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Monday, August 19, 2013

The Cleaning Elves

About 8 years ago, I began to embrace the idea that my house doesn't have to be an extension of my self and be a reflection of my tastes. Coincidentally, that's about when my first child arrived in our midst. 

About 4 years ago, I gave up the notion that if everything had a place and if everything found its way back to its allotted place, then there should be no clutter. Again, quite coincidentally, that's when my toddling second child was determined to show me that the places I've allotted for things are not quite right.

I finally made peace with the discrepancy between what I dreamed my house would be and what I currently have to work with. With time and some creativity, any corner can be turned into a haven, for sure. All it needs is motivation and energy. And possibly a little bit of cash.

Anyway, now, our house is just a place where we love hanging out as a family, despite overflowing laundry hamper and a sink full of dishes, despite the 50 year old kitchen stove and vinyl floor being grease magnets, despite unmade beds and mismatched furniture. It may be unkempt at times (especially on a weekday), but it is also full of care and attention and love and respect, and that's just the way we like it.

When the youngest turned five, we seemed to have some consensus on a common sense of order and cleanliness. Things that irk me the most are well established (unmade bed, dirty toilet and sink, cluttered dining table, dirty dishes, kitchen items rearranged such that I cannot reach blindfolded and find the item I need), as well as things I can let slide till the upcoming weekend (laundry, toys in formation still being played with, crafts and arts and writing works in progress, unswept/unmopped floors, disarray of outdoor shoes by the entrance door).

To that effect, I made a set of index cards for jobs to do. Fifteen jobs in all for now. If these are done, we will all be happy that the house is as we'd like it.

So, in the spirit of teamwork and co-operation, on weekends, the kids and I put on our Cleaning Elves' hats and do our best to maintain the living areas as spic-and-span as we can.

At the chosen hour - which is usually after breakfast on a Sunday, we line up at the dining table where the index cards are laid out, face down. Each of us gets to pick 5 cards and will be responsible for the 5 jobs therein. We are allowed to trade up to 2 cards with each other. 

Then, we go about doing our jobs, asking for help where needed. It is definitely a joint-effort, we are all doing  our jobs at the same time. 

Once a job from the 5 is done, each gets to place that index card back in its container to signify that it is done. Once all our cards are back in the container, the house is clean!

When we started this routine at the beginning of 2013, I knew there'd be some teething issues, growing pains, and learning curves. One kid enjoys dusting (way too much), while the other enjoys cleaning surfaces with a damp sponge (again, way too much). But then, the dusting child also loves the sponge-cleaning tasks. Neither kid likes cleaning the bathroom or kitchen floor. One likes pairing up socks after laundry while the other likes putting the clothes from the washer into the dryer... overall it balances out.

To avoid whines and conflicts, we get to pick the tasks (randomly) each week so none of us really know which ones we will draw. And, we are allowed to trade up to 2 just in case we drew 5 of our least favorite jobs.

"Jobs" not "chores" - we have a job to do and let's do it as best as we can!
No "assigned" jobs they are stuck with, they get to pick and choose each week.
No one is out there by themselves trying to clean - we are all doing it together at the same time. 
Teamwork and co-operation is reinforced, not to mention ownership of the job, plus the thrill of seeing the house clean after their effort.
Jobs are broken down to simple tasks each kid can easily handle. 
Vinegar-based cleaners, usually home-made for most cleaning jobs.

Of course, there are weekends when we have much else to do and we don't get around to being the Cleaning Elves. That's okay. If we get to do this routine about 2 out of 4 weekends a month on an average, it is still worthwhile

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At 9:29 AM, Blogger Dee said...

this is a good one for me to implement as well Sheels...
Hope the kids loved their Summer break :)


At 3:49 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

Good to hear from you, Dee! K & D go to summer camp? India visit? Hope ti was all good! Ready for school?!


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