Let's face it. No one looks forward to spring cleaning. The results of those efforts to dust, scrub, vacuum, empty out, declutter, and disinfect - definitely. The process of getting there - nope.
You know what makes it better? Having help. Get the whole family involved to streamline spring cleaning and make it go faster - and maybe even have a little fun at the same time.
Five and under
Little ones love to help out - it's only when they get older that they realize cleaning isn't as fun as playing video games or going to the mall! Arm them with age-appropriate tasks to make them part of the project.
Starting around age three (or even younger, depending on your child), kids should be able to wipe windows - as far as they can reach, anyway - and baseboards. Give them a rag and a spray bottle of water - they don't have to know it's not a "real" cleaning agent. Appropriately scaled tools help as well.
"Don't expect kids to use adult tools to clean. Instead, create supplies that are kid-friendly," says Amy Olson of The Maids Home Services (maids.com) on hitched. "Use an ice-cream pail for mopping chores or shorten an old mop handle or broom to make it kid-sized."
Cleaning out closets, drawers, and cupboards is a big part of spring cleaning, and anything that assists you in paring down and tidying up is great. Young kids can be a great help here, too. Task them with putting all the giveaway shoes you've sorted in a box or trash bag or boxing up any errant items on a coat or storage closet floor for you to look through later.
Your child can probably also handle - and have fun with - a mini vacuum that's battery operated. Vacuuming along the floor in closets that have been cleaned out and in places they may be able to reach easier than adults will be helpful and also allow them to feel the pride of a job well done. And don't hesitate to let them get under their bed and clean out clothes, toys, and stuffed animals that have gathered there. Laundry baskets or boxes for keeping, trashing, washing, and donating will help them get through the process in an organized manner.
Depending on the age of your kids, they can help with a multitude of tasks, from dusting and polishing furniture, to cleaning out the refrigerator, to organizing drawers and cabinets.
Hand your son or daughter the hand vacuum and let them go at the couch cushions. The dust, crumbs, and dog hair that's collected there will have met its match. Or challenge them to clean out and reorganize drawers and cabinets throughout the house.
A Mr. Clean Magic Eraser can be a great tool for a child to clean fingerprints and other stains off of walls, windows, baseboards, and appliances. Gloves will help keep their fingers safe.
Kids this age may also be able to use other "real" cleaning products - but keep them non-toxic. Children shouldn't be exposed to the chemicals in many commercial cleaners, so arm them with a non-product like Simple Green - or make your own cleaning product - and then let them loose on the bathrooms or kitchen.
Teens can handle just about any cleaning task; your biggest challenge may be overcoming their resistance (or attitude or laziness). Offering incentives like extra computer or phone time may help.
At some point, "working on a parent's ‘team' loses its appeal," said Organized Home. "Solution? Delegate big - but safe - jobs to teen children. Whether they clean and organize the garage, shampoo the living room carpet, or restore order to a jumbled linen closet, they'll take pride in their work IF you truly let them own the job…and make it a big one!"
Keeping everyone motivated
No matter who's doing what, make it more tolerable by playing your favorite music (or at least music you can all agree on) while you're cleaning. Invite an impromptu dance party to keep it lively. You can also make it fun, or at least inspire the competitive nature of your kids, by adding in challenges and games. Set a timer and the child who has hung up more clothes or folded more of their giveaway clothes into boxes receives a small prize. Be sure to emphasize that all cleaning has to be done well so no corners are cut!
"Spring cleaning is nobody's idea of a good time, so plan for a reward for your workers," said Organized Home. "When the chores are done, schedule a family treat. Whether it's pizza for lunch or a trip to the video store for an evening film-fest, you'll get better results - and sweeten attitudes - if there's a payoff at the end of the day.