Our attempt at a new chore system

Our attempt at a new chore system

If you are anything like me, you have tried at least a half a dozen “systems” to get things done in your house.  We’ve been parenting for almost 20(!) years now so multiple chore lists have come and gone.

Some of that has been necessary due to life shifts – injuries, chronic illness, moving, children going to school, children being born and growing old enough to participate.

But honestly? Much of it was due to either my failure at maintaining the system, or the OOOH SHINY SYNDROME of seeing something online that looked better than what we had, and me having to try it.

The reason for this new system of ours is a little of all of the above!

One more child is doing school out of the home, meaning the balance has shifted – there are now more people out of the house every day than in it. My husband is at work, my oldest at college, and the next two are attending high school near my husband’s work, which means he usually drops them off in the morning and picks them up after work. They are typically away many more hours than they are awake and at home.

Luckily, my homeschoolers are 12 and almost 10, so they can pick up a little slack. Even more luckily, they seem to understand that they are getting many benefits by homeschooling – the biggest being they are spending less time doing school work than their high school aged siblings by virtue of the one-on-one instruction.  Even with adding the half hour or so of chores, they are still winning big-time in the free time department.

Soooo…there’s only been a *little* grumbling and trying-to-hide-ing instead of the usual, LOL.

Our Old System:

Before our move, we had a printed spreadsheet that was our chore chart. There were a few things that were daily/semi-daily such as washing dishes, taking out garbage, and washing and putting away clothes, but most things got put off until Saturday, when we would have a big chore day.  Bathroom cleaning, vacuuming, more laundry and dishes, straightening up…all were divided among five kids (and myself), and the same child did the same thing every week.

Everything that was not done by kids fell mostly to me over the week, but The Captain also pitched in, especially for big, out of the home things.

This worked well enough but I was never thrilled with it. Maybe because our house was small, cluttered, and cramped, and not only did it never feel really clean even after all that work, we would annoy each other by getting into each others way while cleaning…or James T had to do a chore before Juliet could do hers, but he wasn’t home, so everything came to a screeching halt.

The New System

Helped greatly by a move to a bigger house, I’m sure, I am really love this new system so far.

We still have a weekend chore chart, but the cards, as I am about to explain, overlap with some of that to take the burden off the weekend. We all work hard during the week and need time on the weekend to unwind for both health and mental health reasons.

The new system is for the two remaining homeschoolers, and consists of a set of cards with one chore on each.  I chose both daily type chores and weekly chores to put on the cards.

When they are ready to start their day, they are allowed to pick five cards to do.  I don’t allow them to wake up early, hoard the five best chores and disappear, but I DO reward getting an early start on your day – i.e. electronics are off, you have eaten and are ready to either work or do school.  So if they are up earlier than their sibling, yes, they can take the five best chores and do them. 🙂

At their request I set aside the cards that are unable to be chosen that day. For example, if they just vacuumed their room yesterday, I don’t let them pick that again today.  I think over time they will come to realize which of the things this pertains to — which chores really need to get done, so I won’t have to hover over that part, but for now it’s fine and it only takes me less than a minute.

In order for their school day to be done, they need to do any five available cards of their choice. That’s it!  It sounds like nothing, but it has been SO helpful, and they are happy because they get some say in how they help that day.

By the end of the week, many of the once a week chores have been accomplished and they are left to choose the things they never pick on the first few days of the week, like doing dishes! (It even earns double points and still no one does it, LOL)


Here are the cards we have so far:

  • start a load of laundry
  • move laundry from washer to dryer (I may combine this with above card to make one chore)
  • empty trash cans and replace bags
  • bring down the laundry hampers, dump, and return
  • vacuum a set of stairs
  • fill the dishwasher (double points!)
  • vacuum a room (can be used multiple times)
  • dust the hardwood floors
  • random approved project (I try to keep a list but am bad at that)
  • take a full recycling or trash bag out to the cans (easy, so if both are full, both are done as one chore)
  • empty the dishwasher
  • straighten and wipe down kitchen counter
  • clean upstairs bathroom counter, sinks, and mirror
  • sweep the deck
  • sweep and spot clean the kitchen floor
  • put away your clothes

I tried to pick chores that would help the most and would have the most impact on the running of our home, plus help make the weekend easier.

Very few chores on the cards are dependent on another card being done, so most can be done at any time if needed. I’m thinking of combining the few dependent chores into one card.   With the old system, it got old fast when we would find two kids goofing off because they couldn’t do the next thing because their sibling didn’t do the first step.   We tried to instill the “well, just do the first step for yourself so you can get moving on your chore” but no dice. That. was. their. SIBLING’S. chore. LOL  *eye roll*

We are nothing if not a huge work in progress here. 😀


Q: What about all the other things that need to get done?

A:  Most of that is falling to me now. Although, God bless his soul, my husband has been helping so much. He has some physical limitations so in the past was unable to help much at all. He has gotten stronger now and let me tell you, to come down stairs in the morning to see that he did dishes is just wonderful.  Mostly because I see that he is healthier, which makes my heart sing, but yeah…also because now I don’t have to do that chore!

Often, things just don’t get done.  I have like 10% of the energy I used to. I do what I can.  I live with a lot of mess. I try not to hate myself for it.  The Captain and the kids don’t mind much.  I do what is the most glaring need at any given time.

Q:  Do you check up on the chores after they are done?

A:  See above about a “work in progress.”  My son likes me to check after each chore and will ask me right then and there. I’m happy he does that because I tend to forget. My daughter likes to work in secret.  So for her I will just notice later that something was missed, for example she missed a room in sweeping hardwoods, and just tell her to do it when I notice.

Q: How much time is this taking?

A: It does depend on what they choose, but most of the chores take about five minutes max, when they have gotten used to them and are working efficiently. So maybe 25 minutes a day.

Q: What do they do with the cards?

A: Right now they are just in a stack in our kitchen, and they take the five they want and typically fan them out somewhere they can see.  My son likes to move them from a “to do” pile to a “done” pile. My daughter just remembers what she needs to do and does it, and doesn’t put the cards back after.  I do find cards scattered hither and yon.  If they were younger I would probably have some kind of pretty cup or system of pockets so it was more hands on.  At their ages they seem fine with the lackadaisical way this is working for now. Thank goodness, because I don’t do “Type A” chore stuff, LOL.

Q: Do you still have the chore spreadsheet?

A: But of course! My dh is an engineer/IT guy, so he thinks in spreadsheets. 🙂  Since every week is a little different as to what chores got done with the cards, we use the chart to keep us on track with what else needs to be done.

Q: What happens when a child does another child’s assigned weekend chore using the cards during the week?

A: That child does a happy dance and gets some time off.  We hope to get that “off the hook” child to do something extra but that isn’t always happening.  Emma has added some volunteer work and has SATs to study for, so when it is her, we encourage studying.  We are still getting our other house ready to put on the market and the kids have done many extra projects.  When that is over we will probably be better able to see if someone is getting away with a huge imbalance of work.

If you have any other questions or comments, I’d love to hear them!

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