The Clean Up Game!

I think that most people have gotten into an argument about cleaning with someone in their lives at some point. Whether it be with your husband, your kids, your room mate, your parents….  I think most of us can relate to the arguments that are had over cleaning. When I was young, my parents struggled with encouraging us to clean up. We would leave messes all over the house and my mom would get extremely frustrated with cleaning up after us all the time. So they came up with a game I like to call the clean up game and our house had never been cleaner!

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I’ve been playing this game with my husband since about a few months after we got married. I would swear by this game. It makes cleaning up so much more rewarding and encourages everyone in the household to participate.

Here’s how you play the game.

Everyone in the household (that’s going to participate) gets a container or jar. I made these topiary jars out of candlesticks and wood plaques that I purchased from Hobby Lobby. You could also use glasses, cups or masonry jars.  I used all kinds of different containers until I finally made these. You’ll also need a larger extra jar or container to hold all the tokens until they get used.

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You’ll also need some type of small item to use as “tokens”. For years I used poker chips for our tokens, but I wanted to make the game prettier, so I switched over to these glass pebbles I also picked up from Hobby Lobby. You want to get one color for each member of your household and an extra color for neutral. (You don’t have to do this, but it adds a little extra excitement to the game. In our game, the white/clear pebbles are our neutral color, mine are the blue pebbles and my husband is the green pebbles.)

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Once you’ve got your set up, I recommend putting it somewhere easily accessible and out in the open. Ours is on our kitchen counter, right between the sink and our backdoor. This way it’s easy to get to as you work in areas of the house that are always needing to be picked up, like the kitchen, dining area and living room. And it’s a constant reminder of where everyone in the game sits.

Playing the game is extremely simple. Each time someone cleans up something (i.e. puts something away, wipes down the counters, does the dishes) they get tokens. The person with the most tokens at the end of the week wins the game. (We do ours on a weekly basis, but you could do longer).  In our house, certain more difficult tasks get extra tokens like cleaning the dishes or wiping down the counters – but you don’t have to do that if you feel like it makes it more complicated. We just have a small list of about 5 things that we feel like are difficult and deserve extra tokens. You could even encourage kids to do extra tasks by giving them extra tokens.

The other part of the game is the colors. Whenever you complete a chore or task that is for the house (I.e. they don’t belong to one specific person – like doing dishes, wiping counters or doing laundry) you get a neutral token (in our case a clear token). Whenever you clean up a mess left by someone else – you get to take their color of token. We start the week with all the tokens in the tallest jar. Then throughout the week we collect our tokens. The biggest benefit to having the separate colors is you can see who is leaving the biggest messes, encouraging them to also clean up after themselves so that others can’t get their tokens. (Especially because the easiest tokens to get are cleaning up someone else’s mess because you’re just putting it away!) 🙂

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At the end of the week, whoever has the most tokens overall wins! They get some sort of prize. Our prizes change over the years depending on what we both want the most. We recently switched from giving back massages to choosing the restaurant we go to dinner at to more recently, monetary prizes that can be saved up to get things that we want… like a new camera! You have to decide what the best motivator will be for your family, but the great part about it is… whoever does the most amount of work throughout the week doesn’t feel cheated or angry… they are excited and feel appreciated. It’s like giving a great big thank you all the time for those who are working hard for the family.

Me and my husband have not had one argument over cleaning up since we started this game. (By the way, the massage prize works extremely well for couples who don’t have kids because it’s also a little bit of a punishment for the loosing player ;))

Enjoy playing!

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