Chores can be a source of stress in what should be the most relaxing place in the world to you: your home. It can be tough to stay on top of housework when dust cakes every surface, food residue in the dining room and kitchen gains the attention of wandering pests, and the sink seems to be constantly summoning dirty dishes out of thin air.
In households where one person does most of the housework, this can cause resentment and even health complications. If this is your reality, it may be time to put your foot down and stop treating housework like a second, unpaid job. Whether you live alone and notice yourself getting behind on chores or need to encourage helping hands to complete theirs, these tips can make cleaning more fun.
Make a schedule
First, it’s important to draw up a detailed plan. Take stock of what needs to be done—not just today but on a regular basis. Based on your own cleaning standard for your home, which may range from basic neatness to surgical operating room, consider how often these tasks need to be completed. What’s a daily effort versus a weekly or even occasional chore?
If you live with others, don’t hesitate to delegate appropriate tasks to them—it’s their home, too, after all! It’s time for them to pull their weight. To help your cause, make sure you’re being specific when assigning tasks. “Get up and clean” is a nebulous order that doesn’t inspire much action, but giving someone a detailed directive like “Dust your room” can make it easier and more manageable. When others can see exactly what’s assigned to them on the schedule, they may be more motivated to follow through on their responsibilities. This applies to you, too, whether you live by yourself or with others. A detailed schedule is the perfect tool to help you keep tabs on your most vital chores, no matter how busy you get.
Implement a reward system
There’s nothing like a good bribe to get someone off the sofa (even if that person is you). Try using a reward system to get unwilling cohorts to complete their assigned chores; proven motivators include a trip to a favorite bakery or store. To appeal to adults, consider extending rewards that depend on having a clean home, such as “We can host some friends this Saturday night if you help me get the house ready that morning,” or “We can watch the game together on Sunday if we both finish our chores first.”
Alternatively, you can offer multiple small rewards for completing individual tasks. Your helpers may even propose a barter system: your partner may trade them mopping the floor for you taking your trash out of their car. And always remember that expressing your gratitude is a reward in and of itself (but pizza is another).
Make it a ritual
Now it’s time to get your helpful crew into the habit of being, well, helpful. Humans are creatures of habit and will participate in activities they don’t like out of sheer ritual. In other words, while reward systems help to ingrain healthy habits, nothing reinforces household help like making chores part of daily, weekly, and monthly routines.
Also, be sure to download the helpful cleaning checklist printout below. Hang it in plain view in your laundry room or kitchen so you can refer to it often. Before long, it’ll become second nature to both you and your helpers, regardless of whether any of you is personally uninterested in chores. You may even witness a magical phenomenon in which your partner starts the dishwasher without you asking! Once they grow used to doing a task, there’s less need for you to request (or demand) its completion.
Household chores are only fun for a select few, so consider using tools to make extended chore sessions more interesting. Encourage everyone to grab their earbuds and listen to their favorite guilty pleasures while they scrub and shine. Or turn up the stereo and dance along so hard, you take your mind off what you’re doing. Before you know it, the tasks on your list will tick down to zero.
If you live alone and need some help getting motivated, you can also reserve your favorite tunes for cleaning sessions. Are you itching to listen to that new album you just bought? Promise yourself that you won’t play it until you do some dusting. This turns music into another kind of reward system.
Practice good communication
Healthy relationships depend on good communication, so calmly lay out to your family or roommates why chores are so important and how they can benefit everyone’s health and social well-being. Your loved ones may come to understand what’s so appealing about a fresh, clean, and sanitary house—making everyone happier once the chores are complete.