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Organize: Popsicle Stick Cleaning System

Popsicle Stick Cleaning Method

Family members are still straggling downstairs this morning, but as soon as everyone’s awake and functional we’re going to do our weekly Popsicle Stick Cleaning Session. My kids love this!

Just kidding. They don’t love it. But it works.

I keep a bunch of popsicle sticks with jobs written on them in a “To Do” jar. When it’s time for a cleaning session, I go through the popsicle sticks and select the jobs that need to be done, lay the sticks on the counter, and then summon the troops.

Depending on the number of tasks, we might set a timer for 15 minutes to make it a bit of a race. If it’s been a while since we’ve cleaned, we forget about the timer and power through until all the sticks have made it into the “Done” jar. Sometimes, if we’re all in fairly cheerful moods, we’ll put music on and make it a party. Other times, we work in gloomy silence until it’s all over.

I’ve tried other systems in the past. Marble jars worked great when the kids were younger, but they stopped making sense when Andrew wanted a laptop but Lily still wanted Barbies. It was too hard to equalize the value of the marbles, if you know what I mean.

I also tried a system where I assigned specific jobs every week. But that led to comments such as “But I’m doing dishes this week!” when I’d ask someone to take the garbage out. Oy. I want to raise people who walk into any situation and roll up their sleeves and say “What needs to happen?” and not “That’s, like, not my job.”

Enter Popsicle Sticks. The beauty is that you can customize the sticks for all ability levels but you’re working together. Younger kids might just put toys away while older kids clean toilets. Some jobs might need to be done only once or twice a year, while others need to be done every week. And of course you can also add new popsicle sticks at any time.

One last thing: No one is done until everyone is done. So if I’m still cleaning a bathroom, then everyone else is wiping off baseboards or light plates until I’ve finished.

Every household’s needs will be different, but here’s what’s on our popsicle sticks. (Reminder: we don’t do all of these every week! This is just a list of possible jobs).

List of Jobs
Feather dust something
Polish coffee/sofa tables
Vacuum away room rug
Vacuum hall rugs
Vacuum living room rug
Swiffer upstairs
Swiffer downstairs
Re-fill soap containers
Organize your desk
Pick up playroom
Wipe off light plates
Wash kitchen floor
Clean sink in kids’ bathroom
Clean sink in powder room
Clean sink in master bathroom
Fold and put away clothes
Put clothes away
Sweep mudroom floor
Clean toilets
Straighten art area
Throw away 10 markers that don’t work
Wipe down washer and dryer
Clean the outside of four kitchen cabinets
Clean the outside of four kitchen drawers
Clean out microwave
Organize DVDs
Clean mirrors
Clean door to screen porch
Clean out silverware holder
Wash light fixtures in kitchen
Wash light fixtures in bathroom
Wipe down baseboards
De-clutter a drawer
Tidy up utility room
Sweep basement stairs
Clean bugs out of light fixture
Vacuum kitchen (garbage, toast & pantry)
Clean a shelf in the refrigerator
Clean dog hair off bottoms of chairs
Pull 10 weeds
Pick up 10 things in the yard
Clean out car
Clean bugs off windowsill
27-Fling Boogie: Garage (see FlyLady)
27-Fling Boogie: Charity


  1. Darby says:

    We have used this system in the past! I also recommend this to families that I see for special education services. It is so easy and very effective! Keeping the jobs short is key, but the surprise element keeps is ‘fun’!

    1. Shannon says:

      Thanks for the validation, Darby! Sometimes I think our family motto is “If it isn’t fun, it won’t get done.”

  2. Soleil says:

    Wow! This is cool. I have tons of popsicle sticks left over from craft activities that never happened. I am totally going to try this. We have been really struggling with chores around the house. I get a lot of “that’s not my job- that’s their job” and a lot of ignoring of the mess. How someone can step over something instead of picking it up is beyond me. I really think this might work and I think trying the timer with it and music will hopefully take the sting out or at least lessen it. Thanks! P.S. When I first saw your post ( I thought date night jar but that’s a whole different thing:) ).

    1. Shannon says:

      Soleil, it’s so good to “see” you! Thanks for your comment, and please do let me know if you try the popsicle sticks. They’re not a magical solution (there’s still jockeying for the easiest jobs), but they make things simple. Which we desperately need.

      I had to google “date night jar”! What a cute idea. Do you have one?

      1. Soleil says:

        I haven’t tried the popsicle sticks yet. Still working out what I want to put on them. But will let you know.
        I thought the date night jar was a super cute idea. But my husband and I can’t seem to find time to go out. So I modified it and made a list of stay at home dates that can be done after the kids head up to their rooms for bed. And although we don’t manage to pick one each weekend we have managed once a month. My favorite so far was one we did in the Fall where we took some candles out to our back deck and star gazed together and talked. It felt like we got away even though we were just outside.

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