As you might know from reading this blog, my husband and I have a hot date every Saturday night. We sit down on our couch with our so-called Saturday Basket and an agenda of topics we know we need to cover to be able to get through the week ahead. This list covers everything from going over our schedules so we know who can be on point if a child gets sick, to paying bills and talking about money, to scheduling date nights.
One item that had been on our Saturday evening agenda for ages was “dealing with clutter.” But it was an item that went unresolved week after week. Finally, we annotated that part of the agenda with: “Address when kids move out.” Ha.
We’d tried various approaches, including 10 minutes a night of cleaning after the kids went to bed. Cleaning up furiously once every other month right before a cleaning crew came. And ignoring the situation entirely. A few years ago, I even read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, back before she became a Netflix sensation. But all I managed to KonMari was my sock drawer. Nothing seemed to be quite the right answer for our family.
Then, in December, my husband and I were sitting in a Barnes & Noble at our annual planning day. The kids were at winter break camp, and we were doing some big-picture thinking to plan out the year ahead. As we sat there in comfy arm chairs, staring out at the strip mall parking lot, I started musing out loud about the lack of resolution to our clutter problem.
What frustrated me most, I admitted, was the state of the house when I got back from a work trip. I felt defeated upon walking into the house every time. I didn’t want to be the only person attacking the mess – or the only one worrying about it. And I appreciated the amount of work it takes to keep things running when only one parent is home.
As our brainstorming wheels started to turn, the lightbulb went off in my head: A family clean-up dance party. That’s it!
At ages 8 and almost 6, my kids were now definitely old enough to participate in this cleaning-up endeavor. (Truth be told, they could have started much younger.) And the “dance party” concept would make it one of those Mary Poppins just-a-spoonful-of-sugar-makes-the-medicine-go-down things. My husband suggested we do it weekly. And WOW has it revolutionized both our living space and my own feelings about the engagement-level of my family in the cleaning-up process.
Family Clean-Up Dance Party Nuts and Bolts
We’ve been at this weekly event since the beginning of the year now, and here’s how it works:
- We pick a segment of the weekend when we’re otherwise not doing anything else. (Important to roughly plan ahead of time, or it would slip away.)
- Someone is designated “Cleanup Director” for the week. This means, if you can’t figure out what to clean next, you go ask that person what to do. There’s a leadership component here, and also a chance for each person to learn what it takes to get the job done. (Suggestions from Mom are always freely provided if the week’s Clean Up Director is stuck on next steps.)
- We turn on the kitchen timer for 30 minutes.
- And start the music! Required tunes to date have included Havana, Thunder, YMCA, and the Macarena. Yes, the last two songs require hand movements not exactly conducive to cleaning while singing. But hey, it’s hard to complain about having everyone engaged in the process.
- After the better part of the downstairs clutter has been picked up, each child is allowed one cleaning power tool: either the Dyson vacuum or the Dirt Devil dust buster. They swap one week to the next (the Dyson being the coveted machine).
So far, it’s been a win-win weekly event all around. It’s fun family time together. The house looks much better afterward (even if it doesn’t stay clean for very long). I don’t feel resentful that I’m the only one cleaning up. And the kiddos are learning some skills I hope will serve them well throughout life.
Moral of the story? You can literally dance your way to a cleaner house. And come back from work travel feeling a bit less like you’ve walked into a cyclone.
If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.