Our Essentialist Chore System

Our Essentialist Chore System

Some people love their chore charts.  Can I be honest?  My house seems to be the place where chore charts go to die.  To do this homeschool life,  we need to keep it simple and we need everyone on board!

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The Mini Chores

I have six essential mini chores that we use to keep our house running smoothly and out of the chaos zone.

You can use mine or make your own.  Write them on a board or not!  It doesn’t matter.  The goal is basic functionality.  (Finger printed windows and grimy baseboards are for another time!)  I’ll ask my kids to do these at least once per day.

Here they are:

1.) Unload the dishwasher onto the counter

2.) Bring down dirty laundry

3.) Sort and put away one basket of clean laundry (we don’t fold clothes, we just put them into the drawers)

4.) Tidy main living spaces

5.) Pick up toys

6.) Load dishwasher

My own personal motto is that the key to happiness is rock bottom expectations, and I stand by that.  I want you to move your chore expectations down to rock bottom!  What do we really need to happen in this house? Don’t get hung up on the details.  When we have the home functioning smoothly, we can easily get to the bath tub ring later on when we need to!

You’ll notice that all of my chores fall into the category of things that can be sorted or delivered.  Sorting things into their right places or delivering them to where they belong are the easiest kinds of mini chores!  These kind of tasks work well because they do not require a lot of executive decision-making, physical strength, or motor skills.  (Compare to say, vacuuming or washing pots and pans.)


Here’s the truth you need to hear:  if you’re a homeschool mom and you don’t learn to delegate, you’re going to drown.  Homeschooling is a family affair!  You need to engage your people in keeping your home functional to be sustainable.  It’s different with very small children and babies, but as kids grow and become capable of more, we need to require them to help.  Kids are amazing helpers!

I like delegation because it’s so ridiculously simple: see what needs to be done and ask for help  It’s quick and can be done at any natural break in the day.

I set a time frame for my people when I delegate mini chores.  I’ll let everyone know I expect this to take fifteen to twenty minutes max.  Mini tasks set within specific time frames communicate our rock bottom expectations in ridiculously clear terms and helps people see the end in sight.  Knowing that this is not a week-long Chore Summit will help everyone relax.

Before you delegate, communicate your needs to your team.  Be firm, but kind. The most effective language sounds less like “you need to do this” and more like “this is what I need.  Delegation helps me communicate my needs and ask for help when I need it; this helps keep our family in a healthy place!

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What about Deeper Cleaning and Crisis Messes?
These six chores are best on a daily basis.  Honestly, I can run on this for weeks…and I have.  Right now I only do deeper cleaning on an as-needed basis and that’s usually when company is coming.  (You’re welcome.)
The first time you open an empty dishwasher or walk into a neat, picked up living room, you’ll be amazed at what your kids are capable of.  Look at those little faces beaming with pride over that chunky knit throw that looks like it was folded by a kindergartener (and it was.). It really never gets old.
Do my kids manage the laundry from start to finish and make perfectly creased piles of clothing? Nope. But can they do tiny tasks that remove my road blocks and stop the cascade of chaos? Yes. Yes they can.
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For dealing with bigger-scale crisis messes, I recommend the ol’ Basket Method, which I outline step-by-step in this post. Kids can do this too because it’s so simple!
If you need some help getting your mini chores going, I have a sample list for you.  Try some of the things on the list and let me know how they’re working.  You can easily tailor them to the ages and abilities of your kids.  Go here to download yours.
If you want some community support and motivation, you can click here to join our 5×15 Summer Routine Challenge; we’ll be talking about how you can start your own mini chore system for just fifteen minutes a day!
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