Don't be the Lone Ranger. Empowering children to be part of the solution gives them ownership and responsibity. We set a timer right before dinner (or bedtime) and put it on small number like 3 minutes. I sometimes choose a fast paced 3 minute song. The family challenge is to straighten up the entire living space (or any other room) before the time runs out. Having everything needed to complete the project before starting is a great idea. It is amazing how fun straightening up the house turns out to be.
I also will instruct the children, at different times through the day, to stop and clean up before they get anything else out. The rationale they use "but I will play with it later" almost NEVER happens. After four children I do not listen to that one anymore. If they are hesitant I jump in with them and "help" them get started.
Have a laundry basket for every child. Ours live on the counter in the laundry room. Once laundry is clean it goes into that child's basket and he/she is responsible for putting it away in his/her room and returning the basket promptly. That basket is also great spot for random items that end up around the house, but really belong in a person's room. When they put their clothes away their items will also be put away. I even offer them the option of picking up their toys and putting them in the laundry basket until they clean it out. But full basket means time to clean it out.
Try to leave a room better than when you came into it. Even if it is just one thing that you do to straighten up, it makes a difference. I may walk through and do the thing that is bugging me the most, like pick up the blankets laying around. The next time I might straighten the pillows. I might even be as little as picking up a piece of garbage or a lego. It is amazing how little things can add up to make a big difference.
Each child receives a job each day. I know that lots of moms have solutions that work well for them. This is the best for us. Each day I write the jobs on the chalkboard. These jobs change daily. Sometimes we can go several days between vacuuming. But sometimes the floor gets nasty after we have had a lot of people over. I look at the house and see what needs to be done that day. Sometimes it is a bathroom and sometimes it is a closet that needs straightening. I let the needs of the house decide the chores. One thing that has been helpful is coaching the children how to do the jobs well. Included is a checklist on how I taught the children to clean the bathroom (click here for the checklist). We had a teaching day or two (or three) where I showed them how to clean it well. They can all do the job well now. If we know that we are going to be entertaining they might have several jobs that day.
Clothes live in 4 places. On your body. In the closet or dresser. In the dirty clothes. In the laundry basket waiting to be put away. Keeping bedrooms clean is so much easier if clothes are not an issue.
These are some of the tips that have been super helpful to me over the years. Because we homeschool we use our entire house all the time. It could be hard and overwhelming to keep it clean, but it is not. It is a great place to live and it is full of peace! How much more could we ask for?
Personal testimony: Two of our children are older now. They BOTH do all of these things without us even needing to tell them. Honestly they can step in and run the house without Taylor or I needing to even give much input. But this took diligence and training. One of these two has always been clean and one has not. Both are now. Some days of training them to take care of our home were frustrating and infuriating. I am not even very sure when all these steps started to click, but it did. Take heart...stay intentional. You are not alone. Make as much of the process as fun as you can. These days are fleeting.