I have always loved having a clean house. And I have always loved delegating. The two work together in housework.
First off, parents of little ones: notice how your baby or toddler will sometimes try to do a chore with you. While you may be annoyed at their desire to take out all the spoons from the dishwasher, realize that they are trying to help--Let them! We have children's size brooms, dustpans, pretend vacuum cleaners, etc. And all kids love feather dusters. From my experience, two-year-olds can learn to fold washcloths and match socks.
Older children, even those who "helped" with the chores when they were toddlers, get to a point where they don't want to do chores. I suggest a chore chart for each child with their daily tasks listed so they can have a way to check them off. Allowance, based on doing chores, is perfect for teaching cause and effect. And, of course, every wise parent knows that making the task a game helps tremendously. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Beat the timer: Set the timer--whatever toys/objects are not put away before it beeps are gone for a day/week, however long you think is fair.
2. Toy card game: Cut index cards in half. Write a different adjective, that describe toys, on one side and draw a simple picture representing that adjective. For instance, "red" and color a little spot of red on the card, or "toys with numbers" and draw numbers. Even young children, who can't read yet, understand the simple pictures. Make several different cards. Put them in an envelope. When it's time to clean up, each child takes a card, cleans up all the toys that fit that adjective, and then choose another, etc.
3. Clean up to music--singing or listening: Barney's "Clean-Up Song" while annoying, really works for little kids! http://www.ilovewavs.com/TV/ChilShow/Barney/Barney.htm (scroll down to "Barney-Clean up" and click on it).
4. Practice counting by having them count how many toys they pick up. Maybe even have them estimate beforehand how many toys they think need to be put away.
I have redone chore charts over the years, since their availability and abilities have changed throughout childhood. But, even a busy teenager, involved in everything under the sun, needs to learn the value of work and contributing in the home. By the time I was 15 I was prepping and cooking dinner every Sunday--since that was the only evening I was home and my mom wasn't going to let me have a free ride throughout my teenage years--and bless her for that!!
Now, don't think I sit back taking advantage of child labor or anything. I have a simple chore chart for myself and here it is, in case you're wondering or in case you need one yourself:
This chore chart works for me because I only spend about 10-30 minutes doing these things each day. This helps me not to procrastinate and then have one day when I'm just running around trying to clean up everything--yuck! Also, it keeps the house pretty clean, you know, not just picked up, but actually clean. Aww.... *sigh*
Anyway, remember, delegate, keep smiling and maybe "whistle while you work!"