It is 10:40am and my house is clean! Can you just hear the excitement in my typewritten voice? So far today, everyone has been dressed, combed, styled, beds made, rooms tidied, breakfast eaten, Bibles read, memory work studied, piano practiced, and had piano lessons completed. The kids’ bathroom has been cleaned and tidied, the second load of laundry has been started, the kitchen has been thoroughly cleaned, all floors have been vacuumed and mopped, the trash has been emptied, the dustbuster has been emptied, and the patio has been swept. Most of the children have been outside playing for nearly an hour already, except Ashlyn, who came out about 20 minutes ago as soon as her piano lessons finished and her music teacher left. I’ve even been able to make a few phone calls, and had a delightful chat with a friend.
Normally, we do not accomplish nearly so much by 10:40am on a summer day, especially on a Monday. Why today? Well, that’s the fun part! As you may have noticed, I get rather excited by tools and systems that make our home run more efficiently. I’ve written a lot of blog posts on various ways we organize our home, because I want to share the tips with others who are looking for solutions.
Now we have a new one!
A few weeks ago on vacation, I got to watch the Duggars’ television show for the first time. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard of the family. I first heard of them a few years ago in a magazine article passed along by my mom, back when they “only” had about 14 children. Since that time, I have read other interviews with the family, and I’ve visited their website. Ever since Chelle came along, putting us over the edge to be considered a “big family,” people ask us every time we are out in public all together if we’ve ever seen their show. I have been interested in the family for a while, but being that we do not have cable television, I never had the opportunity to watch the show before.
Anyhow, I saw two episodes of “18 Kids and Counting” while on vacation. I must say, I love this family. I love how the dad leads with love. I love how the mom is so very kind and patient. I love the kids – how cute and sweet the little ones are, and how mature and responsible the older ones are. I love how the whole family lives their faith and clearly lives to bring glory to God. I love how they see children as a blessing and share this with the world. Instead of giving the commonly heard message, “Hey, we didn’t plan for this; this is what we got stuck with,” they are giving the message, “Yes! We wanted this! We are thankful every day for this! Each child is a blessing!” My feelings exactly. This family had it all together long before TLC came along and offered them a show, and it is clear that they are using their show as an opportunity to be a light to the world.
So I bought their book.
Stay with me here. I know I seem to be rambling, but I am getting somewhere. I promise.
I read the book in a single night. I was intriged by their whole story – from the first time Jim Bob and Michelle met, through their early marriage, through each birth of each child, through living behind a used car lot, through building their current large, beautiful home with their own hands. I was encouraged by their sharing their love for children and their love for God. And – I was fascinated by the orderliness of their home and their organizational systems. There were many ideas I’d like to implement in our own home at some point, but one step at a time. For now, I liked their children’s chore system.
Michelle recommended Teri Maxwell’s book, “Managers of Their Chores,” and she explained a bit of how it was done. I have already been a fan of Teri Maxwell’s other books, and immediately saw the benefits of the system as explained by Michelle Duggar.
So I bought that book too.
I spent last week reading the book, listing what chores the kids could be expected to do, calculating how long it would take to complete each chore, making one list of what I would like the children to do each day, and making another list of what I’d like them to do each week. I edited and played around, added some items, deleted some items. And finally, I made the children their new chore packs.
What is a chore pack, you ask?
It’s a little clipable vinyl pocket. It looks like this:
Each child gets one, and clips it to his or her clothing each morning. Inside the chore pack are cards that list each daily chore that the kids need to do, numbered and arranged in the order that they need to do them. When they finish one task, they put the card in the back of the chore pack behind the other cards. When they get back to the first card, they have finished their chore pack.
For little ones who can not read yet, there are chore cards with pictures instead of words.
I decided to give each of my children two chore packs. The “Morning 1” pack are chores to be done before breakfast, and the “Morning 2” are for after breakfast.
In addition to the daily chore packs, there are a few more responsibilities for each child. We have done most of these things for years, so the following are not new to us:
- We continue to use a chore chart to list weekly chores, one or two chores for each day of the week.
- The children each have two jurisdictions, areas of the home that they are responsible to keep tidied throughout the day. One upstairs jurisdiction, and one downstairs. Nothing is new there except the name. We used to call them “Tidy Spaces,” but the Duggars call them “Jurisdictions,” and I liked the sound of it. Plus, the kids feel a little more important being the owner of a “jurisdiction” rather than a “tidy space.”
- While the Daily Chore Packs are only for mornings, and only address one meal of the day, the children do need to help clean up the kitchen after each meal. Each child has an assigned kitchen duty. We’ve been doing this for years.
- Everyone also has a “Company’s Coming” task, so that before visitors arrive, we can get the house in reasonable order in about fifteen minutes, with no sweat.
Over the weekend, we had “chore training.” I did not actually teach them how to complete the chores, because they have already been well-taught in most of their chores. Chore-training was an exercise in how the new system works, and how to use the new cards. This was particularly helpful for the little ones.
Today was day one. If you scroll back up to paragraph 1, you will see how it worked out! Very efficient, and excellent at keeping them on task. The kids have a constant reminder, attached to their clothing, to help them stay focused on the tasks at hand. There is little “distraction” and “forgetting.” I was freed up from checking on the kids a hundred times, and I was able to accomplish a lot of household tasks as well. I think this new system is a keeper!
What about you? Do you have any thoughts, questions, or other ideas related managing chores in a large family?