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by Lia Blanchard

For most families, maintaining an orderly home is an enterprise that can become a battleground. I believe that the real work isn’t in making chore charts, but in finding a routine that is likely to be successful for your family. It takes more effort than you might think.

Balance values, goals, and practicality

Effective chore management is a delicate balance of the family’s values and needs with individual capabilities, strengths/weaknesses, likes/dislikes, and personal schedules that constantly need adjusting.

For example, in doing research for this article, I kept reading about designating a set time every week for everyone to help clean the house together. I like the theory, but this will not work for my family. Firstly, it requires everyone being home at the same time, and Mom not being too tired. That means Saturday morning… but Saturday is the only morning of the week that we usually do not need to get-up-and-go. This quiet morning down time is important; I feel that it contributes far more to our family’s peace and health than trying to cajole the boys into doing the wash as soon as they’re done with their cereal.

Therefore, in our house, everyone has a set of responsibilities and a general schedule that is independent of everyone else; there is no “clean as a family time”.

Making sure individual needs and preferences are respected makes everyone feel like a valued member of the family team, and also prevents a lot of resentment. For example, one of my sons detests doing anything dishes-related, and traded his brother for other duties to get out of it. I simply ensured that no one is getting stuck with a disproportionate amount of chores, and let them work it out.

Tips and tricks

There’s really only one tip, and it’s not very tricky: keep it simple! From cleaning products and tools to process methods and quality control, keeping it simple makes it easy for everyone to do their part and enjoy their home.

Products and tools: There’s really no need for specialized cleaners for every different surface in your home. A good multi-purpose cleaner will handle almost any day-to-day cleaning job. The same applies for tools; find one or two pieces of good quality, multi-use gear, and you’re set. Avoid gadgets!

Process methods and quality control: Again, keep it simple. Whatever organization that you have decided – and decided together – will work best for your family should be laid out as simply as possible, and the individuals in charge of each chore should be trusted to get it done. (I am not suggesting that you don’t check to make sure things are done and done to a good standard, which, by the way, should be well-defined and age-appropriate.)

One of my favorite quotes from housekeeping mentor FlyLady is: Housework done incorrectly still blesses the home! Sometimes I have to repeat this to myself over and over as a reminder, to keep from getting unreasonably angry over… dirt!  J

The secret

The beauty of it all is that when everyone has participated in keeping the house as clean as they can, then everyone will have “sweat equity” and an interest in keeping it that way. Thomas Paine said, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.” Ain’t that the truth?

Boy with Vacuum