Kids Clean Up – Teach Them Simple Lessons on Housekeeping

One of the most basic life skills is housekeeping. In order to stay healthy, our homes need to be clean and orderly. To prepare them for the future, it may be time to help your kids clean up – the house, that is!

Not too long ago, my son James was telling me a story about an episode in his life.  He was trying to get across the importance of thoroughly cleaning a house to someone.  His words were, “Trust me.  I will know if it isn’t done right.  I have a white glove that I will use as a test.  And if that glove ends up dirty, you will be faced with doing it all over again.”

a hand wearing a white glove checking for dust

I cringed.  There is just something about having your own words come out of the mouth of your child.  These are almost the exact same words I used to say to him when he was assigned the chore of cleaning the living room.  I didn’t really have white gloves, but I did have a white cotton dishtowel that served the same purpose. 

My goal was to teach him not only how to clean, but how to pay attention to detail.  To dust the entire table, which included removing anything on it – not just dusting around everything.  It meant vacuuming the edges of the room, not just the rug in the middle.

There is not a room in any house that my two kids cannot clean.  Once they are through, you could do emergency surgery in any room, including the bathroom.  To this day, when they help clean up after dinner, my kitchen sparkles.  James has even been known to clean the stove.  It may not be their favorite thing to do, but at least they know how.

Kids Clean Up – Or Do They?

a sink full of dirty dishes

It causes me to shudder when I walk into a young person’s apartment and see that their housekeeping skills are non-existent.  I am not talking about disorganization.  I am not talking about stacks of things on the counter due to lack of storage. 

I am talking about dirt and grime on walls, floor and cabinetry.  I am talking about a ring around the bathtub thick enough to hold together a rickety cage of wild monkeys – without threat of breaking.  Have they not been taught about the wonders of bleach and a sponge?

Unfortunately, ‘kids clean up’ wasn’t in many young kids’ vocabulary. Many weren’t given chores in their younger days, so they have no idea how to simply wipe down a kitchen counter, much less refrain from mixing a red shirt with their white undies. 

When kids clean up, they learn that basic cleaning is a matter of hygiene and makes for a happier home. 

Kids Clean Up With a Few Basic Skills

Housekeeping isn’t Rocket Science, but it does require a few basic skills. Some basic classes they take in school can be applied as well:


I love my bleach.  We use it so much around the farm that I have often been tempted to buy stock in a bleach manufacturer.  I also like using ammonia, especially for cleaning my windows.  But I never, ever, EVER, use both products simultaneously – or even within an hour of each other. 

And I make sure every window in the room is open, and that the room is aired out completely if it is necessary to use the two chemicals in the same room. Bleach and ammonia mixed together create a toxic gas called chloramine that can be fatal once breathed. 

Notice I said ‘once’, not ‘if’.  You have no choice but to breathe, no matter what you are doing.  When kids clean up, they need to understand that some cleaning supplies don’t mix. Ever.

Even with a mask in place, there is too great a chance you will still inhale these gases.  The same thing happens when you mix bleach with acids – and you would be surprised just where acids can be found – window cleaners, vinegar, urine and some toilet bowl cleaners, just to name a few. 

There are many ways to use cleaning products in a manner that can be harmful.  So, you need to understand the basic chemical make-up of anything you use to clean.  This goes for ‘homemade’ cleaning products as well.

Mr. Clean, Comet, spray bottle and other supplies to help kids clean up


I may not love math, but I do enjoy using as many home-made cleaning products as I can.  But I also have to keep in mind the monetary end of it, in order to stay on budget.  Some homemade products aren’t as effective, or you have to use three times the amount to get it clean.  So, I do some ‘ciphering’, using cost, ounces and estimated number of uses to determine which is more cost efficient.

a red vacuum cleaner with a child's feet in the background

Physical Fitness

There is a reason that Cardiologists will tell a patient not to vacuum or sweep after a heart procedure.  The physical effort that those chores require are substantial.  When kids clean up by learning to vacuum, they will expel quite a bit of built up energy.

In properly cleaning a house, you will find that you do bending and lifting, arm strengthening, and over all muscle workouts.  It is an aerobic exercise that is strenuous.  Even if my a/c is on full blast, after a thorough cleaning, I find I have sweated almost as much as if I had spent the day outside, in the middle of August, fixing fence.

a gray couch with cream pillows; a beach scene picture on the wall


Nothing feels better than to step back and see the accomplishment of a clean house.  It smells better. It looks better.  There is a sense of pride in having done a job well.  A clean house just lightens your mood and is one of the greatest stress relievers I have ever found.

When kids clean up, they can discover this same sense of pride. And once they have finished, be sure to praise them for a job well done.

a laundry basket filled with pink, blue, purple, and yellow folded towels

Time to Have Your Kids Clean Up – The House, That Is…

You may be waving a red flag in front of a bull, but it is time to grab ahold of those horns and teach your children how to properly clean a house.  Start small, with their bedroom.  And as my Mama used to tell me, have them clean it from floor to ceiling. 

Have them strip the bed and wash the sheets.  Hand them a bucket of warm water filled with Mr. Clean and a sponge and have them wash the woodwork and baseboards.  Add to that window cleaner, dust spray and cloth and a vacuum cleaner.  By the end of the day, their room will smell better and be a healthier place for them to hang out. 

And who knows?  They’ll probably be so tired after all that exertion they won’t have the energy for any back talk and arguments for the rest of the day.  Wouldn’t that be nice for a change?

For more great posts on Teaching Your Children:

How to Teach Your Children Strong Life Lessons

Kids on a Budget

How to Sew a Button

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.


  1. Great article and even better picture :). It’s been a recent phenomenon that my cleaning skills have gotten better. It must have been my upbringing.
    One word of note, urine is not always acidic. High protein diets will certainly yield acidic urine but vegetarian diets will cause urine to be more basic. The more fruits and veggies you eat, the more basic urine becomes. Love you!!

    1. Author

      I just happen to be very partial to that kid in the photo myself! When is she gonna get to come play???? I am proud that you are finally learning a few cleaning skills – I remember the condition of your room growing up! And yes, I know – some urine is not acidic, but for the sake of safety and using a ‘blend’ of cleaning products, I decided to err on the side of caution. However – if you want to come test your new cleaning skills here at the Plantation, I will be more than happy to take my white gloves out of retirement! I LOVE and MISS you too! Come play real soon!!!!!! 🙂

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