My house is a mess. Even if I were to spend an entire day cleaning (as I often do, much to my dismay) it still looks like the bulls of Pamplona just ran through. While I scrub the bathroom, toys fly in the living room; while I pick up the living room, dishes pile up in the kitchen; while I clean the kitchen, couch cushions become a fort; while I put the couch back together, muddy feet tramp through the house; while I mop the floor, the dresser drawers empty their contents. You get the picture. I spend so much time just trying to keep a few clean dishes and some baskets of clean clothes and a path we can walk through, I never get to actual cleaning. The only time the walls get washed of their crayon marks and finger smudges and the windows get wiped of their smears and mildew is in October, before the Solar Home Tour.
Yesterday, I went to put on a CD for the kids while I made dinner and noticed, thanks to the angle of the afternoon sun, that the CD player was coated in dust. "Someone should dust around here," I commented to no one in particular. "I will!" M exclaimed, "Will you pay me fifty cents to do it?" "Let's see, I'll give you 25 cents for the desk and 25 for the book case." "I need a dollar." So I proceeded to put coin amounts on various pieces of furniture--ten for the TV, ten for the secretary, five for the mantle, five for the legs of my desk (the top is protected from dust by the piles of paper that I need to sort, file and otherwise deal with) and twenty for all of the windowsills. I gave him a pair of old flannel boxers and he got out the feather duster and went to work.
As I returned to the kitchen to chop onions, I had a vague recollection of a book I once read (possibly All-of-A-Kind Family), in which the mother hid pennies throughout the parlor, so that when the children dusted they would do a really good job hitting all the nooks and crannies to find the pennies that were their reward. "I should do that someday," I thought. Then I figured, why not now? I ran upstairs, emptied a dollar in change out of my Dumbo bank and hid the allotted amounts on the various pieces of furniture. It took some prodding to remind M to actually dust and lift up picture frames, rather than squeezing the duster between them, and he didn't quite get the part about taking the dust cloth outside before shaking it out, but he industriously worked over every piece of furniture, finding his dollar, plus another 17 cents. As he found each coin, he would get more and more wound up (nothing energizes that kid, like making money!) And I got to sit back on the recliner while my soup simmered and watch him.
I'm not sure if this technique will work again, but I'm willing to give it a try, just to keep the dust layer down below an inch in thickness. And if that works, I might start hiding coins among my other unpleasant household chores, like at the bottom of the diaper bucket.
In honor of spring, I'm back on the trail. See Capital Walks for a new post.