Why Cleaning Schedules Don’t Work: The Board Game

If you subscribe to Mother-centric Facebook advice pages, you probably find them informative, helpful, dramatic, and occasionally entertaining. I find the repetition of advice requests for “home cleaning schedules” to be very amusing, even more so than the perpetual crock-pot recipes. Ladies Please! No more salsa and chicken in the crock pots! But I digress.

The short answer to the question “Is it possible to have a clean home with a family inside of it?”, is NO, absolutely not. We’ve all seen our lack of sanity during Christmas when company is a-comin’. I don’t need a hidden camera to know on December 24th at 5:30 pm you were screaming at your messy children while sweating through your favorite sweater and holding a dust rag. I won’t even venture into the things we say to our husbands in the moments before guests arrive. We should just pray those phrases are stricken from our marital records.

But still, Mothers everywhere continue to ask for cleaning schedules, thinking there HAS to be a magic formula. Family + The Perfect Cleaning Schedule = A Spotless House & A Happy Momma. Pinterest it and you’ll get endless results, every chart swearing to be better than the last. I love the catchy titles: “Be Clean and Scents-able”, and “The 30 Day Cleaning Challenge”. What happens after 30 days? I ship this family back to the manufacturer? Check the “Faulty family” box? Please send a new family; this family puts empty cereal boxes back in the pantry. Also, I ordered Husband 3.0, and you sent Husband 2.0. He keeps farting on my clean linens, which was supposed to be an upgrade in 3.0. And I did NOT ask for the “Comes with live pet” feature. I know it was on sale for $19.95, but live pets poop. Why would I PAY FOR POOP? Even the most expensive family you sell comes with WAY MORE POOP than I’d ever want in my home.

Your “faulty family” isn’t to blame for the ineffectiveness of those cleaning schedules, nor does it have anything to do with your cleaning prowess. Cleaning schedules don’t work because they are constructed on the premise that family life is PREDICTABLE. I’ve decided I can prove my answer via the creation of a Board Game. I call it: The Game That Never Ends.

Rules: Start At Go. Roll dice and proceed through the cleaning schedule. At every stop, you must choose 2 cards from the “I never saw that coming” pile.

Roll 1: You land on “Clean bathroom mirrors, sinks, toilets, and floors.” Draw 2 cards.

Card 1: Kids are home on a snow day! They interrupt you 10x before you finish the sinks. Give up because it’s already an hour past lunchtime, and they are eating their feet, screaming, and have cornered the pets underneath laundry baskets. After lunch and dishes, you’ll need to re-sort the laundry.

Card 2: Congratulations! You finished your task at 10 pm! You revisit the kids’ bathroom to retrieve the mop bucket and discover they got into a toothpaste fight at bedtime. Start all tasks over.

Roll 2: You land on “Change bed sheets, clean and organize inside of fridge; do a 15 minute pick up.”

Card 1: If you are on a kitchen task, you realize you are out of groceries. Go to the store and move back 2 spaces, because you forgot it’s Superbowl Sunday, and the line is 45 minutes long. Go the store again. And again. NOPE. You still don’t have enough food to feed the beasts in your house. Wash all the dishes. Cook…again. Go back to the store and hand over all of your money. This game doesn’t include play money, so open your actual wallet and just set your money on fire, because groceries are insanely expensive. You can now spend your retirement savings on Go-Go Squeezes.

Card 2: Have wine with girlfriends. Skip your next turn, because you aren’t getting anything done with a hangover.

Roll 3: Clean walls and baseboards.

WHAT? WHO HAS TIME TO WASH THEIR WALLS? This game is dumb. Roll again.

Roll 4: Empty trash. 15 minute pick-up.

YES. Easy day!

Card 1: If you landed on a trash space, find an ecosystem growing in your child’s trash can. Spend 30 minutes disinfecting it.

Card 2: If you are on any space which includes a 15 minute pick up, you realize just how messy your house is. Clear the calendar for the rest of the week and forfeit 2 turns just PICKING STUFF UP. Everything which is downstairs belongs upstairs, and everything which is upstairs, belongs downstairs. You’ve bought a 2-story house as a mistake. Forfeit the game and admit your defeat.

Roll 5: Dust your living room and clean your floors.

Card 1: The kittens have fleas. Re-do everything you just did and head back to Start. Don’t draw another card. Ever. You are so unlucky.

Roll 6: Laundry.

Card 1: Get a call from the School Nurse: your child has a fever of 101. Go back 5 spaces because you’re not getting anything done for the rest of the week. Whatever he has, you’re about to catch. Cross off next week too, when the rest of the family catches it. Don’t feel too bad: there is no way any human on earth could do entire week’s worth of family laundry in one day anyway. Let’s assume the makers of cleaning charts don’t have children or pets. Or spouses. Or any sense of reality whatsoever.

Card 2: The fever was the stomach flu. Do the laundry 3 more times. Then disinfect the entire house while vomiting, and feeding the healthy people. Help with makeup homework when you’re not throwing up in a bucket while driving the recovered kid to swim practice. Screw it. Just set the house on fire and move to an island somewhere. You’re so far behind you may as well change your identity and get a fresh start.

Roll 7: Do extra baking. [I’m not joking, this was ON a cleaning schedule. Who has time for “regular” baking, let alone “extra” baking?!] This game is “extra” dumb. Roll again.

Roll 8: Straighten closets and weed the flower beds.

Card 1: So shocked at the unmitigated mess you find in the closets, you have a heart attack and die immediately. Game over. Upside: you don’t have to weed.

Card 2: You left for vacation with a dirty house. Die again. Your friends are judging your dirty house after your funeral. Die a third time from embarrassment. Admit this just isn’t your year. Grab a new pawn and start this game over.

Roll 9: De-clutter one room.

Card 1: The other rooms in your house are now impassable. Your family had to exist somewhere while you de-cluttered the ONE room. Start over.

Card 2: It’s CHRISTMAS! Yeah-rah CHRISTMAS! Lose 10 turns while shopping, wrapping, making magical memories, inventing creative games for the school holiday parties, doing the “extra baking”, and moving that stupid elf around. Lose 10 nights of sleep as well. When it’s over, your house resembles a demolition derby car. Go back to start.

Last Roll: Wash Rugs and Wipe Down Blinds.

Card 1: You forgot about your children’s science fair projects. Go to every craft store in town and spend an obscene amount of money on boards, plastic animals, glue, and Petri dishes. Forget wiping down the blinds. Who are you, Cinderella? Lose a turn because there is no point in cleaning during Science Fair Project week. Your house is not a home…it’s an amateur laboratory. Sequester the experiments to one room (the dining room is the space of choice for Mother’s everywhere), and pray no one catches anything on fire. Oh heck, the rugs are too dirty to be saved after the failed fungus experiment from last year, so here’s a match, Junior. Have at it.

Card 2: Re-read the name of this game: “The Game That Never Ends”. That’s right…it NEVER ends. Keep rolling and picking up cards until your children leave for college.

AND…I’ve made my point. I think the real answer is to live a real life, and pray we all make it to the finish line still attached to Husband 1.0. So just know this: should you die, I will break into your house and wipe down the blades on your ceiling fans before you extended family arrives and judges you. We’re close like that. When I have coffee in your “unscentsable” abode, I don’t judge; I’m just glad I’m not alone. Now put that mop down and pour me some wine! We’ve got laundry to avoid, my friends!

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