Here's my problem: I want to train my kids to help around the house, to work hard and to appreciate cleanliness. However, it is slow, frustrating, patience-shattering work to train them, so I tend to put it off. Edmund is four and he can be genuinely helpful with certain tasks. Lavinia, who just turned two, not so much -- but I don't want to let her play elsewhere while Edmund works. We're all in this together. I gave it some thought and here's what I came up with to help me in my task.
Before you start, ask God to give you His patience and cheerfulness. If at any time during the process you feel yourself losing it, stop and take a break for a minute. Pray, regain your good attitude, apologize to your kids if needed, and start again. Another good idea is to start the cleaning right after breakfast or after a mid-morning snack, so everyone's tummies are satisfied and there's no hunger-induced crankiness to add tension to the atmosphere. If you like, put on some calming music.
Write down, in minute detail, all the jobs needed to clean your bathroom(s). On my own, I am perfectly capable of cleaning a bathroom in logical order, knowing what to do next and keeping on pace. When I am overseeing two little helpers, my brain flies out the window. It is very helpful to me to have a list to consult so that I don't have to think about what task to do next. You could either put it in a homemaking binder, or laminate it and keep it with your bathroom-cleaning supplies. Mine looks like this:
- put away toys, dirty clothes, throw towels/rugs down chute
- dust surfaces (shelf, cupboard, window)
- wipe down medicine cabinet shelves
- organize drawers/shelves (if needed)
- clean mirror
- spray and wipe down sink, toilet, tub
- clean inside of toilet
- clean soap dish, replace soap if needed
- empty trash
- replace handtowels with clean ones
- restock toilet paper, if needed
- sweep and mop floor
- wash floor rug, towels, and replace when clean
Gather all your cleaning supplies in one place. I put all the bathroom supplies in one bucket so that I can easily grab it and not have to spend time hunting up various cleaners or utensils from the far reaches of the house. Whatever your stance is on using "green" cleaning supplies, with little kids it is good to use some mild cleaners because I guarantee you will be hearing things like, "I just sprayed my eye!" I have a spray bottle of 50/50 vinegar water that I let the kids go to town with. I also have a shaker full of 50/50 salt/baking soda which is a good abrasive for scrubbing soap scum from sinks and tubs. Cleaning wipes are very handy and if you don't want your kids handling store-bought ones, make your own.
Demonstrate and delegate. As far as the actual cleaning, there are two approaches you can use and they both have their places. The first is to do the work very slowly, alongside your kids, explaining and demonstrating what you are doing with each task as you go. This is good for the first couple of times you are training or for a deep clean. However, if it takes me 3+ hours every Friday morning to get the bathrooms clean, that is a serious bite into our time and I am more likely to not do it. So the other way is to delegate small tasks to your kids, and while they are occupied with that, do as much thorough cleaning as you can, as quickly as you can. In the time it takes Edmund and Lavinia to spray and wipe the bathtub, I could have the mirror, sink, and toilet clean, etc. This is good for maintenance.
Maintain. Fridays are our bathroom-cleaning days. However, the most heavily-trafficked bathroom (our main floor bathroom, which is also the kids' bathroom) can get messy and dirty in a hurry and start looking dreadful before another Friday rolls around (or you may have to skip a Friday from time to time, when other things come up). One good idea I gleaned from the book Large Family Logistics is to superficially clean and straighten up the bathroom while your little ones are playing in the bathtub during bath time. I will often take a used washcloth or a handtowel that's headed for the laundry basket, wet it with water, and just wipe down surfaces that have accumulated dirt or dust. Put away toothbrushes, toys, dirty clothes; pick up trash off the floor; straighten towels; even grab the broom if needed (our kids tend to track in sand from the sandbox).
Since implementing this system, I am a lot more dedicated to keeping the bathrooms clean and it is an easier job. If you have any more suggestions or great ideas, please leave them in the comments!