May 2024

Trick Your Family Into Spring Cleaning!

Okay, I know this sounds impossible, but I actually got my kids (and husband!) to VOLUNTEER to spring clean my house! No, I didn’t bribe them, or threaten them.  

So here’s how I did it: I made a list of all of the things that needed spring cleaning: organizing closets, rearranging gardening supplies, cleaning out the fridge, cleaning windows – you get the idea. Spring cleaning can feel daunting because there is so much that can be done, so pick 3-4 things that are your top priorities for each room. The rest you can do in another spring cleaning day later or even next year. By listing specific tasks for my family, each one sounded reasonable.

Careful how you make your lists. Instead of writing “Organize Play Room,” I wrote “Find all Legos and place in Lego Bin,” “Gather all books and place on bookshelves,” “Put old toys in box for Goodwill,” etc. Be specific so they understand exactly what needs to be done.

3 Tips for Different Rooms:

For bedrooms: “Fill Goodwill box with clothes that don’t fit anymore,” “Remove everything from under your bed and put them where they belong,” and “Clear off your desk.”

For bathroom: “Wipe down toiletries in drawer,” “Stack and organize toilet paper, tissues, and shower supplies,” and Clean the toilet.”

For kitchen: “Organize utensils drawer,” “Clean fridge and freezer,” and “Clean stove.”

For garden: “Weed planters,” “Organize gardening tools,” and “Plant seeds in little pots.”

For garage: “Fill Goodwill box with stuff we don’t use,” “Hang hooks or build shelves for stuff,” and “Caulk edges around garage.”

I created a list that could be completed in a reasonable amount of time. It felt good just to make the list of all the things I’d been wanting to clean and organize over the winter. Then, I called a family meeting on a Sunday morning and served up everyone’s favorite breakfast – huevos rancheros!

This wasn’t a “bribe”, exactly, but it helped when setting them up to volunteer for spring cleaning. I WAS PREPARED. I put up giant Post-it Notes on the walls and listed all of the individual things that needed to be cleaned.

Instead of demanding that they participate, I started with a perk: I told them that we would be hosting a party for family and friends in a month, and we needed to get our house and property in tip-top shape for our visitors. 

They were thrilled to hear about our future guests and we talked about fun things to do with them.  So far, so good. 

Then, I asked them to write their names next to the tasks listed on the Post-it Notes that they would like to do. When they saw something that they hated doing – like cleaning toilets or
washing out garbage cans, they jumped up to claim the things that they considered easier jobs. 

What happened next was shocking. They actually signed up for EVERYTHING ON MY LIST!

When they asked me why I didn’t sign up for anything, I told them that I’m responsible for making sure that they have all the cleaning supplies, organizational materials, and guidance they need for all tasks. Couldn’t believe it but they bought it! Phew! I didn’t need to nag about getting it done because they all knew the deadline — the weekend of our party!

On our family calendar (and our family Google Calendar), I blocked off 3 hours each weekend for the family to work on their spring cleaning tasks. I made sure that they had their cleaning supplies, boxes for Goodwill, and new accessories (shelves, hooks) so there were no excuses. I also took lunch orders to give them something delicious to look forward to at the end of their work days. Tossing in pizza and ice cream goes a long way!

And that’s how you get your family to VOLUNTEER to do chores!

Susan Tatsui-D’Arcy is the founder of Merit Academy (one-on-one classes) and Merit Educational Consultants (college and educational advisory). She has written books on projects, free child care, education, and parenting. Susan hosts TEDxMeritAcademy for students to present their innovative projects and solutions. In 2019, she was California Mother of the Year.

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