Heart-to-Heart with Diane

Hello and Welcome! Isn't raising a family the greatest!? I know I've got the best job in the world, just being Mom! I love sharing things I've discovered that make being "Mom" better, easier or more fulfilling, and that is what this blog is all about. Welcome!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Get A Hold of Your House

Does homeschool have to equal a messy house?


Your house can be cleaner than ever, because homemaking is an important life skill, a valid school subject, and working side-by-side with you, your kids can learn to be pros! In my case, Mother is the worst problem . . . my clutter, my lack of follow-through. My kids know how to clean, and as long as I check their chore charts, the jobs get done.

How does a overworked mom get a hold of her house?

First, make a list of all the jobs that have to be done to maintain the level of cleanliness that you are comfortable with. (This will be different for each mother, because some like a more relaxed environment than others.) Divide the jobs into the frequency that they need to be done.

Write this on a paper:



(or Weekly, if you do chores on another day)

Now brainstorm and make a list under each heading. Here's mine:

Sweep dining and kitchen and spot clean floors
Take all garbage out
Sort laundry into each person's bins
Fold and put away family laundry (towels, sheets, etc.)
Quick clean of blue bathroom
Quick clean of yellow bathroom
Quick clean of downstairs bathroom
Clean/declutter living room
Clean/declutter dining room
Clean/declutter family room
Clean/declutter school room
Keep phone counter cleared off

Set table
Clear table
Put away food
Unload and load dishwasher
Wipe off counters
Empty dishdrain

Deep clean bathrooms (tub, mirrors, mop)
Mop all wood floors
Vaccum all carpeted floors
Clean pantry
Clean stove top
Windows/mirrors/light fixtures
Fridge clean-out
Mow lawn

Now, let the fun begin! Announce to the family that each one will get a chance to pick out the chores they'll be doing. Go around the family one by one and let each child pick a number out of a hat to see what order they will get to choose them. Start with the child that picked #1, and let him select his favorite daily job. Keep going around, in number order, until the daily jobs are gone. (It doesn't matter if someone got more than the next person.)When there is complaining, reinforce how fair it is, and how these chores aren't permanent but will change in time.

Move on to the mealtime jobs, and then the Saturday jobs. Give everyone as much free choice in the job selection as possible, overseeing to make sure it is fair and no one takes on too much or gets all the easy jobs. If your children spand a wide age range, you might mark the easy jobs with a star and only allow those to be selected by the younger children. Make this process as happy and playful as possible.

When the choosing is finished, make a chart for each child of his jobs. I put a week's worth of check-off boxes next to each chore and slip these charts into a page protector so the children check off each task with a wipe-off marker. Here is one of my children's chore charts:

If you haven't taught your children how to house-keep, you have some rigorous training to do. It helps to tape a detailed step-by-step how-to chart up inside a cabinet door in the room that explains just what to do. Young ones will need a simple picture chart so they can follow illustrated directions.

If you have older children, your workload is going to be hugely reduced once they can do their part to maintain a clean house. Little ones (and big ones until they are trained) need mother to work side-by-side with them until they are competent. Or you can give them an older sibling (that has been trained), the job to partner up with to teach a younger one. Don't underestimate young children and cleaning ability, though. For one thing, the younger ones have the greatest enthusiasm for chores! Even a 3-year-old can do a pretty good job of cleaning a sink. Even if your family is mostly just young, housekeeping training is essential. And even if you end up working side-by-side with each child to train him, the truth is that you are getting more help than you had before!

Obviously, the more children you have, the less each one has to do. If you have a big house, it will get less dirty as it will have less occupancy per square foot, so some jobs may be reduced to twice a week, instead of daily. If you have a small house, it gets dirtier, so something like sweeping a heavily trafficked area might need to be done in the morning and after dinner.

Mom and Dad take on the jobs that the children can't yet do, such as grocery shopping, changing the oil in the car, household repairs, baking bread, etc. Because Dad is earning a living and Mom is teaching school and caring for children, I feel as parents we are already doing our part. The kids need the skills, and the chance to contribute to the family, so they do the majority of the house upkeep.

As well as household chores, I expect the children to wash dishes, gather and put away their possessions, take care of their own rooms, do their own laundry, and eventually take on a Dinner Night.

Doing Dinner Night at my house means deciding what to make, thawing frozen foods ahead of time, checking that we have all the ingredients, and preparing the whole dinner. They get to choose whatever they want to eat as long as it follows our Balanced Meal chart that I have posted in my kitchen. Young ones need lots of mom-help to make a meal, but by about 11-years-old, they can cook dinner all by themselves—something they find very gratifying. They enjoy everyone's compliments and the praise for making a good meal! And they love the freedom to choose what to eat. I love what it does for them by way of training. My kids will never go hungry for lack of know-how!
Once you get the kids' chore charts up and posted, it is just up to us, Mom, to check them after morning chore time, and in the evening before dinner. Being consistent is the biggest factor in our success. If we can discipline ourselves to check and follow-up on the children's chores, the whole family will soon be enjoying a much cleaner house. And the children will be more self-reliant, more responsible, and more capable!

A-h-h-h, this feels good!

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  • At October 21, 2009 at 4:35 AM , Blogger Renee said...

    Wow, thank you for this! It is an area I really struggle in. I am printing this right out to refer back to often :o)

  • At October 21, 2009 at 12:26 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I really struggle with this as well. My children are 5,4,3,1 1/2, 3 mo. I need help with what to encourage my 5 year old to do. Right now they clean their rooms and put away their laundry, they sometimes wipe off tables or other small jobs. I have trouble motivating them to do school work and chores. What are your ideas for motivation to get work done or discipline? I love your blog. Thanks,
    Beth Johnston www.johnston4in4.blogspot.com

  • At October 21, 2009 at 4:42 PM , Blogger Mama Rachel said...


    How did you know how much I needed this article this week? We've recently moved, and I found that the system that worked so well in the last house just doesn't work at all in our new house. I've been stuck on finding new ideas, and this article is giving me lots of them! Thank you so much! :-)

  • At October 21, 2009 at 6:46 PM , Blogger mamadragin said...

    This is so much simpler than anything else I have found and what I am currently doing! Thanks!

  • At October 22, 2009 at 9:25 PM , Blogger Tammy said...

    I really like what you said about a smaller house and more people getting a house dirtier faster. I have 6 children and we live in a 1000 sq.ft. house. Sometimes I feel like I'm going insane! :)
    I have been using something similar to what you've described in your article for some time now. I was wondering, though, how often you rotate the chores? I was rotating weekly, but that's too often--too much to keep up with. I'm considering yearly, but that seems a bit too long. Any thoughts?

  • At October 22, 2009 at 11:09 PM , Blogger Diane Hopkins said...

    I used to rotate monthly, but in reality, that is about how long it takes for the kids to learn and get used to doing their jobs. So, I started just leaving the chores "as is" indefinitely, or until a child came to me asking for a switch. Funny thing is, when we went around and chose chores again, the children basically picked their same chores, except for the one that was bugging them.

    So now I leave chores indefinitely, even for a year or two. It is easier that way! I do like every child to know every job, but once they have learned all the jobs, then I am happy to leave the chore routine untouched. When a child comes to me saying, "I'm tired of taking out the garbage", then I say: "Go find a brother or sister who wants to trade their disagreeable job for taking out the garbage." And they often negotiate a trade. This has worked well and everybody ends up happy. And the child who loves to vacuum keeps on doing it, and enjoys it. So, why shouldn't he do it!?

    If they can't find someone who wants to trade, then I help them negotiate with the other children. Maybe a child will trade out 2 of their chores for the one unpleasant job. If not, we go back to picking jobs and making up new charts. If a child likes to do something, though, and no one else objects, I think they should get to do it forever more! So instead of going back to square one and picking all new jobs, I ask everyone what they like to do the most, and if no one objects, we let everyone keep their job that they like and just go round and take turns picking jobs for those things that nobody wants to do.

    Best success!

  • At October 23, 2009 at 7:33 PM , Blogger JJS said...

    This post is great!!! I relate almost to the tee with the sugar and now this post. I just created bins (diaper boxes), and a clip board with my chores on it. I have a 19month old and a 5 week old. Time to get into the swing of things. Yeah for order, God is a God of order.

  • At October 27, 2009 at 12:45 AM , Blogger Sunflowermommie said...

    I really liked your post. Thank you for sharing.

  • At November 2, 2009 at 12:46 AM , Blogger Judson Family said...

    This is a struggle for me and my family as well.. thanks for posting and I will be printing this out for refrence as well


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