Cheerful Chores Challenge, week 1: Morning Chores

Alright, so let’s get set for 6 weeks of a “cheerful chores challenge.” This summer I’m working on shoring up our home-keeping routines while we aren’t doing school so that when we start school again in July (on our year-round schedule), we will already have those habits covered and won’t be trying to add everything at once.


I’ve gone over our weekly plan, my “weekly time budget” as I call it, and seen where the chores would fit in and make everything else run smoother. Those are the areas I’m now starting to work in without the school pieces draining my energy. I figure that if we can get these 6 chunks in, we’ll be able to maintain a reasonably clean home that won’t be [too] embarrassing if someone stops by (not unusual for us), and that will make it possible to have company for dinner without taking an entire day to prepare. That’s my goal, anyway.

Those 6 chunks are

Morning Chores

This one is already built into our days pretty solidly, though my older ones will take whatever chance they think they can get to sneak off and get LEGO time in when they should be doing chores. This started happening every day as soon as we were done with school, but I think that I’ve finally convinced them that chores still come first even on summer vacation.

We did do a morning chore reevaluation. Who can do what? What needs to be done daily? What would help out the most? I ended up giving the older ones a choice and letting them pick which job they’d do and I took the reject (bathroom cleaning, not surprisingly; but I can do it twice as well in half the time anyway – and with 7 people here full-time, 3 of whom are young boys, the bathrooms need to be addressed daily). I’m hoping that giving them some say in the matter will increase their ownership in the process. So far, 2 weeks in, there have certainly been far fewer complaints.

So, our routine goes:
  • wake up, get dressed
  • eat breakfast
  • do chores and hygiene
Morning hygiene involves
  • brush teeth
  • wash face
  • make bed
  • tidy bedroom (clear floor – no clothes out, socks count as clothes, LEGOs onto LEGO table, books on bookshelf, no garbage)
Morning chores are
  • 10yo: clear & wash breakfast table; sweep or vacuum floor around table
  • 9yo: clear & wash kitchen island; unload dishwasher; load breakfast dishes into dishwasher
  • 6yo: fold basket of towels & rags & napkins; replace bathroom towels with fresh ones
  • 4yo: empty bathroom & office garbages into kitchen trash can; tidy up floors of bathrooms
  • Me: open blinds, wipe down toilets & bathroom counters, start load of laundry, put away dishes on counter & those 9yo couldn’t reach.

When people are practiced, these things only take 10-15 minutes. When I have to keep calling people back because their definition of clean and my own did not align, then it can take 30-45 minutes.

It’s a lesson in the school of life. I’ve decided it’s better to just keep calling them back to redo it, letting their protests roll off your back, than either 1) get angry in return (which always feels justified, but isn’t) or 2) ignore their bad work and move on. They should each do the job they are responsible for, as they are able by age and maturity to perform, and I’m not going to let a 10yo convince me that swishing a rag around the edges of the table makes a clean table.

It’s Mom’s job to set the standards, explain and train in the standards, and then hold them to the standards. And sometimes it’s actually that third one that can trip me up as much as the other two. It’s tempting to let things slip by because I’d rather not make a deal out of it. But then the standards are capricious and subject to my moods, and that’s not good at all.

It’s not holding up other business or lessons to bring people back to redo what was not done adequately before. Going through that process time and time again is the only way they will ever learn that doing it right the first time is the only way to save time. It will take more than once. It will take more than ten times. It will take more than 100 times. That’s why we have years as their mother.

The most important thing to keep cheerful in this bit of our day is not so much the kids’ performance, but my own calling them back to redo when needed, or calling them with a reminder to do it in the first place.

So, this week, it is not so much allotting the time or the responsibilities to this portion of our day, but learning to inspect every single day and never hesitate to call people back to redo poor work every single day. Moreover, to inspect cheerfully, because it’s no skin off my nose if they have to redo it. Hold the line. Be impervious. Don’t take it personally. It’s not a big deal that they have to redo it, but it is a big deal that mom is holding them to it – it is the only way they will learn to do good work. None of us naturally do good work or apply ourselves when we don’t feel like it. Inspection must be every day because habits are subject to entropy and all are alert for opportunities to get off the hook. When inspection is normal and daily, it’s not an imposition or an insult and it is an aid against the temptation to shirk.

I need to stop feeling put out when my children are as naturally fallen humans as I am. Instead, I need to see it as simply seizing the opportunity – the teaching moment, if you will – to show them a better way, not by lecture, but by example and by holding to the standard.

Cheerfully call to duty. Cheerfully inspect. Cheerfully hold them to it. Cheerfully commend their work done well. That is my challenge.

What is yours?

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  1. I appreciate this series, Mystie. I tend to do everything myself because it’s “easier” but I know it’s not the best thing for the boys. My challenge will be to decide which chores I need to delegate and set a plan in motion. This is the summer I get my act together!;)

  2. Oh, the cheerfully part!! I need to work on that, as well. How do you do it? I find it a struggle after calling the child in question back over and over and over…in one day. Sigh. Good challenge, though, I am taking it on!

  3. Calling them back cheerfully is such a challenge! How do you do it? I’m definitely taking on this call to be more cheerful, consistent, and teach them well.

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