4 July 2015

Making housework easier and more fun

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I know there are some people out there who enjoy cleaning, tidying, and housework in general. I am not usually one of them. Although I can be in the mood for it occasionally, those occasions seem to be few and far between sometimes!

I tend to play little games and use little tricks to make housework more bearable. Because it still has to be done, so I might as well have a little fun with it.

Some of these tips and tricks were useful when getting my kids to clean up when they were little, and some I still use for myself. I'll just share them all here and you can decide for yourself which you'd like to try and whether you'd like to use them yourself or use them with your children.

Using a timer

I bought a bunch of little digital timers on eBay. They cost next to nothing and are super handy not just for timing things in the oven but for motivating me during cleaning. The magnets on the back are pretty rubbish and tend to fall off, but I just keep the timers in a drawer so it's not a problem.

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When I have a lot of tasks to complete in a day I set my timer for 15 minutes. I start the timer and tackle the first task, for example sorting laundry. I try to get as much done in those 15 minutes as possible, as I'd prefer not to have to come back to that task later, but if I don't finish up by the time the timer rings I get to stop and move onto the next thing. You can suffer pretty much anything for 15 minutes, and I almost always surprise myself with how much I get done in that time.

You can also just set the timer for any amount of time, say 5 minutes, and race to see if you can finish your task before it rings. This is great for getting kids energised about picking up. Try and beat the clock!

Just timing how long tasks take is an eye-opener. When you realise it takes less than 2 minutes to unload the dishwasher, and less than 7 minutes to sort and fold two loads of laundry, then you feel less overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of you. Only two minutes? No problem! Try timing your everyday chores and see how long they actually take - I'll bet they take up less time than you think they do.

Bonus tip: I bought white timers for myself and one by one they would disappear as the kids made use of them. So I bought a blue one for Noah and an orange one for Daniel, so they know that that is their own timer and to leave mine alone ;) Mine haven't gone missing since!

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It's understandable that little kids might feel overwhelmed when facing an entire room strewn with toys, books, Lego, and clothes. (Okay, this picture isn't too bad - they've made worse messes!)

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When faced with the above scenario I'd make a game out of it by asking my kids to only pick up one type of item. For example, only pick up anything that has a face. Once they did that, then I'd say only pick up anything that has red on it. When that was done, only pick up anything that has wheels. Bit by bit the room got tidy, but hunting for items with faces or scanning the room for red things made it fun and less overwhelming.

One thing at a time to completion

Sometimes when your house is a wreck / your child's room is a mess then tidying it up might feel as if you're eating an elephant - just too much, and overwhelming. But you know how to eat an elephant, right? One bite at a time.

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Let's say your kitchen is a disaster area. Look at the worktop in front of you and spot one item. Say, a fork on a plate. You only have to think about that one fork. Put it where it belongs (into the dishwasher) and then look for the next item. Don't think about anything except that one, single item each time. It's less overwhelming and the room gets cleaned up just the same.

This combats the habit of picking up a few things and carrying them around to various rooms and not really getting anything done. Deal with one item at a time, to completion, and it will all get done.

Sort and delegate

A tip that's kind of the opposite of the above, is to just sort things instead of tidying them away. Rather than dealing with items to completion (picking up, taking to the correct room, putting away) just sort them instead. Use plastic bins, totes, wicker baskets, whatever you have, and lay them out in the messy room, assigning one room for each bin, and place items in there.

Let's say I'm cleaning up my living room. I'll use plastic tubs and put Daniel's book and socks into one, any kitchen items like empty glasses into another, Noah's Lego creation into a third, etc. Then I delegate and ask my kids to take a tub and empty it, putting the items away where they belong (or I do it myself).

Dealing with one plastic bin of goodies is so much less overwhelming that dealing with a room full of things, plus it's more efficient than traipsing back and forth.

I do laundry this way too - clean clothes get sorted into bins and each owner puts their own away. Sometimes I don't even fold the clothes, if I'm particularly busy.


Speaking of roping kids in to help, if you're all working together (or if the kids are tidying up together) then try racing each other. Your children might each be in their own rooms racing against each other, or they might be in the same room and racing to complete their chores. A bit of healthy competition can make things fun, and the bonus is that everything gets done and out of the way that much quicker.

If you've timed your daily chores then you might feel like racing to beat your personal best time ;)

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Sweeten the deal

Bribery is such an ugly word; I prefer incentive ;) What if you had a bowl of, say, M&Ms and you / your child got to eat one each time they put away a toy / cleared up a category of items  / ironed a piece of clothing?

This before that

A way of motivating yourself or your child to get tasks done is to require them before an anticipated fun activity. For example, if your son or daughter enjoys a particular TV programme at 4pm, he / she has to do a particular chore before the show starts - they can't watch until the chore is done. Or you might require yourself to finish the laundry before you get to catch up on blogs, or clean the bathroom before you get to check Instagram, or finish the ironing before you have a cup of coffee. Whatever motivates you.

Use music

Playing fun music, especially with an energetic beat, is always a good idea but you can also use it as a kind of timer - do as much of one chore as you can during one song, and when it switches to the next then switch to your next chore.

Or just pump those beats and boogy while you clean up :)

Use your friends

Ever notice how time flies when you're chatting with a pal? I like to phone my friend Amanda and have a good catch up while I clean the bathroom. It's sparkling before I know it and doesn't feel like work. Bonus points if you use headphones with a mic, so you don't get a crick in your neck.

Sometimes my friend Carley and I will be texting each other, moaning about the housework we need to do. Sometimes we'll each declare which tasks we most urgently need to tackle, then go for it, texting each other pictures when we're done. It's kind of a race, kind of a competition, kind of just fun to know someone is working right along with you, even though you aren't together in the same house. The accountability is motivating. Hey, whatever works!

Do just enough

If I notice a drip of sauce on the front of one of my kitchen cabinets, I find myself thinking, "I really should set aside some time to scrub all of the cabinet fronts" - and then not doing it for ages because it's a big job. And in the meantime the drip bothers me.

Or I'll notice a dusty shelf and think, "I need to dust this room," and then not doing it for ages because cleaning the whole room is a big job - dusting, then I need to vacuum up afterwards, etc.

Finally I started just doing what I noticed. Wiping that drip of sauce. Dusting that shelf. It doesn't have to be the whole room! I can do the thing that was noticeable and get to the rest later - at least in the meantime things look cleaner. And the rooms do actually get properly cleaned - they just don't bother me the same way in the meantime.

Play The House Game

Click here for the full post about The House Game, including a free download to make your own!

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Motivated Moms

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I discovered Motivated Moms years and years ago, and highly recommend the programme. It's not just for moms! You download an inexpensive task list which covers the whole year and every imaginable household chore. It's broken down into a few tasks per day, keeping things manageable, and you don't have to worry about any of the jobs slipping through the cracks as they will be covered during the year. Cleaning your microwave? It's scheduled. Watering plants? You won't forget.

The best part is that you can delegate - simply highlight the chores you want your kids / significant other to tackle (use different colours) and they are responsible for checking the list and getting it done, allowing you to stop nagging!

And yes, there's an app for that ;) You don't have to use the printed calender if you'd prefer to use your phone or tablet / iPad. If you do choose to print the calendar, there are plenty of different versions and sizes to choose from.

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Daniel actually took over the whole responsibility of the Motivated Moms list, and we paid him a small amount of money to do so. It was great for me to not have to worry about the chores getting done, and he enjoyed earning some extra money. Grant and I didn't mind paying him as it's far less expensive than hiring a cleaner, and the result was the same!

He stopped doing it when we moved but I'm motivated to get him started again ;)

I hope this post has given you a couple of ideas for making chores more fun. I'd love to hear from you - please let me know in the comments below if you use any of these ideas, or decide to give Motivated Moms a try!

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