SueCarr-new-smBy Sue Carr

Conservation is a huge topic of interest for me. You know, conserving my time, conserving my energy, conserving as much of my household budget as I can…

Yes, yes, conserving water and rain forests and animals species and all that is important as well, but let’s face it, the conservation of our personal, day-to-day resources is more motivating to most Americans. We’re a fairly self-centered lot. And admittedly, I’m no different.

I’m constantly looking for ways to conserve five minutes of my schedule, five dollars of my funds, or an extra trip up the stairs. And I’m betting you are, too. Fortunately, many of my personal greening efforts have allowed me to do just that.

Take today, for example. I needed to get my bathrooms cleaned, my floors mopped, and my carpets vacuumed, and I only had an hour and a half to do it. Solution? Employ child labor, of course. My children had earned a place on the naughty list for consistent fighting and needed to earn their way back into my good graces in order to score a play-date with friends in the afternoon. The compromise? Help me get my chores done in my limited time-frame to earn the play-date. Easy peasy.

Two years ago I couldn’t have made this same deal. Why? Because there’s no way I would have allowed my kids to help me clean with all the toxic chemicals I used to use. I remember telling my eager-to-please toddler boy, who had begged to help me clean the bathroom, that he needed to step out because I didn’t want him breathing in the cleaning fumes. He walked away dejected, shooed away by a mom concerned for his health on account of the chemicals I was using to make our home clean and healthy. Oh, the irony!

suecarr-cleaning-products-smToday that same eager boy mopped my floors using my Wonder Mop and a bucket of vinegar water with a single drop of spearmint oil (which, my son commented, smelled so fresh!). In the meantime, my daughter vacuumed the carpets. When they finished the floors, they tag-teamed my shower (one of my least favorite tasks), eagerly scrubbing with the natural cleaner I make from a recipe on the One Good Thing by Jillee website, bolstered with a little baking soda for extra scrubbing power. Then they made science happen in the toilets with a generous dose of vinegar and baking soda and a vigorous scrub with the brush.

Working together, we all finished with five minutes to spare. And they earned their play-date.

This win/win achieved several things. First, my natural cleaners saved me time by allowing me to allow my children to help without fear of chemical contamination. More importantly, it helped my children learn some important lessons about playing a productive role in the family.

By allowing and encouraging children to participate in basic cleaning tasks, you help them to understand that your house doesn’t magically clean itself (not that my kids were in any danger of believing that, considering the general dust accumulation you’ll find on our furniture on any given day). It also helps foster an appreciation of how cleaning up after yourself on a daily basis makes larger cleaning jobs easier. After all, once you’re tasked with scrubbing toothpaste gunk out of the sink, you may think twice about leaving it there the next time you brush.

Finally, it gives kids a sense of ownership, over the task and over the larger household. By giving them cleaning tasks around the house, they can take pride knowing they play a pivotal role in making the house run. It’s not just mom and dad’s house, it’s theirs, and they may just work a little harder to help keep it clean. (A mom can dream, right?)

So take those natural cleaners and conserve your precious time while you help build a work ethic in your children. It’s a win for you, a win for them, and a win for Mother Earth.

Sue Nelko Carr is a freelance writer, editor, blogger and a full-time mother, trying to live a greener life in Pittsburgh, PA.