If there is one major mistake most moms make, it’s obsessing about always having a clean home. Loosen up, Mom. If your home has to be perfectly clean all the time, guess who is going to have to keep it that way?
Declare your home a cleaning cooperative instead. Maintaining a pristine lifestyle is no longer your job alone. Besides, a more cooperative approach gets the whole family on the teamwork track and sets a great example of how many hands make lighter work for all.
If you work side-by-side with your spouse and family, you might even pick up a few chore shortcuts yourself by observing how others get things done. Instead of you doing all the dividing and conquering, let the whole family pitch in and transform chaos into cooperation. Here’s how:
One for all And All For Clean!
Share responsibility for chores throughout the entire family, removing the lion’s share of the responsibility from your shoulders. You are the leader, and you and your spouse can co-lead when you are both home. But from this day onward, care of house and home is a group effort.
Teach As You Go
Put some energy into your demo the first few times you show kids how to do something. If you teach them with a flourish, they will likely remember what you said and did, even if they are trying to tune you out. Kids learn faster when they can watch and imitate. Younger kids can learn by watching older kids.
Check Their Work
With exposure to your methodology, your trainees will pick up on the most effective ways to clean, and with repetition what they try themselves will become habit. Train them once, and then follow up by checking their work twice. Then, check it another time in the future when they don’t expect it. If they pass muster all three times, then you are ready to teach them something new.
Take It One Floor At A Time
Rather than spread the family throughout the house, tackle one floor at a time with a couple of people in each room. There is something genuinely encouraging about watching the house transform quickly from chaos into order right before your eyes. Your team’s effectiveness will keep everyone focused and boost spirits.
When the troops are flagging, put on some upbeat music. If this doesn’t help, practice a little ready, set, go. Set a timer and see if you can beat your record from your last cleaning session. You’ll only be competing with yourselves.
Tackle Tasks Together
This means one person gathers the clothes, another sorts them, another runs the washer and dryer and everyone folds. When everyone is in charge of everything, kids learn to just jump in and do what needs to get done next, which will pay off now and in future teamwork situations.
Try Temporary Amnesia
Rather than try to force squabbling siblings to get along, which will slow down the entire operation, why not teach them that they don’t always have to get along perfectly to work together and get things done? They can learn to put aside their differences temporarily in service of a common cause.
Let Someone Else Lead
Maybe the fearless leader needs a reprieve. If you are tired, cranky or under the weather, why not appoint someone to lead the troops in your place? Rotate leadership on a regular basis, and watch your kids rise to the occasion.
Forget Pristine Perfection.
Imperfection is your new normal, so get used to more Wabi-Sabi standards of living. I doubt anyone is on the way over to photograph your home for a magazine shoot, anyway.
Think of your home as cultivating a lived-in look. And if you don’t finish in one day, no big deal. Chores can re-commence when the whole crew returns home to help. So, when you have cleaning to do, Mom, stop taking it all on yourself and get ready to rally the family.
Work-together Strategies That Get Chores Done
No mother should have to tackle all the chores alone. Try these strategies to get everyone in the family pitching in:
- Fold laundry together while watching a lighthearted film or TV show
- Prep meals for the week all at one time while listening to new music
- Take it outside and mow, rake, weed and wash cars together
- Rally the troops to tackle seasonal chores every three months
- Offer rewards the whole family can enjoy like miniature golf or bowling
- Take a break from family time for a couple of hours after intensive cleaning
Solve Chaos By Flexing Your Sorting Systems
If your teen’s dresser is always empty, with clothes strewn about the room, maybe that’s because they would prefer a more visual approach to sorting their clothes. Why not try cubes in the closet instead of drawers? Here’s a list of sorting solutions that work for children of any age:
- Furniture cubes
- No-slip hangers
- Shoe bucket or tub
- Laundry hamper
- Jewelry sorter
- Rows of hooks
- Large and small bins
- Hanging or back-of-door sorters
Message To Work-At-Home Moms
A cooperative approach works well even if Mom stays home to work. However, a mom who works at home is going to have to learn to tolerate more entropy than she did when a tidy house was part of her work description. Once you start working, your time, energy and attention are needed for your new job, not the dishes in the sink, the dirty laundry on the floor or the toys scattered around the front yard.
You are going to have to learn how to say, “Oh well, we’ll all tackle this later,” and then stick to it, so you can concentrate on the tasks at hand. So, find yourself a pair of blinders and know when to wear them.
Tackle Big Projects Separately
When it’s time to spring clean your home, forget the garage, the attic, the shed and any porches or decks. Forget cleaning the refrigerator or organizing the kitchen cabinets. You can tackle those jobs later, when the timing is right.
In fact, keep a list of intensive projects for down the road. For really big jobs like cleaning out an attic, schedule another half day or day when the weather will be best for the whole family to pitch in. Or commit a regular amount of time weekly, when the whole family can contribute, like two hours on Saturday mornings until the jobs are done.
Author, journalist, and writing coach Christina Katz got help tidying her home over the weekend and will watch it descend into chaos as the week wears on.