August 4, 2004

** Cleaning Power Hour **

Today I felt like an example out of "Chores Without Wars" but I must admit that this is a rarity in my house - I often feel like I am fighting the endless battle of the tornado that follows my cleanup. However, today inspired by listening to one of the free phone seminars about being more organized I decided to give it a try.

I sat down with the kids and asked how they felt about the house - which was pretty chaotic and just needed a good pickup and here is what happened.

Me: What do you think about the house now - is it clean or messy.

Them: They said they thought things were very messy.

Me: Do you think we are being good stewards of what God has given us?

Them: No.

Me: What should we do?

Them: Maybe we could work together and clean.

Me: That sounds like a great idea. Where should we start? What room is most important to be cleaned?

Rhiannon: The upstairs living room.
Ciaran: The downstairs family/playroom
Mom: the kitchen

Rhiannon: Let's start with the room of the person who finds the timer first and we will set a timer and try to beat it.

Me: Okay if we work together and beat the timer than you can have a treat.

I found the timer first so we started in the kitchen. I asked what music they wanted and they settled on Vivaldi. I put it on and asked how long they thought it should take to clean the kitchen. Rhiannon said a half hour - I said 15 minutes - she really wanted a half hour (remember she wants that treat) so I compromised and said we will set the timer for a half hour and cover the kitchen and the dining room (planning in my mind to include the upstairs living room as all these rooms are open and together). She agreed and we started cleaning. The kids were very helpful. We managed to pick up and put away everything in the three rooms, sweep, vacuum, wash the counters and the floors and dust in all three rooms with about 30 seconds to spare. Ciaran helped me wash the floor for the first time and Rhiannon vacuumed for the first time. Roomba was vacuuming the bathrooms during this time. Then they each got to pick their treat. Rhiannon chose a cookie and Ciaran chose a popsicle. They went on the deck to eat them and enjoy a few minutes break. Then we headed downstairs.

Again I asked how long we would need for the family room. Rhiannon said 30 minutes. I said in 30 minutes we can do the whole downstairs - she said no we need an hour. I said "You want to clean for an hour?" they said yes. I said let's compromise and clean for 45 minutes and do the whole downstairs (family/play/schoolroom, library, office, laundry room, bathroom, hallway and stairs.

We finished all the rooms (except the bathroom) pickup, put away, dust, vacuum, and all the misc things we do down there in 30 minutes. I said since they were such huge helps (they really were) and had such a good serving spirit and the right attitude we would stop and I would finish the bathroom later. They each got two twizzlers. Then they had to sit in the library and read a book while I nursed Sirah.

It was an amazing hour and there were no tears, no fighting, no complaining and we really got a lot accomplished. I was very proud of the kids and appreciative of their help. I told them this and then said and you should be proud of yourselves to which Rhiannon replied. No mom I am not proud - I am humble. Every once in awhile a lesson comes back when you least expect it. Anyway it was a good day and reminded me of a few lessons I already knew but often forget with kids, especially when it comes to cleaning.

1. Our timer is our best friend.
2. Kids want to be involved with you and prefer helping you (even with cleaning) then doing something alone by themselves - they want the connection and interaction with you.
3. Kids need specific directions and tasks and they will meet them.
4. Kids crave and want order and structure and will help accomplish it.
5. A reward to a kid is often very small but can go a long way. Though I don't believe you should always use rewards as incentive.
6. It's so much friendlier with 2 (or 4 in our case) and the time passes much quicker.

There are days when I feel all I am doing is cleaning my house and I may make choices like - just watch this movie so I can get something done. In the end, usually, no one is happy. The kids feel ignored and perhaps like I am putting a clean house ahead of them, they are then grumpy and often follow me around making a mess, I get short because I just cleaned. I am the only one cleaning and it teaches them that I will pick up their messes and does not give them a sense of ownership of their mess and responsibility for cleaning it and caring for their things and it does not foster a family community.

The brief hour yesterday accomplished far more for our family than a nice clean house (though that certainly was a benefit). It brought us together as a family, it gave us time to chat and work together, it helped us work as a team to help care for each others things, it gave each person a sense of ownership and responsibility not towards themselves but towards the family. It showed my kids that they can do things and that it can be fun to work together. I got help instead of doing it all myself and it built foundations for the future and helped the kids see the responsibilities that go into running a household.

This is not the first time we have done this - but it is the first time I think I really realized the benefits of the process and the values and advantages in continuing it. For years I heard people tell me to have my kids help me even when it takes longer. I used to be really good about it - but lately I was so focused on getting the task done as quickly as possibly that I was leaving my kids alone so I could just get something done and it was making all of us unhappy.

I recommend an occasional cleaning power hour or 15 minutes or whatever you can do. Try it you may enjoy all the benefits I've mentioned and discover some more of your own.



  1. This is an excellent post! It should be included in a "best of" list, definitely!

    The boys love to help, and when I remember the reason for keeping our home, I love to let them. Don't know why it's so difficult to remember. Thanks for the encouraging reminder!

    P.S.- James usually requests Tschaikovsky for our dinner prep and bless-the-home-before-Daddy-comes-home time. :-) I love it!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement Dy. Isn't it great when kids request to listen to good classical music? I think it is so wonderful to expose them to great music and art right from the beginning. We also have a little bless the house ritual before Serona comes home and we find it really sets the tone for the rest of the evening if things are nice when he arrives home. Matter of fact I just finished up for tonight as Serona is arriving home from a week in Mexico!