Household Chores Strike Back

Maybe there will come a day at some point in the halcyon future where chores around my house are a thing of the past. Where everything magically cleans itself, and no one makes messes anymore. Where the floors are spotless, the dust is in hiding, and windows are all clear as crystal. (Clean crystal, mind you.)

That day is not today.

But until that day arrives, I will valiantly continue trying to come up with new ways to keep everyone involved in the cleaning of the house. We’ve had chore charts, chore assignments, and chore strategies. Most of them work for a while, but sooner or later, they run out of juice, and we’re back to the old reliable “Denisa ends up doing most of it” approach, which has obvious issues. (Note, I’m not just throwing my kids under the bus here. I’m getting some wheels on me as well. Cleaning is often a big game of chicken, and I’m a pro at not flinching first. My tolerance for clutter is a bit lower than Denisa’s, I think. My tolerance for dust and dirt? Much much higher.)

So when we were driving home from Acadia, we had some family time in the car, and I got to talking to Denisa again about what we might do to keep the house clean. Our family’s in a different place than we were the last time I made a concerted chore chart effort. Back then, the kids were all younger. MC was too young to really be a full member of the cleaning crew. Now? Everyone’s old enough to get something significant done.

For the last while, our approach has often boiled down to “Fifteen Minute Cleanup,” where we’d take a Saturday and devote a few 15 minute rounds of everyone going around and cleaning something on their own. The alternative to this was me gathering the family and making a list of everything that needed cleaning. Then we’d go through the list, picking tasks that each of us would take care of. (It was like picking teams in gym, only with more elbow grease.) Everyone liked that for the most part, I think, mainly because they knew exactly what they needed to do, and could get it done on their own time.

So why not make a whole, consistent system around it?

I had Denisa make a list of all the spaces in the house that needed to be cleaned. (I was driving, so I wasn’t writing anything down.) We then ranked each of those spaces on a scale of 1-5 for how difficult it was to clean it. Adding that all together, we came to a total of 36. (We forced it a bit, to make sure the total was divisible by 4.) That meant each person had to take charge of 9 points of it. We went through picking, the same way we did occasionally, only this time it was for keeps. (Before we did that, we had a discussion as a family to make sure everyone was on board. The girls realize this is a problem, and they liked the proposed solution.)

So now I’m in charge of the loft, the movie room, and the office. Each day, I’m committed to spending 15 minutes cleaning one of those areas. Everyone else is doing the same thing. 15 minutes a day. (You’re allowed to clean for 30 minutes one day, if you want to get ahead of things, but no more than that.) We all know who’s responsible for what, so if things start to look shoddy, we know who to talk to. The bottom line is that we’ll be spending 6 hours a week (Sundays are off) as a family keeping the house clean. If we stick to that, we’ll be doing a much better job than we’ve been doing to date, and Denisa should have much more free time. It’s a win win win.

We’re four days into the new plan right now, and it’s survived well so far. 15 minutes feels very doable, even on a busy day. The house is already showing the difference. The real test will be if we can keep it up for a few months. I’m optimistic, since Daniela’s about as good at routines as I am, and with two of us on it at that level, the odds of them staying shoot up.

But wish us luck, regardless.

2 thoughts on “Household Chores Strike Back”

  1. are you writing a book called a family of killers? i have seen it advertised on sourcebooks but when i google it i can’t find it anywhere.

    1. I am! It actually just barely got announced. (I didn’t even realize they’d publicized it yet.) I’ll blog about it today, I think, but it’s going to come out in August. Another historical thriller, this time based around a series of killings in Kansas in 1873.

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