Home & Family

They’re Out There Cleaning!

There is no way to adequately describe how I’m feeling right now.  I’m in my room, getting ready for swim lessons, and outside my door I can hear the vacuum going and the clinking of clean glasses being put away in the cupboard.

There are people here, cleaning.  People other than me.  Little people, who live here and contribute daily to the ever-present, widespread mess that I’ve accepted as my life.

I just want to document this moment.  I’ll come back and tell you how this miracle came to be after swim lessons!

Ok I’m back!  Not only did we have swim lessons, but after lunch we went back to the pool for more. The two-year-old is getting more comfortable in the water.  Hallelujah!  No more (or at least a little bit less) screaming at the pool!

AND NOW for how my kids ended up cleaning without me even being in the same room!

A couple months ago, I decided I wanted a little more help around the house.  You know, from the other people who live in it.  So I added a couple things to what we were doing and recommitted to get the kids involved in housework.  So far it’s going pretty well.

There are four things I have the boys do to help:

  1. Weekly role (chef/activity planner/DJ)
  2. Daily regular chore (rotates every 2 weeks)
  3. Daily extra chore (pulled randomly from a jar)
  4. Zone (one small section of the house to keep clean)

Weekly role

This is one of the best things I’ve ever done.  I started it a year or two ago, but I don’t always keep up on it.  We have a Chef of the Week, an Activities Planner of the Week (please help me come up with a better, less lame-sounding name for this!), and a DJ of the Week.

The boys just rotate, so I always have a go-to person when I want help in the kitchen, or with planning something fun for a Saturday, or to choose the music while we’re cleaning up or whatever.  Honestly, the chef sees the most action.  I’d like to do more with the others, but I’m taking baby steps here.  Some weeks I’m really on top of things and I have the chef or activity guy help me plan stuff he would like to cook or do, but a lot of the time I just do my thing and have him help with some things.

I always pictured myself as a mom who would let the kids help cook, and I truly do enjoy that, but when it’s 6:30, I’m hangry, and four little people are all standing on chairs, fighting over who gets to stir the soup, it just sends me over the edge and I want to lock them all out of the kitchen forever.

So now I generally have one helper at a time, and it allows me to actually teach them some skills instead of just mostly managing chaos.  It’s great one-on-one time, and the kids take pride in the things they cook, even if it’s something they wouldn’t normally want to eat.  At the dinner table one night, Chef Ben proclaimed, “Food always tastes so much better when you made it yourself.”  I almost laughed out loud because I tend to think it tastes better when someone else makes it, and I say so often.  But it was so great to hear that from him!

Daily Regular Chore

I tried to come up with three kid-friendly jobs that really impact our ability to function as a family.  That way they can feel like they’re really contributing with work that matters.  Alas, I still have the chore of cooking dinner myself.  Maybe next year.  Anyway, the three chores I picked are sweeping the kitchen, vacuuming the rug under the dining room table, and emptying the dishwasher.

Daily kitchen-sweeping and rug-vacuuming may not seem all that crucial, but get this!  Before they sweep/vacuum, they have to pick up and put away all the random objects that accumulate on that part of the floor!  Yay!  This has drastically cut down on those super-frustrating, nearly-violent, under-breath-cursing moments when I slip on Junie B. Jones while carrying a casserole dish or can’t pull out my chair to finally sit and eat after making dinner because there’s so much junk behind it.  Everybody wins.

We are currently in week 6 of this deal, and the kids are doing SO well!  They don’t need much help with their jobs anymore.  Case in point – this morning, I announced that only boys who were done with their chores would go to swim lessons, and they all just went to work.  I didn’t have to do a thing!

When they first started each job I would do it with them and train them for a few days so they could do it on their own.  I feel like two weeks is long enough to get pretty good at the job but hopefully not long enough to get so sick of it that they’ll dread when it comes back around.  I guess we’ll find out next week when the rotation starts over!

I keep track of the rotations on this white board so I know who’s doing what.

Daily Extra Chore

In addition to the regular chore, each boy is supposed to do an extra chore every day.  Another life-changer here, folks.  I write chores down on popsicles sticks and put them in a cup labeled “to do.”  Every day the boys each pull out a popsicle stick, do the chore, and put the stick in another cup labeled “done.”  It’s as simple as that.


The chores I write are just small things that I never get around to, like dusting the slats in the bi-fold closet doors, or washing the crayon off the garage door, or wiping down all the door frames.

The best part of this is that now when I notice something around the house that needs to be done (dirty appliances/dead-bug-filled light fixture/dusty attic stairs), instead of throwing it on the pile of Things I Should Be Doing But Can’t Seem To Find Time For, I just write it on a popsicle stick and put it in the cup!  No guilt, no pressure, only assurance that it will get done sooner or later, and -bonus!- someone besides me will do it!  The plan is to put the sticks back in “to do” after they’re all done, but so far we haven’t run out of sticks.  There are just a lot of little tasks I’ve been putting off.  I’m only one person after all.

I do have to help them with certain chores, and sometimes they pull out a stick and I quickly put it back in and get another (stupid buggy light fixture – I’m dreading that one) but gradually, these easily put-off-able chores are getting done!  And the boys are learning how to do all kinds of things.  And I think that they’re really gaining a sense of what it takes to keep a house clean, so they are less messy in the first place… ok, now I’m dreaming.

Anyway, it’s simple, and it’s working.


This one we’ve done for a long time.  I got the idea from a friend who does it too.  Each boy has a small section of the house that he’s responsible for.  Ideally he keeps it pretty clean all the time, but mostly it needs to be looking good before he can play with friends or have screen time.

Confession: When I chose these zones, I picked the three areas that drive me the most crazy and that I hate to clean up!  For me, those areas are the walkways of the house, where stuff gets dumped near the doors, shoes get kicked off, and lazy people (including myself) set things down to take downstairs later.

Here are the zones:

  • Ben: halls and stairs below the main level, including the hall between the back door and the garage, where backpacks, outside toys, shoes, etc. accumulate
  • Sam: halls and stairs from the main level up, where people tend to leave clothes and toys and bath towels
  • Miles: front entry way (this is the easiest – he’s 4), where shoes and jackets and mail are sometimes out of place, and maybe there’s a rug to shake out or a floor that needs sweeping

They’ve been doing the same zones for over a year now I think.  I recently asked if they wanted to trade, and they said no.  Works for me.


We are FAR from perfect at all this stuff, but I think if we stick with it, it will slowly, gradually become habit and we can add more or improve as we go.  For now, I’m just happy to have a little help.

What do YOU do to get help around the house?  This is working well for us now, but I’m sure in a few months or so it’ll all fall apart and I’ll be looking around for something new.  So please, tell me what works for you!


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