September 18, 2008

The Clean Team

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Find more about clutter busters, chores, time-savers

"Mom, is this room done yet?" Sean calls to me from the family room. "I'm wasting my whole Saturday cleaning."

As I check his work -- and send him back to dust again -- I have to agree (silently, of course). Since our schedules are hectic through the week, we often spend long hours on Saturday getting the house back in shape -- and sometimes it does feel like a waste of time we could be spending together.

But keeping the house clean is also important, and I wanted all of the kids to have pride in their home. I wanted time together on Saturdays, but I also wanted our house to be clean before another week's flurry of activity. I wanted closeness and cleanliness. Could I possibly have both?

Then I found my solution -- from Wonder Pets!, one of 5-year old Libby's favorite TV shows. Each episode, three classroom pets solved a problem -- and they did it together. "What's going to work? Team work!" sang Linny, Ming Ming, and Tuck. Hey, if it could work for a guinea pig, a duckling, and a turtle, why wouldn't it work for our family?

The next Saturday, I gathered the kids in the living room and explained my new approach. "I've decided you're right -- we are wasting too much time cleaning," I announced. The younger kids bounced in excitement, but the older boys looked skeptical.

"So we're not going to clean any more?" Steven asked.

"Of course we're going to clean," I replied, and he smirked. "But we're going to try working together. I think we can get more done if we work in the same room at the same time."

This time, the younger kids balked. They were usually given the "easier" assignments, which meant they were usually done quickly (which, of course, inspired many cries of "No fair!" from their brothers).

"I don't like spending my whole day cleaning either," I said. "So we're going to try doing as much as we can in each room -- but only what can be done within 20 minutes."

I could see them mentally calculating to see if this was a good deal. It was -- and I set 20 minutes on our Minnie Mouse kitchen timer and set to work in the living room.

As Minnie clicked off each second, we plunged into the piles of magazines and last week's mail. Working together, we sorted and straightened, dusted and swept. We found having each other in the same room came in handy -- one of the younger kids could serve as "runner," returning misplaced toys or tumblers back to their place, allowing the rest of us to stay in the room. Less chance of getting distracted! We also stayed on task under each other's watchful eye. When Minnie "dinged" after 20 minutes, we finished whatever was in our hand, then moved to the next room.

After 20 minutes in the kitchen, family room, and bathroom (yes, it was tight!), we had completed our "clean sweep."

"That wasn't bad," Sean said as we looked over our work. And it wasn't. In just 80 minutes, we had cleaned just as much as we usually did all Saturday -- because we did it together. And we got an extra bonus -- we talked to each other as we worked, playing ice breaker games and discussing our plans for the upcoming week.

Thanks to the Wonder Pets -- and a Minnie Mouse timer -- the house is presentable, and we're enjoying each other's company. Go Team!

Looking for more creative solutions? Click here to see our best Dream Team stories.

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The Clean Team

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