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After the joys of living Christmas and Epiphany, our home is beginning to get back to some ordinary routine. I love feasting, I do. And I love the ordinary, too. I do! Now is a really good time to sit down and invest some thought in how the home is working, and as a part of that, our chore routine. I finished up our family’s new 2012 chore chart for posting on the fridge, and I thought I’d share it with you along with a few ideas that might help you brainstorm your own.Is there anything more satisfying than thinking about the home: the running of it, the chores and duties, and breaking things down so that each person (big and little) in the home takes a share of the work? And then…putting it on paper?! Ahhhhh! Clearly written out explanations! One central point for checking in! It’s a family system that keeps us all working together, and sharing in the duties of our ordinary days!
- Sit down and think about your home, how it works, the little and big jobs you must do each week to keep it running.
- Get a notepad and pencil and sit down with a glass of wine one evening and make a list of all the jobs that need to be done on a weekly basis in your home! Everyone has toys to pick up and floors to sweep, but think beyond that – what kind of jobs might be unique to you and your family? List everything, and don’t forget to list some small jobs!
- Now go through your list and put your child’s initials next to each job they would be capable of doing.
- Examine your list. Are there some children that really don’t have many jobs? Rethink jobs around the home with those children and their age and abilities in mind. Do you need some ideas and tools for putting little people to work?
- We have a Dirt Devil hand vacuum cleaner and it sees a lot of action during the week. Hand vacuums are great tools in the hands of any child over 3! Have them vacuum under the kitchen table after meals, or up and down your stairs.
- Little people are great at matching and sorting shoes, and every family I know has a plethora of shoes!
- Swiffer dusters are fantastic in the hands of little people! These dusters are good at grabbing dust so you don’t have to worry about the children spreading dust around.
- Simple, unscented baby wipes are one of my favorite cleaning tools, and they certainly have applications and uses outside of that cute little baby tushy! Keep your cleaning bins stocked with several packages and wipe floors, kitchen chairs, inexpensive furniture, tables, windowsills, and many other surfaces.
- Sort laundry. Yes. They can.
- Fold washcloths and towels.
- Unload dishwasher. At least the plastic stuff, or the silverware.
- Tidy bookshelves – straightening books on the shelf that have been removed during the week.
- And definitely have them work alongside you or older siblings so they can always be learning bigger chores!
- Now that you have a nice list of chores and jobs that can be done, time to divide them up amongst the children. Pencil a simple list with your children’s names and the chores and jobs you expect of them. Post it. Let it be messy, simple, penciled, non-descript. That’s fine!
- Live your simple little penciled ideas out for a week. Work with your children to train them. Show them how to do a job, how to put tools away. Have a place for their tools.
- Pencil some changes on your chart through the week. Shift jobs, rethink what you’ve assigned. As you live it, you’ll find a few things that you can improve. Now’s the time.
- At this point, you’ve got a pretty workable plan! Choose your format. Here’s where I can’t help you. 🙂 Choose a format that seems workable for your family! We prefer a chart and we use it as a check-in point. We train from it and the kids learn it within a couple of weeks. It remains posted for reference. There are a variety of different chore systems out there so look around and decide which format works best for your family! There was recently a really good discussion on chores and chore systems on the 4Real Message Boards.
- Remember, you’re going to want to re-think this chore chart in just a few months. Don’t make it so pretty, so full of bells and whistles that you won’t be able to throw it out in a few months….because that’s exactly what you’ll need to do! Your children are going to grow, your home needs are going to change, and your chore chart will need to be able to grow and reflect changes. Keep it simple! While it’s good to invest some time and thought in your system, don’t allow it to become so big and formatted and flourished that it has taken too much time and is impractical in the living out.
- Lather, rinse, repeat in 6 months to a year.
- We prefer a single page chart format. It’s easy for us to reference and can live in a common area of the home so everyone can see it.
- I print our chore chart in a font that my youngest reader can read (Futura).
- We don’t do checkmarks or tokens or other motivational tools.
- We do give our older children a little weekly allowance for cheerful (no complaining or grumbling), complete, well-executed chores for the week. We do not pay for work that was completed with grumbling or not completed on time. It’s a good way for us to reward good work ethic, the valuable contribution to the running of the home, and for the children to begin to earn money and manage their own money, which we believe very strongly in!
- The children’s names have been removed from this published version, but would normally be on the chart to designate who does what.
- In our home, for this particular chore chart (and for the first time), we chose to break out our kitchen and animal duties on a weekly basis, and allow one older child to focus on one set for the week. They trade jobs (either animal or kitchen) weekly. We designate which of the older children has a set of duties for a week by using a simple button magnet and covering a child’s name if they are NOT in charge of those duties for the week (you can see in the blue row above the duty descriptions that there is a place where two names are listed – one of them is covered each week, and the child’s name that is left uncovered is responsible for the chores listed below.) I hope I didn’t make that sound more complicated than it is!
- The little people chores don’t change. Learning their chores is done best when there is consistency provided in the home routine. And though it isn’t explicitly stated on the chart, the two smaller children shadow the older children in many of the chores. This is a perfect way for them to learn.
- Though not listed in detail, nor pinned to a certain time of the day, we do list a Quick Tidy on our chore chart and it is the pivot about which our livable, comfortable and reasonably tidy home turns. A daily quick tidy keeps spaces livable so that we can manage our home a little at a time rather than our home (and the stuff in it) managing us. Oh my, I do need to write a detailed post on our Quick Tidy, but it isn’t rocket science, folks! Spend 15 minutes every day tidying your main living spaces. You and the children. 15 minutes! Now seriously, we’ve all got 15 minutes to give best effort in whisking things to their places. See how doable that is? We try to tidy twice daily in our home – before lessons begin in the morning, and before Dad gets home – but one tidy a day will do! This post gives some detail on the quick tidy (this is a Q & A post, scroll down to the last question).
- Email me if you’d like a pdf or a Pages for mac file of the chore chart I posted.
One last idea for you: provide the right tools for the job! We use inexpensive dishwashing tubs to contain tools and each child has their own tub. We fill the child’s tub with a package of unscented baby wipes, Swiffer dusters for younger children, Murphy’s Oil Soap dusting wipes for older children, toilet cleaning tools, clean rags, small trash bags, bottles of liquid soap.
Goodness, I sure hope you are enjoying this time of getting back to ordinary routine and order after the joys and delights of feasting through the holy season of Christmas and Epiphany! As you look toward the ordinary routine, I pray your efforts to manage and order your home, as well as providing your children purposeful and helpful jobs, are blessed!