5 house rules I set for my kids that ensure our home is (nearly) always clean and tidy

How I encourage the kids to get involved and help out with the household chores

White bathroom basin with a wood panel wall behind
(Image credit: Future)

With both my husband and I working full-time, keeping on top of all the house chores and cleaning can feel overwhelming on top of the admin that comes with running a busy family home. My twins have been expected to help out with some tasks since they were small and we started giving them pocket money. This included jobs like making their beds everyday and helping to unload the dishwasher. 

When they started secondary school last year (age 11), we implemented a more official chore list and system to keep on top of their chores and give them more responsibility around the house. I asked my daughter, who's just turned 13, whether she thinks it's fair to be asked to do chores. 'I think kids should help around the house, even when they're toddlers. Just putting toys away gets you used to getting involved,' she says. My son agreed. 'We should definitely help around the house, because we live here too, so it's only fair,' he says.

Interactive handmade kids chores chart

(Image credit: Future)

To track what's been done, the kids made these clever charts themselves. When a job is finished, you fold the tab over and tuck it into the slot above, and the back of the tab reads 'Done'. This is actually last year's checklist – as the twins recently turned 13 we've added another chore to their weekly list so we need to make new charts (happy birthday, kids!). They swap lists each week, so they take turns taking responsibility for the different areas.

5 house rules my kids follow every week

There are some ongoing tasks that we always expect them to do – making their beds, unloading the dishwasher, keeping their rooms tidy. We've also identified five key household chores that they each do every week. They have a deadline to aim to get them done by. 'I think it's good having a deadline because it makes me more motived to do them,' my daughter says.

1. Vacuum an area every week

The areas that need regularly vacuuming in our house are the living room, hallway, stairs and landing. I grouped those areas into two zones (living room and hallway; stairs and landing), and each of the kids is responsible for vacuuming one of them a week. I often need to do an extra mid-week whizz round with my best Shark vacuum, but knowing it's going to get a thorough going over definitely eases the burden of keeping on top of the vacuuming.

When they first started they did need a vacuuming training session (I discovered I was more OCD about how to vacuum than I had imagined). Now they understand how and when to use the different tools, and they know to vacuum the skirting boards at the same time.

'Vacuuming the stairs is my least favourite job,' says my daughter, 'because you have to switch tools a load of times and it's quite bitty.' 

2. Wash up at least once a week

Butler sink in a beige shaker style kitchen with brass accents and a black brick wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Loading and unloading the dishwasher isn't one of the kids' official chores because it's something we expect them to help with on a day-to-day basis. But the washing up was always left to my husband or I, so we've added one lot of washing up to the kids' weekly jobs list. Not only does it help us out, but it's a good skill for them to learn and will hopefully encourage good cleaning habits in the future. 

I do help them out and filter what's in the washing up pile (I don't make them do the dirtiest pans!). I also make sure to draw their attention if there are sharp knives so they don't accidentally cut themselves. 

3. Empty the bins weekly

Upcycled wooden crate used to store recycling

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

The day before bin day (Thursday in our house), the twins are both expected to  empty the bins from around the house, and help sort the recycling. They're tasked with making sure any paper or card has been put in with the recycling rather than just chucked in the general waste. 

They're each handed a bin bag and they decide between themselves who empties which bins around the house. This then gets added to the wheelie bin outside ready for collection.

4. Dust the living room once a week

Detail of a galvanised steel caddy used to store cleaning equipment with a feather duster propped against it

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

This task started out as dusting only the shutters in our living room (these microfibre dusting gloves from Amazon are a hit in our house for this job), but I soon realised doing the shutters on their own just meant the dust ended up on the window sills below. Now we've extended this task to cover the whole living room. 

Neither twin loves this job because it's probably one of the most time-consuming on the list. 'When I start I feel annoyed,' says my daughter. 'But I always feed good afterwards.'

5. Clean the basins weekly

White bathroom basin with a wood panel wall behind

(Image credit: Future PLC/William Goddard)

After getting absolutely sick of scrubbing toothpaste off the sink in the family bathroom, this is a task I delegated to the kids instead! And we've now extended it so they also clean the sink in the downstairs loo as well. How to clean a bathroom is definitely the household cleaning job I hate the most, so I'll take any help I can get.

Since I bought a SonicScrubber (one of my current favourite household gadgets), the kids love using it, and enjoy this task a lot more.

Here are some ideas for other household chores that are good for kids (either as part of their weekly chores, or for a one-off extra bonus payment!):

  • Mop the kitchen floor
  • Help unload the food shop
  • Put on a clothes wash
  • Sort clean laundry
  • Change bed linen
  • Clear leaves (a good one for autumn/winter)
  • Weed are area of the garden
  • Wash the car
  • Clean windows (follow our guide for how to clean windows)

You could also draw up your own cleaning calendar, and assign monthly tasks from it to family members to help share the workload out.

Heather Young

Heather Young has been Ideal Home’s Editor since late 2020, and Editor-In-Chief since 2023. She is an interiors journalist and editor who’s been working for some of the UK’s leading interiors magazines for over 20 years, both in-house and as a freelancer.