Clean Livin’

by Stefani on 18-March-2009

So one day, a good while back, I was cleaning the boys bathroom. 

Wait… before we proceed, I want you to gather a mental picture of that, a scratch and sniff kind of mental picture. Three boys… one bathroom, need I say more? 

Okay, so like I said, I was cleaning the bathroom and my middle son said, "Hey, can I help you do that?"

So I taught him. We went over the basics of spraying and scrubbing the countertop and sink. Cleaning the mirrors, tub and toilet (he thought this last part was hysterical) and mopping down the floor. He actually ENJOYED cleaning the bathroom which left me wondering, "Why the heck have I been doing the cleaning by myself?"

I mean don't get me wrong, my boys have been responsible for keeping their rooms picked up, sometimes unloading the dishwasher, carrying clothes from the dryer to the couch for folding, taking care of the animals… but they've not really done much actual, bonafide CLEANING. Sure, they help rinse dishes now and again, but I mean real CLEANING. 

About this time I also happened to stumble upon this great post from Jessica at Balancing Everything and it was like all the birds sang and the church bells chimed! She was singing my song!

So, slowly, ever so slowly, we've been enabling the young folks in this house to pull their own weight. 

Clean Living

just simple stuff… 

We got  a good high stool for the kitchen and one of those scrubbers that dispenses soap. They now clean their own dishes, rinse and put them in the rack at the end of each meal. 

They also sweep under the table, spot mop (with kid sized broom and mop) and wipe down the counters. 

We have one of those carpet sweepers (with one of the links removed so that it becomes the right height for small people), and they use it to clean up the living room and school room floors at the end of each day. 

A couple of times a week, one of them will handle the clean up of their toxic waste dump 


It's a beautiful thing, not just because it means less work for me, but for other, more important reasons. 

1) They enjoy it. For real! They enjoy meaningful work. The are proud of helping and contributing to the family. I know that it won't always be fun for them to scrub a bathroom, but I think it will be a lot easier to get their help when they are older if pitching in has been a natural part of their life from the time they were very young. 

2) They are a lot less likely to make careless messes when they know they are going to be cleaning them up. Our table manners are MUCH improved because they now understand that if they get food all over the table and chairs and floor, they will be the ones to clean it. 

3) They are becoming better people for it. They are seeing that they have hands to lend when there is  a job to be done. I think that all too often we (parents in general) tend to think of kids as handicapped – somehow unable to do the things that need to be done. So we do it for them, when really, we just need to find better ways to equip them to handle things on their own. 

I see a change too when we are out and about – my boys are far more likely to offer assistance to others now that have seen that they are capable of giving real help. 

4) They are becoming better MEN for it. These boys will not grow into men who think that taking care of their home is "women's work." They see their Papa pitch in and do dishes and help pick up, but just as a function of the fact that I'm HERE all day, they mostly see me cleaning. I don't want them to take away an unintended message from that – that cleaning is meant for girls. So, as they are cleaning I praise them for being my big, strong, able-bodied manly men who know how to ride in, push up their sleeves and get 'er done. 

All good stuff…. and the clean house is like icing on the cake!

mommyknows March 18, 2009 at 8:46 am


My kids all clean. It good for me, the house and them. Occasionally they a few streaks, but I know the dust/grime is gone and I live with the imperfection.

Jennifer March 18, 2009 at 8:57 am

Great ideas!

I used to teach 5th grade, and one of the first things I taught the students was to take care of *their* classroom. For five minutes at the end of every day we did our “jobs”– things like straightening up the library, pushing all the desks back into straight rows, watering the plants, feeding the fish, cleaning up the sink area, and patrolling for “big” garbage, e.g. stuff on the floor that was really too big to expect the janitor to sweep up. We regularly rotated jobs, and every kid loved some and hated others, but all learned to be more conscious about keeping our space neat. Needless to say, the janitor and our substitutes loved us, and other teachers were jealous!

Our Green Nest March 18, 2009 at 9:03 am

Another amen!!! You are teaching those boys to become wonderful human beings…

Sarah Jackson March 18, 2009 at 9:05 am

My kids are also avid bathroom cleaners. The bedrooms, not so much. We’re working on seeing our messes and making them go away. Baby steps.

Tammy Anderson March 18, 2009 at 9:06 am

Your future daughter-in-laws will thank you, I have no doubt! A man that knows how to help out around the house! My MIL did absolutely everthing. Not even her own daughter knows how to clean her house or cook a simple meal. A total tragedy, IMO, that children don’t learn “keeping a home”.

Liz March 18, 2009 at 9:19 am

Ha! I love the picture of your boy on the stool in front of the sink. I always teased my mother for standing me up on a kitchen chair to reach long before my little legs could do the trick. I’m sure I’ll do the same when I have kids.

JenniferO March 18, 2009 at 9:26 am

That is so great! Young kids so often want to help – another good argument for non-scary cleaning products.

Lisa Clarke March 18, 2009 at 9:38 am

This is something I really want to get better at – enabling the boys to be more helpful. They show an eagerness to pitch in now and then, and harnessing that is something I find challenging. Looks like you’ve done great in that department!

Cassandra March 18, 2009 at 9:55 am

My kids love cleaning. The REALLY good part for us is that since their daddy stays home, they see BOTH daddy and I pitching in to do the work. My little Ember has been helping me fold laundry for what seems like ages. Not too long back, I realized that it would be nice if she made her bed. So every day, she makes her bed, often without a reminder. It makes me proud to see her pitching in around the house, and it makes her proud too. Now we just have to work on cleaning toys up when they’re done playing with them… Yikes…

kerry March 18, 2009 at 10:21 am

This is wonderful! Recently my 3 and 1/2 year old has been enjoying helping out around the house. He helps set and clear the table. He has also discovered the joy of helping with laundry. And now that he has a new little sister, he likes to help with the diapering by transferring the dirties to the bin after we change her. It is amazing to see how much satisfaction children draw from meaningful work. As a 3rd grade teacher the best money I even spent in my classroom aside from that spent on books was about $25 to outfit my room with some dustpans and hand brooms, watering cans, and spray bottles. The children loved watering and misting the plants, sweeping the floors, and washing the tables with a vinegar and water mixture. Another activity that we love that leads to cleaning is to use shaving cream on the table (plastic topped kid’s table at home or laminate school tables) to practice making letters and numbers (printing practice for little ones and cursive for the older ones). Then when we’re done, we spray down with water and wipe clean. Shiny table and the room smells like daddy!

Catherien March 18, 2009 at 10:28 am

What a good momma you are…I struggle with incorporating my children do chores. Two weeks ago, we gave them the bathroom cleaning job – G does the toilets, C. does the counter. I do the floor as the residual water would threaten to flood the home.

Stefani March 18, 2009 at 10:44 am

Oh yes! It’s never a PERFECT clean, but good enough. And really I’m all about good enough 🙂

Stefani March 18, 2009 at 10:45 am

Oh yes! We’re having great success with CLEAN but not so much with TIDY. 🙂

Stefani March 18, 2009 at 10:46 am

Oh I hope so. I worry all the time about that whole “mother in law, daughter in law” relationship. Seems like so many go bad.
I’m really hoping to raise men that make good husbands, and to get the joy of being friends with my future daughters!

Sarah Jackson March 18, 2009 at 10:47 am

Annika just offered to clean my bathroom instead of her room because it’s
more fun. Umm, no.

Stefani March 18, 2009 at 10:47 am

That little stool has been such a good investment. We had another, but it was too short for the youngest, so they were forever dragging stools and chairs in. It’s funny how the simplest little thing can make all the difference.

Mary March 18, 2009 at 10:51 am

They are so precious! One day when I have kids, I hope God will enable me to raise them up like you have! =)

Stefani March 18, 2009 at 10:54 am

Definitely! We mostly make our own, but sometimes I splurge and buy them. I love J.R Watkins products (in the Aloe and Green Tea!) and Mrs. Meyers too (in basil)

Stefani March 18, 2009 at 10:55 am

Oh my yes, it IS a challenge to harness all that “help” when you’re trying to get a job done and in a hurry to do it. I’m trying to take it one little baby step at a time. If I’m doing a job or see that they have interest in something. I think long and hard about what I could do to help them help themselves.

Stefani March 18, 2009 at 10:56 am

She makes her bed without reminding???? Can she come live with me? Pretty please? I promise she’ll have lots of brothers to protect her and love her up 🙂

Stefani March 18, 2009 at 10:57 am

Oooh! Good one! You know we’ve done the shaving cream, but always in big restaurant trays or cookie sheets. It never occurred to me that we could be cleaning the table while we were at it!

Stefani March 18, 2009 at 10:58 am

Uh huh… I know all about that flood. I have to roll up a towel and put it by the door, where the bathroom time meets the carpet. That way, when they mop, the (ahem) extra water doesn’t soak the hall carpet!

Jessica March 18, 2009 at 11:07 am

Aw, thanks for the linky love! I’m so glad my post was helpful. Little ones gladly helping out brings me so much joy!! Now if I could just get my boys to AIM in their perpetually smelly urine caked bathroom… ;o)

miss chris March 18, 2009 at 11:20 am

Kids have the best attitude about things in general. They see fun in everything, don’t they? I know mine enjoy helping around the house. Fidget’s always trying to wash my windows, God love her. Now their rooms? Different story.

The Mrs. Meyers products are perfect for them, too. I never worry about fumes or chemicals or whatnot…

elissa March 18, 2009 at 11:20 am

how, oh, how are you so organized and creative and, and, and, TOGETHER??? i seriously wish you could bottle some of that and ship it my way! i can’t even get my boys to get themselves dressed half the time!

tams March 18, 2009 at 12:15 pm

nice work! bravo.

Amy March 18, 2009 at 1:45 pm

I believe you and oh how I wish I had such a revelation earlier. My elder child has serious ADHD (and all the anxiety depression and frustration that comes along with it). Before I knew that he was more than a typically difficult child (I mean really, what child isn’t difficult – sometimes) I used to ask myself “Is this the hill you want to die on?” It was so much easier to do everything myself than to spend the enormous effort/frustration/stress coaching/cajoling/begging him to do this sort of thing. WRONG choice. Now it’s swimming upstream all the way. Live and learn I say. I’ll make plenty of mistakes in parenting my second child (who is 9 years younger than my first) but I WON’T make that one! Glad you got there and thank you for sharing it.

Denise March 18, 2009 at 1:57 pm

are you boys available for training purposes? like to train my kids?

Erin March 18, 2009 at 2:05 pm

you are the best. i am trying to do this with the girls, too, but consistency is my downfall. i’m going to keep trying, though.

Amber March 18, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Oh, this is what I hope for. I haven’t been able to convince my 4-year-old to give it a whirl yet. Maybe soon, though. We’re currently working on putting your toys away after you’re finished, with mixed results. Anyways, you’ve given me some hope that my day may come.

Stefani March 18, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Now I wouldn’t go so far as all that, Elissa. “Together” is not at all what I am or indicative of what goes on in this house. It just dawned on me, when my boy helped clean the bathroom, that they really can manage this stuff and SHOULD! It does a lot for their character and it does a WHOLE lot for my attitude. Instead of griping and groaning all the time about how messy it is, and how I ought to remove the toilet altogether and just put a big drain on the floor because it ends up there anyhow… I’m getting some help.
Though really…as I said, they like to clean but they do not like to pick up their junk. Cleaning involves sprays and special tools. Picking up is not nearly so cool 🙂

Stefani March 18, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Oh I know that feeling so well. I don’t have the challenges that you did, but really it seems so much easier sometimes to just do it myself. Sometimes their “help” is a royal pain. But I figure… how else are they going to learn to do it right if they don’t get any practice?
And yes, seems I get smarter with every baby! … and my parents seem a whole lot smarter to me as the years go by too. Funny how that works 🙂

Stefani March 18, 2009 at 2:50 pm

well be warned… you have to take the bad with the good. They might teach your kids to clean, but they also have a a wide array of gross jokes that they like to pass around to any kid who will listen.
Some of the “training” you’d get might not sit so well 🙂

Stefani March 18, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Oh I hear ya. I’ve been trying so hard to be mindful of my part in how things go wrong. Seems like when I’m hollaring about what a wreck the place is, it’s because I’ve not been consistent about staying on top of our routine. And really, that’s less their fault than it is mine.
I can’t tell you how many charts and ticket systems and things we’ve tried and failed at because of my lack of follow through.
I’m really hoping that this time it sticks because it’s not a big complicated thing, it’s just a few little additions here and there that make it easier for them to lend a hand.

Hannah March 18, 2009 at 3:16 pm

OK, you’re telling me that your kids all clean cheerfully and never complain? They don’t need reminding because they love doing this so much?

Wow. Now I’m *really* feeling inferior. I must have missed that instrinsic-motivation parenting skill!

Stefani March 18, 2009 at 3:25 pm

It’s all about the tools and the sprays and stuff… not superior parenting. I think it has something to do with feeling BIG too. They like big jobs, grown up jobs. Do they like to hear “clean your room” do they do THAT without grumbling? Oh heck no.
But mopping, toilets, sweeping vacuuming. They like that stuff. And I don’t have to pay them or anything!

I’m sure the fun will wear off eventually, but I sure am digging it for now!

Julie Alvarez March 18, 2009 at 5:15 pm

My mom made us wash our undies and socks when we were at the bathtub, since I can remember… That must be when I was 4 or something like that.
Also, I ALWAYS made my own bed. Always.
And all the other house chores, after two or three years, were done by each member of the house. All of them. So, for me is so strange when people don’t do that. Or to see so many kids these days that don’t have a clue about this, or about the fact that things that need to be done, are going to be done by others than them, and if so, they could learn how to do them.
Zoe helps picking up the table, setting it too, does the “unbreakable” dishes, washes her clothes every once in a while, water the plants, picks up her toys and helps to sweep the floor. Hey, she is three… Am I a sargent? I never thought about it like that…

Steph March 18, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Amen to you! My brother was raised to expect that a woman would do the cleaning, cooking, laundry. Mother, grandmother, sister, he always had a woman there to do it for him. I say it’s MANLY to clean up your own mess! I want to hug you for passing this important message onto your boys! And I love that as kids they see it as fun!

misty March 18, 2009 at 7:17 pm

i’ve been seriously Sucked into your blog; it’s wonderful!! (i popped over from aunt lolo/bubba bubbles b/cs of the bread recipe she had posted and have been here for like an hour just browsing!)
i’m also especially glad to read this entry today b/cs we jsut learned our #3 is another boy… this post gives me something to look forward to, and happy my 2yo is more than happy to help (even when mommy doesn’t always want his help!)… good stuff!

I Wonder Woman March 18, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Oh, you just reminded me how we couldn’t go to lunch until every one in the class room had picked up 5 things off the floor. We had the cleanest floors!

I Wonder Woman March 18, 2009 at 9:13 pm

This is great! My little toddler loves to sweep, and we do the same thing: she has a little swiffer, with a section removed, so it’s just her height. I haven’t tried this yet, but my friend swears by using club soda as a glass cleaner. She lets her kids go to town cleaning the windows, and they really can’t hurt anything.

As always, you’re an inspiration! 🙂

angela March 18, 2009 at 10:00 pm

i nominated you for an award!

tara March 19, 2009 at 4:00 am

I’m so glad your boys are enthusiastic about helping out…. not so here. Owen has gradually been adding a few more chores to his list… he likes to mix it up so he doesn’t get bored. He also will ask me for a “raise” on his allowance if he feels he is over exerting himself.. lol :0)

Dawn March 19, 2009 at 4:13 am

Oh, the daughter-in-laws will thank you!! I am married to one of those boys who had to clean and pull his weight around the house!! I thank my mother-in-law all the time!
My kids currently fight over who gets to vacuum… we have a kid size one that they love!
That scrubber with the soap dispenser is such a great idea!

Gina March 19, 2009 at 5:52 am

When I give my son a choice of what he wants to clean, he always picks the bathroom.

beki March 19, 2009 at 7:13 am

Okay, I think it’s time my kiddos got more responsibility! I make Lily pick up her bathroom, but she’s never cleaned it.

Mandy March 19, 2009 at 12:15 pm

We carve out 15 minutes every day for cleaning and every Saturday we have a cleaning party. I hate to always use the single mom blah, blah, blah (b/c I think married moms have it just as hard) but sometimes during the week things get left out due to me running to practices, cooking, laundry, etc. So on Saturdays after pancakes, always pancakes, we crank up the music, get out the cleaning bucket and assign chores. Each week it switches up. After a few hours we are all done and we get to the reward. Either we have take out in the living room floor in front of a movie, or now that it is nice out we walk to the dairy for ice cream, or something else fun and out of the ordinary. It’s amazing what you can get done with four sets of hands instead of one. They are 6,7 and 9 and therefore are all perfectly capable of helping. It also does a mama’s heart good to see her biggest girl teaching her littlest girl how to do a new chore. I see a very adorable chore chart in your future.

jackie March 20, 2009 at 6:39 am

Such a good reminder for me! Sometimes on Saturday we will set the kitchen timer and everybody pitches in for 30 minutes, and it’s amazing how much can get done with 5 of us working on it!

pink and green mama March 24, 2009 at 10:47 am

The future wives of your boys will appreciate that you taught them how to do basic housework. Last night as I was starting to pull ingredients for dinner out on the kitchen counter my 6 year old daughter announced that she and the 2 year old would “clean the house” while I cooked. I gave her the supplies she requested and even though the 2 year old spent her time riding her broom around the kitchen and cackling like a witch my 6 year old did some real cleaning. Last night after they went to bed, my husband and I sat down in the family room and I said, “look at how clean the glass table and the coffee table are… we have our daughter to thank for that.” Makes a mama proud.

Lauren March 30, 2009 at 11:43 am

I love this. Growing up, my mom taught me to clean and do the laundry but neglected to teach my brother. My brother who is now 28 and living alone to this day has no idea how to clean his apartment 🙁 I think my mom really regrets not having done a better job at teaching him to take good care of himself.

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