In my household, the kids’ bathroom is also the guest bathroom. And has always been the dirtiest, because kids. No matter how much I tried to keep it presentable, it wasn’t uncommon for the sink in there to be coated with a multi-layer film of toothpaste, spit and please-don’t-make-me-think-about-it. And we won’t even mention the toilet. Blech.
But we regularly have people over who use that bathroom. I teach violin out of my house so it needs to stay clean. But I refuse to clean my kids’ gross spitty mess for them. At 13 and nine, there is no reason they can’t manage that one tiny room on their own.
You may have tried chore charts. Perhaps you’ve turned the task of tidying up into a game. Maybe you’ve offered pocket money or attempted strict routines or belted out the “Clean Up Song” 27 times in a row (hey, it miraculously works when your kid’s teacher sings it, right?).
I tried gently reminding them to keep it clean, tried harsher nagging, even sometimes took away screen time. Those things worked to a degree, but they required too much work from me, they stressed everyone out, and the bathroom wasn’t staying in the kind of condition it needed to be in for a guest to be able to pop in and not get grossed out. I needed a consistent, long-term solution.
Enter the “when you brush” chore chart.
One thing my kids do without fail every single day is brush their teeth. So, why not tie cleaning the bathroom to another chore I know will get done? One little cleaning task every time they brush.
Our “when you brush” chore chart is very simple — it’s on an index card wedged in between the kids’ toothbrushes. But you could also laminate a sheet of paper and tack it to the wall, or put it on a dry erase board. Really, as long as the chart is in the kids’ (and your) line of vision, it can work.
I linked bathroom chores to evening brushing only, as our mornings are too hectic to add one more thing.
The beauty of cleaning a little bit every night is that no one ever has to clean the entire bathroom all at once. I have two kids brushing nightly, so there are 14 tasks separated out over the course of a week.
I made each assignment on the chart easy-peasy — only a minute or two worth of tasks so my kids have zero excuse to whine about it (though if they do, they know they’ll be sacrificing some screen time).
I have “clear floor of clothes and hang towels” listed nightly because my kids can’t seem to take a shower or change an outfit without leaving a puddle of clothes on the floor. Also nightly: Rinse out the sink. How do kids coat a sink with spit so quickly?
Other chores listed: Clean the mirrors, scrub the toilet bowl, wipe the base of the toilet and seat (twice per week), wipe the shower walls, wipe the tub, clean the countertop, wipe down the skirting boards and vanity.
We’ve been using the brush your teeth chore chart for a couple of months now, and my kids love it compared to my previous method of nagging them, them not cleaning, and then me blowing up at them to clean the entire bathroom immediately, at which point they would argue with each other about who was doing more work.
Using the chart has saved me many headaches over that little bathroom. Now it’s ready for guests at all times with virtually no effort from me. Doing a couple of minutes of cleaning every day is also teaching the kids that a small amount of daily effort goes a long way in preventing unnecessary work down the road. I wish I’d made this chart years ago.