It's Friday, and it's supposed to be beautiful here in CT all weekend. First thing on my list is to unplug all video games, and yes even the computer, and kick everyone outside. So far the Spring has brought many April showers, which means my house has been crawling with kids of all ages. With kids comes germs, I know it sounds terrible to say but it's true. If you have to remind your children to wash their hands before eating, and they glance down at their open palms that are embedded with dirt from playing basketball and argue that they already did, you know they are germ breeders. Which brings me to the second thing on my weekend list.
I will rally the troops for a good old fashioned Spring Clean Fest. Not your everyday surface cleaning and clutter stuffing that gets you through temporarily. I am talking the open all the windows, line up the bags for donation, relocate the spider condos kind of cleaning. It is so much fun that I would feel guilty not involving my kids and my husband. And trust me they are so happy to be a part of it. I can tell by their big smiles (which for some reason I can only see when I look at them upside down) and mutterings of sweet thoughts under their breath.
If you're going to hold your own Spring Clean Fest (doesn't the name sound fun?) there are some things to consider. You can't throw something like this together willy nilly. I just love that phrase. Throw that in during the event and your family will really think you've flipped; which makes them more likely to do everything you say for fear of you snapping further.
Ok, like I said having a successful Spring Clean Fest takes some planning and a bit of evil manipulation. Back when I was a rooky Mom I would treat this event like the opening day of Army boot camp. It never really caught on (kids didn't like being called maggots and have you ever tried to get more than 1 push up out of a 5 year old?) Now that I'm a seasoned veteran I have learned a thing or two about motivation, positive reinforcement, and consequences. This is how I put this knowledge to good use.
Motivation: What better motivation for a household of mostly guys? That's right, the promise of good food and dessert. (if you were thinking something, shame on you, maggot...drop & give me 20) Sorry that was the boot camp Mom creeping back. I picked up a rack of ribs (sorry to all vegans, but mmmm) that would make the Flintstones jealous. Nothing like the smell of slow cooking BBQ ribs to motivate a family. Then the promise of home baked cookies or brownies and I have hooked my daughter too.
Positive Reinforcement: That is easy. The more we get finished, the happier I am, the happier I am, the happier my husband is, and so on and so on. It's like positive reinforcement dominoes.
And finally consequences: I like to use any opportunity to teach my kids about the consequences of their actions. No, this is really where the bit of evil manipulation comes in. I have learned, or noticed with frequency, that if you make each child responsible for the room or area that they do the most damage in they tend to be more careful after.
For example, my oldest works outside and occasionally with cows. He insists that there is nothing on his shoes as he kicks them off by the door. So he gets that room to clean out in the Spring Clean Fest. I can tell by the greenish color to his face that he realizes there may actually be something on his shoes after all and he begins to kick them off in the garage (for the next week anyway).
My middle son gets the upstairs computer/game room, which he always swears he and friends clean up after their weekly sleep over. After 3 full bags of garbage and countless empty soda and juice bottles, I can see that he is even questioning his definition of clean.
My youngest son gets the exciting job of washing hand prints off of the walls and door frames. Because it is not enough that he will very soon be taller than me, but he must jump and touch ever surface above his head to prove it.
My daughter gets the windows. With spray bottle and towel in hand she makes our world a little brighter. Which is fitting since she loves to breath on them all and write her name in the fog so that when I cook something steamy her name starts appearing everywhere like some ghostly horror movie. I'm not kidding, it can be unsettling. I keep waiting for her to start writing REDRUM like the son in The Shining (so glad we don't have an ax).
The only thing I haven't figured out is how I always get stuck with the bathroom. I guess I'm going to have to wait for them to get their own places for that consequence to come full circle.
So there you have it. Use these tips or make up your own ways to make Spring Clean Fest a huge success at your house.
Happy Cleaning! (if there is such a thing)