Get Your Family To Clean with These Sneaky, Sneaky Tips
(This post contains a ton of hacks and some products that I use to get my family to clean. The products are affiliate links.)
It seems to come with the mom territory. No matter how equally you split household duties before children, once you’re a mom, it seems to become YOUR responsibility. The bigger your family gets, the bigger the mess. What you really need are sneaky ways to get your family to clean.
Pick The Right Equipment
Sometimes, if you find the right equipment, you can clean without changing your routine at all. Who needs to Swiffer when your entire family is walking around in these?
Bonus points if you have one small enough to wear this.
Introduce a Remote Controlled “Toy”
We received our first robotic vacuum as a wedding gift years ago. These little buggers are great for a quick sweep of the house, but not so good for spot cleaning. New versions come with a remote that little kids LOVE to use. The trick is to make it seem like a super-special privilege to use the remote. “No, only grown-ups can use the robot remote, sweetie.” And then eventually “give in.” Your kid will feel like they are playing with a special grown-up remote control toy.
Let Them Make Strategic Messes
Imagine that your kitchen floor is covered in food and mud. (If you’re like me, you probably don’t have to imagine.) You’re home with the kids and can’t get a moment to do any work, including housework. Bored kids are clamoring for fun things to do. Let them do something really messy on that kitchen floor, which will actually result in the floor being cleaner.
Hear me out. Let the little ones “paint” the floor with water (possibly with the tiniest bit of color added to it) using all different sizes of paint brushes, etc. When they are finished with painting, they stand on some dishtowels to “ice skate,” therefore drying the floor.
If your bathtub could use a scrub, give them some bathtub soap fingerprint and let them hang out in there for a while, creating a masterpiece. Then they have to scrub it off before they get out. Yes, I have done these things.
Get Them Their Own Versions of Grown-up Cleaning Supplies
This particular tip is for that useful (but short) age bracket where kids actually WANT to help but are just too small to do any real good. Get them their OWN cleaning supplies. My almost-six-year-old uses this to actually sweep up small messes and mop the kitchen floor.
Channel Mr. Miyagi
Karate Kid’s iconic Mr. Miyagi was both a wise sensai AND a master at sneaking in cleaning jobs. Daniel-san wanted to become a karate champion and Mr. Miyagi tricked him into doing all kinds of menial labor by promising it would make him better at karate.
Introduce “Clutter Jail”
My family (not just the kids… husband included…cough, cough…) tends to leave small items laying around the house. Sure, I could yell at them and get them to pick them all up, but I don’t have the time or energy to stop what I’m doing every few minutes to do so. I used to just pick things up as I passed by and put them in their place in another room. Then I realized that was training them that they could leave things and someone else (MOM) would put them away.
I purchased small colored baskets at the dollar store. Each family member has their own color. When I find their crap out of place, I throw it in their basket. Imagine their surprise when day after day, their baskets were full. They’d be looking all over the place for some item they neglected to put away and I’d just remark, “It’s in your basket.” I’m hoping that after a few weeks of this routine, we won’t need the baskets anymore, but I’m not holding my breath.
Hack the Messes
No matter how many times you try to get your family to clean certain areas, they may just have a total blindspot. When I find myself cleaning the same messes over and over, I try to take a moment and think big picture. How can I prevent this mess from happening in the first place?
Every time my kids brush their teeth, they leave their toothbrushes scattered and the toothpaste cap off. The result is a sink and counter that look like a toothpaste monster has thrown up all over it.
Two tiny purchases have changed all of that.
First, I bought each kid a simple toothbrush holder. When they put the toothbrush in this, they don’t end up transferring water and toothpaste residue to the counter or medicine cabinet when they put their toothbrush away.
Devices like the ones below prevented the toothpaste from being squeezed all willy-nilly everywhere and the lid left off.
Our front hall used to resemble the lost luggage room of the airport. When we had our house renovated a couple of years ago, we hired a talented friend to build a beautiful custom coat closet and bench. Do you know how many times I’ve yelled at my family about how we spent all of this money for a custom closet and NO ONE hangs their things up?
While I fumed about this while hanging up everyone’s clothing and backpacks, I had an epiphany. I needed to make it easy for them to hang everything up. One child was too short, so she needed a lower option. It takes more effort and skill to hang a coat on a hanger than on a hook. So now, we have levels of hooks that are labeled for each person’s backpack and clothes. I’d love to report that this system has had a 100% success rate in getting my family to clean up their items…. but alas, I cannot. It has improved it greatly, though!
More Brilliant Ideas to Get Your Family to Clean
I hate to admit this, but I am not above lying to make my home life easier when no one listens, so here goes: I fake a letter from the landlord saying they’re coming to check on [insert random thing, furnace filters, fire alarms, whatever} and then act like we just got it in the mail. If you turds don’t want to be evicted for failure to maintain, you better hop on that cleaning chart! –MyLove Barnett, Scary Mommy Writer
I actually just quit cleaning the house. And we all spend 30 minutes or so on the weekend cleaning. It looks so bad that everyone is happy to spend the time to make it look nice again. The problem was that I work at home and I’d spend 2-3 hours a day trying to keep up with their mess. Quitting that showed them the mess they were making and not taking any responsibility for those messes. They started picking up after themselves more and more and what’s left is just a basic dirty house. –Laura Sampson, Little House Big Alaska
I turn up old-school pop and make it look like I’m having the TIME OF MY LIFE mopping and vacuuming. It never fails, after about five minutes of practically pantomiming my way through housework my kids get serious FOMO and I hand off the mop like a baton.- Kierstin Gunsberg, Really Good Advice For New Moms
For my kids, I tell them one of their friends is coming over. (They are at an age they want to impress their friends and they will clean and tidy the entire house!) — Cordfelia Newlin de Rojas, MultiLingual Mama
I used to tie rags to my kids’ feet and let them “ice skate” to wash the floors. I’m a horrible mother. — Sarah Cottrell, Housewife Plus
I had my kids engage in a contest where each got different-colored sticky notes and were tasked with going around the house posting stickies wherever they found marks on the walls that I could dry-erase later. Whoever spotted the most marks won… and it worked like a charm! Now if only I could trust them to do the dry-erasing, too! –Alice Gomstyn, Writer
We do a concession night and each of the jobs earns them “points”.They need to earn a min number of points to visit the concession. And then they use their points to buy treats for a movie night. I get like 8 hrs of clean out for them for about 10 bucks.
Also. We are “Palooza” to the end of each job. It means “the whole family does the job intensively for a short time Weed-a-palooza. I have a lot of garden space that needs a lot of weeding. Clean-a-palooza. Clean allll the things. Coop-a-palooza. We have 14 chicken coops.
–Julie Nowell, 3 Chickens and a Boat
My kids are teens. I tell them to do a task. If they don’t do it in a timely manner, I do bad version of TikTok dances to motivate them. They beg me to stop, “Not until you empty the dishwasher.” Works every time. Plus, it’s fun to embarrass them. That’s the limits of my creativity. –Gretchen Kelly, Drifting Through
I put on music and they help me clean for 2 songs. They’re dancing around and it usually accidentally turns into 3 songs. But even if it doesn’t, we get an amazing amount done in 2 songs. –Dana Guenther Kamp, 39ish Life