How I Got My Kids to Help with the Housework (and Regained Some of My Sanity)

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chore bucket

I love things to be clean, but I feel like I lose a lot of time getting the job done. I don’t mind cleaning, but it pains me to clean the same things repeatedly, especially when I haven’t made the mess. My life is a big to-do list, and I wish I could eliminate all of the things that often have to be redone.

My productivity has decreased over the years, and the worst part of the everlasting cleaning is that no one really seems to notice OR care.

I tried responsibility charts and chore lists, but those were focused on their personal chores, like “brush your teeth” or “pick up your toys.” I tried getting creative with those lists (attaching incentives), but they knew what to do, and whether they had done them or not, they would check things off without even reading it. This defeated the purpose of the chart.

They outgrew the chore chart. So, I decided to start a chore bucket in my house, and believe it or not, my kids were actually excited about having this.

What is the Chore Bucket?

The chore bucket consists of many household chores, for example, “sweep and mop the living room floor.” It does not include personal chores such as “clean your room” or “make up your bed.” The purpose of the chore bucket is for your children to contribute to the household chores in addition to whatever personal chores they have.

  • Make a list of all of the household chores you complete frequently.
  • Split that list into tasks your kids can handle in under 10 minutes with minimal instruction.
  • I chose a small ice bucket I had lying around, but you can use a bag, box, hat, or so on (whatever is handy and will last)
  • Each night, have your kids take turns choosing a chore at random.

Click here for: Sample Chores for the Chore Bucket

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Once you have created the system, it pretty much runs itself.

On the evenings that I work, my partner is alone getting the children cleaned up and ready for bed. I love that the standard is set and the kids are familiar with the routine. Reinforcing the evening chores is simple. Since chores are chosen at random, they think of it as a game. While all children are different, I feel ages 7 to 13 are target age groups.

Tips for success:

  • Consistency. Have your kids choose a chore every night.
  • No chores on late nights. Due to school events that get us home late, some nights, we make a bucket-free night.  
  • Don’t focus on perfection. (Especially at first). This will come with practice. However, this does not mean that they should slack. You know what your kids are capable of.
  • Safety First. Use products appropriate for each age and supply gloves or masks if necessary. 
  • Revise as needed. As your children age, you can combine 2 or 3 chores into one chore. You can also add more difficult chores to the bucket that weren’t originally covered.
  • Be specific. You can add “with disinfectant wipes,” “with Windex,” “with all-purpose spray and rinse,” “wear gloves,” etc., if you want to eliminate more questions from your kids about how each chore should be done.

Since I started the Chore Bucket, my kids understand my frustration more because they now see how often things have to be cleaned. There is some satisfaction when you hear your son or daughter say, “But I just cleaned that yesterday!” And while there is still a ton of work to do around the house, I must say that having the help makes a huge difference.

Some of my sanity is regained!

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Leah lived in New York City for most of her life and moved to Westchester County in 2011 to blend and extend her family with an adorable high school Math teacher she met on Match.com. After 7 years of staying home and working part-time, she is back to the full time grind, commuting to the Bronx daily in her minivan a.k.a. trusty mommy wagon (this city girl’s first and only car). This full-time working, part-time blogging mother-of-4 seems to have it all together to the observer. In fact, part of this illusion is truly having the most amazingly resilient children a mother could ask for. Leah is an overthinking, jam pack the agenda, let loose when no one’s watching, be kind to your neighbor, sanity don’t fail me now kind of soul and she loves being a part of Westchester County Moms Blog. She strives to keep her kids super busy with a wide variety and good balance of academic, social, and athletic activities while desperately managing her home and budget.