Family Work Day

Yesterday, I mopped my kitchen floor. It badly needed it -- with so many kids and a rather large kitchen, the floor can suffer. It's a laminate floor, so fairly easy to clean, but I also tend to put off that chore. In any case, once the floor was mopped (only took 20 minutes!), I realized what a boost it was to have it done.

But that, along with a conversation with a friend this morning, reminded me that house-cleaning can be a huge undertaking in a large family. I thought I'd write a bit this morning about how we handle chores and cleaning.

Every Saturday is Family Work Day. It's gotten so ingrained that our kids don't ask, "Is it Saturday?" but rather, "Is it Family Work Day?" We've been doing it so long that no one complains about it, though sometimes they fuss about specific chores.

We began this tradition in January of 2005, when our kids were 5, 4, 2, 6 months and 6 months. It was becoming quite overwhelming to me to keep up with all the work myself during the week, so we designated Saturday as our family cleaning day.

Since then, up until a month ago, each Saturday has been pretty predictable. We make a list of all the jobs that need to be done and get to work. Usually the kids did their own rooms and a few simple jobs on their own, then reported back to help with other jobs. Gradually, the kids have gotten more and more independent with the jobs they can do. When we moved over a year ago, I was able to teach the two oldest how to clean a bathroom and surprisingly, they loved that job and even fought over who got to clean the toilet! Sadly, that enthusiasm has waned somewhat, especially for Joey, who threw a fit a few weeks ago when he was asked to clean just ONE toilet. =)

A month ago, we tried something new. Here's what I wrote the next day about it:

It’s been a normal week here. Yesterday, I tried something new for Family Work Day. Usually, we make a list of all the jobs to be done and then figure out who’s doing what as we go along. This time, I wrote down specific, manageable chores for Joey, Michael and Lillian. Michael and Lillian were thrilled and excited, especially Michael. He’s become quite an enthusiastic worker (quite shocking, I know) who will gladly and cheerfully clean up toys or straighten the mud room. I gave him mostly jobs he likes. Lillian liked the idea of doing her list quickly and then being done! Sarah was my helper and Allison followed Lillian around and helped her with her jobs. DH worked on cleaning out his office. After 90 minutes or so, Lillian finished, then Michael finished soon after. It was a roaring success, except for the third worker. Joey took an hour to pout and rant and every once in a while put something away in his room, then spent the next three hours feeling picked on. He was given a fairly light workload, but just plain moped instead of working. I told the kids early in the day that if they were all good workers, I’d take them sledding.

Despite plenty of warning and lots of encouragement, Joey did not finish his work in time to go with us. He was angry, but I think it was a good lesson for him. DH stayed home with Joey and Eliza while I took the other four sledding.

After that initial day, we've continued this tradition the last few Saturdays, with excellent results. Joey has kept up with the others and the house has gotten whipped into shape faster than ever before. Last Saturday, we had more jobs than usual, so I wrote out the list, assigned a few "must-do" jobs (own rooms, put away own clothes) then had the kids take turns picking what they wanted their other jobs to be. Despite having more to do than usual, the kids were happy and enthusiastic the whole time.

I still have quite a lot of work to do during the week, and most of the laundry and laundry folding falls on me. I try to wash all the laundry on Fridays, then fold it between Friday night and Saturday morning. The three older kids are somewhat helpful in folding (Lillian is wonderful), and sometimes that's part of our Saturday chores.

In any case, once a week our house is picked up, cleaned, and ready for another week.

Anyone else have a good system going?


alligood said…
I hesitate to post what works for us, because I know it's 'cheating', but I have a lady come help me once a week! Monday afternoons my house is spotless! Kathy cleans the bathrooms, floors, kitchen, etc... I work frantically that morning washing sheets, towels, and other household laundry and also tidying. Because of this help, it is so much easier to keep up on the housework throughout the week. I was initially concerned about my children getting out of work because we had a housekeeper, but my experience has been the contrary. It's much easier for our whole family to pitch in and keep things tidy during the week, when one day per week EVERYTHING is perfect. We still have to clean the bathrooms 2x per week (I do have 5 boys.....) and there is the constant stream of picking up toys, straightening closets, doing dishes, vacuuming crumbs, etc... My kids do plenty of chores, but my house doesn't get to the point of feeling overwhelming.
Also, Kathy spends 5 solid, uninterrupted hours cleaning my house. What mother of a large family has five uninterrupted hours, EVER? :-)
Coral said…
There were just four of us, but we had a system much like yours for Saturday mornings. I laughed when I read about your Joey dragging through his stuff. My middle sister used to do that all the time and then tell us that it was because she had so much more to do than the rest of us. :-) She outgrew that.
We also were home-schooled, so we had similar routines before Scripture reading in the morning and before Dad came home at night. Two of us cleaned a bathroom, two did dishes in the morning, and at night there was table-setting, folding laundry, and sweeping the kitchen. It worked out really well for us, and it made it a lot easier to get used to doing my own chores later in life.
Good luck.

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