Last weekend, my family of four cleaned out our garage. It was my favorite part of the day.
Let’s be clear—cleaning out the garage is often miserable. If I was tackling this task with a toddler, or with crabby kids, or with an impatient attitude, it could easily descend into frustration or yelling or time-outs. In fact, my husband and I have found it’s often better to tackle projects like these alone, so we don’t end up saying unkind things we later regret.
But last weekend, all four of us spent two hours decluttering, sweeping, and reorganizing. There was a sweet satisfaction not only in bringing order from chaos but in doing it together. It felt good to restore and redeem our own little corner of creation. (My friend is so good at this that—I’m not kidding—sometimes kids from her neighborhood come over to help their family clean their house on Saturday mornings.)
When we work alongside our kids with prayer and patience, we don’t need to say a lot to explain that what we’re doing is good. It’s self-evident. But sometimes a well-timed comment or explanation can help remind them—and us—of the glorious goodness of work well done.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Put away shoes. Thank God for our shoes, our feet, our ability to walk and run and dance.
2. Put away toys. Rejoice in play, in imagination, in all the learning that happens when we pretend with our friends. And rejoice that God is a God of order and that we display his image when we bring order to our space.
3. Take out the trash. Remind one another that dirt and garbage and sin need to be regularly removed from our lives.
4. Set the table. Rejoice in anticipation of God’s provision of food and family.
5. Clear the table. Be grateful for the faithful God who gives us our daily bread.
6. Dust the baseboards. Baseboards, like so many other things we dust, are evidence of God’s abundance. We don’t need the decor that makes our house feel like home. But God gives it anyway. Give thanks.
7. Wipe up spills. This one is often emotional—the spiller feels embarrassed and frustrated, the parent may feel irritated, any sibling witnesses may feel superior. Take your time: correct wrong attitudes in everyone, apologize liberally, reiterate the grace of sins forgiven and mistakes cleaned up.
8. Unload the dishwasher. Praise God for the complexity of technology in household appliances that lift so much of the burden of daily living.
9. Carry in groceries. Be grateful for everyone, from the farmer to the delivery truck driver to the cashier, who works in God’s providence to provide our nourishment.
10. Make your bed. This one can be tricky, because why do we need to make our beds? We just mess them up again at night. Maybe the best answer is that sometimes we need to obey without understanding or even agreeing—in this case, we tidy our space to honor the one who asked us to.
A well-timed comment or explanation can help remind them—and us—of the glorious goodness of work well done.
11. Clear out under your bed. Only when we drag what is in the dark toward the light can we see it clearly enough to deal with it.
12. Fold laundry. The first physical gift of God for man was clothing; without covering, our furless bodies would freeze to death. Delight in the generosity of our Father, that we can choose different colors and styles each day!
13. Pull weeds. This can be an illustration for so many life lessons—pay attention to weeds that crop up in friendships, schoolwork, our spiritual disciplines, or the way we spend our time. Take your pick.
14. Wash the car. When cleaning the house is overwhelming, washing and vacuuming the car can be a quicker way to provide a tidy space for the family. Talk about the way God created order out of chaos, and how it feels to be in a well-kept space.
15. Care for pets. What a privilege to be able to care for the beautiful animals God has created. Praise him!
16. Sweep the floor. Remember the effects of the fall, and give thanks for God who removes our sin.
17. Hang up towels in the bathroom. Practice stewardship by caring well for our physical things.
18. Water plants. Admire the beauty of the leaves and the flowers, the complexity of the root system, and the way God perfectly designed plants to convert our carbon dioxide back into oxygen.
19. Wash or dry dishes. This chore, when done together with a child (or when children do it together), is a wonderful chance for conversation. The soap and water are a perfect illustration of our sin washed away, but the bigger gift of doing dishes is the slow time together. Don’t hurry.
20. Rake leaves, shovel snow, or mow the lawn. Discuss the blessing of creation and our responsibility to care for it.
21. Make a simple meal. Thank God for our regular dependence on food, which is a mirror of how we need to regularly depend on him for spiritual nourishment.
22. Bake cookies. More abundance—God gives us dinner but also dessert! Savor his kindness.
23. Clean the bathroom. Wage warfare against the germs that make us sick. (Jim Mullins, who first pointed that out to me, wrote an entire article on the dignity of janitorial work.)
24. Watch younger siblings. Remember that God made everyone in his image. One tangible way he loves and cares for younger siblings is through older ones.
25. Walk the dog. Rejoice in the layers of gifts God gives—the chance to be in creation, to exercise alongside a pet, and possibly to converse with neighbors, all at the same time.