Childhood Family

Cleaning with kids

My kids and I have a different philosophy on cleaning the house. My philosophy is that it should be done. Their philosophy is, “Huh? It is clean!”

OK, I know I am making my kids sound like little Veruca Salt monsters. Truth is, they are actually OK on occasion at chipping in and doing their part. It’s just that they see the world differently. I suppose when I was that age, the world I saw as “clean” may very well been a world my parents saw as “teetering on the verge of an anarchistic wasteland.”

My wife and I have tried over the years to implement various chore schedules, and they have usually lasted about four days until they just degrade into the realities of what it’s like trying to keep a house clean with a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old.

If you are one of those houses that is impeccably clean at all times, and your kids are contributing members of said cleaning efforts, good on you. But I have a sneaking suspicion that we are more the norm of most houses.

To give you an idea of some of our differing philosophies, let’s look at a few facets of housekeeping and how we differ on our views:


ME: Once they have run through a cycle in the dishwasher and been put back in the cabinets, the dishes are done.

THEM: I was going to put it in the sink at some point. Maybe.


ME: Folded and put up in dressers.

THEM: We prefer to live life as hobos with clean and dirty clothes mixed in a harmonious pile of chaos that will be a huge help getting ready for school in the morning. Also, matching pairs of socks should never, ever come within four rooms of each other.


ME: Return them every evening to that magical room known as a closet, and you can find them in the morning, right where you left them.

THEM: Let’s leave one shoe in the car and the other in the kitchen cabinet.


ME: Thoroughly gather all debris of the floor and then sweep into a dustpan. Empty dustpan into the trash.

THEM: What is this sweeping you speak of?

Emptying trash:

ME: Trash is full. Time to take it out.

THEM: Trash is full? Nah, we can put more in it.

Cleaning off the back deck with a leaf blower:

ME: A necessary evil.

THEM: OK, this is fun.

Returning pillows to the couch:

ME: Ah, order has returned.

THEM: But the dogs are napping.

Replacing toilet paper roll:

ME: Well, that would be the decent thing to do.

THEM: Pretty sure we have elves who do that.

Taking personal effects upstairs:

ME: Take it to your room.

THEM: But I was going to use it down here. Besides, don’t our elves take it up for us?

Now, lest you have this idea that our house is some filthy hoarder house, it’s not. It’s a house and a home. A family of four lives here. And thus there is a backpack here, a sock there, an empty Gatorade bottle there. It’s just .. life. And if I really want to get the house to the level of clean that I think is necessary, I guess I just need to accept that they are kinda horrible at it. My wife and I will continue to suck it up and do a little extra on our part, and know that at the end of the day, it’s actually not that much work. Especially when the elves chip in.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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