Sunday, January 22, 2012


: Hey, someone stole our dishes!
Happy: They ain't stole. They're hid in the cupboard.
Bashful: My cup's been washed. Sugar's gone.
Happy:  Something's cooking. Smells good.
Grumpy: Don't touch it, you fools! Might be poison. See? It's witch's brew.

--from Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
I could never make chore schedules work at my house for more than a couple months.  I looked for a good schedule for years (wrote my own and also used others I found for free or in helpful household organizer books) before I defaulted to another way.  I no longer assign weekly chores.  The kids are responsible for their personal chores-- they do their own laundry and take care of their own rooms, and they take turns cleaning out the cat's litter box-- and then I expect them to pitch in for around thirty minutes per day when we are home.

Everyone that is home helps.  I tell the kids what I need done and either assign or let them pick the task  they will do.  I only list what needs doing right then.  (I do have a sort-of system for what to clean when:  if I can't stand it anymore, it takes priority.  If everything is in relatively good condition, I check with Flylady to see what Zone she is on this week.)  If someone is not home, they do not have to do the half-hour of chores.  They are already working, either at a class or at a job.

My kids are age 11 and up.  I have more free time than they do in the mornings.  They have constant schoolwork while I have free moments in between them needing my help.  A little over a year ago I realized the landscape of our day had changed. It seemed silly not to dust or tidy the bathroom because that was So-and-so's chore.  I was available to do it and they were working on schoolwork.  I didn't want to give them the idea that it is okay to neglect a needful task if it's 'not my job'.

Sometimes I am otherwise engaged in the late afternoon.  If that happens, I have one of the girls make dinner.  After dinner, whoever does not have an activity does the dishes.  If we are all home, I ask the person that seems to have had the easiest day to do the dishes, and usually I help.  I generally don't take no for an answer.  I do listen respectfully to appeals, but unless the kid really has a point, I say thanks for the input and please do the chore.  You eat, you work.

Some weeks this means we don't get much beyond dishes, bathrooms, laundry and basic vacuuming.  I'm okay with that.  Other weeks we get plenty of detailed cleaning done, which is good.  Those are my favorite weeks.

The biggest drawback to this way is that I have to keep asking for help.  Some day I hope we will all do what needs doing when it needs doing without being asked.  I'm still figuring out whether this method encourages that.

Housework is never-ending, especially since we are in our house all the time.  We eat and sleep here, we do school here, I teach other students here.  There is always some project.  I want our house to be clean, but I want it to be relaxed too.  If you come to visit, you will probably find dusty picture frames, although not this week.  (I dusted them while watching Inception on Friday night.)  Things will not be perfectly clean, but hopefully we will be able to fully engage in your visit.  I would like to honor our guests with a company-ready house, and do so as often as I can.  Our whole family enjoys a clean house, too.  But sometimes we just can't manage it and still be civil.  Sometimes the most important thing is playing Monopoly and forgetting about the dishes in the sink.

I daresay we could play Monopoly after everyone pitches in and does the dishes.  That would be the best solution, but I'm not there yet.  Hopefully soon.  I want to keep my home tidy and welcoming.  I also want to teach my daughters the hidden art of making a warm, inviting home.  Throwing away the chore chart and going with something more dynamic appears to be one step (hopefully not the only one) in the transition.  It may be a normal transition in a home with tweens and teens.  That's where we are right now.


Javamom said...

Amen!! Keep it up, girl :-).

We do what needs doing when it needs it. Boys keep their rooms clean and decluttered all on their own. They aren't as good at putting their own dishes away all of the time, but J does the best at this. All I have to do (if I am busy) is ask one of them to unload, and they will.

You have to change with the flow and I encourage your intuition to be a good example of working in your own home at some of those chores if you have more time than they do!

It is good for me to do my part. After all, Hubby doesn't get the luxury of such choices as I have as to "when" I am going to attend to something or not. I want to model doing first things first whenever possible, so that my boys that still remain at home will know what I value and what they should value in their future lives in their own homes!

Katie said...

We have good weeks and bad weeks. Sometimes their rooms look great, and sometimes I have to say something. I have been known to put guilt-inducing little notes above the kitchen faucet for those that neglect to rinse their own dishes...