We Don’t Do Chores.
I’ve never had a chore chart up in this house. I mean, I did try it once; but coming up with all the stickers, rewards, punishments, and cute lettering for them was more exhausting than doing the actual work so I stopped that real quick. It’s not that I don’t want a clean house, or for my kids to know how to pick up after themselves…it just seemed counterproductive to me to make it into a Big Deal like that. Cleaning is a part of life, and how many life things do we make charts for, to make sure they’re done? Do we have Fun Charts? Play Charts? Things To Watch On TV charts? No. That stuff just happens. And with us, so it is with cleaning.
Just the word alone sets people up for failure. “Chore.” Drudgery…as in, “this is such a chore!” And having to do it at a set time, in a set way, with a set purpose–rewards or punishment. Jeeeeeez. This is not why I became a mom!
Also, I’ve lived on my own. I’ve lived on my own with roomates. I’ve been in bachelor pads. I’ve been over to my friend’s houses. It’s not like, since the advent of the chore chart, we are all professional cleaners. We are all adult functional cleaners. If it absolutely has to be clean, we do it. If not, it gets shoved into closets and the oven. Bathrooms aren’t pristine, floors aren’t always eat off-able. For special occasions we all rally. But for everyday life it’s a balance between what we can live with and what is a health hazard.
I got rid of the charts a long time ago and brought out a cleaning bucket full of supplies and fun cleaning props. Feather dusters, toilet wands, battery powered dish scrubbers…those things are fucking magical to kids. I left and still leave the bucket out on the floor all the time. You would be amazed at how playful and amusing all these things are to kids. And how grown up and awesome they feel when allowed to freely access them. I remember at 6 not being able to wait to be able to clean like the grown ups…until I was assigned everything as a chore and related to it as an overbearing task full of punishment if I did it wrong.
Instead, for the last 15 years or so, the kids and I clean freestyle. “What do you see that’s dirty?” means that at random moments the kids will dig into the bucket and pull something out while exclaiming, “DIRT!” They clean how they want, when they want. It’s not always on my schedule, but it gets done.
I have a functionally clean house.
There’s a natural ebb and flow to the cleaning “schedule”. Golfer can’t eat breakfast in a dirty room, so it’s a natural time to all chip in and pick it up. I can’t cook in a dirty kitchen, so it’s a natural time to all chip in and clean the kitchen–kids are amazing cleaners when motivated by hunger. Naturalist can’t concentrate on her drawing when the living room is chaotic, so we all chip in to pick it up. Sassy likes using cleaning mechanisms and will clean anything at any time. It may not be the most thorough, but she notices more as she gets older and self corrects. Sometimes I do give them tips for a functionally clean house, like, “if you pour PineSol into the bathroom and kitchen sinks and wipe down the counters with it, it makes everything seem 100% cleaner!” Often the appearance (or smell!) of clean hides a multitude of sins.
Often when I leave to run errands I can say to the kids, “I need x, y, z picked up by the time I get back!” and they are so elated not to be running errands with me they happily oblige. When I come back the clutter is gone, walls are wiped down (thanks Sassy!), and it smells like a forest of pine trees all up in my motherfucking house…without me lifting a finger or nagging.
It’s not spotless, but it isn’t a health hazard, either.
It’s functional, and it’s clean.
Then we sit back and watch a documentary about Everest on Netflix.
This is why I became a mom!