Cleaning with Kids :: A Matter of Opinion

My favorite holiday just passed (May the Fourth), so I started looking around to find my next favorite holiday.

Did you even know there was a holiday dedicated to cleaning up your room?

According to several places on the interwebs, May 10 is “Clean Up Your Room Day.”

In honor of this prestigious and popular holiday, I thought I would share a few of my favorite cleaning tips with you. Then I realized . . . I don’t have any cleaning tips. 

Are you familiar with the Pigeon books?  “The Pigeon Needs a Bath” by Mo Willems is one of our family’s favorite books. The pigeon strongly believes that “clean” and “dirty” are all just a matter of opinion. I tend to agree with him…to a certain extent. I’m not a fan of leaving unfinished food all over the house waiting for cockroaches to carry away the remains. However, mopping the floors with bleach after every meal is also not on my list of “to do’s.” 

Ironic Popcorn

Ironic Popcorn

Here are a few things I have learned about keeping things clean with kids.

  1. It’s HARD WORK.

  2. THEY don’t care.

  3. A little goes along way.

    (This one might actually be the opposite. A LOT goes just a tiny bit of the way. And you’ll have to do it all again in ten minutes because someone will mess it all up.)

My older sister says that keeping your house clean with kids around is just like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. 

I think she’s right. Who am I kidding? She is ALWAYS right. Did I mention she is OLDer?

With kids around, as soon as you are busy in one part of the house, cleaning something, they sneak away to another part of the house and UN-clean THAT part.  You must use constant vigilance. Don’t let your guard down for one second.

Some folks tend to use a sort of man-to-man coverage, where they follow the kid around and clean up each mess the kid makes. I personally don’t like for my kids to have that much control over me. Also, that only works if you have enough adults around to cover every child. We have been outnumbered at my house for a while now.

Another model looks more like zone defense. You would keep the kids in one zone and ensure that any bombs that explode only impact that one space. Then you clean that area last, right after the kids go to bed and right before you collapse on the couch with a gallon of ice cream.

I prefer this model. It makes me feel like I can choose something I want to get done, like doing the dishes. Then I get the kids busy doing something that will keep them occupied, like coloring a picture. Using that quick window of opportunity, I do the task. I have to listen really carefully to their conversation (or lack thereof), because it signals that another mess is about to be created and demands immediate intervention. I once was sidetracked while doing the dishes. And our two-year-old took advantage of the opportunity by making a sand castle out of a potted plant . . . ON MY YELLOW COUCH.

Sand Castles on the Couch

Sand Castles on the Couch

You’re absolutely right . . . a yellow couch was probably not the best option for a busy family with 3 kids ages five and under. Also that method only works sometimes, and there are always more messes to clean up when you’re done with the job you were trying to do BEFORE they drew on the counters with the crayons. 

Counter Art

Counter Art

What does tend to work, but doesn’t actually make the house much cleaner, is to get the kids involved in whatever cleaning project I’m trying to accomplish.

My kids absolutely love to wash windows, vacuum, sort laundry, wash dishes, sweep, pull weeds, sort toys, etc. They’re terrible at pretty much all of these things. But, when a two-year-old is right next to you giggling about bubbles and helping put spoons in the dishwasher, it somehow becomes more fun. It may take three times as long, but at least no one is fighting or making a new mess somewhere else. When my sweet girl begs to wash the windows because it’s her “favorite,” who am I to say no? Who cares if there are streaks? It’s probably better than the Cheeto prints on there now!  And, when my giant, clumsy boy, who is afraid of loud noises, begs to use the vacuum cleaner, I do him a disservice when I refuse. 

Vacuum Training

Vacuum Training

When I was little, my grandmother asked my mom why she always let me and my sisters help her in the kitchen when we made such big messes. My mom told my grandmother that if we never got an opportunity to learn and make mistakes, then we would not learn and be prepared for the future. 

So I say that today, on “Clean Up Your Room Day,” we moms should make it a point to help our little ones learn something new.  Not just the boring stuff like picking up the toys they got out. But something fun and exciting, like window washing or baseboard scrubbing. Maybe they’ll think it’s fun! Perhaps you’ll actually get one of your big cleaning goals checked off your list.  If you’re lucky, your house WON’T be MORE dirty AND everyone will have a smile on their face. 

And remember, clean is a matter of opinion!

 

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