Cleaning: a task I’ve never really enjoyed. I enjoy a clean house though, so even though it is boring and sometimes really hard (or stinky or sticky) work, I must do it. When I was a kid, I remember my mother folding clothes and then putting them in a little basket that was just my size. She would give me the basket and then tell me in hushed tones, “Ok, Little Red Riding Hood, these berries (or cookies or cakes) are for Grandmother. Go take these to Grandmother’s room (which was actually my mom’s room) and be sure to be quiet and sneaky to get past the wolf!” So I would climb the stairs ever so quietly and sneak into my (Grand)mother’s room and place the “berries” on her bed and then bring the empty basket back to my mother for a refill!
So clearly, I am a girl after my mother’s own heart, for I applied the
lessons I had learned from my mom- that is- make cleaning fun! When I was 13 and in charge of doing dishes, my brother was assigned to assist me. He didn’t like doing dishes much. So I came up with a game. I would set a timer for a certain number of minutes and choose a small task such as unloading the silverware basket. We had to finish the task and then run and jump over the couch in the next room to avoid the bomb going off when the timer rang. In the years following, my sister and I often did all of our housework like this. And now that I am a mom myself, I want to train the kids how to clean the house. I also want to have fun as a family, so I employ several strategies for making the housework as fun and easy as possible. Really, it is all for me- it is just more fun to have fun, right?
1. Chore Jar– I have usually used an empty kleenex box for this. I divide up the tasks to be done into small 5-8 minute tasks, write them all on slips of paper, fold up the slips and stuff them in the box. Then each person assisting pulls a job from the box and does that task. I like the anticipation of not knowing what job I might pull. I also like that whatever the job is, I know it should only take about 5 minutes or less. A small task is less intimidating. I usually combine this strategy with others from this list (especially with #2).
2. Bomb!– I described this above- I set a timer and we have that long to complete the task. When doing this with children, we hide under blankets, behind couches, or something else while the “bomb” is going off. It is very exciting.
3. Music or Audio Book– Any fun, loud music that can get us moving is good. These days I like to use Antshillvania because there is a good song in it about working hard. It is both music and a story and it is really cute (also, it brings back fond memories of my childhood!). We try to get one task done in each song. Often there is some sort of reward at the end. I have often listened to Focus on the Family Radio Theater Presents The Chronicles of Narnia when I have a large house project. I love these so very much!
4. Special Mission– My mom modeled this strategy for me when she would send me upstairs as Little Red Riding Hood. I have given my son a “sword” (wooden spoon or paper towel tube) or other pretend tools and then given him a mission. One time he needed to cross a river with a scary aquatic monster in it to deliver the bed linens to the needy children in Hall Closetville. This strategy works best with small children and delivery errands, though I have heard from my aunt that my mother was quite good at making up stories to make whatever job they were doing more interesting.
Another way I’ve used this idea is to try to make housework fun for my geeky/nerdy husband. (He and my sister have a war over whether he is a geek or a nerd… this venn diagram is very applicable.) In the past, I’ve employed a “Quest” board with our tasks written in clever phrases or puns on index cards. One time I wrote out all the chores as Star Trek away missions and called our bucket of cleaning supplies the medical kit and the swiffer dusters were our phasers.
5. Race– The last two weekends, I have used a new way to do the housework. I make a list of jobs that need to be done. (This could work with strategy #1 though.) I carefully divide them into two lists- one list for the girl team (Princess K and I) and the other list for the boy team (Daddy & X-man). While the toddler and baby are sleeping, we begin. I announce the first job on each list and we race to see who can finish first. The first team done chooses the video game and we complete one level (or play for 7 minutes, if there are not levels in the chosen game). Then I announce the second job on each list and we do it again. This makes the whole house cleaning lengthier than it would be otherwise, but the kids stay pretty motivated the whole time, and it is really precious time as a family having fun and doing useful things. It also gives my husband and I opportunities to take the kids alongside and train them in how to clean.
Ecclesiastes 5:18 “Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.”