A chore system that works

A new year. A fresh start. Time to tackle the chore charts again. But like the quote I shared yesterday on facebook says, “No one is as full of false hope as a parent with a new chore chart.”

a chore system that works

We all know that feeling, don’t we? Well, those of us who have designed or purchased a brand new chore chart, displayed it proudly with much fanfare and watched it collect dust, anyway. But the problem isn’t really with the chart, is it?

We are surrounded by these tiny humans who couldn’t care less about the state the house is in, have the attention span of a goldfish and possess the unique ability to make any room they clean seem messier when they are through. We ask them to help with chores for one reason and one reason only: to improve their character. Because who are we kidding? If it were about actually, say, cleaning the house, it would be much easier to send them outside and just get it done.

And maybe leave them out there so it stays done.

Sure, you get some return on the investment . . . right about time for them to move out.

Then there’s the follow through. This is where almost every chore chart I have ever tried has failed. I have to follow up and make sure they did it. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that, but it is my reality.

But I did actually stumble across something that works for us. It doesn’t look as cool displayed on the refrigerator, because it just sits in a box on the bookshelf. It does not train children to take responsibility for the things they see and actually try to remedy them. But it does teach them how to clean a room and for the most part, it goes pretty quickly without any of the attitude I experienced trying to draw their attention to their list of unfinished responsibilities.

All you need are index cards.

1. Determine what rooms are a common responsibility.

Here, it is the front room, library, kitchen and bathroom.

2. Decide what needs done daily, weekly and monthly.

Write each task down on a separte card.

3. File them in an index card box to keep them organized.

I have some of those nifty little dividers, too, but you can just turn a card on its side and trim it to fit. Label your dividers by room and by whether they are daily, weekly or monthly.

4. When a room starts to get to you, pull out the daily chore cards for that room and have everyone choose one.

It’s quick, it’s random and sometimes you draw something that doesn’t even need to be done. My kids get kind of excited about it and race to see who can draw one of the extra cards. It’s like a five minute zone defense because with everyone working together, it gets done pretty quickly. In the front room, I pull out the daily cards multiple times a day to get it straightened back up after school, playtime or because we are about to leave.

And what to do about the weekly and monthly chores? I, uh, use those as consequences.

Oh, and when one of those precious cherubs informs you that they’re bored, you can pick up your deck of cards and say, “Pick a card, any card.” It usually doesn’t take too many times before they just find something to do, but their boredom isn’t nearly as annoying when the house gets cleaned in the process!

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25 Comments on "A chore system that works"

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I will for sure be using some of these tips for myself. I do majority of the cleaning in my house, so its nice to plan out which rooms I want to do each day!


I hope it helps. It helps just get my kids to focus on one thing rather than get overwhelmed. Their definition of clean is certainly not the same as mine!


I love that chore system! I try to clean as we go but sometimes it just doesnt happen


Yeah, with kids especially, the clean as you go thing never seems to happen.

Erica Schwarz

Well this looks like something new that I will try. With two kids, our home clutters up quick and it drives me crazy.

valmg @ Mom Knows It All

I always find it interesting to see how different people handle chores. Different things work for different people, it’s good you found a way that works for you.


These are amazing tips!!! I plan out all my cleaning mainly in one day but every day has the it has to be done things still.


I like this idea. It is not imposing (which kids absolutely hate). I love that those cards give direct instructions and is random too. Pick a card, do the task. Simple and hassle free. Thanks for the idea!


This is such a good idea. We need to start doing this for our kids


This is such a good idea. I need to get better about this.

Taylor Smart

My mum used to have one when we were little and it worked so well! Overtime we did something on the list we gained stars that we then could redeem later….. Well it worked until my sister figured out where my parents kept the stars and started gaining more ahaha

Sophie PIper

Hahah love this!! I get so overwhelmed with the house and I’m really trying to have my five and two year old get in the habit of cleaning up with me.

Ali Workentin

Dana I love to read your posts for a multiple of reasons and today is because it made me smile and chuckle out loud. And is something I want to share with my son and his wife who have four boys ranging in age 5 to 19! Blessings to you my friend.


I’ve decided my 5-year-old son is old enough to start helping with the housework, especially his own messes. These suggestions will help tremendously.

Kristen from The Road to Domestication

This is a great idea! I love the structure of it! I will have to wait on it until my 16-month-olds are a little bit bigger, but still!

Carrie | The Lavender Hytta

This seems like a great idea. I will definitely be trying this. Thank you so much for the inspiration. We so far have been unsuccessful with chores.