When we let go of our full-time housekeeper at the beginning of the year, we had no real plan in place about how to manage the chores
When we let go of our full-time housekeeper at the beginning of the year, we had no real plan in place about how to manage the chores. So for about a month after that, we experienced a level of chaos that made it necessary to call a family meeting and chart a way forward.
As we suggested various ways to keep the house clean and tidy, one idea that was agreed to by all was that each person should wash their own dishes after use. This would go a long way in reducing the pile of dirty dishes that soon became intimidating to the point where they would have to be tackled by two people just to make the task manageable.
We started off well but then within about three weeks, we had slipped back into our old ways of piling dishes. So we regrouped again and all agreed to stick to the new plan – everyone wash the dishes they use. It worked, again for just a few weeks before we found ourselves sliding back into the old pattern. Now there are few things I hate more than seeing dirty dishes strewn all over the kitchen counter and not being able to find even one clean teaspoon to stir my tea with! So, because I was just as guilty as everyone else for not sticking to the plan, I decided it was time to lead by example. One day I got up and washed the dishes I knew had used from the previous night plus what I had used for breakfast. After lunch, I did the same and again after supper.
Then I started pushing the young ones, reminding them that they were supposed to handle their own dishes as soon as possible after using them to avoid a pile-up. I kept at it – doing my own dishes and announcing at every opportunity, including on the WhatsApp family group chat (some call this nagging) that we were supposed to be keeping the kitchen clean. Even after we got a part-time housekeeper, I insisted that we maintain the new routine regardless of whether she was coming or not.
Art of recycling utensils
It took a while but slowly, as I maintained my position and led by example, the young ones started to follow. In fact, they even went a step further and learnt the art of recycling their dishes – a plate that was used for bread in the morning could be kept aside and reused at lunchtime; two people could use the same spoon to stir their tea; a tumbler for drinking water could be kept close by for use a second and even third time instead of carelessly getting a clean one from the cupboard... this was revolutionary!
It reminded me of a time years ago when I had to take drastic measures to get them to remember to turn off the lights in their rooms when they were not in use. I had sung the song countless times to no avail – lights were still left on wherever they went. Finally, fed up, I announced that for every light left on, they would have to part with Sh10 from their pocket money. At first they thought it was an empty threat until I started to demand the money and the coins started to pile on the table where I kept them (as a visual reminder). This had a domino effect – they started to feel the pinch of parting with their own money, which in turn triggered their brains and they started to remember to turn off the lights that were not in use. Yes, sometimes a little shock therapy works!
For now we are in a happy place as far as keeping the kitchen clean is concerned. What I need next is a plan to get them to work consistently on their rooms, which most of the time look like war zones. Any ideas?