Two Tips for a Clean and Happy Home

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!


clutter-buster-kitFor lots of ideas and support to help you keep your home clean and involve your children, sign up for our FREE Clutter Buster Kit.

*** For lots more in-depth 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 (costs just $30 and can save you thousands of dollars in the end!).

Question: What tips and ideas would you add?

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


  1. says

    This is my observation – our Saturdays were full of games!! Soccer in spring and fall, basketball in winter, sleepovers all through the year (so they didn’t get home until about 11 am. I didn’t have more than 2 kids participating at once, and Daddy had games, so it took up most of the day Saturday. Soo—you have 5 kids closer together in age, how do you pull this off with all the activities on Saturdays?? How do you get Daddy to “buy in” to this? My hb wouldn’t have anything to do it – it was the “woman’s job.”

    • says

      Yes, Saturdays are busy for many families so this bite-sized daily housework can really be a great solution. If we do a little housework every day and sometimes a larger-scale group project on Saturdays, things work quite nicely. And dads are much more likely to be interested in heading up projects they personally enjoy and/or care about when it comes to Saturday jobs. My husband likes doing outside work with the kids like weeding, working on the lawn, working on the bikes, etc. But he’s great about doing housework as well!

  2. says

    I love how earnest your little Oliver is. I remember my mom making colorful laminated cards with detailed instructions on how to clean a bathroom properly, step by step. I was a snotty teen at the time, so didn’t think they were all that cool, but NOW I think it was brilliant… and I sure know how to clean a bathroom! I might combine the laminated cards (which my mom kept in the cleaning supply caddy) with the certification process.

  3. Misty says

    Cute boy! I can’t believe how much you sound like Shawnee on video! Certifications are a great idea. It’s true, I do just assume sometimes that my kids know what they’re doing and I need to remember that they need more training to be able to do a really good job. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Stephanie says

    How cute is he?? This is a great idea – I like that it gives the kids a sense of accomplishment and pride in being an expert at something.

  5. Kristine Jones says

    Thanks Saren for breaking down the bathroom into different parts to clean. We’ve been working on bathroom certification but it didn’t occur to me to do sinks, floors, toilet, bathtub, etc. separately. That is so much less daunting to my kids and me. Just what I needed to see. Thanks!

  6. says

    Saren, I love this and am printing the sheets now! It is SO true that if we take the time to TEACH it will save us time in the long run (and it builds up such confidence)!

    I notice on there that you have that the kids rooms should be picked up daily before bedtime. Can you send me a little more about this? We are having a messy room battle right now and I’d love to know how you encourage them to clean their space up each evening and if there are consequences if their space is not cleaned up. Thanks so much!

    • says

      This is all part of a larger systems of points that we have in our family (and that is spelled out in our “Work and Money” program you can find in our Power of Moms store). The kids get daily points for getting to the breakfast table on time in the morning, doing their homework and reading, doing their daily after-dinner job and “home point” (something from the list included above), and getting to bed on time. Part of the bedtime point includes having their clothes set out for the next day and having their room straightened (nothing on the floor, books and papers neatly stacked, etc. – usually takes like 5 minutes). I often help them with the straightening a bit as I get ready to tuck them in. Then on Saturdays, they vacuum and dust their rooms and once a month, they clean out under their beds and do some more detail-work in their rooms.

      That’s what works for us!

  7. Marcina says

    Great ideas! As an additional resource on this topic, I love the book, “The Parenting Breakthrough” by Merillee Boyack, because she talks about doing this very thing, certification or training a child to do a specific job well. She has a huge list of skills and jobs that she wants all her children to know before they leave her home and she implements a systematic “training program” with her family. Very inspirational!

    • says

      Marcina: Yes, I LOVE the Parenting Breakthrough. I read it ages ago and I’m sure some of my ideas came through Marillee Boyack’s ideas but I didn’t remember that until you mentioned it. Thanks Marillee for the wonderful ideas and I’m sure she explains a lot more details on certification and other important things in her book.

  8. says

    I love that certification thing! I’ll have to try it soon. I think if I make a video of each certification, then if she forgets (the only one I could certify in anything is 5 years old), I could let her watch the video again as a reminder. :)

  9. S. says

    I love this because it means there is accountability. There is no excuse for the job not to be done well. A mentoring mom I knew scheduled 15 minute slots of time into her schedule for chore training. The certifying takes it one step further. It says, an adult is trusting that you can do this well.

  10. Bra says

    I was just praying on this very issue! My obsession as a stay at home mom tells me my job is to keep the house orderly and clean. HOWEVER, Gods job for me is to come along side my children and teach and help them in the responsibility of caring for the home. To create a sanctuary for ALL of us on the weekends because my husband works hard all week and so do my boys with school and sports. Creating bonding moments over responsibility is a great idea and a great redirection to meet so many more goals then just cleaning! Thank you for this post!

  11. Lisa Dinsmore says

    I too found myself hounding everyone Saturday morning to get the house clean. Between sleepovers (which are at special occasions only now that my older 3 are teenagers), ball games, heading to the cabin, or teenagers wanting to sleep in- we have what at our house is called Friday Jobs. So before anyone celebrates the weekend, their Friday jobs must be done. Each child is responsible for their bedroom, and one other job. Ex. Family Room- picked up, vacuumed, dusted- Bathroom clean- van clean, vacuumed, wiped down- kitchen floor swept & mopped. Now remember I do have 3 teenagers who can do more than my younger two. Then Saturday morning if my husband decides there is something going on in the community he wants us all to attend we are already with a clean house. They each also have a “moms helper” job after school that takes about 5 min. ex. Wash the front window & back sliding doors- fold towels- sweep front porch. It just helps keep the little things done.

    • says

      Sounds like you’ve got a great system and that you’ve discovered what I’ve discovered – small daily jobs are much better than big jobs that just don’t fit with our busy weekends. I love helping kids realize that our home is everyone’s responsibility and seeing that kids of all ages can make a real contribution once expectations are made really clear.

  12. says

    Can you tell us what jobs require certification? I’d love to make a list of those, to go with the new cleaning checklist I’ve made (modeled after your excellent example). Thanks! :)

    • says

      Great question. Jobs that require certification are: mopping, cleaning toilets, cleaning sinks, cleaning windows and mirrors, detail-cleaning the kitchen counters (behind and under things), vacuuming (learning how to use the attachments and correct vacuum settings, empty it when full, get into the corners, etc). Really, you could do a simple certification for just about any job. And the more we show our children exactly what to do, the better chance that they’ll feel confident and do a good job.

  13. shondaet says

    I love this post! I have been trying to think of a positive way to teach chores. The training system with certification is brilliant! Little Oliver did a super job and he was so proud and you were so encouraging. I learn so much here!

  14. Laura says

    Thank you for this post. Specific posts about exactly what you do to make your home run smoothly are my favorite. Why is vacuuming the middle of a room and the edges two different jobs?

    • says

      Good question about the vacuuming, Laura. Vacuuming the middle is pretty straight-forward and makes for a nice quick job that can be done in conjunction with vacuuming the middle of nearby rooms. But vacuuming the edges involves using the crevice attachment and/or the brush attachment and moving some furniture around and it is a little more involved than vacuuming the middle. I usually have my older children do the edges while it’s fun and easy for little ones to do the middle.


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