The “Power 10” Method Gets Everyone in the House Inspired to Help Clean Up

published Jan 19, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

You know how in that post-holiday, pre-New Year’s limbo zone your house becomes kind of a mess because everyone is home, all day long, for days? It’s been like that around our house for two and a half months and it’s probably similar in yours. With school, pre-school, and every single out-of-the-house activity on hold, each and every mess made by my curious and vivacious kids and always-home husband happens right under the roof of our perpetually full house.

I realize I sound complain-y right now. I have most definitely enjoyed the memories we’ve made and the time we’ve had together. However, at this very moment I’m thinking of the unbelievable amount of dirt and crumbs I can gather from a daily sweep of our multipurpose room. And we don’t even wear shoes in the house.

The dirt is one thing. But the messes are another. At least the dirt doesn’t “show” if I’m sitting on the couch. The clutter gets to me, though. I try to be understanding, but I do eventually and inevitably get to a point where the out-of-order surroundings become too much for me, especially now when they’re coupled with the ever-present specter of all that’s chaotic in the outside world.

So I’ve been making frequent use of a method that gets everyone in the house to stop what they’re doing and pitch in to put things away, focused and fast, so that when we’re done, the house has been whipped into shape with seemingly little effort and mama’s happy again.

How I Get Everyone in the House to Help Clean Up

It’s called a “Power 10” and it works like this: I give the kids some warning that we’re going to do one or I just shout out “Power 10!!!” and we all get to work. We turn on the kitchen timer and sometimes some music. With all of us putting in effort for just ten minutes, we get so much done in a short amount of time and we all breathe easier afterwards.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

One key to making the method work is pre-assigning zones. In our house, we have the kitchen, back porch, and front porch zone; the living room, entryway, and mudroom zone; and the sun room zone (that room gets the messiest so it’s a zone all its own). By each person having a zone, everyone knows exactly the area they’re responsible for. No one wanders aimlessly or half-heartedly picking up, and no one leaves items in their zone out for someone else to take care of. Each person knows exactly what they’re responsible for and when they’re done with their zone, they’re done.

While this method works supremely well for my elementary school-aged children along with their three-year-old brother and one-and-a-half-year-old sister, who love to follow along with what the big kids are doing, the strategy can be adapted to any group living situation, including couples, adult siblings, and roommates.

The beauty of it is that it takes away any hint of blame or finger-pointing yet allows the person who’s finally fed up with the condition of the house to speak up. For instance, a housemate might say, “Hey guys, I wondered if we could all do a quick Power 10 this afternoon. Does 3 work?”

Once the phrase takes hold in your household, simply declaring a Power 10 will transform your living space in just a few minutes any time you need that to happen. As my mother and her mother have always said, “Many hands make light work.” Power 10s get those many hands working.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: The “Power 10” Method Gets Everyone in the House Inspired to Help Clean Up