There’s something about the New Year that brings on a cleaning frenzy in my life. I’m a big fan of fresh starts, and what better time than now to start with a clean desk, clean house, clean closets – ok….now I’m getting carried away! Most kid-inhabited houses are anything but sparkling clean; in fact, an impeccable house makes me a little suspicious, or jealous to say the least. But order, like everything, comes in all shapes and sizes, and there are some simple ways you can ring in the New Year with a clean sparkle!
The best way to clean is through teamwork, and as parents, we usually expect too little help from our kids in this department. We either think they’re too young, or it’s simply easier to do it ourselves. However, an investment in some domestic engineering training with our kids will pay many dividends in getting the cleaning job done…together.
Marlo Thomas’ “Free to Be You and Me” album is such a timeless classic, and even though it’s been years, I remember the “Housework” song that assured kids that nobody likes to do housework, and that doing it together, is the best way. How true, but as busy parents with busy kids, how do we accomplish this?
I spoke with Amy Olson, spokesperson for THE MAIDS Home Services, to find some industry tips on getting kids on board. THE MAIDS Home Services, founded in 1979, has been rated as the fastest-growing residential cleaning franchise in Entrepreneur magazine for the past four years (www.maids.com). Olson suggested, “Make cleaning a game so the mundane tasks are more fun.” For example, she offered some gaming strategies in the cleaning department:
• Have a contest to see who can clean their room in the fastest time or give awards for “best attention to detail”, “best decorating sense,” “neatest closet” or “best made bed,” etc.
• Put cleaning duties on paper, cut them up and then place them in a hat. Have the kids draw to see what duty they get. For a twist, do a trading system similar to a white elephant holiday gift exchange where kids can steal and trade cleaning jobs. This can make weekend cleaning unpredictable, relieving some of the dread associated with it.
• For older kids, let them know they can keep all the change and dollar bills they find while vacuuming the furniture or doing the laundry. Small amounts of money could always be strategically placed!
• Let siblings trade places. Have siblings clean and re-decorate each other’s rooms. Have an exciting reveal after a time limit.
I think these are great ideas – kids are naturally competitive, so why not put the spirit of competition into something useful for the whole family? Plus, if you make it creative and fun, you’ll increase compliance…and clean!
Here are some more tips from Olson, that offer creative ways to get even the youngest kids on board:
• Don’t expect kids to use adult tools to clean, instead create supplies that are kid-friendly. Use an ice-cream pail for mopping chores or shorten an old mop handle or broom to make it kid-sized. Editor’s Note: If you shorten a wood stick, consider smoothing the new edge and covering it with duct tape to prevent splinters.
• Fill a squirt gun from a solution of a gallon of water and a drop of dish soap. Let kids squirt windows and mirrors and wipe dry with paper towels. Leaves glass clean and streak free!
• Cover kids’ hands and arms with dad’s old athletic socks then squirt the socks until lightly damp with a safe solution of vinegar and water. Send them off to dust around the house.
• Got a pile of blocks or action figures strewn on the floor? Scoop up toys in a few swoops using a kid-sized leaf rake to form a pile for easy pick-up.
• Make cleaning a game; give young kids grill tongs and challenge them to pick up toys and put them in a toy box or bin only using the utensils. Keep score and see who wins!
• Don’t forget the fun music to help your kids get a groove on as they boogie around the house cleaning.
Some additional cleaning tips from THE MAIDS, edited with a MomTini twist, offer some easy ways to repurpose ordinary items.
• Dust buddies everywhere – Slip an old sock over your hand, dampen with polish or window cleaner and wipe away fingerprints and dust. Hair dryers work wonders on low speed to quickly eliminate dust from silk flower and plant arrangements. Used fabric softener sheets are excellent for dusting furniture and non-plasma television and computer screens. Coffee filters leave a lint-free shine when used instead of a cloth to wipe down mirrors and windows.
• Paint your way clean – Take paintbrushes from the garage and bring them in the house, as they will remove dust from the smallest crevices. From ornate designs in furniture to the smallest details in ceramics, a paintbrush can reach places a cleaning cloth cannot. You can also use them on electronics such as radios, computers and televisions to clean around knobs and buttons and inside speaker vents.
• Get a new toothbrush; let your old one do the real dirty work – Save your old one from the trash as toothbrushes are tools the professionals use to tackle soap scum around faucets and drains.
• Pumice stones can flush away build-up, but proceed with caution – Pumice stones work great at removing calluses and rough skin on your feet, but did you know pumice stones are perfect for removing rust and hard-water buildup from the inside of white toilet bowls? Be sure the stone stays wet, and do not apply heavy pressure or you may scratch the surface.
Some additional Business of Motherhood cleaning tips include
• Keep cleaning products in childproofed cabinets or high shelves, especially with young kids in the house.
• Organize your cleaning products in a bucket in the garage so they’re all in one place.
• If you keep multiple items of a favorite cleaner, put a yellow post-it note on the last one that says “replace me now!”
Photo credit – Flickr.