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5 Tips for Cleaning House (Especially When You Hate It)

cleaning house

There is a fact about me that I have always been a little embarrassed to share. I hate housework of any kind. I have tried to narrow it down to my most and least favorite tasks, but the truth is that nothing about cleaning house appeals to me in any way.

I have to admit that I have gone through stretches in life when the condition of my home has consistently worsened while I have ignored chores in favor of just about any other activity.

But, when the clutter of the house increases, my ability to stay on target and reach my goals decreases. I might not like to clean house, but every member of my family needs the house to stay mostly in order for our mental and emotional health as well as our overall productivity.

Balancing Homeschooling and Cleaning House

There is no pat answer to the “how to balance homeschooling and housework” dilemma. Every family must find what works best for them. The key for our family has long been to enlist the children.

I will be the first to admit that it has not been an easy key. My kids are all almost grown now, and we’ve long since developed a nice, natural rhythm to weekly chores. But, that rhythm didn’t come overnight. The time, energy, and patience required to train my children to cooperate sometimes seemed overwhelming!

But, by the time I had three preschoolers running around the house, I knew I had to have their help or I would fall apart.

Here is a snapshot of what has worked for us.

We started chore training early.

I trained my children as toddlers to help with the very basic tasks of cleaning house, such as putting silverware away, folding washcloths, mating socks, carrying their dishes to the kitchen, and putting their own clothes away.

Over the years, I have added tasks as they have grown in maturity and ability. Obviously, there were still many times I had to remind my school-age children to do the very things I taught them first. But, they at least knew how!

We regularly upgraded our approach to cleaning house as a family.

Certain chores obviously cannot be handled by the younger kids. By extension, that means that there are some chores that an older child is not allowed to do, just to make sure a younger sibling has something to do. But, the key is to not let it stay that way.

In our family, each child was continually being taught new house cleaning responsibilities, challenged to move to the next step as maturity allowed. It was always changing, always growing.

Oh, and even though sometimes in our approach to cleaning house we had to reserve special, easy chores for the younger children, the truth is that no chore was beneath anyone, including Mommy. Frequently we all just pitched in and helped one another.

We weren’t afraid to rearrange to make cleaning house run more smoothly!

Okay, so maybe it’s more that I am a little bit addicted to household rearranging. But, the point is that sometimes the typical household organization just does not work if kids are to be involved with cleaning house.

For example, my youngest began emptying the dishwasher when he was four. To accommodate that, I had to do some reorganization in the kitchen. I moved all of our everyday dishes, serving bowls, and storage containers to the lower cabinets.

While there were still some dishwasher-safe items in the upper cabinets, for quite some time, most of it was down low. It was not quite as convenient for me, but what’s a little sacrifice when it means my little one can put away most of the dishes?

We scheduled time for cleaning house.

The biggest obstacle to getting my kids to help was my own frustration of having to remind them over and over and over again. So, we created a chore schedule. Specific house cleaning tasks fell on specific days. And although we didn’t have hard and fast clock times for completing chores, our routines reflected when during the day they should be done.

Our methods varied over the years, but the key was to make sure the chores were visible, as well as to ensure that each child knew that everyone had responsibilities. No one was being singled out or worked harder than anyone else.

I still had to frequently ask if they’d checked their chore list and completed each task, but I didn’t have to actually remind them of each and every chore.

We might not have an entirely clean house on any given day, but through the course of the week everything gets done if we diligently stick to our schedule! (And, yes, sometimes I still have to remind them, even as teens.)

I chose to be okay with imperfection.

I am a perfectionist, but I am the sort of perfectionist who believes that if I cannot do it perfectly, I would almost rather not bother. Or, if my child cannot do it perfectly, then I might as well do it myself. I am an all-or-nothing perfectionist, and for much of my life that has meant that things have tended to not get done.

If I wanted to get house cleaning help from my children, though, I had to mature in this pretty quickly, recognizing that I needed to be okay with a storage container drawer not being perfectly organized by the five year old or a corner being missed when the eight year old mopped the kitchen. I have definitely learned a lot about being okay with the middle ground between perfection and chaos!

Now it’s your turn!

Someone out there just might need your tips instead of, or in addition to, mine, and I know I am always up for learning new tricks myself. Whether you love to clean, hate it, or find yourself somewhere in between, I cannot wait to read your comments about how you tackle the never-ending task of housecleaning!

In addition to working as managing editor for HEDUA, Ann is a missionary kid, second generation homeschooler, pastor's wife, and mom of three. She loves encouraging and equipping others, especially women in the homeschooling and ministry communities.

  • Jen

    ” I am a perfectionist, but of a crazy sort. I am the sort of perfectionist who believes that if I cannot do it perfectly, I would almost rather not bother.” This made me LOL! And I’m with you. Even after being home for 20 years, I’m still not a big fan of housework. It’s a necessary evil! Great post. 🙂

    March 22, 2012 at 7:55 am Reply
    • Teisha Priest

      Well, glad to know I’m not the only crazy sort of perfectionist out there Jen! 😉

      March 22, 2012 at 10:25 am Reply
  • Ann Hibbard

    Glad I could help you start the day with a laugh! 🙂

    March 22, 2012 at 8:06 am Reply
  • Shari

    We must be kindred spirits! I too, am a perfectionist who hates housework! And if I can’t perfectly put it away exactly where it belongs at this exact moment — well then, it stays in the open or on the stack where I can easily find it! Perfectly organized cluttered desk at times!!

    March 22, 2012 at 9:07 am Reply
    • Ann Hibbard

      It’s always so nice to know I’m not alone in my insanity!

      March 22, 2012 at 9:11 am Reply
    • Jenny

      Shari, thanks for defining my problem–“If I can’t perfectly put it away exactly where it belongs at this exact moment–well then, it stays in the open or on the stack where I can easily find it!” Now I feel better! (Just don’t tell the lady that’s been trying to help me put things away!)

      March 22, 2012 at 9:35 am Reply
  • Angela

    I am not good with list. My husband is great and has a list for what he does but I am the kind of person who just needs to get started. When we had an exchange student we use to have family cleaning day. With her we would put on a CD and just clean. We have since adopted 3 kids and they can only clean for so long so we put on a LP (yes a record) and have them help for only one side of the record (about 20 minutes). I just got home from China where we adopted a 4 and 6 year old and we also have a 9 year old from Taiwan (he has been home for 2 years) So on top of home schooling I am also trying to connect with them and teach English. The family cleaning day works great for showing what a family is all about. Teamwork and helping each other out.

    March 22, 2012 at 9:15 am Reply
  • Debbie

    That’s how I feel about housework, too. And I’m that type of perfectionist, too. I just discovered something that’s working. Every night, before heading to bed, I’ve started asking dh what his top priority is for me for the next day, and then the next two priorities. Having that clear direction on what to do for the day really helps me. The top priority has been to maintain the progress ever since the second day. Of course, I enlist help from my kids (ages 7, almost 6, 4, and 2–the 6mo doesn’t help yet) whenever possible. They really surprised me the other day and did a really good job cleaning up the mess in the living room. Dh was very pleased when he came in, and we’ve all been enjoying a much cleaner house. We’ll be at this system for a lot longer before this house is clean and organized. I’m determined to get it to that point, though! It really does affect all of us, and not in a good way.

    March 22, 2012 at 9:19 am Reply
  • Monica

    I’m so glad to learn I’m not alone in this. Most of the people I know seem to thrive on housework. I was beginning to think I was the only crazy sort of perfectionist out there. Thanks for letting me know I’m not crazy. Well, I am crazy, but that’s ok. =)

    March 22, 2012 at 6:07 pm Reply
  • Karie

    My least favorite chore is folding laundry. I would rather scrub toilets than fold laundry (not exaggerating)! A dear friend’s mom told me that when she was pregnant with her third child she made a decision on laundry that saved her tons of time, and she’s stuck to it for THIRTY YEARS! She folds all of her clothes as they come out of the dryer. No exceptions. It takes three minutes or less to fold them fresh from the dryer, and then move on.

    I wish I could say that in the 11 years since she gave me that advice, I’ve used it all the time. I can’t. In fact, I currently have a dining room chair that has a load of “waiting to folds” and a small heap in my bedroom that hasn’t been folded since it came out of the washer……..but I can say that on the days when I DO follow that advice, it takes MUCH less time to fold clothes! (Consequently, the days I stick it in a basket and walk away or throw it on a chair or bed and tell myself I’ll do it later, I hear her voice in my head saying “That’s NOT what you’re supposed to be doing with your laundry.”)

    March 23, 2012 at 1:41 am Reply
    • Ann Hibbard

      I laughed when I read this, Karie, because not too long ago I wrote a post on my own blog about folding the laundry right out of the dryer and how that applies to dealing with spiritual issues immediately. But, guess what my laundry looks like right now? Yep, three overflowing baskets are sitting in my bedroom floor, just mocking me! They WILL get done this morning. They WILL! 🙂

      March 23, 2012 at 8:42 am Reply
    • Angela

      I too hate folding laundry! I’ve lived with piles of clean clothes in baskets for years! I’m not sure of the ages of your kids but now my kids (7, 10 and 14) fold the laundry whenever they sit down to watch tv/video after school. And they have to put their own clothes away and place mine and dad’s in our room. I don’t follow through all the time, but now I only have 1 basket of unfolded clean clothes!

      March 28, 2012 at 11:05 am Reply
  • Pei

    Love your post! Finally someone is able to verbalize my struggle with house chores. The only time I’m inspired to clean is when I come back from visiting a friend’s well kept house.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:44 am Reply
  • Twisted

    We also use a chore chart, a blank calendar from Busy Body Books. Of the seven columns the boys get two each. The last column is extra, along with space to write in anything different. Each block has a chore listed with four check off lines. THey keep that chore for 4 weeks. Every Tuesday is vaccuming/sweeping, Wednesday are bathroom jobs. So it is pretty easy for them to remember what job they have. I try to jump in and help with different jobs while they are doing schoolwork, so the job gets a thorough cleaning once a month. It also helps me see who isn’t doing a complete job, so we can go over the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of cleaning better.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:37 am Reply
  • michelle vaughn

    My older two kids, 5 and 7, have been doing chores for a while now but NOT with cheerful hearts. I got sick of the whining and decided to give them an added incentive to get all their responsibilities completed. At the end of the week if their responsibility chart is filled, they get to pick a prize from their treasure bag. They can even earn an extra prize for a certain number of extra chores done. For the first time ever, my kids were begging to fold laundry because they needed more stickers on their chart! Of course that makes me a very happy mom, and much more is getting accomplished around the house these days.

    March 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm Reply
  • Stacy Ervin

    This sounds wonderful. I’m afraid we did not train our children to pitch in much when they were little. I have a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old who are just now being required to really pull their weight, and I’m having to go back and train them just to pick up after themselves in addition to the chores that are assigned to them. My 4-year-old is a walking cyclone when it comes to messes. Part of the problem is that it seems so much easier to do it myself than to invest the time to train them to do it. In the long run, however, I’ve created a bigger problem and not equipped them to be responsible for their things and their space. This creates added stress and chaos for everyone, and, as you know, when a family is at home together all the time, chaos and stress can be miserable. I now see the error of my ways and wish I could have a “do over” in this department, but what’s done is done. Where do I go from here? Also, do you have a template or something for your chore chart that you would be willing to share?

    March 30, 2012 at 8:25 am Reply
    • Ann Hibbard

      Stacy, I’ll say this…be encouraged!!! You’re not too late, and you’re on the right track. Keep up the perseverance, even when it would be easier to do it yourself. Just hang in there! It’s never easy to train kids to help. But, it’s worth it, no matter the age.

      I will give you a suggestion that I learned from a friend. She has three boys, and she does cleaning blitzes. She’ll set a timer, pick something that needs to be cleaned, and then they’ll furiously work (Mom included!) until the timer goes off. Then they get to quit. (Knowing her, there’s probably a qualifier that says that get to quit if they’ve been diligent to actually work!) That gives them a specific time frame instead of the overwhelming thought of working until the job is done, and she gets much better work out of them.

      As for the chore chart template, if you scroll up to my bio you’ll see a link to my family blog site. Search “chore chart” on that blog, and you’ll see the post I wrote about our chart.

      March 30, 2012 at 9:00 am Reply
  • Gabreial

    ” I might not like to clean house, but every member of my family needs the house to stay mostly in order for our emotional health.”

    I loved this line. It speaks to me, lol. Great article Ann. Encouraging to keep on, keeping on.


    July 25, 2012 at 9:44 pm Reply
  • Linda

    I don’t have any advice at this time. I need the advice. My husband and I have been so busy over these last few years. We got behind in cleaning and clearing clutter. It was so bad that we needed to make a project out of getting our house in order. Then my mom got sick and died. After that, with the help of my family, I had to go through my mom’s things, then clean up, clear out, yard sale, and have her house remodeled. They I sold her house. Then, my brother passed away. He had been living with my mom, so his things were at her house too. He moved out shortly after my mom passed away, but he could not take all of his belongings with him. After this sad time, there still was a few more things to take care of in connection with my mom and brother. So, after all of that, my home was in worse condition than before. Months have passed and we still have not returned our home to normal. In some areas we have to step over boxes and things to get to another part of a room or other part of the house. It’s tiring just having to step over things all of the time. It is impossible to do some of the basic house cleaning, but we do what we can, like– laundry, washing dishes, making meals, and cleaning parts of rooms. I basically know what to do to get my house clean but it is overwhelming not only to me but to my whole family. And how do I find the energy. We are very busy, without this big project. We are farmers and homeschoolers. We had a deadline to clean out the clutter every year by about the end of May. Our air-conditioner needs repair, but we’re embarrassed to let the repairman in the house. Last Summer our record high temperature in our house was 93.6 degrees.

    May 14, 2015 at 12:05 am Reply

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