Anyone who has messy children, a lazy partner or revolting flatmates will be impressed by the resourcefulness of Katrina Neathey, the co-owner of a cleaning company in West Sussex, who has made her three teenagers sign a contract to help keep the house tidy. Any infraction – fizzy drinks in their bedroom, say, or failing to put their dirty plates in the dishwasher – comes with a £5 fine or removal of their phones.
It is one way of setting up a cleaning rota that people might stick to. “Cleaning is teamwork,” says Lynsey Crombie, also known as the Queen of Clean. “It’s not one person’s responsibility.” She advises getting everyone in the household together “to find out what people are better at. In our family, my husband is better at mowing the lawn, cleaning the windows and washing the cars. I love vacuuming; someone else might like folding the towels. You let someone do what they’re good at, or enjoy, so there’s more chance they’ll actually do it.”
What if there are jobs that nobody wants to do? In her house, this is emptying the tumble dryer, she says. “I dump it right in the middle of the sofa, and no one can sit down until someone can be bothered to do it.” Otherwise, she says, it is about sharing out those jobs fairly so that one person isn’t stuck with them.
Crombie is not a fan of fines – with her children, she takes away their phones or turns off the wifi. With other adults who aren’t pitching in, she suggests asking them to pay more to cover the cost of a cleaner, which might spur them into action. “It can be a constant battle, but keep nagging them.”
If you are not sure what is required to keep the filth at bay – maybe this is your first houseshare – there are numerous checklists online that you can print out to share the daily, weekly and monthly tasks. “Stick it on the fridge, then everyone knows where they stand,” says Crombie. “If it is not working, have another chat at the end of the month – such as: what do you not like? How can we improve it?”
Ironing out problems is all about communication, says Crombie – and it is always nicer to sit around a non-sticky, clutter-free table.