Any success with kids taking over house cleaning

We currently have cleaners coming in every two weeks for a general house cleaning, and we are paying about $160-200 depending on the visit.  We have a 3 bedroom house and it is kept relatively clean thanks to regular roomba use and general upkeep cleaning done by kids as part of their daily chores.  My two older kids are in middle school and are trying to find more jobs they can do (either at or outside of home) to earn more spending money.  They recently found out how much we are paying the cleaners and asked to take over that job.  The deal is they would take over in depth bi weekly cleaners for $150 split between the two of them and will do everything cleaners used to do.  Normally I would feel bad about letting cleaners go, but we are moving soon anyway and it will be a good excuse to stop cleaning service and have the kids take it over in the new house.  Though I'm worried that I'm setting them up to fail or that it won't work.  Anyone has middle school aged kids do full cleaning (not just regular maintenance as chores) in lieu of cleaners for pay and this type of arrangement works well?

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

My teenaged son (now in his 20s) asked to do this at one point. I declined because I knew he would NEVER do as good a job as the professionals and I would constantly be negotiating with him about when it would get done and how well.  Maybe with two kids who can share the work (it's a lot) and who do some cleaning chores already (mine did not) you will have a better experience.  I would get them to agree to a no-excuses set time for the job, and make sure they FULLY understand the scope of the work (a checklist could be useful).  Also, what's your back up plan if they fail? Re-hiring your cleaners could be awkward.  For that reason, you may want to start this experiment just a few weeks before the move.  

Yes, I have this experience. During Covid my kids - a teen and a 20-something - plus me and my husband took over our once-a-week housekeeper's job for a few months. I knew my housekeepers are good but I never truly appreciated the level of cleanliness a professional cleaner can maintain week after week in just a short amount of time. I live in a big house. The cleaners - a team of 3 - are usually here for 2-3 hours. During Covid when we did it ourselves, it would take the four of us all day Saturday to clean all the bathrooms, empty all the waste baskets, clean and mop the kitchen including the cooktop, and dust and vacuum the whole house (we have 4 pets, so lots of pet detritus).

At first it seemed like our labors were sufficient. Not perfect, but good enough. The kitchen floor looked clean and the toilets were not gross. But after just a few weeks I started noticing grime that was accumulating that I had never seen before. Mildewing grout in the shower, nastiness behind the toilet, a layer of dust on the window sills and furniture, huge kitty fur drifts under the beds. Worse, after devoting all day Saturday to this for a few weeks, we all began to lose interest. We'd put it off, first to Sunday, then to Monday, gradually reducing the scope of our cleaning, until only a few obvious things were getting cleaned every week, like the toilets. I was never so happy to see my housekeepers again.

Moral of the story: People who clean for a living can get the job done with 300% better quality than you (or your kids) in 10% of the time. They know all the efficiencies so they are fast.  And they are not only cleaning everything today but also providing you with long-term maintenance of your floors, carpets, furniture, appliances, bathroom tile, and more. 

I recommend instead that you make a list of one-time "extras" your kids can do to make money, and if you can afford it, leave weekly cleaning to the pros!  My kids have cleared ivy from the yard, cleaned out gutters, scraped mortar off bricks, taken down a wood fence, sewed curtains for the living room for money and it gets even better once they can drive!

While it is certainly possible to have your children do the cleaning, they are unlikely to be able to do the detailed work a professional cleaner does. During the first six months of the pandemic we took over for our cleaner (paying her for the time), and I thought we were doing an ok job, but then as the time went on I realized there were things we were missing -- spots that she cleaned that weren't obvious to us, but over several months it made a significant difference. Also in terms of family relations, you might be better off if your children worked for other people -- babysitting, or doing yard work. I guess one question I have is what are your priorities for them? What do you want them to learn from working; how do you want them to balance their different responsibilities and schoolwork. We expected basic, daily help, and encouraged occasional babysitting, but really wanted the focus to be on schoolwork, and individual projects. This worked in terms of school/college/hobbies that turned into work. The cleaning is so-so in their own space, but they've become a good cook.

I wouldn't- kids at this age are not going to clean to the level of professionals.  And side comment- that's a lot of cash ($150 / month each) for middle schoolers.  Why would they need that much disposable income?  Are there other more manageable chores they can do regularly for extra spending money?

You could let them have a trial run at it before letting your cleaners go.  Make a detailed list of everything the cleaners do - I cannot imagine either of my older teenage sons cleaning multiple toilets much less to my standards.  Lot's of potential conflict here when you become the "boss" of your middle schoolers - that will get old fast.  Have them do one fill in cleaning during one of your housekeepers off weeks with your complete list in hand and you inspecting when done and them "redoing" what was inevitably missed.  See how that goes. ;)

We employed professional housecleaners when our kid was young. Then around age 12, we decided that part of being in a family is contributing to the cleanliness of the household and we expected our kid to therefore clean for free (along with mom and dad).  We explained that we don't need to pay cleaners for it anymore because we could do it ourselves and that the money saved from it could be used for other things like food, activities, camps, etc.  From then on, our kid cleaned her room, bathroom, vaccumed when asked, mop floors when asked, help with cleaning up the kitchen after dinner etc.  We do not pay our own kid to help her parents clean the house that we all live in.  During high school, our kid got a part time job outside of the home for around 10 hours per week, but was still expected to spend an hour or two per week on household cleaning chores (along with mom and dad).  Now that our kid is in college (and also working part time), our kid still helps us clean when she comes home to visit.  I don't understand why a parent would pay their old teenage kid to contribute to the cleanliness of the household, unless it was some one-off task.

I think it's reasonable to try to see how they do, with some guidance around exactly what needs to be done and some help the first 2-3 times so they know how to do it. And a condition of them doing it for pay is that they need to be reliable about doing it on schedule - otherwise they're "fired" and it goes back to the professionals. That said, I don't think you should expect them to do it as well as professional house cleaners, and I think correspondingly they shouldn't get paid as well either. I cleaned the house with one high schooler and one middle schooler during the pandemic. We did reasonably ok, but the middle schooler definitely the least so. If they're able to pull it off I think starting with $50 per kid per session is already pretty generous. If they're super motivated kids and eventually are doing nearly as well as your house cleaners, then you could bump up their pay accordingly.

I offered my kids the job when they were in middle school, but emphasized that they had to commit to doing the job fully and regularly, without having to be reminded.  And they thought about it but declined.  (My son preferred to take on bigger but less regular jobs, and as a teen he negotiated with me several times to be paid for one-off projects like clearing out the garage.)  Until March 2020, when due to Covid we no longer wanted someone outside the household coming in to clean.  (We did pay our previous regular housecleaner not to come a few times but then lost contact with her.)  By that time my younger kid was a high schooler and she agreed to take over.  She needed a bit of training but did fine.  And she was able to save money for college during a time when we didn't want her taking the risk of a retail job.

Anyway, as far as how your own kids would handle it, you can judge best.  If they're pretty diligent about their regular chores and schoolwork, don't need to be nagged and generally do a thorough job, they'll be fine.  But you will have to train them, and if you're accustomed to a really excellent housecleaner (sadly, we never have had one of those) then the kids may not perform up to your standards, and it may turn out to be harder work than they expected.  So you do need to be prepared for the scenario where either you fire them or they quit!  Perhaps you could test it out by keeping your current cleaner but reducing their schedule to monthly, and have the kids do every other cleaning?

We have been happier since releasing our housekeepers and regularly cleaning the house ourselves, as a family. After ten years of reminding the housekeepers what to do because they'd always overlook basic tasks, and feeling frustrated after literally ever single visit, we decided that since we all live here and don't actually mind cleaning, we'll do it ourselves for a few months, and then re-evaluate. It's been 8 months now. To pay our son to participate in a family task seems wrong - he's not hired help, and is very well cared-for. His 'compensation' could be all the expensive tennis lessons he gets. He is 11 and focuses on his room, which he keeps incredibly clean, but also volunteers for extra tasks, such as washing windows and blowing the outside areas. Hubby does the bathrooms, and I clean the surfaces and vacuum. When we have time and energy we do a deeper cleaning as needed. We also keep our house cleaner as we go along, since I don't feel like it should get dirty enough to justify housekeepers every week or other week. Our house is cleaner than ever, we are happier without the bi-weekly intrusion and frustration, and when we get tired of doing it ourselves, we will find a new, better housekeeper, like one of the ones your other posters seem to have. It's also humbling to not have the separation between cleaning and our regular lives - it's about being a responsible, caring person all around. That said, with work from home (still!), we have the time and energy to do this, and don't need to have a constantly sparkling house.