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Spring Cleaning with Kids- Making it Fun!

My amazing sister is turning forty in a couple weeks and I am so excited to be able to throw her birthday bash at my house! Really, she is the best big sister ever! I wish I could loan her to you! Being five years older than me, she weathers every storm first. She figured out pregnancy, potty-training, temper-tantrums, back-talking,…..everything….she encountered it first! So, when I have a problem with my kids, guess who I call? “Sister, dear……..” So, of course, I want to celebrate her birth! I am so glad my mama had her!

Now, that being said……I haven’t had a party at my house for a long time….over a year, maybe? My sister has them all at her house! See why I love her?

Parties = lots of cleaning= no, thank you!

When I am schooling, I just can’t muster up the energy to scrape the pizza sauce off the vaulted ceilings. (Apparently, one of my sons decided to see if he could juggle pizza.) Someone, please tell me that you have kids like this?

Last weekend, I decided that we needed a spring-cleaning plan to prepare for our upcoming celebration. How can we make it look like three little boys DO NOT live in this house? I am not going for Better Homes and Gardens, ladies. But, when people walk in my home, I don’t want them to say, “Oh, my!” in a not-so-great way!

After much contemplating, I formulated a productive, yet fun, cleaning game. Before I tell you my plan, let me share this with you. After cleaning for five hours straight, my middle son said, “Thanks, Mom. This is so fun!” Do I have your attention now?

My Plan

  • Draw a picture of every room in my house. The one above is my main floor. I did each floor of the house on a different piece of paper. If I had a huge piece of paper, I would have made a giant “blueprint.”
  • With the help of my boys, I made a list of every “treat” or “privilege” that would motivate them to work.
  • After that, they took turns, one by one, choosing a treat or privilege. I assigned the treat to a room in the house. (They chose the treat and I chose the room. For example, when they choose to order pizza, I assigned pizza to the hardest room because it was the most expensive. I wanted them to work harder for that one.) We continued choosing until every room had an assigned blessing.
  • Here was the deal:
    • We will work for five hours.
    • We will party for five hours. (after the work is complete)
    • With every room that we deep-clean, we will receive the assigned party treat for that room. Using the picture above as an example, when we finished deep-cleaning the office, the boys knew that they had earned orange soda pop for our cleaning party that evening.
  • As we cleaned, we kept our house map nearby. We highlighted every treat that they had recieved as we cleaned.
  • When our time was up, we went to the store and purchased all of the items for our after-cleaning party!

A Few Fun Tips

    • Keep it fun! Music will help!
    • To make it more “party-like” we cleaned together, everyone in the same area of the house.
    • Refer to the treat for that room as you are cleaning…..”Wow, I can’t wait to eat that ice cream. It will be worth it tonight!”
    • If possible, enlist Dad’s help. Make it a family party!
    • After you are done, have the kids walk with you to examine each room. I carried room freshener with me as we checked. If the room was clean, I squirted lavender into the air. The kids ran ahead of me, sniffing the air to see if that room was “approved.”

Our Treats and Privileges

This was my boys’ list: orange pop, root beer, pizza, ramen noodles, kettle corn, sour cream and onion chips, cheese curls, homemade M&M Blizzards, yellow cake with chocololate frosting, rent a movie, rent a video game, late bedtime

Not a healthy thing on the list, my friend, but my house is closer to clean! Although, in order to be fully ready for my sister’s birthday bash, I might need to have a few more cleaning parties with my kids!

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Age-Appropriate Chores

As you might have figured out, I am a strong believer in chores. Obviously, I love having help around the house. But, we do chores for a bigger purpose. Household management is a life-skill. In other words, I am training my kids to live life! When they leave my home, they will know how to prepare healthy meals, fold laundry, organize their belongings, and sweep a floor. It is more than just a to-do list. I am showing them what a functional home looks like. Because they have spent their childhood contributing to my household, they will easily transition into caring for their own household. I am setting their “norm” while teaching them perseverance and a strong work-ethic.

Now I can hear a few of you whispering in the background…..”But, he’s a boy. He will leave my house, get married, and his wife will be in charge of the household. I will focus on the academics and prepare him for a high-paying job that will support his family.” Don’t hear me wrong….I’m a teacher….educate your sons! But, don’t neglect household management. So, before we go any further, let me give you five reasons to train your boys to manage a household:

  1. Delayed Marriage: People are waiting longer and longer to get married. What if he waits until his 30′s to get married? Possibly, he could have ten years of managing a home without a spouse. Ten years of laundry, ten years of preparing himself meals, ten years of living alone…..ten years is a long time to live on Ramen Noodles and frozen pizzas…..
  2. Unprepared Wife: Unfortunately, many young women are not being taught to manage a home. Moms are busy. I am not condemining them, but it saddens me that some girls do not understand basic homemaking skills. I wish that were different. It is possible that my son’s future wife might enter the marriage without the ability to cook or clean. He will be able to show her.
  3. Two-Income Household: Okay…best case scenario……he marries young and he marries a lady that has been raised with a similar work ethic. Awesome! Most likely, she will work for a few years before having my beautiful little granddaughters (I am expecting pink in my future.) During those years of a two-income household, he and his wife will be equipped to share the household load.
  4. Sharing the burdens: After having my precious little grandbabies, it is my prayer that my future daughter-in-law will choose to stay home with her children. In that case, she will most likely assume the majority of the household duties. But, I have to think back to the number of times that my husband has come home from work to a tired, frazzled mama at the end of her rope. Let’s just say that dinner and showering were the last things on my mind. The kids were alive, weren’t they? What does my husband do when this happens? Does he scream ‘get me dinner, woman?’ Not so much! We pitch in and get it done together. I try. But, some days, I need back-up!
  5. Strong work-ethic: Chores create hard-workers. Being able to work hard will translate into a strong work-ethic in the workplace. I am preparing them to be able to do hard things at a young age, which will enable them to continue doing hard things for the rest of their lives.

How to get the chores done

I am not going to spend much time on how I get my sons to complete their chores as I have already discussed this topic at length in another series of posts. The short-version is this: make the chores their problem, not yours. If you missed this discussion, you might re-visit these posts:

Chore and Kids-Part 1-How I Got Here

Chores and Kids-Part 2- The Plan

Chores and Kids-Part 3- FAQ’s

Cheap, Safe Cleaning Solutions for Kids

Age-Appropriate Chores

What chores should I give my boys?

As a young mom, I struggled with which chores to assign my boys. Was I being too hard on them? Too easy? After a bit of trial and error, I can tell you what works for our family. I am going to categorize the jobs by age and room. Chores that are not listed are the ones that I do myself. While this job list start at four-years-old, let me tell you that my kids were doing chores from the moment that were able to walk. If they can learn to remove a toy from a toy bin then they can learn to put that toy back into the toy bin!

4 -6 years old

  • My little guy is in charge of the toy room, his bedroom, and helping mom.
    • The toy room is pretty easy-just put the toys on the shelf.
    • He shares his bedroom with my oldest, so they do it together.
    • He is my little helper/sidekick while we do chores.
  • Toy room
    • Pick up toys and return them to their home.
    • Throw away any trash.
  • His laundry
    • Pick up dirty clothes and put them in the hamper.
    • Bring dirty laundry to the washing machine.
    • Carry his clean, folded laundry to his drawers. (I fold his clothes.)
  • His bedroom
    • “Make” his bed. (Just pull the covers up….it is not perfect, by any means!)
    • Put books on the bookcase.
    • Pick up trash off the floor.
    • Dust with a microfiber cloth.
  • Other
    • Empty small trash cans into the big trash can.
    • Feed and water the dog.
    • Set the table. (I put everything on the counter. He carries it from the counter to the table.)
    • Serve the food. (I dish up the plates. He carries them to the table for each person.)
    • Follow me around the house. As I find items in the wrong room, I say “Go put this cup on the kitchen counter.” “Go put this jacket on your brother’s bed.” He is my little “go-to” guy.
    • Personal care (get dressed, brush teeth, etc.)
    • Carry belongings inside from the van.
    • In the backyard, pick up sticks and toys so Dad can mow.

7-9 years old

  • My middle son is in charge of the living room, entry way, his bedroom, his laundry, and the kids’ bathroom.
  • His bedroom
    • Clean underneath his bed, behind the furniture, and in his closet.
    • Once a week, he removes his sheets. I help him put on new ones.
    • Make his bed.
    • Clean up toys, books, and trash.
    • Dust with a microfiber cloth.
  • His laundry
    • Put dirty clothes in the hamper.
    • Bring dirty laundry to the washing machine.
    • Fold his clean laundry and put it away. (I have to help with items that need hanging. He can do it, but he gets frustrated with the hangers.)
  • The living room
    • Put books on the bookcases.
    • Return toys, clothes, and other random scatterings to their home.
    • Dust with a microfiber.
    • Organize the game/puzzle cabinets.
    • Clean under the couches.
  • The entryway
    • Return all stray shoes to the appropriate bedroom closet.
    • Hang up coats and jackets in the entry closet. (Sometimes he needs help with this step.)
    • Wash the front door with microfibers.
    • Sweep the tile.
  • Kids’ bathroom
    • Clean off the counters-toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, etc.)
    • Wipe down the counters and sink with vinegar and paper towels.
    • Wash the mirror with microfibers.
    • Shine the faucet with a microfiber.
    • Wipe the toilet seat and floor with vinegar and paper towels. (I do the inside of the toilet.)
    • Clean all toys out of the bathtub.
    • Empty the trashcan.
  • Other
    • Personal care (get dressed, shower, brush teeth, etc.)
    • Carry belongings inside the house from the van.
    • Carry groceries inside and help put them away.
    • Wash the vegetables and fruit.
    • In the backyard, pick up sticks and toys so that Dad can mow.
    • Rake and bag leaves.
    • Help with simple meal preparation: scrambled eggs, toast, soup, sandwiches, oatmeal, etc.

9-11 years old

  • My oldest is in charge of the kitchen, the guest bathroom, his laundry, and his bedroom.
  • His bedroom
    • Clean underneath his bed, behind furniture, and in the closet.
    • Once a week, he removes his sheets. I help him put on new ones.
    • Make his bed.
    • Clean up toys, books, and trash.
  • His laundry
    • Put dirty laundry in the hamper.
    • Bring dirty laundry to the washing machine.
    • Fold and put away his clean clothes.
  • The half-bath (guest bath)
    • Wipe down the counters and sink with vinegar and paper towels.
    • Wipe the toilet seat and floor with vinegar and paper towels. (I do the inside of the toilet.)
    • Empty the trashcan.
    • Clean the mirror with microfibers.
    • Shine the faucet with a microfiber.
  • The kitchen
    • Empty/load the dishwasher.
    • Clear off the counters.
    • Wipe down the fronts of the appliances.
    • Wash the back door with microfibers.
    • Sweep the floor.
  • Other
    • Rake and bag the leaves.
    • Help mow (with Dad’s supervision.)
    • Carry and put away groceries.
    • Simple meal preparation: mac and cheese, eggs, soup, sandwiches, oatmeal, brown the ground beef, etc.
    • Carry in belongings from the van.
    • Personal care (hair, teeth, get dressed)
    • Help his little brother.

I don’t have teenagers yet…..sorry! I will let you know how the chore process goes for them….in a few years!

For more ideas on age-appropriate chores, check out this list from Focus on the Family.


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Chores and Kids – Part 3- FAQ’s

Here are the most commonly asked questions about my chore system.


My child wouldn’t work for $3-$4, should I increase the amount? 

  • The answer:  Can you afford it?  I can’t.  I am thinking long-term.  The amount will increase every year by 50 cents.  I have three kids.  All of their amounts will be increasing simultaneously. If my child decided that his allowance wasn’t good enough, then I would stop purchasing all of his favorite treats until the chores became “worth it.”     

 My child doesn’t care if he has money or not.

  • The plan is two-fold.  The child will either be motivated by the money or by the exclusion of their beloved activity.  Eventually, they will be motivated by both.   Also, ask yourself, “Am I making him buy his “wants?”  If you buy everything he wants then he won’t care about money!  Close your wallet and he may begin to care! 

 I have a teenager.  I don’t think this would work for him. 

  • The basic skeleton of this plan would work for a teenager, but the amount of money may need to be increased.  But, if his allowance increases then you can start asking the teenager to purchase his own clothes, shoes, etc. with that money to compensate for the increase of allowance. 

 My child doesn’t care whether he misses snacks, video games, etc.  He won’t do his chores. What do I do?

  •  You haven’t found the child’s “button” yet.  What does he always ask you to do-watch tv, play with a friend, go outside, eat a special treat?  Eliminate that activity until the chore is complete.  Continue trying various activities until the child is motivated to do the work without you having to hassle him.

My kids want to switch room assignments.  Should I let them? 

  • My kids keep their assigned rooms for a couple years.  I don’t want to have to re-train them every couple weeks.  That is a hassle.  It takes me about a month to train them to clean the room properly.  This plan will not be low-stress if I am constantly re-teaching everyone.  Keep it simple.  Chores are boring, no matter what.  Boring and easy is better than boring and complicated. 

I want my kids to know how to clean every room of the house, not just one.

  • We will switch rooms after a couple years.  I have them for 18+ years.  That is plenty of time for them to learn to manage every room of the house.   

 I don’t believe in allowance.  I won’t pay my kids to do everyday chores. 

  • I want my kids to learn how to manage money.  How will they learn to do that if they don’t have money?  This plan motivates my kids to work while providing them the opportunity to learn lifelong money management skills. 

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