Friday, October 28, 2011

The Chore Box

A friend has asked that I write a post about our chore box.  Before I get to the actual box, I want to preface this with some advice about moderation.

I am an "all or nothing" kind of gal.  I am easily distracted, yet I can become uber-focused on the most inane details.  This affects all aspects of my life:  homeschooling, parenting, housecleaning, church... you get the idea.  After 20 years of marriage to THEE most consistent man IN the world, I have learned a little about moderation and a TON about grace.

I've learned to prioritize and make difficult, conscious decisions about frivolous endeavors which might steal me away from the good work that God has for me to do. (Yes, laundry IS a good work.)  I've learned not to allow discouraging thoughts decide how I behave or think.  I know to counteract those thoughts with God's truth from His Word.  Most importantly, I have been shown that there is always forgiveness and grace waiting for me when I fail.  My goal is no longer to do everything well all the time.  Rather, my goal is to grow in the knowledge of God's Word and not to hinder His work done through me, that I might be a blessing to those he has given me to serve (my family).  When we see our life through this lens, we cease "trying" and we simply allow God to be God.   This is a wonderful resource for those who are really drowning in CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome).  While I appreciated many of the ideas that the Flylady suggested, I found that this was just another extreme for me.  I gleaned many good habits and ignored what didn't seem to be a problem in my world.  Learning what my "hot spots" were and establishing a morning routine were two of the most helpful tips.
Sidetracked Sisters Happiness File
My mom read a book back in the '80s  (The Sidetracked Sisters) and I believe the Flylady adopted some information from the two sisters who wrote the book.  I have never read the book, but I love the creative approach that they gave to house cleaning. Inspired by this book, my mom had a box with 3x5 cards of every color.  On each card a single chore was written.  The color of the card determined how often the chore was done.

 I don't know what they chose for colors but here are mine:
White= Daily, Blue= Every other day, Pink=Weekly, Green= Every other week, Purple= Monthly, and Yellow=Seasonal.

Inside the box, I have written the days of the week for two weeks on tabs and made them into dividers. I've also made dividers for the months.  On each chore card I have written instructions about how the chore is to be done.  The newer the chore, the more instructions needed.  If it is one that I can do in my sleep, there might only be a single sentence.  If it is one that I think my kids need specific directions and reminders about, then I write that on there.
I started out with basic chores and have added more as I go along.  Everything from daily sweeping to assembling my rain barrel in Springtime.  What I determine as a chore and how often I'm willing to do it... is totally up to me.  These are my flexible boundaries.

You might be saying, "Wow, that doesn't sound flexible to me.  I'd hate being bound to a chore box everyday."  Yeah, me too.  Which is why it is only my guideline.  Most of my house cleaning is done when I see that it needs to be done, this is how my mind gets "inspired".  But in my natural ebb and flow of life and business, I often get into ruts where I don't do much cleaning at all... the inspiration isn't there.  Then all of a sudden, I'm looking around and seeing messes everywhere.  THAT is when I reach for my crutch, my chore box.  The chore box isn't out everyday.  I might use it for three weeks straight and then forget about it for a month.  But I know it is there and when I feel swamped and flailing... I go to my box, move some cards around so I can visually see what I can reasonably accomplish that day.  It is a visual prioritizer for me.  It allows me to work back up to my routine.

What I do with my chore box is this: I set out the day's chores on our dining room table.  I group them according to color and let everyone pick what they want to do. We homeschool so it usually takes all day to get the chores finished, and each person does what they can when their schedule permits it. Every person is responsible for their own morning routines; making beds, personal hygiene, feeding pets etc. These are posted on my kid's doors and mine is in the chore box.  As the chores in the box are accomplished, we put them back into the box in their next spot.

 Now, when involving your kids in the chore box, keep in mind that instruction must happen before you can expect them to successfully accomplish a chore.  My kids are 16 and 12, so there isn't much they can't do.  But they can do them because they have been taught.  There are chores for any age.  Even if you have to make up some chores.  Washing baseboards, light switches and doorjams are great chores for preschoolers.  Holding the can of Pledge while mommy dusts is a perfect chore for babies... just make sure the cap is securely fastened! :)

Note: If a chore doesn't get done that day... FALL APART IMMEDIATELY!!  hee hee... just put it back into the box for tomorrow.

There it is.  The chore box, pretty simple really.  Hope it helps.

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