My 3D Chore System

My 3D Chore System

Imagine not having to think about “catching up” on laundry.  Imagine opening the dishwasher after dinner and finding it gloriously empty rather than stuffed to the gills with dirty dishes.  Imagine your kids doing tasks without a major confrontation every time.  This can actually happen, and I’ll tell you how.  

Rachael s Rhythms 2

Some people love their chore charts.  Can I be honest?  My house seems to be the place where chore charts go to die.  I’ve often tried to cram my 3D life into a 2D chart and it doesn’t always work out how I imagined.

That’s why I moved to a functional chore system, meaning that the goal of doing these chores is for our home to function smoothly. Anything that falls outside of that does not make the list.  Functional chores are the lynchpin to any other housework happening.  When we have the home functioning smoothly, we can easily get to the grimy baseboards when we need to.

Why is it a 3D system?  First, because I use my real, 3D environment (my house) to tell me what to do.  My house is my list, chart and notecards.  There are also three steps to this system which I call the Three D’s.

Are you ready?  Let’s do it!

Define

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?  Look around and take an inventory of your physical space.  What things roadblock you?  What undone tasks open the gateway to a holy mess?  Our goal is to clear those.

My big one is always emptying the dishwasher.  Dishwashers full of clean dishes make me want to retreat into my phone accompanied by a bag of chips.  Let’s avoid that.

Define your rock bottom expectations for your house.  Here are mine:

  • Clear counters to prep meals.
  • Dishes to cook and eat with.
  • A reasonable amount of clean clothes for everyone to wear.
  • Items put away in places we can find them when we need them.

These are the things that prevent my house from being functional, so these are the rock bottom expectations that make up my chore system.  They get priority because they give me the most bang for my buck!

Divide

Now you are going to divide these roadblocks into mini chores that we can easily delegate.

Our kids are playing Legos blissfully (or maybe bickering aimlessly) while we’re picking up the shoes and balled up socks in the entry for the trillionth time.  Why are we doing this?  Because we aren’t dividing our messy house into mini chores.

When we make sweeping statements like “clean this place up,” we can expect horrible results, so let’s not do that. Instead, let’s give out chores broken up into tiny, painless bits.  When you give children mini chores that they can dominate within short, defined time frames, you will get exponentially improved results. 

As an example, I have a handful of mini chores for laundry.  Instead of folding the clothes, I have my kids sort them into piles for each person. (Only towels get folded so they can fit where we need them.)  The clothes go straight into the drawers in their natural state.

There’s no limit to how tiny you can make your mini chores…get creative; there really is no silly way to do this! 

If you’re having trouble knowing what kinds of things to give kids, think 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!  They are extremely helpful (you’ll find these things needing to be done all the time) and they are the kind I use most often.  That’s because these kind of tasks do not require a lot of executive decision-making, physical strength, or motor skills.  (Compare to say, vacuuming or washing pots and pans.)

So what about the confrontation and resistance we will still inevitably get on this?  (Sometimes it doesn’t seem worth it, does it?) The good news is that intentional communication can diffuse a lot of the conflict we are dreading. 

Delegate

Now it’s time to delegate!  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. You need to engage your people in keeping your home functional or you’ll not only stay overwhelmed, but resentment will start to breed.  (Ask me how I know.)  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.  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.

It’s also really important to note that delegation works best when it’s team-oriented. I do a group delegation about one or two times a day depending on what the house needs. (It’s one of our daily anchors.) I always join in with one of my own mini chores.  The way to get the worst results is to throw your tasks at people and walk off.  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!

Don’t forget to pour on the praise during and after! 

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Deeper Cleaning and Crisis Messes
 
Once you start doing this, your eyes will be open to all of the mini chores that you can delegate to your army.  My advice is not to extend beyond the functional needs of your house until everyone is well-acclimated to the new system.  Nowadays I only do deeper cleaning on an as-needed basis and that’s usually when company is coming.  (You’re welcome.)
 
One of the greatest values of a chart-free, mini chore system is that it teaches my children how to look at an overwhelming project and break it up into do-able tasks.  When you do this every day, guess what your ten-year-old will automatically do when they see mess? They’ll reach into the tool box you’ve equipped them with and get to work!
 
What if you’re in a survival stage of tiny babies and keeping toddlers from running out the door and being run over by the Amazon truck in the cul-de-sac?  You can still use this!  For now, you’ll delegate the functional, mini chores to yourself (in those five-minute increments you live in), with the goal of beginning to pass them on to your little ones as they grow.
 
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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(She found a dirty glass.)
 
Take these 3D’s and make them your own.  What are your roadblocks and how can you engage your kids with mini chores once a day to help clear them?
 
Edit:  Someone recently asked me to clarify whether we do the same chores every day.  Typically, yes. That’s because if I look around my house every day, I see the same things needing to be done.  The exception would be when we’ve been gone or maybe just haven’t eaten at home in a day or so!  After we’ve been on a trip, coming home means some extra loads of laundry and more things to put away, but less dishes to deal with.  It usually balances out on it’s own! 
 
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 that we use in our home.  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 doing a 3D chore system starting with fifteen minutes a day.
 
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