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The 15 Minute Miracle

by Tiffany in parenting

Child doing chores

Something miraculous has happened in our home. Every morning I get to wake up to a clean house and the feeling is sooooo nice!!

A couple weeks ago I bartered for house cleaning services and my house was whipped into shape. I absolutely LOVE getting up to sparkly floors and NO toys on the floor. Gone were the days of pretending that the kids toys, books, and clothing all over the floor was actually a burglary early warning system. BUT after everything was super clean I started to notice every little thing that was carelessly tossed or dirtied without cleaning up afterwards. I would seethe upon finding the sink full of dishes after dinner from the night before since we have always agreed to a “the cook doesn’t clean” policy. When someone “put away” the clean clothes from the dryer by throwing them on the desk nearby I thought I was going to implode soon. Rather than implode I opted to request… no, insist… I get help.

I have always loved that poem about letting things get dirty while you raise your babies because you won’t get that time back… you know the one I am talking about? But my kids are getting older and I spend all day with them already so now I got to thinking that it was time to start keeping things clean AND having them take responsibility for their own messes. But I have always resisted chores. I guess it is because I really only had one chore growing up (dishes) and the only other families I knew who had “chores”… well sorry but to me it looked like lazy parents who sat on their butts while the kids did all the cleaning. I remember being at their houses while the parents sat in recliners barking orders while kids scrubbed toilets and mopped floors, all the while listening to lectures about how they (the parents) have jobs and kids are leaches. I swore I would never do that to my kids.. that I would adopt a “get off your butt” style of parenting and not make my kids be my servants. And yet here I was needing their help.

I still think the best way to teach kids something is by modeling it. They have no idea how hard you work at your job they only know what they see when they are with you. So the solution to my problem was obvious. We would all clean together.

I sat everyone down and told them about a new 15 minute clean-up we would be having every evening. Every member of the family would have to pitch in and help, we would throw on some on groovy dance music while we worked, and the kids would be paid for their help. The result has been miraculous.

Each child has a specific area to clean up.. my daughter picks up in the living room and hallway and wipes down the kitchen table, my oldest son picks up in the den and vacuums or sweeps the den and kitchen, and my youngest is given random tasks. If I cooked than hubby cleans the kitchen while I dust the house and clean up desks, bookshelves, sort laundry, etc. We reverse that if he cooks. In the evening when they are in bed I usually mop the kitchen floor and the living room. Some nights they are grumpy or tired and ask why they have to do this and I just say that we makes messes together so we need to clean up together.

Every evening the house gets cleaned and I am so thrilled! If only I could find a solution for their bedrooms.

Do you have chores in your home? Why of why not? What works for you?

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

10 Comments on The 15 Minute Miracle

  • Karen

    Hi Tiffany,

    I think your approach sounds like a great idea! I have not found the perfect solution for our home yet. Although we don’t have official chores, I do try to get the kids to help out whenever possible. Some days things go better than others.

    I have been thinking about the whole allowance thing for a long time now. Have not pulled the trigger yet as I’m not really sure of the specifics. My kids are 4 and 6. Obviously the 6 year old can do more than the 4 year old. Thus, do I give her more on a weekly basis? What is a good amount in general? What if they don’t do their allotted chores on a given day — do I then take away the allowance?

    Any thoughts anyone might have on any of the above would be much appreciated!



  • Hi Tiffany,

    So far in our home we have the kids set and clear the table, take care of their rooms and put away their clothing. We don’t give allowance for these things because we believe it is just part of working together to make our family run smoothly but we do pay our kids for other jobs like shoveling the walk way and other outdoor work or bigger jobs like cleaning the basement playroom.

    I love the whole family 15 minute evening cleaning idea. I am usually the one tidying up most evenings. However, in the evening homework is the kids job, and, I think for now, they need that time to focus on their work or to connect as a family with a board game to unwind.

  • Anne

    The child is too cute. I can tell that you are a very responsible mother.

  • Jen

    WOW! I’ve never left a reply before but made time for this one:) Thank you!


  • Lindsey

    In our house we started having the girls helpout. We have a chart that lists the jobs that they are able to help with. They are:Unloading the dishwasher, putting away laundry, vaccuming the floor, making beds, doing a load of wash, etc. All simple things since my children are 8 and 2. Then I assign each child 3 chores for the day.

    We too struggled with whether allowance should be given since we feel that you should be willing to work hard because that is right, but we also feel like you should be rewarded for your hard work…so we decided to pay them, but nothing outrageous. They get $.10 per job. So each day they can earn .$30 each and if they so choose to do extra jobs around the house, then they get double pay for those. This has been such a huge hit with the girls. They love helping and getting to save money for the things they want.

    It also has helped us with the constant “will you buy this or that”. Now they save for the things they want. It is teaching that blowing their money right away might be fun, but doesn’t help to buy that big thing they just “have to have”. I thnk the great thing about this plan is that it shows my girls that while I am working hard to keep the house clean, they can be a part of it. I am not lounging sipping lemonaid while they clean, we are doing it together.

    I think the 15 min. thing sounds fabulous and will start implementing that. Thanks for the idea!

  • My son is only two so we have no chores or allowance, but we do something similar to your 15min cleanup. Mostly I just make a game of picking up his toys. We race to put his blocks in their container. Sometimes he gets so excited hes rushing so fast that he only gets one block at a time (versus my handfuls), but its the thought that counts at this point! I let him put the last one in too so he thinks hes won, then he gives me an exhuberant high-five :) For the rest of the cleaning, I do my 15mins after hes asleep so hes out of my hair lol My husband works nights so he will take the trash out on his way to work, empty the dishwasher when he comes home that I set to run when I went to bed, and pick up anything I may have been too tired to get to. And one big thing thats helping us now is cleaning pots/pans right after dinner, as well as loading the dishwasher with our plates/bowls. They are such simple, common sense things but often neglected. This has all been since the new year too (one of a few resolutions) and it feels great!

  • I’m glad to hear that this worked out for you. It seems that whenever I try to do something similar it works for a few days, and then it gets lost in the jumble of life. Do you have any tips to keep this routine going once the initial “oomph” wears off?

    Not tripping over toys and dirty clothes as I stumble to the shower in the morning sounds like a long-lost dream!

  • erin

    oh, we have chores!  I’m not a sit-on-your-butt parent either. 
    Philosophy behind it:  I feel like my kids need to learn how to do the jobs, and that part of living in our house to that everyone needs to work towards making it a Home.  In some ways, it’s a respect issue.  We parents (mostly Hubby) work hard to pay financially for the blessing of living in this abode, and we need to care for it.  It’s alot of work to maintain a building & have a household that runs relatively smoothly, and they (IMO) need to help in that process.  Teamwork!  In addition, I was so glad to have married a man who knew how to do household chores, and have many friends whose husbands have NOT A CLUE how to throw a load of laundry in, chop a vegetable, etc.  My son will not be that kind of person, if I have any say in it. 
    Reality:  I have done different ‘systems’ of chores over the years, depending on the season of life/ages we’re in.  For the most part, chores are done afterschool, and there are no Screentime privledges until the chores are done.  That being said, right now, we’re doing chores after dinner, which seems to be working well… and not unsimilar to you, it means that my house is properly closed down at the end of the night, and I can start at Neutral the next day, instead of waking up to dishes, unswept floors, toys everywhere, etc.  My kids prefer a written list, so that they know what is expected of them (one child who craves structure & the other likes to check off the boxes), so i write down what they are expected to do.  Yesterday, it looked like this: 
    Boy (9)
    *help to clear table
    *return to table and wipe it off
    *empty both school lunch bags & put containers into dishwasher
    *help Mom prepare lunches for tomorrow
    *read story to 2 year old
    *tell everyone a joke
    *empty recycling and take it to the garage. 
    Put Away:  Wii controller

    Girl (7)
    *help to clear table
    *load plates and cutlery into dishwasher
    *tidy books in play area
    *let the dog out
    *send Grandpa & Nana an email to tell them that their dog whom we are caring for for 2 weeks is still alive & well
    *sweep the floor under the table
    Put Away:  black socks in living room, toy dishes by the big window, pink pants & tshirt in the bathroom, your 3 books on the coffee table, hair elastics on my desk, random white sock in the hallway, ballet bag on the stairs, & stuffed animals in Dad & Mom’s bedroom 

    OK, so you can see which of my kids is the one who leaves things around the house!  I just figured this out a few weeks ago.  And if I write it down, then she somehow also realizes that these are her responsibilities.  It’s the first time in forever that we haven’t had battles about all these little bits around the house. 

  • erin

    And, before anyone complains that ‘reading to the 2 year old’ should not be a chore.  It isn’t.  reading to her is a delight for all of us, but sometimes, it’s fun to throw a ‘fun’ item on their chore list to keep things light.