Recently, my husband, a little more fed up than usual about coming home to an extremely cluttered home and kids who frequently objected to having to help around the house, decided we should review our family chore chart. I'm embarrassed to admit that despite my admiration of spreadsheets and organizational charts, our family "chore chart" was obsolete. There was nothing written down. Kids had chores, but I'd given up fighting for them to get done in lieu of keeping some peace and getting school work accomplished. I'd gotten lazy and it was reflected in both our children's attitudes and the state of chaos in the house.
The last time we seriously took a look at chore lists and what kid should do what, everyone was a few years younger and less capable of major contributions to getting things accomplished around here. But now, with kids ranging from 6 to nearly 16, there was something amiss in chore-land.
So he put together a list of things he'd like to see done more regularly and suggestions for frequency. After doing some research online about what other families have on their chore charts (and the ages of children who can handle such jobs) and thinking about our current problem areas in the house, I was able to build a spreadsheet with daily chore responsibilities for everyone and individual spreadsheets listing each person's chores individually, per day.
Because some chores take longer than others and some kids have better abilities to handle in-depth responsibilities, while others need short-attention-span jobs, I shuffled things around until each child had approximately one hour of chores per day. Also, younger children have better supervised jobs where they are more complex. Considering the kids are homeschooled and part of teaching them is helping them learn time-management and other life skills, we figured an hour a day is not too much to ask. They can spread it out or do most everything at once (perhaps not, "feed the dog dinner," but you get my drift, I hope).
Even for the younger kids, our hope is that by increasing frequency of certain chores, even if they're not very skilled at it yet, they'll cover the vast majority of completion over the course of repetition. For example, we had our oldest daughter sweeping once a week prior to this new chore chart (though it usually needed it more often). Now, our youngest daughter does the sweeping -- every day -- with our oldest doing quick mopping on Mondays. So while our six-year-old is new to sweeping our entire tile floor, she might -- over the course of days -- get all the dust and crumbs for the week.
Is this making any sense to anyone?
Anyway, on our first day of this new chore chart, things were a disaster. Some kids were excited to prove themselves with their new responsibilities. Others had intense hatred for what is now expected of them. It seemed that the entire day was a battle of who has which cleaning supplies, who was or wasn't doing their chores when others thought they should be (or shouldn't be), temper tantrums and many, many tears (those, I will admit, were mine).
I was quick to want to throw in the towel on the whole plan! It was messing up my ability to do things the way I'm used to and get school done per usual and it just threw me for a loop. In the end, the house was more welcoming for my husband when he came home from work, even if I was worse to look at than normal for the puffiness under my eyes and the bright red nose at the center of my face. The kids all felt a certain sense of accomplishment in spite of their kicking and screaming earlier in the day. I was just tired.
There were a few funny moments amidst the chaos of transitioning to this new plan, and I tried my best to poke them deep into my memory to recall them here later. For now, I'll relay two -- they just both happen to be involving our middle child, Z.
One of his chores was to dump all the small garbage cans around the house. I'm talking about the ones in kids' bedrooms, in the laundry room and in our homeschool room. He did this early in the day. Then J, who was supposed to pick up our homeschool room, quickly refilled the trash can there with loose papers and craft scraps. Z noticed it was about 3/4 full and lifted it to look closer. Then he said, "Should I dump this trash again or should I wait till it's all the way full?"
When I'm recalling it here, it sounds less funny than it was with his facial expressions and just the oddity of leaving a near full trash can until it's completely full. I'm not sure why that would matter so much, but maybe he was just so used to seeing it overflowing on to the carpet, he wasn't aware that trash can be taken out pretty much any time and I'd welcome the job being done.
The second story had to do with his short attention span -- even in reading his chore chart. Z has most of the 5-minute jobs because he is easily distracted and needs to keep moving and doing different things or forget it. His chore chart looks extra long because he does have more jobs than the other kids ... they're just -- timewise -- much quicker to accomplish.
One of his chores was to "Clorox wipe the Downstairs Bathroom Sink and Toilet." But Mr. Distractability read, "Clorox wipe the Downstairs," and was off and running. He was wiping doors and walls and floors (all of which happily received his quick swipes of cleanliness) and suddenly he broke down into tears.
I said, "What are you crying about?"
I asked, "What job are you doing right now?"
He replied, "I'm wiping the downstairs."
I said, "Bathroom."
He said, "I'll get to it! But first, I need to do the living room, the kitchen, the family room, the halls ... and do I need to do inside the closets?"
Then I started laughing, which he didn't like too much. I showed him the chore chart and told him to read more carefully next time. He was quite annoyed at how much time he'd wasted on wiping the downstairs. I just found it hilarious.
Day two, today, went slightly smoother, aside from other things pulling my attention (phone calls and text messages), but in a year or so, we should have this new routine down. I hope.