If you’re a reasonably organized mom whose kids and husband help with household chores at any point before things get utterly, apocalyptically disgusting, you need to stop reading this blog post. Now. Go away. Hahah!
For the rest of you who have a normal family, this is the beginning of a new day. Not the type of day where you hope and pray that your kids finally get it together and make all your clean-house dreams come true without a word from you. This is a realistic way to get your family involved in keeping your house clean.
Listen, you’re not going to Marie Kondo your house overnight, but, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to squalor forever. I’m showing you what we’ve been doing at our house and giving you some resources to kickstart your own chore system in your home!
If you’ve been here for a while, you know that Braun and I have chosen to pay our kids for (most of) the chores that they complete and we use the Greenlight Card. This card works like a debit card that we parents can manage through an app on our phone. We can add money to their cards, set spending limits, restrict their card usage to certain retailers, and a ton more. This has REALLY helped to get chores done in our house and you can read more about it HERE. It has made my kids feel like grown ups and it’s reallllly great seeing them accountable for something.
Aside from incentivizing my kids, the biggest change for us is having established cleaning zones or areas.
In the past, I just asked them to help me as needed. We’ve always enforced basic manners like clearing your own dishes from the table, etc, but when no one is specifically responsible for an area, you find wrappers in your seat cushions and dishes under beds in bedrooms they aren’t allowed to eat in.
But as my kids have gotten older and messes have gotten bigger, assigning cleaning zones and reinforcing that behavior has totally transformed our home! Please know that I am not saying this lightly… it has completely changed our household.
In addition to the zones I’ve created for my home, each of my kids has daily personal expectations that never change. They include the following:
- BEDROOM CLEANED
- BED MADE
- BATHROOM PICKED UP
- BATHROOM MIRRORS
- BATHROOM GARBAGES
- ALWAYS KEEP A CLEAN LOCKER
- HAPPY ATTITUDE
What I like about these daily personal expectations is that they include both individual and combined responsibilities. The boys share a bathroom and the girls share a bathroom so if it’s not clean, it falls on both of them. This shared responsibility forces them to work together and sometimes, to pick up the slack of the other. It benefits them both when their bathroom is clean.
We have lockers in our mudroom and each kid has their own. During the school year, this can include keeping papers and school supplies cleaned up, backpacks cleaned out, and lunch bags emptied. They also have a drawer that they place all of their shoes in.
And most importantly, I want my kids to be happy. Some days that’s a choice and I want a daily reminder on there to my kids that they choose to have a good attitude or not. They can say, “Aw, man! I don’t want to clean up. I hate cleaning.” Or they can choose to have a good attitude and say, “I’ll do my chores right away, mom! The sooner I get done, the sooner I get to do an activity I choose.” Either way, they know the work is gonna get done. But their attitude changes the entire experience!
The thinking behind cleaning “zones” or sections is simple: depending on the number of kids and/or parents in your home, break your main living areas into zones or sections. In our home, we have 3 zones and each of my 3 kids is on their specific zone for ONE WEEK. Jett is still a little young (4) to be doing an entire zone by himself but I’ll touch on that in a bit.
Once you have your zones established, break it into 8-10 doable tasks. For example, our ‘ZONE 1’ is the kitchen and pantry. Whoever has this section has to complete the following tasks:
- DISHES (LOAD & UNLOAD DISHWASHER)
- COUNTERS (KITCHEN & PANTRY)
- VACUUM KITCHEN/DINING/PANTRY
- MICROWAVE (INSIDE & OUT)
- GARBAGES (KITCHEN & PANTRY)
- TABLE (CLEARED & WIPED DOWN)
- WIPE DOWN HIGHCHAIR/REFRIGERATOR
- TRAIN A PUP FOR 10 MINUTES
- BASEBOARD AND CABINETS WIPED DOWN (SAT. ONLY)
You can choose to assign which days or how many days a week they do the individual bullet points. We only have the baseboards and cabinets wiped down on Saturdays. Breaking down each zone this way makes it simple for kids to check each item off and feel like they’ve accomplished their assigned tasks. We don’t put a specific time when these tasks need to be done on MOST things but the kids know that they can’t go to school with their zone messy WHICH MEANS that their zone has to be clean the night before since they don’t have a ton of time in the mornings. My kids usually end up doing their zones once in the morning and once before bed. Plus they’re always getting on the brother and sisters cases if they leave something out in their zone… which has made my kids more thoughtful about putting their stuff where it goes.
Keeping these posted somewhere in the kitchen, pantry, or mudroom makes it simple for kids to check when they forget what they’re responsible for in their assigned zone.
Chores for Younger Kids
Every kid is different, and I am no guru, but I do believe that it’s important to give kids responsibilities starting at a young age. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Any of these chores can be done in conjunction with the zones you create. I love to give Jett small jobs in each zone that the older kids can help him accomplish.
Prepping For Success
The other thing we do in order to help our kids stay on track is to gather on Sunday and fill out their chore charts for the week. We talk about what we all have coming up, each kid fills out their chore chart with the tasks from their assigned zone for the week. It also gives us the opportunity to see who might need help, where Jett can pitch in, and our goals as a family!
I hope this helps you and your family as much as it has helped ours! And don’t worry if you need a week (or 3) to get into a great routine — because as we all know, slow and steady wins the race. Now that you’ve got some inspiration you can create zones in your home that will help you maintain your home in a way where your kids are accountable and can take pride in the work they do. And remember: every kid is different and every household has different needs! Be flexible, tweak what needs tweaking, and find that system and structure that works best for your family! Then, be sure to report back (with pics of your newly dusted abode, please!).