I am a terrible cleaner. Scratch that. I can scour a pot and scrub a toilet like nobody’s business. I just don’t have that gene that tells you to pick something up and put it away after you take it out. Perhaps this could have been beaten into me by more aggressive parenting. But my parents did try. I still remember my Dad’s ingenious attempt at a catchy acronym designed to get me to recognize the piles of detritus I was leaving in my wake before they accumulated:
P. I. B.
That stands for Put It Back, in case you couldn’t figure it out. Sadly, while the phrase, meaning and pained expression on my father’s face was etched permanently into my memory, the behavioral adjustment was not made. Now, I’m the messy mother of two kids who are showing strong signs of messiness. I would really really like to instill some cleaning skills into my offspring, and while I’m at it, into myself. But I’m not quite sure where to start.
Here’s what I’m thinking so far:
1. Set up a regular organized time for family cleanup. Weekends seem like the natural choice, if there were ever any free time on the weekends. But really, I get that this has to be made a priority, not just so the house can get clean, but so the kids can see that getting the house clean is a priority.
2. Make some kind of job chart. The kids have these at school, and they seem to like them. I’m partial to the spinning wheel ones from summer camp, but that may be too much of a temptation to use as a toy.
3. Give the kids a little power. My son loves to squeegee. I don’t know why. I try not to worry too much about him ending up washing windows at traffic lights. Instead, I try to let him wash the windows and various other surfaces. Never mind that they generally don’t look cleaner after he’s done. To a kid, “cleaning” and cleaning are virtually the same thing.
4. Go with your strengths—to a point. You know that part in Free To Be, You and Me where Carol Channing says “Housework is Just No Fun”? It might be true.But there’s probably something about it you don’t hate as much as the other parts. Me, I’d rather scrub than sweep. I like sorting best of all, but I also know I can easily go down a rabbit hole when I find something interesting….
5. Teams might help. I’m not sure my kids are old enough to work together without it devolving into chasing each other around with cleaning supplies, but I could see a parent and child team being effective, and maybe even slightly fun.
6. And, the old standby for getting kids to do anything they don’t want to do: make a game of it. I’m not the most naturally competitive person, but I gotta say, those kids love a good race.
7. If nothing else works, watch Hoarders.
Okay, that’s all I’ve got. And really, I’ve only effectively implemented the squeegee thing. I’ve got Babble’s Spring Tips as a jumping off point. But it doesn’t answer some of the questions I have, like, what if ALL your books have sentimental value? I might need something a bit more remedial. Any spring cleaning tips for the neatness-impaired?
photo: treehouse 1977/flickr