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Before you had kids, you cleaned your home and it stayed that way. Now, there are more messes than ever. Just as you’ve gotten one mess cleaned up, it seems that the children are following behind you making another.

Let’s face it: it’s almost impossible to keep a perfectly pristine home with children in it. What are the most important tasks for health, hygiene, and sanity? How can you get your kids involved so that you’re working with them instead of against them?

Make it a party. Kids model what you do, so don’t give them a job and leave the room.

“Write all the chores down on slips of paper and put them in a jar. Play dancing music,” says Erika Salloux, a personal organizer in Cambridge, Mass. “Everyone picks a slip on a Saturday morning and does their chore before you all go to the beach or the movies or on some family outing.” (If your kids are too young to read, draw pictures of the chore instead.)

Children and Chores in the Kitchen and Bath

When you have kids, you have to set cleaning priorities. Two of the most important spaces when it comes to health and hygiene are the kitchen and the bathroom. The kitchen harbors more germs than any other room in the house, but the bathroom isn’t far behind. If you want to focus on family health, keeping these two rooms sanitary is at the top of the list.

In the kitchen, many of us worry about crumbs on the floor. Although you don’t want a crust of goo attracting rodents and other pests, a few cookie crumbs never hurt anyone. Instead, pay closer attention to the food prep surfaces and the sink.

Don’t scrimp on sponges. Sponges and dishtowels are havens for germs. So don’t wipe more bugs onto your dishes and counters than you’re wiping off. Toss out dirty sponges regularly, and sanitize the ones you’re using by soaking them and microwaving for 2 minutes. Wash dishtowels in hot water and dry on high heat.

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