Family Cleaning Night

Guess what we did last night? What our family has done every Thursday for about eight years? I’m sure my children wish I would be alluding to some movie night or the like, but I’m talking about something I like.

No, something I LOVE.

We cleaned. Yep, ALL of us. We cranked up the music, each took a job, and 30-45 minutes later our house was presentable again. People can stop by unexpectedly and we don’t need to freak out (this is a blessing, believe me).

When we started Family Cleaning Night, it’s purpose was three-fold:

  • Have basic cleaning done on a consistent basis (duh…)
  • Teach the kids how to do said basic cleaning
  • Save mom’s sanity

This last point can’t be emphasized enough. 

I remember feeling like I was keeping things fairly under control when we had one bathroom and little kids. Then we added another (half) bath, the kids grew older and somehow…well, dirtier. Even though I wasn’t working outside the home then, we were doing a lot and I just wasn’t able to clean consistently. To be honest, I just felt like I was running around all day trying to get everything done while the rest of the family dirtied everything up.

So when my sister-in-law said their family had a “cleaning night,” I grasped the idea like a woman grabbing a lifesaver (oh, how I wish I had thought of it, but I’m so glad she did!). And yeah, I guess I wasn’t feeling “appreciated” and I hoped when they saw (and felt) what it was like to clean, maybe they would take a little more ownership of our home.

Eight years later I’m not sure about ownership, but they sure know how to clean.

My daughter (listening to her own music) knows all about cleaning bathrooms. She can also dust and vacuum. She started at age five dusting, then started vacuuming the stairs when she got older. Now she and her brother alternate months between cleaning bathrooms and dusting.

She tells me often that her friends think its weird that she has to clean. I ask her who she’d like to have as a roommate when she’s older- one of her friends who don’t know how to clean, or some “weird” person like her.

Um, yeah, guess which she chose?

Our son was eight when we started cleaning as a family. He was in charge of the half-bath the kids used and cleaned the bathroom until his sister was old enough to share that chore.

I really felt it was our duty as parents to make sure both our kids knew what it takes to maintain a home by cleaning, picking up and doing laundry (they do their own laundry now, too). Sure, it makes my life easier, but I would be shirking on my job as a mom if I just did everything for them. Contrary to popular thought, I guess.

And here’s another important point: they don’t get paid for this work. This is something we do as a family, all pitching in to make our home life easier and more pleasant all the way around. They have other jobs that they can do to earn money each week, but this (and also setting the table and doing dishes) is just a part of being in a family.

Brian vacuums all the living areas and empties all the trash. He’s just so happy about it, here, isn’t he?

For our family this has been key: we all do it- no one is exempt. Of course there are many nights we wish we didn’t have to clean. In fact, we’ve found we tend to sit at the table longer on Thursdays…we just “happen” to find so many things to talk about. But we know if we just push through, it’s over quickly and we all enjoy having a clean house.

Umm, I should also mention one other little point: Thursday is also the only night we all get to have ice cream…after we’ve finished cleaning. I thought it would be nice to have something positive the kids could look forward to each cleaning night.

Oh, the power of a little bribery.

Does anyone else do Cleaning Night (or a version thereof)?

Or are we truly weird?






  1. says

    I think this is beyond brilliant! I struggle with keeping our house as clean as I want it to be and getting the kids (four – ages 5 to 12) to help. I like this team approach. Builds character, right?! Thanks for sharing.

  2. says

    What a great idea. Question from a mom of busy teenagers: what do you do when someone has a time conflict on a Thursday night? Do they do their part another time? This would be our problem.

  3. Anonymous says

    I sure wish that I had taught my children to clean! I have 2 boys … 22 and 24. They now own their own homes and I am trying to teach them to clean and cook! A little late …

  4. says

    My children pitch in and help alot, but not on a schedule. This might just be a new addition to our family routine. I also like that you do it during the week so it doesn’t feel like cleaning eats up your weekend family time.

  5. says

    Growing up we had Friday night house cleaning, and it was intensive. We’d be up till midnight or 1 am sometimes, and no one could go to bed till it was done. My mom was a bit obsessive – I don’t plan on it being that extreme, but DH and I do something similar and I plan to bring our kids up doing it too.

    he only thing is Fri. nights stunk especially as us kids got older nad social commitments. I like Thursdays better.

  6. says

    This is such a great idea! Love it! Our catch is that even though are kiddos are only 4 and 7 we are rarely home on weeknights as it is… We’ll have to carve out some family cleaning time though. THANKS for sharing this.

  7. Jenelle says

    I used to do this when I had two teenagers in the house, but we did it on Saturday mornings. I like the Weeknight idea better. Does not cut into my precious weekend time. I will be starting this again once my little two are old enough to help. Oh and the ice cream after is brilliant! They will love that. :)

    You are always so full of great ideas. Thanks!

  8. says

    We have a 15 minute clean up every night, and then once a week clean more thoroughly with everyone helping. My kids are 9, 6, and 4. This will be a great blessing in their lives as they get older!

  9. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Thanks for all the great responses-it’s nice to know maybe we’re not all that weird. :-)

    As for kid and family activities getting in the way of cleaning, my kids love when that happens! Sometimes we do it on Wednesday or quickly on Friday, but sometimes we go two weeks between cleanings (eek!). We change the day if a regular thing starts up on Thursdays, but we always go back when that’s done (like sports). The key is to find a day that works best most of the time.

  10. says

    Currently we have just a 17yo at home, yet when she arrives in from school each day there is always at least 1 chore awaiting her. I am a full time stay at home mom, but we have always given our kids chores to do daily (usually just a job or two). My husband also pitches in and cleans. His theory was simple “We all live here, we all help make the house dirty, we all get to pitch in and make it clean.” My husband vacuums and does laundry even today and yesterday he hemmed his own pants (with a LOT of help from me,lol) on the sewing machine.
    I will own up that my 17yo does far less work than the others did. But with three adults at home, picking up behind themselves, there’s not so much housework to be done either.

  11. says

    What a wonderful idea! My girls, ages seven and nine, have their assigned chores and we all work together on Saturday mornings to get the house cleaned up. I’m glad they’re learning at an early age to pitch in and help out, so that they’ll be used to it by the time they’re the age your children are!

  12. Anonymous says

    My kids are now out of the house, but we used to have family cleaning times. They tease me to this day that they cannot hear a Diana Ross song without getting the urge to pick up a dust cloth or broom. Diana Ross was the CD of choice for cleaning, because it was upbeat and fast paced.

  13. Anonymous says

    wow — I wish I had thought of this . . . we all cleaned various things various days of the week.
    But somehow doing it all together and ending with icecream would make it easier for all!

  14. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Oh yea, Anon.- We all think of what stage we should be at cleaning when U2’s “A Beautiful Day” comes on. Hummm…will A Beautiful Day always make me think of cleaning the toilet? :-)

  15. says

    What chores do you pay for? My kids are 5 and 8 and want to earn some money, but I have trouble differentiating between chores they have to do without pay and chores they should be paid for.

    • Jami @ An Oregon Cottage says

      Our family paid chore list had things on it like helping in the yard (raking leaves, weeding, picking up piles of debris, that kind of thing), mowing, painting (usually the primer coat that we didn’t care what it looked like!), helping wash the car, pick up dog doo, washing windows. Basically things that are sort of “extras” that they aren’t directly involved with.

      We kinda evolved to what worked – specifically the dog was supposed to be their responsibility, and while they fed and walked him, the only way we could be sure the poop was picked up was to start paying for it (but pretty minimal amt.). And since I was always the one in the yard stepping on it, the fact that it got done trumped the issue of if they should be doing it for pay or not. :-)

      We took Dave Ramsey’s advice and made up a checklist “timecard” that they filled out and turned in weekly for their “paycheck.” If they didn’t turn it in, they didn’t get paid – making it their responsibility, so I felt better about that. :-)

  16. says

    Not weird at all! This makes so much sense – a night is assigned, and if things get a little dirty during the week, you’ll know that it’ll get done on Thursday (rather than feeling stressed about when you’ll do it).

    I also like that you don’t pay your kids for chores. I remember that my parents gave us an allowance, but not because we helped with chores – that was expected.

  17. Nicky says

    Wow – what a great idea. We have been doing something like this, but I am going to implement this now – at least the house will be clean once a week. Love your page by the way!

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