Revisiting Chores and a Family Command Center

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As mid-winter rolls around, I know many of us are revisiting our chore routines as well as our books and plans and refreshing a bit.  It’s an excellent time for this because:

  • We’re all starting to settle back into routines…
  • …routines that are likely different than they were before Christmas break
  • There is renewed vision and a desire to keep the home neater
  • The colder months are a good time to sit down and brainstorm the days upcoming.

On my welcome thread, I shared a link to our Chore List – Wintertide 2014 (just so you could give me some feedback regarding the ability to open and view files here), and it generated a great question from Judith:

Hi Jen, I got to look around more last night and came back to say what a great job you have done with the blog. You are very talented! I have a couple of quick questions about chores and your oldest kids. If your oldest has a job, do you hold her to a specific day/time to get the bathrooms clean? I really fell off the wagon with my oldest two once they got old enough to get involved in sports and jobs-and regret it. Now, when they come home from college, it is like they are visiting a hotel, and do not feel they should be part of the chores. I think it comes from being so slack when they were in highschool-I don’t want to make that mistake with my other kids! Also, same thing for nightly chores-what do you do when your dishwasher kid is working their job until close, for example? Thanks again for sharing!!

So, I’m back to answer Judith’s question and show you our command center that we’ve been using for a couple of months now.  Before I go into my answers to Judith’s questions though, one thing is notably missing from our current chorelist: dishes.  Dishes aren’t assigned as a child-specific chore right now.  That could change one day…but for now, our oldest two are proficient at dishes, and the 5 (almost 6) and 9 yo are nearly proficient.  So…we made dishes a family chore.  It’s all hands on deck.  After each meal:

  • Each person clears their own place at the table: scraping dishes, rinsing and loading their own dishes.
  • Either Rob or I get involved with dishes in some way.  We’re either doing a task or we’re actively delegating.  Usually, we finish clearing the table, put away any food, and “stage” the rest of the dishes.
  • We insist that the big kids exercise initiative – if there are dishes in the sink, get rolling!  If you can’t help out with dishes, I can’t find time to cook for you.  It seems to be motivational.

Now…on to Judith’s questions:

If your oldest has a job, do you hold her to a specific day/time to get the bathrooms clean?

  • My oldest (17 yo) does have jobs outside the home.  She also has a class outside the home, choir, and an active social life.  And she has chores.  Part of brainstorming chores for this current season of our life was to give her more flexibility to manage her time.  So, toward that end, her weekly chores must be done once-a-week, and her monthly chores must be done once-a-month.  Responsibility before privilege, therefore, no social life privileges until and unless weekly chores are complete.  She has the option of doing any of her assigned chores at any time during the week.  They can all be done at once, or split up and chores done one at a time.  She can complete them in a blitzkrieg of action on a Friday before her plans…or she can do them on Monday.  I don’t care.  The goal is that the chores are done during the week some time.

Also, same thing for nightly chores-what do you do when your dishwasher kid is working their job until close, for example?

  • I don’t make a kid with a night job in charge of dishes.  Honestly, this is one of the reasons we decided to make dishes an all-hands-on-deck job – it was challenging if it was my oldest daughter’s job to take care of dishes…but wasn’t home.  Oh my stars – the wailing and gnashing of teeth when a non-dishes-assigned-child was asked to step in.  I couldn’t let THAT go on for too long.  Thus, the all-hands-on-deck-wash-dishes-if-you-want-to-eat strategy.  If you’re around –> you’re helping with dishes.  If you’re not at home –> you’re not doing dishes for that meal.  Simple enough.

The Command Center

I have an old board that is half cork, half dry-erase.  On the corkboard side I keep our chorelist and the monthly calendar from church.  I saw some blogs that had these really neat command centers, so over our Christmas break I used some of my washi tape and my label maker to divide up the dry erase portion of the board to function as a sort of command center.  I love the way it works and looks!  It looks pretty, customized, and I can change it at any time.

The very top of the command center is actually a Martha Stewart Dry Erase Weekly Planner.  I used to have it on my fridge, but it fit here so perfectly I love having it at the top of my command center.  In this space, I list any extra chores for the kids, or big things we’ve got going on.

Under the weekly dry-erase planner section, in a small section that is divided by yellow washi tape (in that thin section between the weekly planner and the top red ribbon of washi tape), I sometimes list my menu for the week.  I cut washi tape in half so it would be thin and then divided up that section so that it corresponds with the days on the weekly planner.  If you remember from my Erin Condren Life Planner post, I like to journal my menu plans in my planner, but sometimes it’s nice to list the menu here because it keeps everyone from asking, “What’s for dinner????”

In the next section down, I target our three main work areas (left to right): outdoor chores, garden chores, home chores.  I labeled them and put the label right on top of the washi.  (It’s a little hard to read in the pictures though.)  I just jot down to-do’s under the appropriate section.  The home chores section is empty right now because we’re considering a major:

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I’ll keep you posted on that one!

The third and final section is divided into two areas: Rob and Jen.  :)  I keep a running list of items we need to get done here.  Rob can just check his section and work on the next thing.  Which reminds me, I really need to update our board this week!  I’ll add that to my planner!

So…how are you doing this time of year?  In need of refreshing your chore list?  Do you have a command center?  Something you brainstormed?  I’d love to see!  I really think it helps to regularly rethink the tasks of the home with fresh eyes: kids grow, their abilities change, and the home needs refreshing!  It’s a great time of year to think in that direction!