Adults Choose Their Work, and So Should Kids!

This is a follow-up post to The Box That Cleans My House – collecting kids’ items left lying around into a box, and having them do a chore to “buy” back their stuff. As I’ve read the comments on Facebook, I realized there was more to say on the topic….

A few months ago, I read this post about “paying” your children to do extra chores around the house, pointing out that adults choose to work for money, so why shouldn’t kids? Ben and I talked about the idea, but felt it didn’t fit with what we choose to do in our family – our kids get an allowance because they’re part of our family, and we work together because we’re a team.

However, I loved the idea of allowing kids to choose what work they want to do. There are days when I am suddenly motivated to do something in particular, which on any other day might have felt like too much work. I like to go with what motivates me. Also, Ben got to choose his job. He has to work, but nobody is forcing him to do the job he does.

So I sat down and made a list of every job I could possibly think of that the girls could do, and put the list on the fridge. We’re trying to have them do any two each day, but if they’re buying back items from the box, they do extra. These are in addition to the regular chores they have to do every day – make beds, clean up their bedroom, polish the bathroom, empty the dishwasher, sweep the kitchen/dining room floor, and set and clear the table.


I wanted to find easy, manageable jobs for them to accomplish quickly, because this isn’t supposed to feel like a punishment – I try to talk a lot about learning to enjoy work, or at least enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when it’s done.;)

Here’s the list:

  • Wash bathroom, entrance, or kitchen floor
  • Sweep bedrooms
  • Fold towels
  • Wipe bathroom cabinets
  • Dust baseboards
  • Dust piano
  • Dust bookshelves
  • Wash a window (inside)
  • Organize the Tupperware drawer
  • Organize shoes in the closet
  • Empty garbage
  • Collect garbage/random objects from inside the SUV
  • Water the garden


Sometimes I let them help in the kitchen or take care of Everett as a “chore” – depends on what needs doing each day.

What has been most interesting to me is seeing which jobs the girls choose. Kaylia chooses anything in the kitchen, or organizing things, and a shiny piano is her new pride and joy. Anika loves washing floors or sweeping.

Judging by that list, one would think my house is spotless all the time, but it’s not – things get busy, and I don’t always have the time or energy to make sure the girls are doing two extra chores every single day. But it’s a process – I loved this post: Why Teaching Your Kids to Do Chores is Like Paying Your Mortgage. We’re thinking long term here – long term benefits for me and for them. I like to think about what kind of adults they will grow up to be if I can train them well!

So that’s the list of chore choices at the moment, but I’d love to hear your suggestions! Can you think of any quick chores I can add to the list?

The Box That Cleans My House

“When my brain is cluttered, I need my house to be tidy. If my brain and my house are cluttered, everything falls apart.”

When my friend said this to me a few weeks ago, I knew exactly what she meant, although I had never put it into words so well. For years, I’ve felt a bit guilty about my need for order and tidiness in our home – as though having a clean house means I’m neglecting my children, or I’m materialistic and consumed with having a Pinterest-worthy home.

But in the last few months, my brain has felt more cluttered than ever before, and I’ve felt as though a tidy home is actually part of survival. At times when I’m hanging on by a thread, something as simple as a clear counter top can remind me there is still open space and orderliness in the world.

It’s unfortunate that this increased need for orderliness comes at a time when I’m busier than I’ve ever been. I don’t have time for running after my dear family members who are very intent on leaving trails after themselves all over the house. I’m tired of nagging and reminding.

Miraculously, a friend came along at just the right time, with just the right suggestion. She told me about an idea she’d read about – any objects left lying around are put into a container, and must be “bought” back by doing an extra chore around the house.


I already had a list of chores posted on the fridge for the girls to choose from when I need them to do some housework – it seems to work much better when they get to choose for themselves what chore they’ll do. Adding the box was very easy – pick a chore from the list for each item you want back. (Ben asked if building a new garden box for me would count for more than one item, but I told him I wouldn’t be confiscating his stuff, so he didn’t need to worry!)

At first, the girls were not impressed with this idea, but they have adjusted to it very quickly, and by Day Two, I was already hearing Anika saying, “I’d better clean this up so Mommy doesn’t take it away!”

And yesterday, she said, “It’s actually fun to get our stuff back after we do a chore – it’s like getting a prize!”

So now they’re happier, and my cluttered brain is happier, and the solution was as simple as a cardboard box.:)



Weekend Purging Challenge

I’m stuck.

Remember how I made it my goal to get rid of one item a day this year? And then, that was so easy, I decided to get rid of 2015 things in the year 2015?

It’s been going awesome – until April. Don’t know what happened this month, but I’m stuck at 950 items purged. My dream for this weekend is to break 1000, but I don’t know if it will happen….

My problem is that I’ve done all the easy stuff. I’ve gone through the whole house, except for the girls’ toys. I’m saving that battle for a little later on in the year – build up my stamina!

We’ve cleaned out our basement, which feels amazing.

basementshelves Ben built shelves, and we’re just waiting for warm weather to clean out the garage, and take a load to the dump.

But now it’s time to get to the harder stuff. I’ve gotten rid of the obvious things that we never use, but now I need to focus on the stuff we use only very occasionally, and could probably live without. I can’t believe that our house can still look so full, even after getting rid of 950 things!

Alright, who’s going to join me?! Fifty things purged this weekend!!

I’m Winning the Battle Against My Kitchen Counter…

Ever since we moved into this house, there’s a spot on the kitchen counter that’s had me beat.

I have not been able to keep it clean for the life of me.

It has driven me nuts for two and a half years, because it’s where EVERYTHING ends up – mail, toys, books, papers I don’t get around to filing, every random piece of anything that doesn’t really have a place.

Do you have a place like that in your house?

Here’s my good news: I have finally found the way to be FREE!!!


I was reading some kind of organizing something or other, can’t remember what, but these words stuck with me:

Clutter attracts clutter.

It made sense to me. If there’s a pile of junk, I will throw more junk on it. My family will throw more junk on it. I think to myself, “I’ll just clean all of this up later”, and keep adding to it.

There were times (when company was coming over!) when I’d whittle it down to nothing, and have a clean counter for an evening, but it never stayed that way for long, because the clutter would always come back, and multiply.

Since reading that clutter attracts clutter, I have made it my goal to make sure the clutter never starts. I don’t put anything on that counter.

And the weirdest thing has been happening: If I don’t put stuff on the counter, my family doesn’t put stuff on the counter.

What??! This has been going on for almost two weeks, and I can’t believe it. Every once in a while, the odd object will end up getting place there, and I clean it up IMMEDIATELY, so it doesn’t attract anything!!!

I never told my family what I was doing. I never announced that everyone had to stop collecting junk on the counter. They just don’t put it there anymore. So weird!!

Yesterday, Ben was loading the dishwasher after supper, and he suddenly said, “I’ve been noticing that the kitchen is a lot tidier. It’s easier to clean up after supper.”

That’s when I knew that big change was really happening – Ben noticed!! Sometimes I demand admiration from him for major accomplishments, but this time I hadn’t said anything, because I wanted to be sneaky about my experiment.:) (That sounds like he’s super unobservant, which isn’t completely true – mess just doesn’t bother him, so these things slowly, gradually dawn on him…)

With my success inspiring me, I’ve tackled the second junk area in our home – we’ll see if this one is equally successful!!

Do you have a spot in your house that has you beat? Where do you tend to pile things?

More Isn’t Always Better…

More isn’t always better – sometimes it’s just more.

That’s a quote from Sabrina, one of my favorite movies, and one that you should totally watch if you haven’t, and if you like cheesy, romantic, chick-flicky type movies.

Anyway. I thought of that quote today when we got Anika’s old dollhouse out of our shed. Kaylia is now the proud new owner, and she was in her glory.

All day long. That’s all she played with.

At first, Ben didn’t get any of the furniture out, just the dollhouse, and that was enough for Kaylia. She found all her little dolls, and sat there playing for the longest time with a bare, empty dollhouse. She was so happy, that I didn’t even give her the furniture once the box arrived inside, because I figured she could keep having fun just the way she was for awhile.

I wanted to give it to her, and just overwhelm her with fun things, but she was so happy with a lot less.

More isn’t always better – sometimes it’s just more.

Anika eventually found the box of furniture, and helped Kaylia empty everything out, and the fun continued for hours. I’ll let her keep the furniture! But it was a nice reminder to keep things simple.

Sometimes we can be perfectly happy with the things we already have. Actually, we could be happy with a lot less.

What I Think About While I’m Cleaning My House

Because I’m sure you’re all dying to know…

But really, people should talk about that kind of thing more, because when I moved out on my own, learning to “keep house” was a bit of an adjustment. My parents taught me to work and I had to do my fair share of chores around the house, but I never had to run the place. My mom was so good at it that she made it look effortless, but when I had to do it on my own, suddenly it wasn’t so effortless anymore.

It was lots of work, and not all of it was very enjoyable. I have to admit that in the beginning, I used the approach of “Let it all go for a week, and then have one massive, intense, dreaded cleaning session on Saturday.”

There are two problems with that: Things can get really messy in a week, and a messy house makes me really grumpy.

I had to clean to stay sane, but I didn’t like to do it. But there was one particular Saturday when everything changed for me…

I was dusting my house one morning when I got a phone call from a friend. She asked what I was doing, so I said I was housecleaning, and she said, “I hate housecleaning, so I’ve decided not to do it anymore. Then I’ll have more time for my hobbies and the things I actually enjoy doing.”

I thought about that a lot that day. And I remember, very clearly, that I came to a decision as I was wiping my window sills. I thought to myself, “If I have to choose between cleaning or hobbies, I would have to choose cleaning. I cannot stand to live in a dirty house. Does that mean that I can never have hobbies?” And I had a moment of inspiration: Cleaning would be my hobby! I would do it till I liked it.

And after that, something changed. Every time I chose to clean, I recognized that I was choosing to do that over something that I enjoyed doing, so that I could have the pleasure of living in a clean house.

I was focusing on the end result rather than on the housework itself, and that is what motivated me. I stopped attaching emotions to the things that I needed to do. Who sits around complaining about how much they hate brushing their teeth? You just do it without attaching emotion.

Since then, I have obviously discovered that there is time for enjoyable activities as well as housework, but I think that what I decided that day still affects my attitude. I don’t allow myself to think, “I don’t like washing dishes,” or “I hate folding laundry,” because I have to do it whether I like it or not. So while I’m doing those things, I think about how much I will enjoy my clean kitchen and my neatly folded laundry.

When I was a little girl, my parents gave me a poster that said, “Lord, help me to do with a smile those things that I have to do anyway.”

I did not appreciate the truth of that back then, but I really like it now.

Today is laundry folding day, and I’m actually looking forward to it – all of my favorite clothes are sitting in a laundry basket, and I can’t wait to have them all neatly folded and put away.

This makes me sound like an extremely positive, upbeat person. I’m not, really. But I’m working on it!

A Little Organizing Inspiration

There’s an organizing blog that I love to read. It’s been doing wonders for motivating me to get our house more organized. This week, an organizing challenge was involved – cleaning up a drawer in 15 minutes. I can do 15 minutes! It also happens to be the length of a Curious George episode, which added extra incentive to work quickly. (Curious George = uninterrupted organizing)

Unfortunately, it took me a little longer than 15 minutes, because this drawer was OUT OF CONTROL. It became my junk drawer when Kaylia was born. I just did not have time to deal with junk and a newborn, so this is where I shoved everything. It got so bad that I didn’t want to deal with it. It got so bad that I’m actually embarrassed to be posting a picture of it:

However, a really horrible “Before” picture does make the “After” picture that much more impressive:

I kind of feel like I could take on the world…

What makes me especially happy is that although I would love to go out and buy pretty dividers and containers and other organizing paraphernalia, I conquered this drawer without buying anything new. (Being two hours away from civilization does have some perks…We’re not going into the city until next week, so I had to get creative, and figure out a way to make it work with what I had in the house!)

If you like organizing, and you want to check out some good stuff, go to:  I Heart Organizing

I Used to Think I Was Awesome at Multi-Tasking

I used to pride myself in the fact that I was a multi-tasking kind of person who could do everything important at the same time.

I would get so frustrated with Ben because he’d be getting supper ready, but just make one thing at a time, and seem to forget about the rest, whereas I would obviously have done everything perfectly and had my meat, potatoes and vegetables ready at exactly the same time. Obviously. I would also have kept the laundry going and kept our girls blissfully entertained. Because I’m so perfect. Or something.

But just a little while ago, I read that it is actually impossible for a person to do more than one thing at the same time. You are only able to think about one thing at a time. You can quickly switch back and forth between things that you are focusing on, and do little bits of each thing, but you cannot do them at the same time.

So if you’re watching a movie while folding the laundry, you will focus a little on the laundry, then focus on the movie for a little while, then switch your focus back to your laundry.

Multi-tasking means that your attention is not fully on either thing that you are trying to accomplish.

Which is why I constantly burn pancakes.

I try to be all multi-tasking about breakfast, and get all the other food going while I’m making pancakes, and I always wreck the pancakes.

Ben makes perfect pancakes. He focuses on one thing, and doesn’t fly around the kitchen, trying to do a million things at the same time. If you want pancakes or anything else cooked on the stove, like stir-fry, you want Ben to make it. I can get away with my “multi-tasking” in slower cooking situations, but anything made on a stove-top brings the truth to light – I’m not able to pay attention to everything at the same time.

As I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve been wondering if it wouldn’t be better for me to ditch the idea that multi-tasking is the ultimate goal in life. Fold the laundry quick, then enjoy the movie. Do something well, do it fast, move on to the next thing, be fully present.

I realize that sometimes, this is not possible. Sometimes multi-tasking is necessary. But when I can, I want to be more focused. Reading a book to Kaylia while checking email shouldn’t happen. Not like I do that often…just once…. And phone conversations can just be conversations. The person on the line can totally tell if you’re not completely listening.

So here’s to being fully present.


Check out this article on digital multitasking if you want to read more on the topic.