a home with excellence. She’s been featured on Heathline and Her View From Home.