Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Keeping House: Our Chore System

Now that we've gotten a good start on the new year and I'm at least a little used to being a mom of four, I thought I would spend some time on this neglected blog.  Jen at Wildflowers and Marbles recently posted a nice write-up about chore charts and systems, and since one of my first tasks of the new year was to revisit our chore system, I thought this would make for a nice topic.

In trying to design a chore system that worked for my family, I wanted something simple, flexible, and easy to customize for that particular day, while still ensuring that the necessary weekly and monthly chores were completed often enough to keep the house looking decent.  I've worked on this system for my family for at least five years now, updating and refining it once or twice a year.  I'm pretty happy with how it is working, although I'm still fine-tuning the individual lists of what needs to get done.

Our chore chart resides in my homemaking binder on top of a bookshelf near our kitchen area.  Above the bookshelf are two 12" square picture frames with scrapbooking paper in them.  The top one is for the week's menu, and the bottom one is for the day's chores.  I have labels written with a wet erase pen, and I write the chores and menu with a dry erase pen.  In my binder I have a master list of what needs to be done by which person on which day.  Each morning (hopefully, but sometimes not until just after lunch!) I write in the day's chores.  We all do chores together for about 45 minutes after lunch.  There's also time spent here and there picking up, emptying the dishwasher, feeding the cat, and doing other little things needed to keep the house in reasonable order, but this 45 minute period is where the bulk of the routine home maintenance happens.

Our chart consists of two pages - one that shows each day of the week and each person's chores for that day and the other that shows a list of monthly chores.  On certain days there is a spot for a monthly chore, and then I'll pick one from the monthly list, cross it off, and write it up on the picture frame.  Each month I'll print out a new copy of the monthly list.  This way those chores that don't need to get done every week aren't neglected and I have an easy system to make sure they get completed.

I like this system because it easy for me to assign an extra chore or skip something I have written in the binder without confusing the children or giving any cause for complaining.  (Not that my children would ever do that  *ahem*)  But it also makes it easy for me to make sure things get done regularly and that everyone has work to do during this time.  The writing is a little bit of extra work, but it really only takes me about 2-3 minutes and the flexibility is worth it for me.  And it is very easy to see if everyone is done, because after work is completed and inspected, it is wiped off the picture frame.

If anyone is curious, I've added our current lists below (click on the image for a larger version).  These change pretty frequently (every 2-3 months, probably) as children get older and more skilled at various tasks.  I also like to rotate what they do so they get experience with a variety of jobs.  I should also note that everything in Nathan's column is really done by Nathan and me - I have not subbed out all the mopping to the three year old!


  1. This was interesting to read, bringing back many memories. I think having a system that works for your family is really important. It let me stay sane! And you are right - because the kids are constantly changing and life "springs things on you", the system needs to be flexible and change too. We used a card file system, charts, pictures for younger kids, and more and more and more. I loved playing with the organization and watching the kids develop in their skills. It's time consuming, but oh so worth it! When the kids left home, I remember realizing that I was going to have to clean all the bathrooms again! Alas!

  2. I really enjoyed reading about your system, Amber! I'm so glad you shared!!! And I am jotting down some notes on your chore choices! Great ideas!!!

    >>changing sheets<< and >>wipe down appliances<<

    I haven't included those in the kids lineup of chores yet, but what great ideas to include! This means I need to come up with another list - a master chore list! GOODY!!

  3. Thanks for posting this -- very interesting to see how you guys stay organized with chores! I read an article recently about how a majority of American parents don't involve their children in housework or teach them how to do chores, because it's more trouble than doing the chores themselves, initially. Mom and I were talking about how, when we were little kids, she had chore charts for us with pictures of the things we needed to do, because we were helping with housework before we were reading! :)