The chore jar


We were running late…

“Where is my cell phone? I’ve looked everywhere!”
“Where was the last place you had it?”
“The Lazy-boy. Check the Lazy-boy!”

Then my three year old piped up, “Me?! I don’t have it!”

Nothing like a little comic relief during tense moments! (And yes, we found the cell phone. The Lazy-boy  recliner had indeed gobble it up.)

We’ve never called our three year old “lazy” but like most kids, he does conveniently have to go to the bathroom every time I clap my loud hands together and announce it’s time for chores. And it’s not just him. The older kids manage to act genuinely blind slided every Saturday morning when they have to clean up the basement. “Really guys? How can you be surprised? We do this every week!” Even now, the kitchen is a mess and yours truly can’t bring herself to roll up her sleeves and just get to it. Sigh…I feel like Scarlet O’Hara–I’ll think about it tomorrow.

If only there were a way to make the chores fun for all of us! Oh sure, we pump up the jams and we set timers, you know–apply the same strategies as I do with my workouts (I can do anything for 30 minutes if the music is loud enough to drown out my inner dialogue: I hate running, I hate running, I hate running…) But it doesn’t seem to be enough. Chore time is still met with abhorrence. Summer is fast approaching and I’ve got to get this chore thing looking more attractive or at least more brief or else these are going to be long, long days either set amid a pig sty or accompanied by lots of whining and very, very loud music.

So tonight I made a “Chore Jar.” We sat around and came up with a dozen 5-10 minute chores (or as I say, 5-10 minutes without complaining, 30 minutes with.) The plan is to have everyone draw two slips of paper each morning, do those jobs, and then they are done for the day. My condition is they need to take ownership of their tasks and show pride in their work. I’m hoping this summer will be the summer when they finally learn to feel the deep satisfaction that comes with organizing a drawer, cleaning out a closet, creating vacuum lines on the carpet…

My kids are little, so we tried to come up with jobs everyone could do without help (Mr. “Me? I don’t have it” will be my chore buddy helper.) Here are some of the tasks we came up with:

Empty and load the dishwasher
Wipe down all bathrooms with Clorox Wipes
Clear out the minivan of all trash
Empty trash cans and put in new liners
Put away all Legos
Put away books
Pick one small space and organize it (think drawers, closets, cupboards, nooks)
Sweep the kitchen
Wipe down walls
Bring dirty clothes to the laundry room

Simple enough, right? I’m sure the first few weeks I’ll have to take my cue from Ronald Reagan: “Trust, but verify,” and inspect their work religiously, but I’m hoping these brief daily chores will help make for a happier, cleaner home. I know that’s its own reward, but kids are usually motivated by tastier incentives. I’m not sure what to do on that front yet, but I’ll think of something.

For example, I think a chocolate milkshake would motivate me to finally cleanup the kitchen tonight.


3 responses »

  1. Hi, I love your articles, you had one about the IKEA table with drawers for LEGO, how can I get a copy of this for my daughter please?
    Bless you and remember…. this too shall pass!

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