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The magic of clean up hour



Since I wrote last February about how we clean the house we have made some tweaks that have made a real difference. The first is a daily and weekly job sheet in every room of the house. It lists every job that needs to be done and what items to use to get the job done. They are posted in each room in an out of the way place; so the living room one is behind the TV. I sat in each room and looked around at what I wanted done and then made a daily and weekly breakdown.


The next small change we made was how the kitchen was assigned. Now we have two people cleaning the kitchen and they work together to get it done. Right now my husband and Girl13 are keeping the kitchen pretty spotless. By working together we removed the "I'm waiting for you to do your job so I can do my job" thing that always seemed to happen.


Now for the big change! It seemed small at first but has made all the difference! After dinner we all stay at the table until everyone is done, which is nice to get some conversation out of the kids, then we announce that clean up hour is beginning. We set a timer, there is music playing, and everyone participates. Those three things right there are what make clean up hour magical now.


  1. Set a timer. This puts a time limit on cleaning and lets everyone know how much longer they have. When the timer is over so is the cleaning. The timer only works if the kids can stop when the time is up. If you keep them going afterwards they stop working hard for you because you broke a promise. You have to call it good enough for today.

  2. Play music. We play it loud in the kitchen so everyone can hear it in our small house and it keeps everyone moving. We have an Apple Music subscription and like to play from their different "essentials" lists. Our favorites have been Imagine Dragons, Coldplay, and Disney Hits but you play what works for you.

  3. Everyone participates. The only way out is to not be home or be sick in bed. When your job is done you find someone else to help; if all the jobs are done then clean your bedroom.

Results: our house seems to be much cleaner than it ever was and there seems to be more time in the evening for other things. I think the house seems cleaner because more actual cleaning is getting done when everyone is cleaning for the whole hour instead of doing a quick job and then moving on. There seems to be more time in the evenings because I don't spend all evening telling the kids to do their jobs and having them tell me that they did the job, which was only done half heartedly, or they are working on homework. By doing this after dinner we are done with dinner and clean up by seven, seven-thirty at the latest. This gives then an hour and a half before bedtime to do homework, play piano, and shower. We have not had a problem with kids not getting homework done because of clean up hour.


Ideas for small kids, small families, or for when lots of people are out: Set a timer, play the music, everyone participates, but stick together. Don't divide up but move from room to room together. I would start with what is the most important area and move on from there. If you have two responsible people then divide up the little ones between the two teams. Little kids can clean and tidy but you have to tell them exactly what you want. "Clean the living room," is not going to work, but "put the stuffed animals away" will work better. Give them bite size jobs that don't take very long. If you don't know where to start, pick a color for them to clean up. "Pick up something green," "pick up 3 blue things," etc. They will be ready for more responsibility soon.


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