I will write about my kid’s chore charts eventually. They are really simple and cute and work well for us, but something I keep wanting to address is how often I am asked how to get kids to stay on top of their chores. The answer is actually really, really simple – parents need to stay on top of their chores. This goes back to modeling the behavior you want to see in your children, and blah, blah, blah I know you know this. You know this and maybe you have tried before and have used different systems and haven’t had success. It’s ok. I have lived in large houses and small apartments and every space has it’s own challenges. Right now, I am living in the largest house we’ve ever lived in and while that is a tremendous blessing for a lot of reasons, I have more to clean than I have ever had to clean before.
Keeping on top of chores is a multi-million dollar industry. People sell books and systems and gadgets to us to keep our homes clean and create systems that are so much more complicated than they need to be under the guise of keeping it simple.
Here’s what I have found really keeps it simple, this is a variation of the Flylady system.
Create a morning routine and an evening routine for yourself. This will look different for everyone. The point of these routines are to make sure your days begin and end smoothly. When you’re making your evening routine, think about what you want to wake up to. A clean bathroom to get ready in, a clean kitchen to start your day in, maybe no laundry or maybe laundry ready to go? It’s all up to you to make your morning as smooth as possible. When planning your morning routine, think about what you need to do in the morning to help the rest of your day. Check the calendar? Throw in a load of laundry? If you are getting ready for work, or for a long day of homeschooling, prepping dinner in the morning gets it out of the way so you don’t have to deal with it later. You will tweak and change your routines until they are just right and then you will change them as your life changes. Writing it down with help you follow it. I make really cute charts, laminate them and tape them up inside a closet or cabinet in the room and check them off. Some people just write them down on index cards and put them in a 4 x 6 photo album or use loose leaf binder paper and a sheet protector. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just write it down in order and refer to it until it’s muscle memory and you’re doing it instinctively every morning and every night.
My morning routine is pretty simple:
1. up brush teeth / wash face
2. makeup / coffee for my husband and I
3. gather laundry, start first load
4. check calendar for the day / wake kids / get breakfast ready
5. do chore list for the day
My evening routine is essentially just getting ready for the morning:
1. stack dishwasher and wipe down kitchen countertop
2. sweep and mop kitchen floor
3. wipe down bathroom counters / clean mirrors and sweep / mop floors
4. wash mop head in washing machine
5. unstack dishwasher / lay out new dish cloths
With these two routines, that are now so ingrained in me I can do them even when I am not at my best. When I am really busy because of holidays or homeschool activities or when I or one of my kids is sick, I can just get it done. My evening routine has my kitchen and two most used bathrooms clean and ready to go (my oldest cleans the basement bathroom), all my dishes are clean and put away, my mop is ready to deal with spills and I have fresh dish cloths to keep the kitchen clean all day. My morning starts pretty easy with all this already done for me and I can just focus on getting ready for the day. I sit with my planner after my husband leaves and go over it, then I wake the kids and attack my chore list. By the time my kids are done breakfast and their own morning chores, I’m ready to start school and I already have my makeup done.
Next, divide your home into manageable zones. In the original Flylady system, each day of the week is assigned an area. When I lived in a smaller space, this was simple. I broke it down like this; Mondays in the kitchen, Tuesdays in the living room, Wednesdays were for the bathrooms, Thursdays in the girls’ room, Fridays in the master bedroom, Saturdays were for yard work and Sundays were for paperwork. Maybe you have a day or two where you know you are routinely not going to be home all day. Keep that in mind when you divide up your home. If you have 6 zones and you’re only home for 4 days, you’re going to want to double up on a couple of days. If you just don’t have time to double up, and I know some people really don’t, you can spread out the chores from one zone over the days you are home. There are countless ways to make this work for you. Just be sure to do whatever you set out to do each day in order to keep up with it.
It’s worth noting that some chores shouldn’t actually need to be done at all, or should be able to be accomplished very quickly. The first time you go to wipe your baseboards, you may need to get an old toothbrush out to do it. Once it’s been done though, every week after that it will literally just be a wipe of a week’s worth of dust and lint, no build up. The same goes for scrubbing the corners, cleaning the trash bin, dusting ceiling corners and all those little things that get forgotten. You will not need to wash curtains weekly of course, but if you check on them once a week you’ll notice when they start to get dusty or when something mysterious and sticky appears.
Whatever you do, when you write out your routines and make your chore lists do not make lists that will overwhelm you. Just make a list and get it done, and I swear you children watching you making a list and getting it done, will follow eventually. Some kids may need a little nudge to get started but if their example is to do what they set out to do, they are far more likely to stay on track – and everyone wins!
I started doing this in 2002 or 2003 and my lists have grown over the years as the size of my living space has changed and my routines have changed as my responsibilities do, and yours will too.