Saturday, October 16, 2010

How To Get Your Children To Clean The House

Welcome to our practical Saturday post for large family living.  
This is when and where we share some practical things 
that have helped us along the way of raising our large family.  
These are things I wish I would have known when we were struggling to adjust to a larger family, 
or at about child #5.

In a large family, the mama either has to be a slave to her family, 
or teach them how to work together to make home a nice place to be,
 which takes management skills.  
Her other option, is to live in a hovel where nobody wants to be, in unorganized chaos, feeling depressed.

 Home management is especially hard for a woman who is not gifted in administration, 
but it is possible
and there are many helps out there to make her successful.

Listening to the ideas of other “moms of many“ 
(especially those that are gifted in different ways than you)
 is one of the biggest ways to learn new practical “how-to’s”.  
Learning from difficult experiences is also valuable, but not so fun ;-).  

Today, I want to combine the two, and hopefully you can benefit from my “bumps in the road.”

When I was pregnant with child #4, I was on bed rest for 5 weeks. 
 My oldest was 7.  
It was a BIG wakeup call for me to see how unorganized I was, 
and how much my young children were able to help, if they but knew how. 
 By the end of the 5 weeks, the children were getting their own breakfast and lunch, 
(not without some great difficulty, such as dumping ½ gallon of molasses over their head in attempt to get it down from a tall cupboard) 
vacuuming (the state of the carpet was but a slight improvement), 
feeding animals, and mowing the lawn. 
 When I was on my feet again, 
I had a huge list of things I needed to do to get my house in order 
should anything like it ever happen again.

For example, when a woman from church came over to clean, 
I did not have my cleaning supplies together in one place, 
so she had to hunt the house to find what she needed.  
That would be the first place I would get started.  
Of course, I wrote it down on my list.
Then, when another woman came over to bake, 
she had to look through every cupboard in the kitchen to find what she needed.
Afterward, I organized the kitchen into food prep areas, a baking cupboard, a breakfast cupboard. 
 I located the dishes and glasses where the small children could reach them, in lower cupboards. 
 The coffee, tea, and cups had their own location, aside from the work areas in the kitchen.

I also set up task areas throughout the house, 
such as: a book shelf that contained games, puzzles, quiet toys, and color books, supplies for the children. 
 Another thing I did was develop a mobile desk area for me so that I could work on thank you notes and paper work, bible study and such from the rocking chair. 
 After a very difficult labor and delivery, 
I was able to rest in a rocking chair and watch the children as they played, 
since it was all available at their level in storage baskets they could use without help, 
and my things were easily available for moments when I could work on them, yet still be at ease.

I look back on that period of time as the beginning of really managing my home
instead of just keeping it clean.  
I started in the “everything” closet, re-assessing and organizing. 
Then I moved on to the kitchen where I evaluated each work area and rearranged storage areas 
until I felt the whole room was as efficient as possible.  
I brought in a wooden bookcase to use as a pantry, 
holding all my gallon jars of staple foods, cookbooks, 
baskets for onions, potatoes and garlic, and some pretty serving dishes. 
 I have a friend who used a low dresser for extra storage as an island in her kitchen.  
I thought this was ingenious, can a body have too many drawers in a kitchen? 
 Another friend has an old baking cupboard of her grandmother’s, but it was too small as a baking area, 
so she used it as the beverage area, with coffee, tea, cups, 
pitchers and everything a beverage area can hold.  
This allowed her to reuse a larger counter top area for a work surface for baking 
since it did not hold a coffee pot and all the nearby cupboards could house her baking supplies.
Our baking is done at the island, since it is the biggest work surface, 
so the supplies are below, instead of in the pantry.

  This saves steps, and is helpful when the younger ones bake. 
 I have often prayed for a creative solution for a problem area, and the Lord, 
who knows the number of hairs on my head, is faithful to give me answers. 
 Nothing is too petty to take to Him.
Once I had re-purposed the kitchen, I moved on to other rooms until the whole house was in shape. 
 Then, I moved on to working with the children to help me maintain an orderly home.
I was taught that when beginning to teach children to do chores, to do the chore with them several times until they are confident and capable to do a good job.  
They also work better when working with someone, there is accountability and companionship.  
So mama takes the child under her wing and together they master that specific chore. 
 Once that has been accomplished, she can assign the child the chore and move on 
to a different child and chore.
  You can see that it is of special value to begin young, but it is not necessary. 
 I believe the most necessary ingredient to cooperation is having a good attitude.

Many hands make light work.  
What would take me all day, and perhaps then some, the children and I can accomplish before lunchtime when we work together. 
 In the long run, it is easier to train them to do chores than to just do everything yourself. 
 Not to mention that children need work, they need to be needed, 
and it is of great value to hone a skill, giving the child a Godly confidence.

Learning responsibility for one’s home, and being diligent to maintain order 
are character building opportunities valuable to all children, boys or girls. 
 A child who is not given to being meticulous, over the years can be taught how to do a job thoroughly, overcoming the weakness to slop through it. 
 I know for certain that it would be easier to allow them to get away with it, 
but that would not be good for their character, 
so teaching each child to do a chore properly is of great eternal value 
since it develops good character which will last them all their lives, 
and carry over to many other areas which could pertain to personal holiness, 
honesty, and integrity, to name just a few.

The blessings come when mama is down sick or has just had a baby, 
and the children are capable to carry on the housework, cooking, and animal chores with little supervision. 
 I think the best way to begin would be to start small and work your way up gradually, 
creating a positive experience that does not overtax anyone’s patience. 
  Flylady, a highly organized cleaning guru, says it simply, “baby steps.”
“Doorposts has a great many charts to help a mom get organized when it comes to chores.  
Their website contains wonderful charts that aid in a variety of areas.  
It was at the just mentioned above time that I looked into chore charts 
and implemented them into our daily lives. 
 The young children were enthusiastic to do a chore and get a star sticker by their name.

I talked to one mom, who just has all her children, regardless of age, 
help with the task at hand until it is done- 
be it folding laundry, cleaning the kitchen or living room,
or getting ready for dinner. 
 All 8 of her children, 19 years old to 3 years old, work together; 
the older ones showing the younger ones how to do it, and mom is there as quality control.  
Sometimes they sing or recite verses while they clean the kitchen.  
When I visited their home, I witnessed all 9 of them getting ready for dinner together in a small kitchen. 
 After dinner, they all cleaned up together, and in a matter of minutes, everything was clean, 
including dishes hand washed for a setting of 15.  
Hers was a simple method that worked well for her family, and promoted family unity.

I have always liked lists, too much so at times, 
but my style is more of an administrative type, 
where I can sit and nurse a baby in a chair next to the work area and direct traffic if needs be, 
giving orders, since I am by nature given to bossiness. 
 A list of what needs to be done comes first, then I assign children tasks;
for example, Saturday we clean the entire house. 
 I first write the list on the dry erase board, and then a name next to it.  
This works great for us, but it assumes that the children already know how to clean 
and will do the job if assigned. 
 If this is not the case with your family you must first explain what you’re going to do, do it, 
training and disciplining as necessary until your family is prepared. 
 There is no other way. 
 If your child balks at being helpful… godly discipline and training will win the day!

When it comes time to go through the house again,
 we take one room at a time, maybe one room per week, 
or it could be per month if you have a lot to do. 
 We start with removing garbage and things that belong somewhere else. 
 Then we assess what is left, we may decide something is not working and opt to use it somewhere else, 
or pass it on to someone else.  
There may be needs, like storage bins for the bathroom that will have to wait for a shopping day, 
but we will do our best to make do until then.  
We keep at it until that room is well thought out, put together and clean.  
Then, it is so much easier to maintain. 

 Doing these projects with the children is really beneficial, 
because they are learning as you go, and they will know where everything belongs.
  Now, our young ladies know the process well enough they go to other people’s houses and help them. (Yes, they are for hire)  

For all the young mom’s in Starbuck, Washington… this is for you, I hope it is helpful.


  1. This is helping more the just the ladies in Starbuck! :) I am in the process of doing this in our house. I am getting the kids more involved and not just doing the jobs my self. I am looking forward to our visit, I want to talk kitchen remodel with you!

  2. Nice wirk Julianne. I'm a Professional Organizer from Toronto Canada and I enjoyed your post! All the Best.

  3. Thanks, Julianne~ I am in the process of doing this, but still have a long way to go. Sure wish I could've learned these things earlier. We are starting to see progress, though, so that is good!

  4. Thank you so much for you ideas. I love the one for the beverage center and plan to make one for our family soon.

  5. FlyLady is awesome!
    I'm always struggling to find the best way to organize my kitchen. We have limited cupboard space so I use an old armoire to double as storage, plus a drawer of a hutch for serving spoons, etc. and the lower cabinet part for all the plastic ware. It all works ok but it feels like it could be better.
    Thank you for your ideas. :)
    If you offer professional organizing services let me know. Just kidding! It would be a nice side business...


Your comments and input are very much appreciate
- Blessings!

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