You can also assign a few small cleaning tasks to keep things looking great between weekly cleanings. Ideally, this would happen right before bedtime. In our home, the ten-minute clean-up happens right before story time as an incentive to get everyone to finish quickly. Right after dinner works better for some families, or mornings might be an option if that’s the best time.
The main function of the Ten-Minute clean-up is to get everything back in its place to avoid clutter buildup, but it also teaches good habits and builds responsibility for the home for everyone. It’s amazing how much many hands can get done in such a short amount of time. The key is to develop a list so everyone knows specifically what the expectations are, everything gets done, and you can easily rotate without confusion. The clean-up includes common areas only. Bedrooms should be a separate responsibility. This is when I bring out the basket of items I’ve collected during the day that need to be put away, and also any laundry that is clean and folded. A task such as “tidy the living room” might seem like it would take longer than a few minutes, but remember that this is done every night, and other systems are in place to make sure that no room should have more than few stray things out of place.
The tasks will vary according to the age and needs of your family, but here’s a sample list for a family of five, with kids old enough to participate. If you have a toddler, sacrifice some efficiency and help him or her to do small tasks to feel like part of the action. Use this free cleaning chart printable to plan out your Ten Minute clean-up.
Ask for input
Ask for input from family members about which responsibilities they would like to take on regularly, and be sure to rotate the lists so no one gets stuck with the job everyone hates. You could formulate a list of different tasks for different days of the week so more things get attention during the week, such as hauling the trash and recycling bins to the curb the night before garbage day, or you could devote everyone’s energy to a single chore, say, collecting and sorting or folding the laundry. We’ve had success with older kids making sandwiches and packing lunches for the whole family during this time, as well. You might also consider assigning older children tasks to assist younger siblings, like helping a toddler pick up toys, to encourage interaction and cooperation. If you’ve got everyone on board, you can be creative and experiment to see what works best.
Make a game of it to see how quickly it can all get done. Set a kitchen timer and see if everyone can be back for storytime (or dessert, or breakfast). Or, you can require that no one stops moving until the ten minutes is up. So if someone finishes a list, he or she has to find something else to do until the time is up.
If you have any unwilling or uncooperative parties (aka teenagers) deal with the consequences at a separate time. You do not want the Ten-Minute clean-up to become a negative event or a stage for a rebellious child.
Some chores need to be done daily, can be delegated, and don’t fit into your Ten-Minute clean-up. Assign these well ahead of time, perhaps write them on the communal white board, and make sure expectations are clear. When planning the week, be flexible according to each person’s schedule and you’ll get better cooperation. If your daughter is going for pizza with her soccer team on Friday, it’s probably not the night to assign her to do the family dishes, no matter if it’s part of your grand plan. Keep kids accountable, but be flexible and be clear about what exactly needs to be done and when. It’s also prudent to set out consequences for neglected duties if it becomes an issue.