Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Chore Time

(Sarah has 15 children and writes her family blog HERE.)
One of the first reactions that I typically get from people when they come over for the first time is... "Wow- your house is SO clean!"

Now my home isn't perfectly clean ALL of the time- but its neat, orderly, somewhat organized and hygiene is a big priority. I imagine that when most people know how many children live here they assume that its a "big chaotic free for all." We work together as a team to keep things this way.

There are some larger families that don't let the "older" children have a huge role in the adult responsibilities. I will honestly admit that if my older children didn't step in and fill some of the adult roles day to day things would NEVER get done. I am one person and I can't be everything to everyone every second of the day or I would go bonkers. So its fairly normal to see each older child paired with a younger child and outside playing for an hour so that the adults can get things done inside. It's also normal in our family to see Lauren reordering medication for the month and David changing the laundry over and Grace making a grocery list. All things that in most families "the parents" would handle all of it. Frankly- I am NOT super Mom. If I choose to spend my entire day running around cleaning up after little people I wouldn't have anytime to ENJOY my children or my life at all.

And keeping our home clean is NOT an option. With so many people in a small space its likely everyone will get sick over and over. We try to limit that as much as possible especially for Jude and Angeline who can't afford anymore illness than they already have going on.

So that was my little "speech" before I share with you our chore list for this month. Because there are going to be some of you out there who think "Wow- her kids really do A LOT." And I am the first to tell you that YES- they do A LOT. I agree! We all do A LOT. :)

Starting a Chore Chart:

You should be able to click on our chore list for April above and make it larger. If your just starting chores in your home- please take things slowly. Start out with a really specific chore list that would be something like this:

"Sally- straighten the couches, sweep the living room, put away the toys in the living room where they belong, put shoes in the shoe bin, put any papers or magazines on Moms desks, put books on the book shelf, dust every other day (MWF)."

Sally's chore is basically "the living room". But if you tell Sally to "clean the living room" and you don't give specific requests or stay in the living room and clean it with Sally a few times- then Sally will have no clue what you expect. Sally will take everything on the floor and tables and dump them into a laundry basket in the corner and then skip the sweeping and actual cleaning. If Sally is 6- then I would clean the chore with her a few times until she gets used to it. If Sally is 12- then Sally should be able to follow her list without too much trouble. You might want to write the lists for each room on index cards to start with. You could even make copies of these so they can check them off as they complete them.

Changing Chores:

We used to change chores each week but honestly we are too busy to write a new chore list each week. So now we do it monthly and we separate the chores by room. At one point we had a JOB WHEEL and rotated the wheel daily just to mix things up a bit. You don't have to buy that one because its fairly easy to make your own. Again- that does make doling out responsibilities more time consuming.

We also have a rule that we never change chores without being sure that we did our very best before passing it on to the next person. After a month of doing the same chore everyone is really ready to do something new so they typically do their best job without too much coaxing.

Super Clean Saturday:

Each Saturday we super clean. Sometimes we super clean on Friday evening if we have plans for Saturday morning. We try to change chores the day after the super clean because it just makes the most sense. So during super clean Sally would be expected to step it up a bit in the living room and her chore would include extra things like:

"Take the cushions off the couch and vacuum it, move the couches and sweep under them, wipe off the toys and the door handles, sweep and mop the floor, shake out the rug by the front door, spot treat the couch and if needed take the cover off the couch and put it in the laundry room."

Now of course if Sally is 6- this is too much. Mom or Dad will need to partner with Sally in order to get these things done together. If your interested in knowing what takes place on super clean Saturday in the other rooms in the house- just email me and I will make a list.

But basically we find that if we expect a lot- they typically do a good job. And we always PRAISE PRAISE for trying and never would we expect more than they are capable of. That brings me to the next key point- Standards... your going to have to lower them a little especially at first!

Uncooperative Children:

At our house if our children don't want to be a part of the team to clean then they aren't a part of the team to play either. So things like going outside, or on the computer, or ice skating, swimming etc. won't happen later that day or evening unless the chores are done. If we have a child raging- which one in particular does from time to time... we just let her take all the time that she needs to get her job done. We reinforce to her that we don't expect her to do it RIGHT NOW if she just can't and that it will be there when she is ready to do it. Then we move on with our lives. Typically not too much time passes and she is ready to get her things done. Planning something fun and exciting helps to encourage timely chore doing.

We also have enough children that we find a lot of peer pressure to be a part of the team. It works in the favor of everything functioning well.

Setting timers around the house also works if you have big plans and need everyone to move a little quicker to get everything done. It also makes it more fun.

Small Children:

Jude is one and he picks up his toys.

We have a small wood box of toys in the living room for Jude and he can pick them up and put them away and he only has partial function of his legs. So please don't disable your able bodied small children! Everyone can help do something! Pairing up older and younger children is a good idea or keep the younger children with you. Put old socks over their hands and let them dust with their "dust eating puppets". Make it fun- they will join in!

And if all else fails give them some cleaner to spray.


Of course you would not want to give your toddler or preschooler a bottle of chemicals to spray. We like to use child friendly and safe cleaner- sometimes we make our own. We also have the heavy duty stuff in the back of the cupboard for the "big" kids and Mom and Dad to use when needed. We really love these products because they make a concentrated all purpose cleaner. Its safe to use and environmentally friendly. We can also make a bottle of it that's really watered down for the little ones to use. If it doesn't do anything else- it keeps them busy! (Of course we would monitor them with the bottle of cleaner even if its watered down.)

What the Parents do:

We divide and conquer. We micro manage. No- we typically are right along side of the kids helping to get things done. Or else we are paying the bills, fixing something, giving the baby a breathing treatment, or spending one on one time with someone while doing their chore with them. We are providing encouragement, direction, and back up help where needed.

Finished already?

When the chores are done then everyone cleans their bedrooms. And if that is done as well then we encourage the children to step in and help with their siblings jobs. Maybe there was a big mess in the toy room and its taken extra time to get it organized- we will send those children who are done out there to help with that job as well.


This doesn't take us a lot of time- because for the most part- the house is already clean because we do it EVERY day. So the up keep doesn't take as long and the reward is great. We know where things are and we get to live in a clean home.

On weekends we clean right after breakfast then just do a "pick up" before dinner. On school days we do a pick up and sweep after the kids leave for school and then the "chores" take place after school. For children who are in sports or activities after school- we try to have most of the chore done for them and they finish when they get home. This just comes down to there only being so many hours in the day and some days David leaves here at 7am and isn't home until 9pm if they had away soccer games. That would be pretty unfair to have him then go complete his whole chore. Being reasonable and considerate are important.

School Days:

We expect everyone to bring up their dirty laundry each morning, pick up their room/chore if needed and make their beds. We realize that some mornings this doesn't happen so well and we offer grace on those days and will get to it after school. But I do get ticked if they don't bring the laundry up- that's the one thing that needs to be done each day no matter what. (Because Mom does laundry all day long to get it done and there is nothing more frustrating then getting it finished and everyone bringing up dirty clothes from the day before!)


We don't have the money to compensate our children nor do we believe that it motivates them anymore than positive reinforcement and getting to work hard and play hard together. The reward is feeling good about doing a job well done. We have done reward systems for things like behavior modification which we have implemented when needed in the past.

If the children need to earn money for something then we always have jobs they can do to earn money like mowing the grass, weeding, touch up painting, super cleaning the van, organizing the storage room etc.

Child Training:

My sister is a horse trainer. I trained my dog not to go to the bathroom in the house. I do not train my children. I set an example and encourage them to work together as part of "the team". I don't believe in using the word training when it comes to parenting my children and functioning as a family. I don't have a problem with people who might call this child training but I don't use that terminology because to me it implies that they are somehow incompetent or incapable and I would never want my children to think that about themselves. Because the complete opposite is actually true- they are SO capable and SO competent.

Any Questions?

Leave me a comment. I would love to answer them and I encourage each one of you to start a household cleaning program that works for your family. I see far too many women that run themselves ragged trying to keep up with the housework. There is far more to life than housework!

1 comment:

  1. What a cool blog!!! I have a large family too. I have 6 kids. 1 boy and 5 girls. Wow. The girls are all the youngest kids. It is a lot of work but so much fun and I love the charts. The only way it works is with some sort of organization! Anyway, please visit my blog as well if you like.