Monday, May 18, 2015

Large Family House Cleaning - Getting it Done, & When To Do The Big Jobs

  • Managing my time & utilizing a schedule
  • What do the blocks of cleaning time look like?
  • How do I get to the big, deep-cleaning jobs?
  • How do I keep up?
  • Learning to include the children
  • How much to expect from a child
When I had a college roommate we would have a cleaning day where we got into our sweats, put on some upbeat swing dancing music and danced and sang our way through the whole house in one blow!  I enjoyed this plan this for many years.  In the next season of life, after I married Bob and we had our first 2 children, I had a cleaning time for about 30 minutes a day where I rotated through cleaning one area at a time:  the bathroom, the kitchen, etc.  But once we had our 3rd little one I no longer had that time even and needed to bump cleaning to Saturdays.  Plus I was trying to teach the children some cleaning skills which meant not being very productive by the end of our cleaning times myself.  *chuckle*  So over the years and as our family has continued to grow to 9 children so far I have created a new plan of attack for myself and new ways of thinking about it to get the house clean.  

I generally have small blocks of time in which to get the house clean - so how does a large family mother get it all done?  *smile*  

 * * * * * * * * * * *
Managing my time & utilizing a schedule

The children and I clean the house in pieces over the course of each week, but I organize those pieces so that nothing is missed.  In my post, How I Manage My Time there is a longer explanation, with some great visual examples.  Also, we function within a weekly schedule.  This concept applies for cleaning, homeschool, free time, getting enough rest, Bible time, stories, music practice, meals, naps, exercise, weekends...everything.  

Now being in a schedule may sound restricting, but actually there is great freedom in living within a routine.  Not only do we get all the important things done and have a generally balanced life with work, rest, and play - without chaos; but we can stray from that schedule when we need to (to take someone to the doctor, or bake Christmas cookies, or bake a meal for someone in need...) and then jump back in fairly easily.  (Note:  Now just to set clear expectations for other moms, this does not mean that our house is quiet all the time, or perfectly clean all the time. *chuckle*  There's a lot of people in our home which makes for a lot of activity and sometimes noise - but that's not the same as chaos.  Chaos is out of control, constantly reacting to disasters or problems, and not being productive.  With a schedule we rarely have chaos.)

I choose to take on life proactively - not re-actively.  Without a plan for how to accomplish a goal, a person can never reach their goal.  So within our schedule we create regular and consistent blocks of time for cleaning, deciding in advance which blocks of time are for which cleaning assignments, and who will be doing what between the children and myself.  And then once we have a good plan in place we just flow with that with very little effort over the course of that school year and summer until we create a new plan the next year.  I don't have to try to remember when everything will get done, I simply follow my plan each day and each week.  I can work diligently during the work times without the stress of being overwhelmed with how much there is to get done; and I can relax in the play or resting times knowing that there is budgeted time to get the work done later, but this is not that time.

Now of course there are times when I have extra amounts of things on my plate and I can feel overwhelmed.  I then need to create the time I need to get those extra things done by sacrificing some free time, canceling some things on the calendar if necessary, communicating my needs to my loving husband who helps to step in to enable me to get caught up, and sometimes coming up with a different schedule for a little while.  But those times are short lived and not a live style for us.

What do those blocks of cleaning time look like?

I have learned to be the manager of our home, not the primary "do-er".  I include our children in learning to take care of a home.  I pursue developing their character to serve, work diligently, persevere, contribute to a team effort, and contribute to the upkeep of our home which they live in and enjoy the use of.  Now this does not mean that I do not work.  It means that I manage the whole team.  I teach everyone the skills required to do the work, I hold them accountable to doing excellent work, I motivate them when necessary, I give consequences when necessary, and I work along side them.  *smile*  It's a very sweet way to do life.  (Here my post with a great deal of detail and pictures if you'd like, Family Participation: Chores for Kids.)

If I try to be the primary do-er and do all of the cleaning myself then I have the massive stress of trying to get it all done while simultaneously managing 9 other people's activities and relationships.  I have never personally found this to be successful, and have not heard of it being successful for anyone else I've known either.  So I manage the team.

Here was our weekly schedule from 2013 for you to see (click on it to enlarge; if you would like to print a copy of our current schedule or my scheduling template you can get that for free from DropBox *smile*).  

During the 8:00 am morning jobs time is when we got many of the regular cleaning jobs done, by doing one cleaning job per day for each person.  For example, there was a scheduled time for Anna Marie (age 6) to clean all the bathroom faucets and sinks each week, and for Karen (14) to clean all the bathroom mirrors that same day.  A weekly time for Melanie (13) to deep clean the stove top (not just wipe it off, but remove all the top pieces and really scrub it), or to once-a-week thoroughly wash the kitchen counters including behind the appliances.  At that time our older girls (ages 14, 13, and 6) did most of the cleaning jobs, and it worked best for our boys (ages 9, 6, 5, and 2 on this schedule) to do more bulky work jobs.  

The boys do things like set up the play yards and pack-n-plays every morning for the youngest 4 kids to rotate through during our homeschool hours, and then clean that all up later; or move all of the chairs out of the dining room and shake the rug so that a sister can sweep.  The boys did some cleaning, and they learned to do more when they got older.  Their contributions at those ages were using their muscles more.  *wink*  *chuckle*  This has just fit better for them being younger and being boys.  

So the whole bathroom does not get cleaned in one day like I used to do it and always liked it to be done.  *smile*  I had to let go of that goal and desire and learn to think "outside the box" in order to get the bathroom cleaned in pieces every week using the blocks of time we do have.  The whole thing gets cleaned every week but it gets done in pieces on different days.  The bigger parts of that bathroom work, such as the 3 toilets and 3 showers, gets done by our 14-year-old daughter every week who desires to do extra work for money and have a regular income.  Here's more on getting those bigger jobs done...

How do I get to the big, deep-cleaning jobs?

When our children were all little, I would do those big jobs - such as cleaning the bathrooms, rotating seasonal clothes for the kids, weeding the yard, or cleaning out and re-organizing a closet - on a Saturday while Bob was home to help manage the kids.  It wasn't ideal because I really wanted to be done with the "have-to's" before the weekend, but I simply didn't have time during that season of life when I was doing it all myself because the children were not old enough to really be helpful.  So, Saturdays got the job done for that season of having "all littles".  

Now, I strive to do as many of the big jobs in pieces as much as possible through out the week, or assign them to be done for pay.  Like my husband says to our children, "Work smarter, not harder".  *smile*  I have the children each do small jobs which keeps it manageable for them so they don't need large amounts of time, and they do not have to learn multiple cleaning jobs simultaneously (like a toilet vs. faucets vs. mirrors).  Like I mentioned above, our 6-year-old daughter doesn't take on the whole bathroom yet, but she can easily do a great job of cleaning the sinks and faucets in each of the 3 bathrooms with Lysol cleaning wipes. 

Some of our children are old enough now to learn to do those big jobs well, though, and that is a huge blessing to me and to them as an income opportunity.  So I enable our older kids (ages 14, 13, and once-in-a-while the 9-year-old) who desire to earn money to do so by taking on those bigger jobs.  This is great skill development for them, great opportunity to earn some money and develop a work ethic, and a great use of their time.  They rake leaves, pull weeds, wipe out the refrigerator or freezer, clean bathrooms, clean the window blinds, wash windows, mend clothing, wash or dust large shelf units, thoroughly scrub and clean the toaster or microwave, etc.  It's awesome.  *wink*  But they are not always required to do these big jobs, they're usually optional, paid jobs (but there's always someone eager to earn money, so I've never had to make the big jobs a requirement at this point).  

Once in a while I may need them to do a big job unpaid, or they may demonstrate the need to practice serving with a good attitude and so they will win the privilege of doing a bigger job.  *chuckle*  *wink*  But generally the large ones are paid jobs, or I would do them myself on a Saturday (but there's enough money-earners in the family now that I can't actually remember the last time I needed to one of these big jobs).

Another strategy I use all the time for getting bigger jobs done, is to do small pieces of those jobs while I'm already working in the vicinity and while the children are occupied where I can supervise them.  I don't have a family room deep-cleaning session, rather I vacuum underneath the couch cushions (or underneath the desk, or on some book shelve edges) once in a while while I'm already vacuuming the family room. I wipe out a couple shelves of the refrigerator while the kids are eating lunch. I wipe out a couple kitchen cupboard shelves while I'm already washing off the counter tops.  I just do a couple pieces here and there as I have a minute and I'm already cleaning in the vicinity.  I try to stay on top of it and not let it become an ominous task. 

Doing jobs in manageable pieces is also possible because I don't let those often-considered-to-be bigger jobs, get too big.  I don't let the refrigerator get so bad that it's a massive job.  I just wipe off a couple shelves, or a door shelf once in a while when it's getting dirty.  I wipe out underneath the sink where the garbage is kept once in a while when it's getting dirty, but can still be cleaned in about 1 minute.  Every time our now 12-year-old son vacuumes the house, which is his current regular paying income job, I have him vacuum the edges that need it as well as he goes.  Then it doesn't become an additional, separate job for someone to do, and we're already vacuuming anyway.  Working smarter, not harder. 

If Saturdays can't work for jobs or the bigger jobs (such as cleaning out and re-organizing a closet) can wait until summer, then that is also a great option.  Teri Maxwell, author of the book Managers of Their Homes and homeschooling mother of 8, used to keep a list of jobs that she desired to do in the summer time when there was more time and kids were often outside playing for larger blocks of time.  I think this is also a great plan...I just was never patient enough to hold all those big jobs off until the summer time.  *chuckle*  So it's up to you.  These are just ideas.

How do I keep up?

It's crucial to have a plan and to implement it.  I choose to in essence planned in advance when everything will be done.  I've budgeted my time just like one would budget finances.  Then there is nothing to figure out later; it's all been figured out already.  Doing this saves me from needing to make hundreds of decisions later as we're going along.  And if we miss a day of dusting due to taking a field trip with the kids that day, no big deal, we'll get to it the next week during it's scheduled time.  It's okay.

I also have a firm policy with the children and which I'm constantly prompting them to implement through out the day, to "Clean up as we go."  We don't leave things to be done later, we try to always clean up as we go.  I don't have time for today's work tomorrow; tomorrow is already full of its own. I don't have large blocks of time to do it later and I cannot manage the children while I'm trying to clean up and they're having free time.  The young children need our constant attention, supervision, and help.  

For example, while Karen and Melanie (currently ages 16 and 15) and I are preparing breakfast or lunch we're also putting away food we're finished with, loading the dishes as kids are finished with them, wiping off counter tops, picking up food and napkins from the floor, so that when the kids are done eating we're pretty much done with the kitchen and we all move on together into the next thing. This is key.
Another example is through out our homeschool morning as the young children are switching activities and rotating through them, the older kids and I are taking a few minutes to put activities away as kids are done with them.  We're getting out activities, and putting them away, picking up miscellaneous toy items here and there on the floor or the table and taking them to where they belong.  We don't wait to do all the clean up until just before lunch or during nap time or we'd spend half of the young kids' quiet nap time doing all that clean up.  No, thank you; we clean up as we go instead.

Now of course there are times when we have "free time" in the afternoon (at 4:30 on the schedule if you want to look at that) where I'm usually beginning cooking and the other kids are playing together and watching a documentary; and if dinner is cooking independently from me and I'm free then I join them playing on the floor.  At that time we do not clean up until the end, just before dinner.  But we have lots of helpers, and daddy is home which makes a big difference in how quickly clean-up happens.  But during our homeschool days we need to keep up as we go. And I include the children in these efforts.

Learning to include the children

Here is one question I received on my post, Family Participation - Chores for Kids:
          "When you gave the kids the choice to either do a job the way you showed them or find a more effective/efficient way themselves, how did you judge whether they were doing the job quickly enough? I feel like I am pulling teeth to get them to concentrate on a job. They are age 6 and 4, and 1 1/2, all girls.
          I'm still going through all your posts, and have [the Managers Of Their Homes book] so I will be going through that again, but I really struggle to get more then a few things done on household jobs each day. Where/when do you do big jobs, like deep cleaning the front room or thoroughly cleaning the kitchen? I'm just not quite getting that stuff done in [my 30 minute block of time] with 3 kiddos. I might be expecting too much of them though, causing myself to be occupied directing them rather than getting my own work done
."  ~ Anonymous 
Here are my thoughts on this. I require that our children not only do the job thoroughly, but that they do it well; and I teach them both of these things.  I believe the way I'm teaching them to clean something is the most time efficient and thorough, so they're required to clean something the specific way I teach them to.  If they can find a faster way than mine, great, they can run with that.  If they have a strategy for cleaning something that is more thorough than my own, then that's great as well (but has yet to happen *wink*).  Until then they need to clean as I teach them to.

When I'm teaching children to do jobs and managing their progress I do not also schedule myself to be getting cleaning done at the same time.  That just can't happen in our house yet.  Either I'm managing and teaching, or cleaning; not both simultaneously.  

I can determine if a child is working quickly enough simply by their level of focus.  If they're being silly, or allowing themselves to be distracted with the pencils on the table or the dog, then they're wasting both their time and mine.  Not okay.  *smirk*  So I'll continue to gently draw their attention back to what they need to be doing so that they learn what is expected of them.  For example, when our daughter was 6-years-old and just starting to learn to sweep the kitchen and dining room it could easily take her 30-45 minutes.  And if you've seen our kitchen floor (4x5 feet) and dining room (9x8 feet) on the tour of our home, you'll see that it's not large.  *laugh*  This was due to learning to hold the broom, learning how to sweep into a pile without scattering it, how to sweep systematically from one end of the kitchen and dining room to the other...and learning to do so without buckling her knees and whimpering.  But once she'd practiced for a couple of weeks she had developed skills, learned to focus herself and stay on task, and she now gets the job done in about 3 minutes.  Now, I did help her by getting the dirt pile into the dust pan because that was difficult for a 6-year-old to manage, but she does all the sweeping work completely independently of me.  

And incidentally, this efficiency is one of the main reasons that we have our children stick with their same cleaning jobs at home for an entire school year before switching to something else.  They learn to do their jobs quickly and well, to have confidence in their ability, and have some ownership in having done those jobs well.  I delight in hearing our now 7-year-old say, "Mom, would you tell Riley (5) to lean over his plate please?  He's getting crumbs all over my floor."  *laugh*  *yes!*


How much to expect from a child

I've written a post that goes in to this in depth called , Family Participation:  Chores for Kids.  Here's what it covers:
  • What does God's Word say about teaching children to help?
  • Do chores have to be a chore?
  • Surrender and blessing
  • What kinds of jobs can kids do at what ages? - A LIST OF IDEAS
  • Letting it go...and trying to leave it there
  • When in the day do we have kids do their jobs?
  • How long do our children do those assigned jobs?
  • Required jobs and jobs for money?
So what's the bottom line for how I get the house clean as a large family Mama?  Clean in small bite-size pieces, regularly; clean up as we go; don't let jobs get enormous but rather stay on top of them while they're small and easy; include the children; and plan for Saturdays or summers if necessary.

Blessings on your efforts!

Recommended resources:
Managers of Their Homes, by Teri Maxwell ($25)
Managers of Their Chores, by Teri Maxwell ($25)

You might also be interested in my related posts:
Family Participation: Chores for Kids
Scheduling & Routines: You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat it, Too. - Part 1 of 2
Rotating Seasonal Clothes - Large Family Style
Living Life On Purpose - "Isn't It Exhausting?"
Large Family Matters: Parenting Young Children While Successfully Managing Your Home
Incentives & Rewards For Children's Behavior, Part 1 of 2


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