Clutter makes me crazy. Crumbs on the floor bother me a lot. I really don’t like dirty bathrooms and dust. But you know what? I’ve got five kids. And they aren’t exactly neat freaks.

I’ve learned to let a lot of things slide a bit in the interest of putting the kids first – rather than the house. I’ve embraced the phrase “Clean enough to be healthy, messy enough to be happy.” But still, there are things that need to be done around here for the purposes of my sanity and our home’s sanitation.

We used to get up Saturday mornings and clean, clean, clean. Everyone chose jobs from a long job list I’d make and we’d send the kids off to do what needed to be done. But we quickly learned that kids (even older ones) don’t clean well without lots of directions and supervision. And we learned that Saturday mornings full of parents getting after kids to complete half-finished jobs just weren’t fun for anyone.

So we came up with a new system involving bite-sized daily housework and a “certification” system and things are going quite nicely.

1. Bite-sized daily housework 

We now do a little work every day. I made a list of small things that need to be done around the house, things that take 5-10 minutes to complete. The kids each pick one thing off the list to do every day after school (they did two things on the list in the summer when they had more time and the house got messier with everyone around more). Then on Saturday morning, we do a few larger jobs together (like work on the backyard or do some detail cleaning in one area of the house). My husband takes one group of kids and I take another and we talk and enjoy some quality time together as we tackle one or two jobs that are quite manageable and can be done really well in about an hour.

This is working MUCH better.

The house isn’t ever all clean at the same time. But that’s OK. It’s nice having at least some areas of the house quite clean at any given moment. And we’re all a lot happier when cleaning is a small part of every day.

Click below to download a full-size version of my bite-sized housework list and adjust it for your family’s needs.

Bite-Sized Housework List – PDF

2. Job Certification

Another thing that has really helped is job certification.

My husband and I have realized something that should have been pretty obvious. Kids don’t know how to do jobs unless we teach them how to do them. They need us to show them how to do things and work alongside them until they get it down. Then they need checklists for exactly what needs to be done to clean a toilet or vacuum a room or whatever needs to be done. And we’ve started “certifying” our kids on certain jobs and requiring that only “certified” kids do certain jobs by themselves.

Here’s my son Oliver certifying in sink cleaning. He was so proud to be certified and now when a sink needs cleaning, he’s excited to be able to do that job.

Realistic expectations. Small bite-sized jobs. Job training. This stuff has made a huge difference in the happiness and cleanliness of our home!

*** For lots more ideas about teaching children about work and making housework into a meaningful learning and relationship-building activity, check out our Teaching Kids About Work and Money Kit.

Question: What tips and ideas would you add?

Challenge: Do something this week to change the way that housework is done in your home.

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