When everyone’s thoughts were turning toward the new school year, I realized we needed to spend some time getting our house in order before I could think about learning. Mid-August after the summer festivities slowed down, the kids and I had a rousing visionary discussion about the first ever (but absolutely not last) Jackson Clean Week.
If you want to have a clean week of your own, I recommend the following:
- Pick ONE overarching goal for your week. (deep cleaning, organizing the toys, finding homes for things)
- Discuss the WHY and let the kids give a lot of input. As leaders, we are the visionaries and we need to help everyone catch that vision. Knowing why we are doing something helps with this. Write it down, hang it up, and refer to it often.
- Plan a fun celebration at the end of the week. We kept it really simple with a silly dinner that we called a family party.
- Simplify the rest of the week. Easy dinners (and play it up that it is for clean week and it will be exciting), drop some typical routines or weekly jobs (at least with young children who need help every step of the way), and put regular adventures or outings on hold
- Add some fun. We played music, planned a trip to IKEA and spun it as a grand adventure (it was), and celebrated our baby steps each day.
- Make time to connect with the kids each day. I said no to a lot of things during clean week, but we read a lot of books together. It was low energy for me and also something that filled the kids up with mom time and ideas to help carry them through the next run of organizing.
What our week looked like:
I taped two sheets of paper together while we discussed our goals (finding homes for things), the whys (faster clean-up, more time to do the things we love, make our move easier, so we are happy, and it’s fun!), and the party we would have when we were done. We read the chapter in Farmer Boy about the time they spend cleaning and scrubbing their house all day every day for their clean week of sorts. We talked about how this week cleaning was going to be our big project and we were going to set aside other things that we usually do.
The kids were super excited and spent some time coloring in the sign that hung in our house for weeks. We referred to our goals and the whys at meal times and kept us all motivated and moving together in the same direction.
We made fantastic progress. The kids helped me group things together and move all of our toys to a new organizational system and sort out project supplies, electronics, woodworking things, etc. into existing containers or grouped together for a soon-to-be container.
We tried to make this week fun by buying pizza instead of making it (time saver, and it also just added a fun touch to clean week) and simplifying dinners in general.
After five days of combing through our house and grouping things together we made a trip to IKEA to buy lots and lots of containers, mostly the clear cheap plastic kind. We went on Tuesday so we could have lunch their and the kids eat free. It turned out we went on the very last day that IKEA was going to do that, and I was grateful I didn’t put it off another week because it was a big selling point to clean week. The one detail of IKEA that I hadn’t prepared for was how many flowers were in that store and that Emily would want to look at and ask to plant every single one. I loved seeing how much she loved the plants, but it did complicate the trip a bit.
It was also amazing to be able to say for a whole week in response to project requests, “Not right now, it is clean week! You can help me with this or figure it out yourself.” We were all clearly on the same page.
We made huge bounds of progress toward our goals of having homes for things and a more organized house in general. I also finally got all the things that kids shouldn’t have access to (except permanent markers, I did bend on that point) out of their reach hidden in my bedroom or the very top of the hall closet. The weeks following have been much better in the unexpected mess department.
To celebrate our clean week progress we had a Messy Dinner a few weeks later. We made a big pot of pasta and handed out numbers. Andrew had taped corresponding numbers on utensils (spatulas, big wooden spoon, tongs, etc.) and we each grabbed what we would eat with that night based on our number. The kids had fun and appreciated Messy dinner followed Clean week, although it didn’t take too long before they wanted forks to be able to really eat their food.
I think we will probably have clean week at least twice a year if not more often. It was great for my sanity and a good way for us all to come together and tackle some big projects.
It may take a little longer doing cleaning projects as a family and with young children, but I foresee it becoming an amazing force for good in the future and well worth the effort of establishing this as part of our family culture.