Chores- The Key To Smooth Home Management

I would love to say that “I don’t thrive in chaos.” That would be such a poetic, positive way to state my problem: I literally can’t handle mess, cacophony or tripping over small objects. I turn into Grumpy Mom. This would all be well and fine if I had pretty much any other job. But, here I am, mom of six (soon to be 7) and my oldest is 9. Chaos kinda comes with the department.

But for THREE YEARS I have been investing in chores. It sounds so easy: make a chart, buy some stickers, sit back and drink some lemonade while the house cleans itself. Let me assure you, that’s not what happens. For THREE YEARS I have been training, working, living and teaching. And finally- after months of sweat and tears (and one night-long hotel room stay two years ago when my handsome hubby kicked me out after a Mommy meltdown) I think we have gotten it. Here is an article I wrote last year, when the children were mostly responsible for maintaining our home. I didn’t realize then that they still required a great deal of oversight, and that the chores took too long in the mornings and left me cleaning up later in the day. It is helpful if you are just starting out, but here are some tweaks that have made it work, and actually lessened my load. Did you hear that? I am doing less cleaning daily and weekly.

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Different Times for Work: Mornings were simply not enough. We don’t have a large home, and though we try be as minimalistic as possible, eight people simply take up space. While the day would start out clean, it all had to be put back together again after bookwork and morning time, and again at dinner. This all fell onto my shoulders, and I often felt like I was cleaning and straightening up all day, but that there was nothing I could do about it. It is so important to me that everything is clean when my HH comes home, though he says he doesn’t care.  I would much rather come home to a peaceful home free of land mines, so I try to give him that. We now do specific chores in the mornings, at 5:00, and on Fridays. The daily morning and afternoon jobs keep the house tidy but Fridays we don’t do morning chores and instead, after school, we do a deep clean. This is my “anchor,” the time I can count on to get everything to rights. If for some reason we aren’t able to do this on Friday, we do it Saturday. More on deep cleaning later.

 

Prepare the areas: It is very hard for young children to walk in a room, scan, and see what needs to be put away, and what is meant to be left out. Piles of papers, room corners full of toys, and general clutter all looks the same as the stuff that might need to be cleaned up. When we had our home for sale, I really worked at organizing and de-junking, and finding a home for every single thing we own. It took a long time, and there are a couple areas that still seem to be magnets for the squatters (the top of my fridge is always “temporary” housing, as well as my command post in the kitchen) but I am mostly there. All the surfaces- dressers, tables, desks, etc are empty, and nothing is to be left on there. Same with the floors, and everywhere else. No hiding places, just homes. This is something that you can work on as you go- don’t be afraid to start a chore system before you’ve accomplished this, and simply update whoever is responsible as you complete it. Even photographing the area, and how it’s meant to look, can be helpful for some kids.

 

Clipboards: These are seriously essential for so many things, including car trips! For chores, everyone has their own clipboard with a sheet of page protected paper. On it in easy, clear, itemized bullet points are their responsibilities. For example, I don’t just write “Clean the Living Room.” That’s way too open ended, and doesn’t really give accountability to areas that may be missed. Instead, I write it like this:

  1. Clean up anything on the floor, bringing it to its proper home.
  2. Clean up anything on the couches, and put it where it goes.
  3. If anything got left on a table, return it to its home. Wipe all table surfaces if there are any spills or sticky spots.
  4. Look under the couches- everything likes to hide there to escape from you!
  5. Shake the rug outside if you see any crumbs or little pieces on the floor.
  6. Sweep the floor around the rug.

Because it’s in a page protector, they can choose to check off each job with a marker, and I wipe them when they’re returned. They did that at the beginning, but now it seems to be second nature to just do the next thing on the list. I like that it’s portable, and when they tell me “it’s done,” they can bring me the clipboard and I can see for myself. The lists also make it easier for me to check and see if everything has been completed, and to keep each child’s job straight. That’s the MAIN component of successful chores, that I learned from the Maxwells’ book: Inspect what you Expect.

 

Mastery over Rotation: We don’t switch around jobs. If you have a responsibility, it is yours for at least six months, but probably a year. This way, if I get lazy or busy with my governance, I know who is responsible and can make sure they put a bit more elbow grease into it. They get to “own” how things are done, and get really good at it. Our six year old daughter is very particular about the way she organizes the bathroom, and I let her do it her way. She likes certain things in certain places- and sure! She’s the one in charge. She actually came up with an ingenious way to store toilet paper, and I am thankful. No more “emergencies.”

 

Friday Deep Clean: they have always had weekly chores that were extra, but the jobs themselves weren’t as imperative or just not that helpful to me. I am very much my mother’s daughter and like everything to be cleaned and tidied all on the same day. Though the bathroom is wiped down daily, I like everything to be mopped, dusted and CLEANED once a week. It helps my mental health. This is the day that beds, closets, behind the doors- all the hiding places are shed with light, and order reigns again. The children do most of the house, and I do the family closet and kitchen counters because those areas are my favourite. When I’m done, I help whoever has the biggest load depending on the week we’ve had. When the house is turned to rights, and I pray someone will “pop over” (no one does: people only surprise visit after/during school time) we have a special snack. Since we homeschool, I never bought granola bars, cookies or fruit snacks, but now I buy a box just for Fridays. If you’re a super-amazing mom, you can bake something. It’s their highlight of the day, and even though it’s usually lunch time, I let them scarf em down!

 

Enjoy it!/Music: I let them listen to their music of choice. Obviously I have final say, but they all have their own playlists on my phone or Youtube and they love to sing (or in the One With the Role’s case, dance) while they work. I will have to catch a video of him, it’s so classic. It is veeery annoying to walk from room to room and hear a different, loud song in each place, but the payoff is great. I think this goes hand in hand with being a family who “values” work, and doesn’t just try to get it done as quick as possible. I want all our children to grow up with a good work ethic like their dad, so I want to model an attitude that says, “Hey! This is our home. It’s worthwhile to take care of it wholeheartedly.” This means I have to watch my attitude about almost all of my life. They can’t see my whining or putting off chores, or grumbling while I clean something up. Nope, it’s good to work. We often repeat: the family that works together, plays together. And mercy, can we play!

 

Last Notes: I don’t let them waste time. Chores lasts until about 9, and then I like to start our Morning Time. Obviously, there’s a big amount of wiggle room. If one of the kids is doing an awesome job and just needs a few more minutes, I’ll wait for them. But I don’t tolerate procrastinating. If the chores didn’t get done before school, they will have to be done immediately after books, before they can have lunch or screen time or whatever they were looking forward to. Same with 5:00 chores. If they aren’t done by dinner, they’ll have to do it right after instead of doing whatever the family is doing. This has seemed to be a good natural consequence of a bit of time-wasting we had going on. If the chores aren’t done by  lunch (school is usually done around 11-11:30), their screentime is forfeited for the day. It’s only happened once, and now they see it’s much easier to just get ‘er done. I can’t remember the last time they weren’t done before school, though. THREE YEARS. It took us THREE YEARS to find this flow.

We don’t tie allowance into this at all. They work here, because they live here. If they are saving or trying to get more cash for something in particular, I will offer extra jobs for money that they can do on their own time. We would like to start doing allowance, only to help them learn about money and budgeting, but it will not have anything to do with their chores. I don’t give stickers or stamps. But mercy, they get huge hugs for being such upstanding, invested, members of our family. I also try to really notice the “special touches” they leave to bless the space they care for.

 

**Chores are important. It’s important that children know how to care for a house, know the ins and outs of managing a home, and are able to clean up after themselves. It’s also the first “work” or “employment” that children can be trained in. They will be working in some form or fashion their whole life, and we need to start believing that it’s not a bad thing at all! Of course we want a good balance between work and play, but if they don’t have those bits of work, they often don’t even appreciate the play. It does our children a favour when we teach them how to work hard, to find fulfillment in the work of our hands, and that they are a crucial, needed member of our family. I also believe it’s important that they know that work needs to be done, and it shouldn’t all fall on Mom. There are no magical fairies that come to clean the house, do the laundry and make the meals. I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with helping your children, or serving them in some ways (I love doing laundry, and keep that job to myself) but if they don’t notice what’s being done, it isn’t much of a gift. I believe it’s my duty to set these children up to be contributing members of society, and its starts at home.**

 

What chores do your children have? Was it a struggle for your family? Do you do all the work in your home? I’d love to hear from you!

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Shabbat Shalom!

No, no, I’m not embracing Judaism. And these aren’t baby names, although they do both start with “s” and may have been in the running at one point (actually, I mentioned Shalom and was vetoed. Vehemently.) The entire week through, I am excited for Sunday. It’s our rest day, it’s a day that is sacred to our family. I’ve been thinking about it more lately as I have felt a huge frenzy overtake me and our household. It’s been welcome, believe me. I have been nesting like a crazy Birdie Mama, and cleaning every square inch, organizing, decluttering, finishing, well, you get the picture. I’ve been filling the freezer with meals, planning lessons for schooling, spending one on one time with the kids. And boy, do I feel great. Our next blessing is set to arrive mid March, so this nesting bug is hitting kind of early, but I am sure not complaining! I am in gravid heaven. So what does this have to do with Sunday? Well, I don’t want to stop, I want to keep going. I feel my time is running out, and after March I will never get to organize a drawer again, let alone plan something in advance. Obviously, this isn’t true, our family will grow and expand, making room for one more. I may get less done the first little while, but we’ll steadily make changes. So why is it so hard to stop what I am doing for one day a week? Why does it matter?

Well, I’ll start with why it matters to us. This is actually the fourth commandment, of the ten that were handed to Moses on Mount Sinai. A lot of people would say that we are no longer “bound to the law,” that Jesus cancelled all that. But I know that He fulfilled the law, not necessarily abolishing it. Looking at the multitudes of laws in the Old Testament is enough to make anyone fear that they will never get it, and mercy, there’s laws on everything! Hokey doodle, I am glad that I don’t have to follow every single one. But I do know that there is meaning behind the laws, and that they have the wisdom of God behind them. So where is the line between “legalistic,” and Bible following?

Last week in church, a beautiful man spoke right into my heart. I can say he is beautiful because he is over 80, and you can see Jesus in His face. He mentioned, and I’m not saying this word for word because I lost my bulletin, that part of grace is understanding what was done for you, and wanting to do the best you can for Him. Not because you won’t go to heaven if you don’t, but because you just want to do what He asks. I loved that. Spoke to my heart completely.

So, what sets our Sundays apart from other days? In our family, we only do what brings rest to our souls and bodies. Obviously, that’s different from one person to another. I’ll tell you my day:

1. Get up, bathe the kids in an assembly line of lather, toys and water guns, get myself ready, keep the chi straightener out of their reach, notice that all their clothes are now soaked. Get dry ones. Put towels on the floor to mop up spills of tea kettles on the side of the tub. Tell them to stop drinking the bath water.

2. Make a good breakfast. This is my best breakfast day, because we usually have company over before church, and have extended standing invitations to a few others. So I never know who’s coming, but it always works out. So, visiting while preparing breakfast, trying the keep the kitchen in decent order.

3. Get all the people out of the house to church on time. ‘Nuf said.

4. Church, which is usually a couple hours. We do have lunch there, which is a blessing for me, because I don’t have to make it. We go every week, because if our kids fall out of routine, we all have a hard time getting back to where we are. Handsome Hubby and I like it because we get time to just “be” in the Spirit. We get filled up, get to hear from our Lord, and get to just rest in His presence. At the luncheon after, I love it because I get to see Real. Live. People. I Love to be able to visit, and be refreshed by others.

5. This is when the real magic happens, folks. This is the Afternoon. 013 I get a nap, with  our sweet, second son. This is a great time, because while I am “sleeping” he sings little songs, pokes me in the eye, and kisses my cheek before he falls asleep beside me. I love this time with him! The HH plays poker, watches sports, or TV, or lays on the couch with our Big Kid. The pretty one has a nap, also. If for some reason naps will not work, we do nothing. The HH and I will snuggle on the couch watching TV with the kids, or I’ll read, but generally, we do not move around a whole lot. With three kids under 5, somehow this is not only possible, but it is expected. The afternoon is very quiet (compared to the other days of the week, not necessarily my grandmother’s house!)

6. Dinnertime! Time for culinary delights that accentuate the palate. Or soup from the freezer. Usually during the week, I’ll freeze something extra so that I don’t have to make anything. Or we have leftovers or something from the fridge. I rarely cook. Sometimes we eat processed foods. Don’t tell anyone.

7. Family fun. We dance, play games, jump on the bed, do all sorts of crazy stuff. We get to just “be.” We aren’t on the phone, we are relaxed, we aren’t thinking about anything. We get to just be with each other, and the kids. Do not call at this time. Well, you can, we just won’t answer.

And that’s generally our day. There is a lot of things we don’t do.

We won’t work, and that has been important to us since our dating days: even in ON we were able to say at all our jobs that working on Sundays was against what we believe, and against our faith. And it was almost always accepted. One thing’s for sure, you say the word “discrimination” and people take you seriously. We never got a Saturday off, mind you, but we have always had Sundays off.

We won’t shop. If we are away and it can’t be avoided, we will, and we did get gas a couple months ago (my fault) but those times have been few and far between. Our rationale is why make someone have to work to serve us? Yes, yes those people will be working anyways. But why be one of the customers for which the business caters to, at the sacrifice of its employees? As a teen, this one was hard because often my friends would go out, from youth group, and do fun stuff. Or I know of families that go out for lunch together or whatever. Good for them, that’s great! I don’t think it’s wrong, we just don’t. I don’t want to make people work for me.

At this time in my life, I don’t do “My Work.” I will load up the dishwasher, and straighten up before church, but that’s it. And if you have more than one child, you know that the day accumulates a lot of stuff. I don’t do the dishes, I don’t do laundry. I don’t straighten. Wherever a toy falls, there it lays, till Monday. And let me tell you, when I get up Monday morning, it feels so good to put everything to rights again. I feel refreshed, and actually wanting to get everything back where it should be, instead of doing it out of duty or habit. Now, I just sit, and marvel at what this house would look like if I ever went away. . . . In saying this, I hope that when my days aren’t full of monotonous work, my Sundays will be different. I knew a beautiful, wonderful lady at my old church, who would make a big dinner each week, down to the bone china, and then invite three random couple or families for dinner. This was rest for her; and certainly all who visited her table were rested when they left. I would love to do that! The thought now breaks me into a cold sweat, but her weekdays were vastly different than mine. That brings me to my next point.

We won’t get bogged down by rules. If you understand the rationale behind the fourth commandment, then you understand that the Sabbath is a day to rest. God rested when He made the world. He didn’t need to; He’s God. But He did. So we do. I think the point is to rest our bodies, physically, and to consecrate the day to Him however we can. I think it looks different to everyone else. Does it have to be Sunday? I don’t think so, I think we could give Him another day each week if we had to. I know it was originally Saturday. Does it matter to me? Nope. I know, without checking the calendar or even thinking twice that Sunday is His day in our home. To spend time with Him, be filled up by Him, and to rest the bodies that He made so purposefully. What if we get invited out? Why not do something “fun” for the family? We are very careful in planning, only because we are very busy people. And we do A LOT as a family. My HH and I are both super energetic go-getters, and we want to do fun stuff all the time. I think this is the main reason why we haven’t “burnt out,” or are able to do what we do on a daily basis. We know our day of rest is coming. One day our “rest” will be to visit, or have people over, or go do something super fun outside. But at this point, with our little children, we need to sit. Uninterruptedly. Do I think you have to go to church every week, and take a Sabbath in order to go to Heaven? Mercy, no. But I am so thankful that it is a commandment.

I cherish this time. I am so thankful that the God who made me so wonderfully and fearfully knew that I needed this “rule.” I need Someone to say to me, “Now you rest.” I remember my mom saying, as she put us to bed at night when we complained, “I WISH someone would put me to bed!” I never understood this till being a mom, with a neverending list of neverending lists, with baskets that are rarely empty and hands that are always full. I am so glad that each week, I feel the Lord telling me, “Go to bed.” He knew what He was doing.

Oh yeah, and Shabbat Shalom means simply, “Have a peaceful Sabbath.” May you find peace in the Lord sometime this week, or today, and if you already do, may you thank God that He commands it, and wants it, from you.