Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Large Family Logistics: Chores and Household Management

With a household of 8 people, it is helpful to have some systems in place that teach the children responsibility, plus for the parents to delegate chores. A lot of parents, especially those that are perfectionists, may prefer to do the work themselves so that it can be done "just so" but in the long run everybody is shortchanged. Mothers are frazzled by all the work and are easily tricked into thinking that the way their house looks is more important than the people who live there, and children get the mistaken notion that things never get cleaned and need no maintenance.

When we're bringing up children, part of the goal is to help prepare them for adulthood. If they do not learn to cook, to clean, to do what needs to be done, and to work as a team, how are they going to go on to their first home successfully?

We've had the same chore system going for at least 6 years, and it still works well, although in sitting down to write this I realize that this summer I should probably plan to spend time training my youngest 3 children into jobs because they are definitely old enough now. (by summer they will be 6, 5, and 3)

Six years ago I had 2 kids that were old enough to do chores, so I picked out two areas of the house to assign to them to be in charge of cleaning. Eventually we added in child #3. I have each child to the same area for probably 3-9 months at a time. The change-up occurs when they beg for different jobs or when I see a need for it. I don't have the memory capacity to keep track of rotating chores, nor do I want to listen to endless "Which area is mine today?" questions. I want to say, "Go do your areas!" and have everybody know what to do and how to do it. They get very good at it from repetition.

Our current chore areas are:
1. upstairs floors (kitchen, LR, hallway): The child who cleans this area is supposed to pick up everything off these floors and put them where they go (NOT pile them on the couch or end tables!) and then vacuum as needed.

2. Family Room: The person who cleans this area does the floors just like the other person, but is also supposed to pick up any other stuff in the area, fix couch cushions, etc. It's a smaller area so that's why there's more to do.

3. Stairway and downstairs hall, down bath garbage: The person in charge of this area picks up all the stuff on the stairs and downstairs hall, vacuums it, and takes out the downstairs bathroom garbage when needed.

Now that I will be adding three more children to the rotation I will be able to start training the older children on bathrooms (something I wasn't willing to delegate to them when they were younger) and maybe some other things, in order to give the simpler jobs that are easier for me to supervise to the little ones.

The way I decide who gets what area is based on time and ability. This year, of my three worker bee kids, my daughter is the only one in school. She has homework and after school activities, so therefore less time for chores. So for this entire school year her job is the stairs/hall area. It doesn't even need to be done every day, and it's fairly quick to complete. Also, she has very good job skills already and is quick to help with supervising younger sibs and things like that, so it seems fair to me for her to have this smaller area.

My third child has the upstairs floor job because I can supervise him best here. He's still learning the job, plus tends to be a little lazy. He needs to be watched and given direction a lot.

My oldest child gets that family room since he can do the job without supervision and I don't go in the FR that often.

Basically, at some point in the morning I tell the boys to "do your areas" and they get it done. If you do it first thing in the morning then the house isn't embarrassing if somebody stops by. Sometimes if they house gets pretty messy through the day I will call for people to do their areas again. And if a big project made a big mess in one area, I have everybody work together to clean it up.

We keep toys for the younger kids in cabinets and a closet, so they can't just drag a million things around the house. In fact, I think that every year we have fewer toys than the previous one. I have found that my kids prefer to play outside more than anything, and they like riding toys. There are very few indoor toys that they are even willing to do anything with. So when gift-giving occasions come around we typically ask for outdoor riding toys, or things that are non-messy for indoors. For instance, this Christmas my mom got the three youngest boys a nice Radio Flyer bouncy horse, and with money from my grandmother we bought the fabulous Needak rebounder. Both have been great for blowing off energy in the winter months, and neither makes a mess. Nothing to strew about the house! Nothing to pick up! Most of what we have on our floors is stuff like papers, books, shoes and clothing items, and so forth.

Right now I do all the chores related to kitchen cooking and cleaning, laundry, and bathrooms. And everything else. ;)

For bathroom cleaning the best thing I have ever done to keep up on them is to have all the equipment I need right in there. For instance, in our main bathroom I have toilet cleaner, a toilet brush, spray cleaner for the mirror, and baking soda which I use for the sink and tub. If I'm in there and notice the toilet is looking yukk I just clean it. It only takes 20 seconds so why not? I also recently bought Clorox wipes which I really like for when one of the potty bandits here has sprayed all over the seat. (5 boys in this house--you do the math on how safe the toilet seats are to sit on)

When I'm supervising kids in the bath I usually do the mirrors or whatever more in-depth cleaning needs to be done. Cleaning this bathroom is very easy for me now just because I know that most of it can be done in less than a minute and all the stuff is right there.

I am still working on getting to this level with the other bathroom. I have Clorox wipes down there, and put in one of those 3000 flushes things into the toilet tank to try to keep things somewhat fresh. I do have another toilet brush and cleaner there, but get to it less often. (it gets used less often too so that's usually ok)

For bedrooms, the idea around here is that if you spend 15 minutes a day on your room, it should stay decent. We used to be better at enforcing this but have fallen out of the routine a little bit. Nevertheless, the main way the day goes is "do you area" and then "pick up your room." Most of the time both are done within a half hour or so and the house runs better.

I have 5 sick boys right now, so this post has been written with a lot of distractions. Hopefully you can get some good ideas from it!


Mimi said...

Bwaahahahahahaha,potty bandits. I hate using our boys' bathroom for that very reason. Ick.

Heth said...

I love reading how other moms delegate chores.

I LOVED this:
"Mothers are frazzled by all the work and are easily tricked into thinking that the way their house looks is more important than the people who live there"

What an easy trap to fall into.