I didn’t have a chore chart for kids when I was a little girl. Growing up, my sister and I had to clean the house on Saturdays. We were ages 6 and 7. My brothers didn’t have to clean because they were boys, and this was woman’s work. One day I came home from school. I was seven, and my sister was six and at the foot of my bed with several loads of laundry for my sister and me to fold and put away. It seemed very daunting of a task. My mom and dad were brand new Christians, and Faith was a huge thing. So I had a great idea. I told my sister, let’s go into the bathroom and pray because Jesus said if we ask anything in his name, he’s going to do it. So we need to ask him to do the laundry for us. So we pray, and I open the door, but the laundry was still there. So I said, let’s pray some more. Open the laundry door, and it was still there. After a bit of time, I realize that Jesus was probably not going to come to fold the clothes and put them away, so we better get started. The chore that I enjoyed was cleaning the bathroom in the kitchen and my sister preferred to vacuum and dust. And that’s part of my story.
In my experience…
Fast forward, married with two children. My sons were seven and eight. I worked part-time and didn’t have the same kind of time to clean the house. I remembered that I had to clean the house when I was their age. It was time to teach them. With a piece of paper and pen, I created a chore chart for kids for my sons to use. Now they didn’t do as good a job as I would’ve, but I was busy, and I thought anything they do is better than me doing nothing. As my sons got older, I gave them an allotment for clothes and shoes. Above and beyond, they had to pay. They understood that they had to pay the difference for the clothes they chose. The boys became great at cleaning the house, and we’re very eager to help neighbors support their habit of skateboard and skate shoes, etc.
Many of my friends I grew up with and raised children with also had their children doing chores. When I begin my organizing business, I was surprised at how many people had housekeepers. I’m not judging, but this is just a foreign concept for me.
Taking responsibility and chores
One organizing job, I arrived at the home, and my client said, “I’m so embarrassed, my housekeeper has not been here in a couple of weeks.” Her children or ages 7, 11, and 12. My thought was, why aren’t they helping to clean the house. I’m not shy, so I decided to ask if her children did chores? She said, “Oh yes, they get an allowance for doing chores”. So I asked what they were responsible for, and she said, “They keep their bedrooms clean.”
Before I had children, I listened to a child psychologist who said, “Have your children help with the household chores and pay them. You will be teaching them to work. They should not get an allowance for cleaning their room. That is their space, and it is their responsibility to keep clean for living in the home.”
As a speaker, I shared my story of the chore chart with a mom’s group. I explained that I had a list of items that they could do to get paid. Each checkmark was worth a monetary amount. So I knew how much I was willing to pay in total when everything is complete. From that amount, I knew how much each chore was worth.
“I can’t pay if I don’t see the chart filled out.”
On payday, they wanted their allowance. I would look at the chore chart. There were times I would say, “I don’t see any checkmarks. Did you guys get anything done?” They would either scramble to clean or protest that they did do XYZ. I explained how the system works. “I can’t pay if I don’t see the chart filled out.” After some time, they figured it out and took care of their responsibilities. Then, the moms began asking me for a copy.
Keep in mind my original chore chart was from the early 90s, no computer, handwritten on notebook paper, and copied at the post office. Even though it was messy, the moms wanted to know what it looked like to create their own. So I have now created an official printable chore chart for kids to share. Click here; it is available on Etsy.
Lisa Giesler, Professional Organizer, Life Transitions, Author