I’m Not Cleaning This Up Myself, You Live Here Too!

ZONES! Zones are the answer. This wasn’t always the answer. For years there’s been too big a gap between skills and abilities for my oldest kids so we had to divide cleaning chores by chore rather than by area. This was rarely successful and it meant that neither kid ever learned how to clean an entire room top to bottom. Things got missed. Fights over who’s chores were easier or the number of tasks each kid was assigned were common. It seemed impossible to make it work and keep the cleaning train on track.

I didn’t want to spend every weekend blowing a whole day on cleaning but the week days were just too busy for actual cleaning to happen and by the end the week everything looked like a tornado had come through. 

Clearly there has to be a better way. The frustration was growing which you would know if you read I’m Living In The Lamest Frat House Ever and I Think I’m The Maid. If you haven’t, check it out because you might be able to relate or you’ll have further evidence that my house is a bit crazy at times.

After much pondering and running scenarios through my head, I final determined that we needed to break the house into zones and assign them to members of the household. This would allow for us to teach the kids how to clean an entire room floor to ceiling rather than just being able to do certain simple tasks like wipe down light switches and door knobs. This also meant that I only had to remember who’s area it was if something got missed or was incomplete compared to the usual “but that wasn’t my job” argument. Now if it’s in that area, it is that person’s job to keep it cleaned up.

We are still in the early phases of using this method, and it did require some prep work to get it off the ground, but it’s working well so far.

Prep Work

First Step I put together a checklist of all the items needed to clean a specific area. Here is a Cleaning Supply List Fillable you can print off and make specific to your family’s cleaning protocols. I have Bathroom, Kitchen, Upstairs, and Downstairs on the form. I put together all the smaller cleaning items into a kit using a flexible basket from the Dollar Tree and then the big items like vacuums and mops have to be moved from floor to floor. I also went ahead and made a kit for each bathroom in the house that stays in that bathroom so that I don’t have kids dragging cleaning supplies all over the house or fighting over who gets to use it first. Each kit has a laminated copy of the checklist in it so that the person using it can make sure they have all the supplies they need to do there tasks.

Second Step was to go room by room and write down each task that needed to be completed for that room. No matter how simple it seemed, I knew I had to put it on the list if I wanted any chance of it getting done. Even for a typical child or adult for that matter, it can be difficult to remember every specific cleaning task and to look at every possible mess that needs addressed. Add in that one of my kids is on the Autism Spectrum, and it becomes even less likely that he’s going to notice or remember to do something without a specific list to refer to. Grab your Cleaning Task Checklist Fillable and fill out the specific tasks you are wanting done in each room. I also laminated these and then they can use a dry erase market to check them off as they do them. Once the list is checked off they bring it to me and I go back and check their work. You could keep the list in one central place or put one in each room you have someone assigned to.

Third Step was to get everyone together and go over the cleaning tasks for each room or zone and then have them put in their requests for which areas they wanted to have. There was some negotiating that had to take place to make sure that each person ended up with equitable workloads. By including them in the discussion and going over what the expectation would be for each zone they had “buy in” to the processes and ownership of their choices. This doesn’t remove all whining but it does help decrease the amount of it and allows me the chance to give a response that puts the ownership and accountability back on them.

Fourth Step is to set some basic rules like you can’t go into someone else’s zone and intentionally leave a mess because it’s not your area. We also still expect everyone to keep their personal items put away and pick up after themselves. You’ll need to decide what basic rules you want to have in place for your situation.

Fifth Step is to be prepared to make adjustments in the beginning and reevaluate as needed. This is always part of the process when you implement something new or make changes. Reflection and reassessing are critical to success.

Implementation

Once you have completed all the prep work and everyone knows what their zones are and the tasks for each zone, you will need to monitor and stay on top of the new method until it becomes a habit for your household. Decide when it takes effect and then make sure you stick to whatever you’ve decided.

For our house, we made this a weekly thorough cleaning list and the expectation is that each of the zones a person has should be thoroughly cleaned once a week. It is also the responsibility of that person to address any pressing cleaning needs that come up in between their thorough cleaning days. There are some things that will need to be done daily if you’re responsible for a hallway or room where everyone likes to dump their stuff. This means that who ever has that room will need to make sure that everyone has put away their belongings each night and if they haven’t, get a parent involved to help enforce that we are each responsible for our own belongings being put where they belong each day.

Goals

My hope with this method is that:

  • everyone will learn to thoroughly clean all types of spaces using a variety of cleaning products and  methods.
  • everyone will learn to be responsible for their own belongings
  • everyone will learn to communicate effectively with other people in the house about taking care of their own belongings
  • everyone will feel a sense of ownership and that they have an important role in keeping our living spaces livable and enjoyable for all

If you give this method a try please share your results and your own personal alterations to this system in the comments below.

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