I will be the first to admit that our home is not immaculate at all times. Five kids, homeschooling - that's just not a reasonable expectation. I might dream about that, and even ache for my single days when I only vacuumed and dusted once a month. I might look longingly at all of those cool loft condos downtown and wonder what sort of childless people live there and how beautifully clean their rooms must be. I might peruse the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog and loose myself in cleanliness, orderliness, and style.
But - that's not our style. Our style is to be a few steps ahead of utter chaos and to try not to drown in our growing collection of books, toys, and games. Without a ton of elbow room we also have learned to move about the house very carefully, or risk a stubbed toe. (a daily occurrence)
And I honestly try not to waste time on real estate websites drololing over 38oo FQF homes with 4-5 large bedrooms on the second floor, a music room and office and formal dining on the main level, and a large walk-out finished basement for the homeschooling stuff. Plus, I can't imagine how much longer a house that large would take to clean.
Nope, for now we have to make due by cleaning and organizing a very adequate 22oo FQF home with a den, a little homeschooling room (big enough for one desk & 4 tall bookshelves), 4 smallish bedrooms all on one level, 2 1/2 baths and a nice yard. And yes, we are truly thankful for the home we do have. (though I will have to purge gently used books again - soon)
However large or small your space, one must have a plan to keep it clean and organized. If you have children, their help must be enlisted. If you homeschool and a new mess is made every 5 minutes, cleaning times throughout the day and the week are a must.
The dial displays jobs to be done before breakfast, their zone to clean after dinner, and which little one they are assigned to help. Our dial is stuck, by the way. We used to move it once a week, but then they decided they liked a certain set of jobs, so now it's stuck.
A list on the left shows the areas of the house that will be cleaned after breakfast and before school time. A list on the right has the dish washing assignments.
Here a a few rules of thumb that work for us:
1) Everyone has a job before breakfast.
- Child 1 - Brush and feed the cat, scoop the litter box.
- Child 2 - Dust a room, unload the dishwasher.
- Child 3 - Bring down the laundry and start it. (we do at least one load a day, pre-sorted in hampers upstairs)
2) Everyone helps clean an area of the house after breakfast:
- Monday - Mudroom Day
- Tuesday - Kitchen Day
- Wednesday - Wastebaskets, Wood Floors, and Windows
- Thursday - Dust and Vacuum Upstairs.
- Friday - Bathroom Cleaning Day
- Saturday - Change sheets, sweep the garage, clean and vacuum the van.
2a) This is where The Chore Pack method comes in:
I list everything that needs done each day on index cards and put them in name badge holders. I clip one to each child and they may only take it off after I inspect their work.
3) Everyone helps to clear, wipe and vacuum after dinner. Everyone then has a zone to clean and vacuum after dinner and before dessert: mudroom, family room, and classroom & den. These assignments are on the dial chart.
4) Kids help do the dishes after dinner, unless it's way too late, they are sick, or it's their birthday.
5) Everyone helps fold and deliver laundry in the afternoon. Sometimes this goes over better if I read a book out loud as they fold. As long as they fold, I read. If they stop folding, I stop reading.
6) The little ones are assigned a big kid helper. Often, but not always, helpers are responsible for helping bathe, dress, and brush the teeth of the little ones. They help them go potty (or change a diaper), wash their hands, put shoes on, and get in the van. Sometimes they read bedtime stories or take them for a walk in the stroller. Often they take them outside at recess and keep an eye on them. However, sometimes the little ones just want mom or dad. Sometimes mom & dad just want to be the ones to do these tasks and cuddle with their little ones. But, if needed, it sure is a great thing to be able to call out for a helper and have a trusted sibling take over.
I also have a few rules of thumb for myself that I have gleaned from several home management books:
1) Make sure your children realize how much you still do around the house even though you have promoted yourself to management, lest they accuse you of making them do all the work. They really don't realize how much more mental work you do as they get older.
2) Take some time to train your children in on these tasks. Demonstrate what you what done, how to do it, and how to put away supplies afterwards. Then let your children work under your supervision. Take a week or two off from school if you have to.
3) At some point, you might be able to leave them to their work and come back to inspect. This might look like, "If you can handle the cleaning today it will give mommy a chance to plan our vacation (or your summer day camps or fall activities, or your birthday party, etc.) and then I will inspect your work when you are done." Usually, the cleaning jobs work best when you put on some fun music and work alongside of them. I try to do this at least 80% of the time. If I sneak off to check email or blog, havoc quickly ensues. It's always best if I can work along with them.
4) Rewards: We give weekly allowance ($1 to save, $1 to give, $1 to spend). We also do things like earning tickets towards a fun outing. But sometimes it's okay to tell your children that the greatest reward is being taught how to work together and be good stewards of your home.
Most likely, you have a cleaning routine that works for your family. Sometimes the novelty of your latest system wears off and you have to switch things up. Whatever works for you, just take comfort that with some training and regular a routine, you too can keep a reasonably clean house, even though you homeschool!