We have 7 children and I’m always asked how in the world we do it. It can be a struggle to manage a home with even 1 or 2 children let alone 7. We once only had a few children in our home and funny thing is that it was more difficult with just a couple small children than it is now.
Somewhere within the rush of toddlerhood, something happened and I had an awakening. I was folding clothes one day and I asked my 4 year old to run a stack of clothing to his room for me and he happily ran to do it. I asked him to take another and another and soon the clothes were all put away and that was it. Light bulb. Kids can do JOBS!
From that moment on, it was all different. This didn’t need to be just my responsibly and that feeling changed my whole outlook and attitude. So here are a few tricks I learned.
MAKE IT A GAME AND CLEAN BY CATEGORY
Most children are happy to help you. But the idea of “cleaning a room” is overwhelming. Their little minds don’t know where to begin or how to see the end of the task and so they resist.
When they are little, begin to teach them to pick up by category and of course make it a game. Layla, pick up all the clothing and put it in this basket, GO! Jude, put all the stuffed animals in this bin, GO! Donovan put the pillow on the bed, GO! And piece by piece, category by category you instruct them until the room is cleaned. As they get older, they will learn this structure and be able to complete a room or even full house on their own.
TEACH THEM HOW TO PROPERLY DO EACH TASK TO YOUR STANDARD OVER TIME
In the beginning, yes, the washcloths will not be in perfect stacks and they will miss spots while vacuuming. It’s OK to let some of it slide, but slowly begin to ask more from them. I’ve found that if I’m too picky the first few times, it can lead to dreading that specific job, so I always try to just be thankful on the first run and say “thank you, good job!”.
After the second time, I’ll say, “good job, can you refold this one so it looks like this one?” Or, “good job! Ok, lets turn the vacuum back on and I’ll move the this chair out of your way. We always want to move the chair or fuzz balls will grow”.
TEACH THEM THAT CLEANING IS WHAT YOU DO AS A FAMILY
In our home, we use certain phrases over and over. For example, “in this house, we all help”. “If you live here, you clean here”. “Everyone made this mess, so everyone will clean this mess.” “If you can spend 10 hours playing, you can spend 1 hour cleaning”. And I don’t ever apologize for enforcing it. Why? Because if they don’t, the burden falls solely on me, and I just don’t have the time for all of that.
CLEAN TOGETHER, ALL AT ONCE, DAILY
We have a ton to do each day between work and school, and we don’t spend all that much time cleaning. But once we turn our attention to it, it’s treated as an urgent, group project.
Usually once or twice a day, I’ll announce it’s time to gather and get our house reset. We have 7 children so with everyone working, we can usually get our space fully picked up and the daily chores done in 30 minutes to an hour max.
When they gather up, I begin delegating tasks to each person according to their ability level. It could be anything from switching the laundry, sweeping a floor, vacuuming a rug, to loading the dishwasher. I ask them to finish the task and then come to me when finished to get another task. I will always be in there with them doing tasks as well.
DEEP CLEAN TOGETHER, ONCE A WEEK
One day a week, we do the deep cleaning, again, altogether. I will spend a few minutes writing out a list for each person. Gather everyone together and show them their list. We then together, tackle it until finished. It usually only takes 2-3 hours and we are done with EVERYTHING for the week, laundry, floor washing, surfaces wiped etc.
Again, this is now, while we have older children. While we had younger children only, these tasks rarely were done all at the same time, and you almost have to be OK with that temporarily until the kids are older. Ask them to pitch in as much as their attention spans can muster. But remember, it gets easier.
BE PROACTIVE AND REDUCE YOUR STUFF
When you’re in the middle of raising small children, you begin to realize the magnitude and huge responsibility that “stuff” requires. It can literally take your whole day from you. I became very defensive against stuff early on. Stuff began to represent my time. I realized the less I had, the less I had to clean, organize or put back and this gave me control over my day. It cleared time to do the things I really wanted to do and that was be with my children, work on my business, read books or bake. Basically do anything OTHER THAN clean!
My advice is to get rid of EVERYTHING that you don’t absolutely need or love, especially in the early years when the help of young children is sporadic. Marie Kondo is the master of this, so I won’t go into the specifics of the process, but find her book and DO IT. The cleared spaces bring forth freedom, clarity, creativity and contentment. You feel like you can FINISH the task and that is satisfying.