Managing Expectations with Room Cleaning Checklists

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Managing expectations with room cleaning checklists

A household is like a business.

This will not be the last time you hear me say this. While there is an endless amount of room in a home for love and hugs, creativity and individuality, without some guidelines and structure, your household, like a business, will falter.

The parent is the CEO (and CFO, and COO) of the household. As a parent, you are the leader and the manager of your “home business” (like that play on words there?). It is your job to set goals and make sure they get accomplished. The efficient running of your household is your responsibility. This can often be a thankless job. However it doesn’t have to be an impossible one.

Here at Exploring Expression we focus heavily on communication. So many conflicts arise due to misunderstandings and breakdowns in communication. On the other side of that coin, effective communication can a household on the verge of chaos and turn it into a well-oiled machine. A key component to communicating effectively both in business and at home is Managing Expectations. By understanding and controlling what the expectations are you can begin to create standards and accountability both from you and from others.

Managing expectations with room cleaning checklists

Managing Expectations with Room Cleaning Checklists

As the parent of a child with Asperger’s I learned early that the phrase “You know what I mean” could no longer be a part of my vocabulary. Children on the Autism spectrum often DON’T know what you mean when you ask them to do something. You have to be specific.  For example if I want my son to help clean, he is far more successful if he has room-cleaning checklists to follow.

However, making specific requests isn’t useful for just special needs children. You will hear me say over and over in my blog that the tips that I give for working with special needs children also work wonderfully with neuro-typical children. They work for teenagers who have many other things on their minds as well as preschoolers who are just learning your expectations. I use the same system for all of my children and the results have been wonderful.  Room cleaning checklists are a wonderful way to manage the expectations of your household when it comes to chores and cleaning.  In this article I will teach you how to create and use your own cleaning checklists.

In this article I am going to do 2 things.

First, I will show you one of the room cleaning checklists that we use in our house. We keep all of our checklists in our Household Expectations binder. Then I am going to walk you through the process of creating your own checklists for each chore.

Note: The Household Expectations binder is the cornerstone of my Mombuck system. This is a book that I can hand off to another adult that provides everything that they would need to know to run my household to my standards in my absence. As a single parent I believe having a Household Expectations binder is a crucial safety precaution. Over the next couple of months I will be adding many more articles and resources to teach you how you can use the Household Expectaions binder and the Mombuck system to create a smoothly running house. Be sure to Subscribe to my email list so that you won’t miss a single one.


My Living Room Example

The living room is the main activity hub of our house. Because of this it is also the first room to get completely out of control. This is the Checklist that I have created for our living room.

Living Room Cleaning checklist

A few things to notice about this checklist:

  1. If you’re familiar with my family you may notice that Joshua and Daniel do not have a “put things in their room” step. This is because only clothes go in their room. All toys belonging to them go in the playroom.
  2. Yes, we do have an unreasonable amount of books. What can I say – Reading=Life. This is why good organization is key.
  3. This is very specific to my house and the rooms in it. In the next section I will walk you through creating a checklist for your space. However, if you sign up for our mailing list you will receive a free .PDF of some generic room cleaning checklists that I created for you.
  4. Why yes, there are a lot of steps. You want to be as precise as possible on your checklist.


How to Create your Own Room Cleaning Checklist

Step 1 – Define your Space

If you live in a home with an open or semi-open floor plan then the first important step is to define exactly where the boundaries are for your room. Trust me when I say that if you don’t define your boundaries from the outset you will end up with entire areas of space that exist only in the cosmos and not a part of any room. Those spaces seldom get cleaned.


Step 2 – Decide which tasks only need done occasionally


There are some tasks that just don’t need done every day or every other day. These are the tasks that would be assigned weekly, biweekly or whenever your “big clean” time is for that room. It is easiest to separate out those tasks first. Those go in the Clean Room section. Each room will have a Pick Up Room section and a Clean Room section. (Actually there are a couple of rooms that have instead clean and deep clean sections.)


Step 3 – Visualize your room at its messiest


Think about your room at its very worst. What is in it? In my living room I thought about the entry tile where everything that is brought in from the car gets dumped. I thought about the tabletops where people set their dirty dishes and all of the Stuff that gets brought from other rooms to use or play with that gets abandoned in the living room. My vision included discarded clothes and games on the floor and a treasure trove of change and crayons in the couch. I saw dvds and video games littering the TV. stand and the area around it. There was mail everywhere. All of these items merged into a single picture of a living room nightmare.


Step 4 – Step through your vision slowly and note what category each mess belongs in and what should be done with it.


This is the key step to this process. I’ve learned that if care isn’t taken on this step I end up with piles of mess just shifted around instead of actually cleaned. The easiest way to accomplish this step is to categorize your mess. When writing your cleaning checklists start with the specific items like putting up the dog food (which always seems to migrate into my living room). This way when you get to the more general cleanup like clearing off the floor most of the overwhelming mess has been dealt with already.


Organizing your room cleaning checklists in this manner serves two purposes.


First, it allows your child to have early wins. He can look at the first item and mentally know it won’t take that long. It is easier to pick up the dirty clothes, which are probably on the floor, than it is to pick up everything off of the floor. Then when he gets down to picking up the floor there really isn’t that much left to do so that task now seems easier.

Second, if your child is anything like mine, he can’t always get through the entire list in one shot. What I normally do is give him a time period in which to complete the list. For example he may have 30 minutes in which to pick up the living room. If he only does the first 8 or 9 things that is still a significant improvement to the room. The beauty of this checklist, though, is that he can go and take a short break and know exactly where to pick back up. He understands that I will use the exact same list when I check his work at the end and he will only be rewarded for the items actually fully completed.



Having a smoothly running home is all about managing your expectations and the expectations of your family. It takes continual communication and effort for everyone to understand what each person needs from another. Each member has to learn what is expected from him or her as a part of the family unit. We cannot assume that someone else will understand it just because we do.

Having a smoothly running home is all about managing expectations. Click To Tweet

This is where the Household Expectations Binder comes in. The Expectations binder is not unlike Sheldon Cooper’s Roommate agreement (if your are a Big Bang Theory fan). The binder mitigates conflicts by managing the expectations of the family unit. The binder also provides a manual for the smooth operation of your home. This is something that you can take with you in an emergency and also give to a babysitter if you are away for an extended time.

Room cleaning checklists are just one small part of the larger system. Over the coming weeks I will be walking you through the steps to create the several parts of your own household expectations binder. Make sure to subscribe so that you will receive each and every post. Just for signing up you will receive a cover to start your own binder as well as room cleaning checklists for the 4 most common areas of a home: the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom

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One thought on “Managing Expectations with Room Cleaning Checklists

  1. Kell @ All Mum Said

    May 25, 2017 at 1:35pm

    Fantastic tips! A friend of mine has 3 Autistic boys and she has a list very similar that helps to keep a little bit of order.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author


      June 2, 2017 at 2:25pm

      Sometimes its easiest to have something right in front of you so you can check off the items that need to be done. Not just for autistic or other special needs children, but for all children and their mothers too

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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