Tips for Getting Kids to Help Clean

Wouldn't it be nice if summer didn't mean a messy house? I was thrilled to be a part of the this month's issue of TulsaKids Magazine. In this article by Betty Casey, I shared tips for keeping your home nice and tidy. My secret? Give the kiddos some ownership in assisting with the chores. Brilliant, right? Check it out:

School is out and that means kids are at home, their friends are over more, and the house is feeling the strain. While summer may mean more mess, it also means that you have more leisurely time and daylight to teach children simple tasks to keep the house clean and clutter-free, giving everyone more time to head to the pool or park. 

Expert cleaner Amy Bates, owner of Merry Maids in Tulsa, and mom, has some advice that will help involve the kids in keeping things tidy, so the whole family can spend more time having fun.

Start by looking at the ways your family uses your home. Notice where items tend to pile up or create clutter. “Have areas and baskets of your home dedicated to the items that are frequently left by the entrances and exits of your home,” Bates said. “If towels tend to be dropped right outside the patio doors leading to the pool, place a basket handy. Hooks for camp bags, bins and baskets for balls and outdoor toys should be handy in the garage. The easier it is to put things away, the more likely things will make it to their keeping areas.” 

Another smart idea to support tidy interiors is to hang shoe pockets on the bathroom doors. Tuck hair products, hair ties, bows, brushes and other small items that tend to be left strewn on counters into the pockets of the hanger. “Clear pockets make it easy to see what you need,” Bates said. “Also in bathrooms, consider hooks instead of towel bars to make it easier to put away towels. My kids were challenged with towel bars in their younger years. Easy storage makes it far easier to avoid stinky towels!”

Labeling clear bins for toys also makes it easier for children to put belongings where they belong. And if you need more storage, Bates suggests looking for unused storage areas. Throw away items you never use and reclaim the space for things you do use.

Children can also help with tidying up the house at the end of the day. “Have the children grab an empty laundry basket and round up their belongings to take back to their room,” Bates said. “If you have younger children, consider making it a contest to see who can pick up the fastest! Making it a part of your routine, this is a great habit to carry over throughout the school year.” 

Bates said that her high traffic areas need vacuuming more than once a week, but other areas can wait for a weekly sweep. Other weekly tasks such as dusting are easier once you have clutter-free surfaces, so staying on top of clutter every day shortens the time spent on once-a-week cleaning. Because families are usually less rushed during the summer months, Bates suggests that it’s a good time to talk to children about expectations for chores so that everyone can work together to keep “the house looking good and feeling manageable” in a short amount of time.

“If you like to have allowances earned (like I do!),” Bates said, “have a chart with a few ‘above and beyond’ projects like sweeping the garage, mating the unmatched sock pile, etc. that can be done to earn a little extra money.”

Good Chores for Elementary School Kids

  • Loading and unloading the dishwasher
  • Cleaning bathroom counters, patio doors
  • Picking up their own toys
  • Matching socks, sorting laundry
  • Setting the table
  • Dust mopping wood floors
  • Sweeping the porch
  • Feeding and walking the dog
  • Assist with changing linens, and dusting.

The key is to be patient with children, and to give specific tasks in small enough areas to make them achievable. 

Helpful Hints for Getting Kids to Clean

  • Set clear expectations. Bates says that “pick up your room” can mean a lot of different things to kids.
  • Set attainable goals (for example, don’t say, “Clean up the whole house before you leave in one hour.” Be specific)
  • Give immediate tasks to younger children (“Please pick up the toys since you are done playing with them.”)
  • Assign weekly tasks to older children so they can learn to manage responsibilities and time.

Freshen Up Fabric Using Ingredients From Summer Cocktails

To battle the summer sweat, one of my favorite things to do is to get my friends together for some sweet, refreshing summer cocktails! Gin, vodka, rum, and bourbon are just a few of the spirits you can mix-in with fresh herbs and fruit to make your favorite summer cocktail. However, here’s the thing: I may be a cleaning guru, but an expert mixologist, I am not! Throughout the summer season, I like to explore the internet for new (and familiar with a twist) summer cocktail recipes to try. Here are the results from my latest search this week:

Breathe Easy: How to clean your home to fend off allergies and asthma

This month, I was thrilled to talk to Tulsa People Magazine about my cleaning tips for keeping allergens in check! My tips were a part of a larger story on the facts behind allergies and asthma, with expert advice from local doctors..."If you’re sneezing inside your home, allergy triggers might be present. Some of them might be coming inside the house with you..."

Here's What Happened When I Let My Family Clean the House for Two Weeks

Here's What Happened When I Let My Family Clean the House for Two Weeks

When asked me to stop doing housework for two weeks, I was terrified. For starters, we're your typical, busy Midwestern family with two teenage sons and two dogs. My husband Alan is a tidy and fastidious civil engineer, and I am the proud owner of a Merry Maids office and the founder of the Don't Look Under the Rug blog. The two of us divide the chores (Alan washes dishes, cooks, and vacuums; while I handle laundry, grocery shopping, and monitoring general clutter) and the boys are expected to pick up after themselves. That said, I do feel I handle more than my fair share of housework after a day at the office.

I don't think my standards are unrealistic. I love things to be clean, but I also enjoy living in my home. We do have a mail pile and a "take it up the stairs" collection. So, eventually, I felt cautiously optimistic about taking a two-week hiatus from housework. My boys are well-behaved, helpful, and only slightly sloth-like when it comes to picking up after themselves — how bad could it be? 

This Cleaning Hack Will Change How You Enjoy Your Patio This Allergy Season

I didn’t have seasonal allergies issues until I moved to Oklahoma, and it sometimes feels like it’s the allergy capital of the U.S.! In fact, Oklahoma City was ranked third and Tulsa 12th on the list of most challenging cities for spring allergies from The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. As a result, dealing with dust and pollen both inside and outside is a priority in the Bates house! 

A Sweet Fix For Preventing Cloudy Glasses From The Dishwasher

My friend and Don’t Look Under The Rug® team member, Jenna Schario, is sharing her struggles with cloudy dishes today on the blog. It was too good to pass up, so enjoy:

I didn’t grow up with a dishwasher. I spent my childhood on a farm washing dishes in an old, double sink that sat below two windows looking out at the garden. When your cracked the windows just right a cool breeze would come through the screens, giving the washer relief from the soapy hot water that was constantly spilling everywhere. 

International Home + Housewares Show 2016 - Chicago

I just got back from the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago and it was a blast! This truly was a Mecca for the cleaning obsessed! I loved previewing innovative new products, and exploring the event with fellow cleaning nuts!...I even got to meet MR. CLEAN (he does exist!)...scroll through my photos for proof:

How To Clean Your Cast Iron Skillet Without Using Soap

I really enjoy cooking with a good cast iron skillet. I love being able to take the skillet from stove top to oven in a snap. Plus, the heavy skillet speeds up cook time of roasting chicken, without drying it out, and leaves it with a delicious golden color. 

Bare cast iron vessels have been used for cooking for over two thousand years, and date back as early as the Han Dynasty. In many cases, you will see cast iron skillets, dutch ovens, or other containers passed down from generation to generation -- from grandmother, to mother, to daughter, and so on. These skillets have experienced A LOT of cooking hours, and no doubt many people will have put a lot of care in maintaining the skillet's "seasoning". This seasoning is what keeps your skillet from rusting and creates a non-stick surface, so it is definitely worth protecting. Whether you are the recipient of a generational skillet, or you bought one brand new, you definitely want to take care of it!

Cast iron skillets are different than other cooking tools, so the way you clean them needs to be different, too! The key...DO NOT WANT TO USE SOAP when cleaning your cast iron skillet (I repeat: DO NOT USE SOAP WHEN CLEANING YOUR CAST IRON SKILLET)! Why? Because using soap will take away the seasoning!

Here's my cleaning tip for cleaning your cast iron one minute:

I shared this cleaning tip with my friends at the NewsOn6 - The key to protecting your cast iron is to NOT use soap on it!

I shared this cleaning tip with my friends at the NewsOn6 - The key to protecting your cast iron is to NOT use soap on it!

How To Clean Mystery Stains on Tennis Shoes

I’ve been thinking about shoes lately. I love a good well-made pair of casual shoes because when you find the right pair, you seem to wear them constantly. I’m a big believer that shoes are an investment for our wardrobe and long term health, but having great shoes is knowing how to keep them clean and fresh- and looking fabulous!


My friend’s mystery stained Nike shoes

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Tennis shoes are meant to be worn, but it’s the worst of luck to have them get dirty the first day you take them out. And that is exactly what happened to my friend Janell when she bought her husband a brand new pair of Nike tennis shoes. She’s not exactly sure what happened, but he did come back with a chainsaw and chainsaw oil in hand, and the residue splattered all over the breathable mesh fabric was greasy. I suppose he may have been reluctant to come completely clean (lol! Bad humor... but I can't resist!) I wanted to take a stab at the mystery oil stain and help out my friend...and her husband:

  1. I wet the shoes down with water
  2. Added Dawn soap directly to shoes
  3. Set shoes aside for about an hour
  4. Threw them in the washer in a lingerie bag
  5. Allowed them to air dry in the sun

Not a very scientific cleaning process but it worked like a charm and the tennis shoes came out of the washer devoid of the mystery stains! I got extra brownie points with my friend, and was surprised to find that the simple cleaning tip of using soap and water worked so well!


My son’s stinky tennis shoes

I am not only the owner of a cleaning business, but the mother of two boys who are always on the go. After sports practice they love to kick their shoes off as soon as they get in the car. It seems to be a common prank to pull on mothers everywhere. How long does it take for a Mom to notice the feet have been freed from the shoes? In my car? About 30 seconds before my eyes water. Here is a picture that demonstrates exactly how smelly Andrew's socks are:

Anytime you wear athletic shoes for exercise or sports, your feet are going to sweat into the shoe and leave an very unpleasant smell! I have a cleaning tip that only requires two main items:

  1. Newspaper
  2. Baking Soda

Both are way cheaper, and not to mention more environmentally friendly, than a spray deodorizer! Check it out here:


A note on running shoes

I live in Tulsa and running groups and races are very popular, and runners are very particular about their gear. I am more of a pilates gal myself, so for advice on high-end running shoes ASICS recommends these great cleaning tips in their article, “How To Clean Running Shoes - 3 Tips For Keeping Cleaning Shoes”:

  1. Wash the sockliner or insole separately if you’re able to remove them. This will help make the inside of your shoe fresher. Laces can be washed or just replaced.

  2. Remove surface dirt such as mud and grit. Use an old toothbrush or nail brush, a little warm water and a gentle, anti-grease soap. This should take care of the dirt, and is fine to do once in awhile. I don't recommend soaking the shoe for lighter cleaning jobs.

  3. Dry your shoes naturally and don’t place them near a radiator. Direct heat will alter the shape of the shoe. Open out the shoe and then stuff the inside with kitchen paper or newspaper. The paper will absorb the dampness inside the shoe. A shoe takes about twelve hours to dry out.

#happycleaning - Amy

How To Easily Clean Chocolate Stains On Clothing

So there’s a reason I know how to clean chocolate stains and smears so easily from fabric and clothing. My chocolate cleaning powers have to do with my childhood. Growing up, I never learned to eat chocolate properly without making a giant mess! You may think every child has problems with “properly eating”, but my poor candy eating skills go far beyond basic kid blunders.

See, I was raised by a self-proclaimed chocoholic AND a small-town dentist! This parental combination was confusing and challenging for me. It may be hard to understand, but I would like you to imagine these memories from my upbringing...

I would find my mom's ever-present, old, half-eaten Hershey’s bars hidden throughout the entire house. It felt like there was a constant temptation of forbidden, freshly made brownies in my mother’s kitchen. Then, “You are going to rot your teeth!” would ring in my ears as I peeled back the foil on the brownie pan. Despite the constant stream of chocolate in our house, the Hershey’s and brownies belonged to my mother, and she…did…not…like…to…share! I didn’t even dare to ask for such delicacies for myself. 

Since my father was the town dentist, to be publicly seen at the Main Street Ben Franklin buying chocolate sweets was simply not permitted. Despite my mother’s chocolate obsession, Halloween was for apples and CandiDent at my house. I was never taught to properly eat chocolate because it was taboo to have it in the first place. So when I eat chocolate as an adult, it is next to impossible to not cover every nearby surface in its melted goodness. 

Since moving from the cooler temps of Minnesota to the sweltering heat of Oklahoma, I frequently practice properly eating the divine delicacy as it melts so much faster! I have learned to easily clean up the smudges, stains and smear that milk, dark and semisweet chocolate leaves behind. So if you need to remove chocolate stains from your shirt, I have you covered with this easy cleaning tip:

How To Easily Clean Chocolate Stains on Clothing

What You Need :

  1. Access to cold water

  2. Dull knife (a butter knife does fine)

  3. Enzyme Detergent (I like TIDE)

  4. Extra clean cloth on hand

  5. Pre-treatment spray or hydrogen peroxide (in case this chocolate stain is really set in)


-Amy Bates