As a homeschooling momma to four kids, the chores are never ending. Toys are spread across bedroom floors and a few are scattered into the living room. Craft papers spill out of a box. A paint project is left out on the table from the day before. Laundry baskets overflow with dirty clothes. The kitchen… Well, you get the idea.
My rule of thumb for mess has always been that if it can be cleaned in less time than it took to make it, then the mess is worth it. For example, playdough play can last for an hour or more, but clean up only takes five to ten minutes. Baking, icing, and decorating cupcakes takes much longer than the ten minutes it takes in to wipe down the kitchen afterward. Of course this rule was much easier for me when I only had one or two kids. It still works. I just have to convince the kids that it is now their job to do the clean up. My three girls will often throw caution to the wind and play such large games of Barbies or restaurant that the cleanup is huge. They take some coaxing, but they love the games enough to do it over and over again. My son is much more cautious and calculates his activities carefully before decided if the mess is worth the work to pick it up afterwards.
As for the everyday chores, I have tried various versions of chore systems to keep the kids involved in helping over the years. We have been stuck on the current one for about a year and it seems to work pretty well at this stage. In the morning I send them to do their “6 Jobs”. On the wall in the hallway, I have a little homemade chart with pictures for my non-reader.
1. Get dressed.
2. Put dirty clothes in the basket.
3. Fold and put their clean clothes away.
4. Tidy bedroom.
5. Make bed.
6. Family Job
The family job changes daily and seems to keep them from getting complacent. The jobs include empting the dish washer, cleaning bathrooms, cooking dinner, tidying the living room, taking out trash.
I wash most of the the laundry because I like that job. I also clean most of the kitchen. Of course I cook with the kids, so this job is not really saving me from the work, but I have found that cooking is so much more fun when it is not done alone. I will write more about what I am learning here later.
My goal is to be a manager of my home instead of doing most of the chores on my own. There is much improvement still needed in my system, but I feel like it is a good start and a lot better than the days when I was doing all of the work by myself.
What kind of system do you use? I am always looking for new ideas.