Chore Wars

by Abby on June 29, 2012

A whole mess o' LegosOne of my sons’ friends came over for a playdate the other week. He had never been to our house before so he was dying to check out all the new-to-him toys. But clearly he did not bank on our poor organization/housekeeping because he kept asking, “Where’s the guy who goes with this car? Where’s the head for this Lego pirate? Where’s Captain America’s shield? Where are the rest of the pieces for this game?” I had to continually disappoint him by saying, “I’m not sure, buddy. I’m afraid we lost that a long time ago. You could try looking under the couch.”

For a while I was adamant about putting everything back where it belongs. Grouping like with like — Legos with Legos, Matchbox cars with Matchbox cars, tiny plastic crap from birthday party goody bags with tiny plastic crap from birthday party goody bags. I had bins and boxes and clearly-labeled drawers. But I couldn’t keep it up.

For one thing, more and more stuff keeps coming into our house. Once school let out, I thought the influx of artwork and craft projects would subside, but I didn’t factor in camp. And for another thing, I got sick of being the only one doing the organizing and putting away. Why was *I* sitting there by myself at 9pm sorting blocks and putting the caps back on markers while everyone else was sacked out in their beds or on the couch relaxing?

Sometimes we will play “the clean-up game” in our house. We set a timer and the kids run around picking up toys and putting them away, trying to beat the clock and pick up the most toys. Because they are competitive boys, this actually works. Although it does sometimes end in tears. I admit, it really DOESN’T seem fair that chucking a handful of action figures into the toy bin “counts” more than carefully putting the pieces of a puzzle back together.

As I’m sure countless parents have noticed, the thing about getting kids to pitch in is that it often takes more effort than just doing it yourself. Have to coax, cajole, and mediate arguments throughout the whole arduous process is downright EXHAUSTING. I’m not proud of it, but my 6yo has begun imitating me at inopportune times. Like if I ask him to please put his brother’s plate in the sink, he’ll huff, “It’s not MY plate. Why do *I* have to do all the work around here?” Wonder where he picked THAT up…

The funny thing is, the kids actually LIKE doing little jobs and chores when we assign them in advance and are consistent about it. Miles tells anyone who will listen that it’s his job to feed the dog. (We had to have an intervention when the vet commented on the dog’s weight, though. Miles was being a little too generous with her portions.) And Riley will shout, “Hey! That’s MY job!” if anyone else dares let the dog in or out the back door.

Hmm, maybe the key is to assign them only pet-related chores. Because no one seems to be clamoring to put their dirty clothes in the hamper or change the roll of toilet paper.

Tell me: are you the Cinderella of your family? If not, how do you delegate chores to the rest of your brood?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Angie Mizzell June 29, 2012 at 8:31 am

That Lego photo made my heart race with anxiety. I’m not Cinderella; I’ve declared myself Project Manager because that’s something my business-minded husband can understand. About once a month, I organize the boys’ rooms and resort the toy bins. They know if it gets out of control, I start throwing stuff away. I do have a couple of junk bins to catch the random stuff, because I know the junk means something to THEM.

As for school papers, etc… I keep a lot of it until I get a sense of what they’ll be bringing home. Once I get a feel for that, I go back through, keep the best stuff and toss the rest.

I’m not really that organized. I just have a physical and emotional reaction to clutter.


Abby June 29, 2012 at 2:38 pm

“I just have a physical and emotional reaction to clutter.” – YES. Me too.


Ali June 29, 2012 at 9:19 am

Since my son is only (nearly) 11 months old, chores are divided between my husband and me. And he came from an old-fashioned European household where his mother cleaned up after the kids all. the. time.

How do I handle it?

“Hubs, can you do the dishes? I’m tired.” / “Hubs, from now on, can you empty the sink drains every night? It makes me gag.” / “Hubs, the place needs to be vacuumed, don’t you think? So, do you want to do it now or when the baby’s napping?”

He knows I do most of the work, so he can’t really protest.

And here’s how my sister handles her kids (ages 5 and 9):


Abby June 29, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Ha! That post is great. I need to make a chart like that for my husband. 🙂


naomi June 30, 2012 at 11:23 pm

We are just re-learning family chores (long story) and it has worked so far to give “bucks” for the chores … I don’t do the chores if the kids don’t do them, and they don’t earn the bucks (they convert into a fraction of a real dollar) if they don’t do them.

So far, it sure beats yelling about beds getting made or laundry getting done!


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