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Erica Galindo
Celebrating Food, Faith and Family
Last edited on: June 25, 2012.

There are some wonderful organization/chores systems out there and I suspect that almost any one of them, if followed through on with consistency by mom, would produce pretty decent results. But, did you catch the suspect phrase here?

Right–followed through on with consistency by mom.

Yeah, that’s the problem, isn’t it? There’s a good chance that your Sizzler got that distractibility somewhere, meaning, there’s a 1 out of 2 chance he got it from you.

My kids were doubly doomed; both parents are highly distractible. So what’s amazing for us isn’t that we had a Sizzler, it’s that we were ever able to produce even ONE child that was not a Sizzler. (She does exist, but asks that you hold her up in daily prayer.)

Here’s the problem with those organizational systems. . .I create that wonderful wall chart with all the movable colored markers of success. We make the character figures that represent each child as they accomplish great things, and get to move their character upward upon our poster of Mount Chores! (Yodel ay hee whoo!)
We divide each room into zones and make up the ZONE CARDS, laminate them, and distribute them to the walls of each respective room.
We have a little rah-rah party (break out the cupcakes) with mom dressed as a mountain leader (where does one find lederhosen in my size?) to kick off our new let’s-change-our-world system.
I am SUCH a good mom.

Day one . . . miraculous. I can just feel the clean and order about me. The rush I feel is almost as good as ice cream. The children are psyched. I sleep straight through the night.
Day two . . . almost as good as day one, but two of the markers of success are missing. We’ll stick chewed gum up in their places for today.
Day three . . . Rachel’s little character has taken the lead up the Mt. Chores trail. The other children are plotting revenge (which incidentally has nothing to do with simply doing better work and climbing with her).
Day four . . . a ZONE card has vanished. Looked everywhere. Did our best without it. The legs from little Rachel’s climbing character have mysteriously gone missing. No one is confessing. More success markers have disappeared.
Day five . . . Hooray! Level I reached! However, can’t remember what I told the kids they’d get as a reward when they achieve level one on Mt. Chores. I thought it was dessert of their choice. They believed it was a trip to Disney World. (Could I have said that? Self-doubt sets in. Insurrection mounts.)
Day six . . . Children rise to see mom around small bonfire in back yard. All traces of Mt. Chores mysteriously missing from house.

As usual, I’m exaggerating the downward spiral of our chores system excursions. But it feels much like this. Somehow, without even knowing how, we’ve lost pieces of “the system,” lost our enthusiasm, and lost our way. I really do believe in systems. I really do. I just no longer believe in my ability to be consistent in executing them.

So . . . having accepted that truth about myself, I have instead adopted strategies that work in bursts of productivity, or self-rewarding systems, self-regulating systems, or simply lessening the stuff that has to be cleaned. Don’t misunderstand me–If you can make a system work, DO it! It is still the best choice. But if you’re made a bit more like me, consider some of the following options.

Ten Minute Tidy
We call this the TMT in our house. And we put it on the daily lesson plan.
For just ten minutes, we gather together and quickly complete a task. We each are assigned a part of the task, we mentally prepare ourselves to work like a well-oiled machine, we set a timer and then BOOM! We’re off.

  • Perhaps it’s pulling everything out of the fridge, wiping it down and putting it back.
  • Maybe it’s ten minutes of decluttering, dusting, and vacuuming the family room.
  • Maybe it’s seeing how much of the mess can be cleared out of the garage.
  • Maybe it’s wiping all the fingerprints off of each of the 20 (count them–TWENTY!) individual little windows in the French Doors that sounded like such a beautiful idea when we first saw it in House Beautiful Magazine.

Here’s why it works. You never ever ever go over the ten minutes. Your kids need to know that this is not a trick to rope them into something else. Wherever you are in the process, when that timer goes off, hands fly UP in the air and you say “Done!” It’s also just fun because everyone is working together. It becomes a game, even a family bonding time. And we always laugh at the frenzy. But when it’s done, something is significantly cleaner. Can’t beat that.

27-Fling Boogie
This is a concept from Again, a timer is set–Lady recommends 15 minutes, during which time you carry a garbage bag through the house in search of 27 things you can be rid of. I like to take 2 garbage bags; one for items to be thrown away, another for items that can go to Goodwill. She recommends putting on a song like “Please Release Me, Let Me Go!” while boogie-ing through the house.

Getting Rid of It While Keeping It
This idea came from Pat, a friend of mine. She knew her daughter was struggling to keep her room clean mostly because there was simply too much stuff. It overwhelmed her and was impossible for her to maintain. The solution: Give her just enough stuff to be able to keep ordered. How? She gathered up almost everything from her room into CLEAR plastic bags. She left her with ten or so favorite toys that were easy to keep ordered. The bags went up to the attic. When the child missed a toy and wanted it back, she had to swap something from her room for the item from the attic.

Some of us become so frustrated with the mess in our kids’ rooms that we have a Goodwill delivery and voila! Instantly cleaned room. But, the result can be a heartbroken child. This bags-to-the-attic was not traumatic because the child knew that none of the toys were actually gone. They could be accessed whenever she wanted.

Holding Pen
There are times when I walk through a room and see signs of various family members. A stack of papers here. A used cup there. An open cupboard. A pair of socks. Several pairs of shoes. I could call in the owner of aforementioned items each and every time I came upon them and have them deal with their mess. Some moms are really good about this. And it probably does do a good job of training them not to leave so much out in the first place because it will certainly interrupt something else when they are called to come and retrieve it in the second place.
But . . . when you call a Sizzler away from their task, there’s a good chance that they will now be OFF that task for a very long time. Getting back “on task” may take more of an effort than with other kids. And if that task happens to be a math lesson or reading Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, the last thing I want to do is break their focus. So, I have a holding pen for each child.

Now, when I go flying through a room doing a major pick-up, there is a box for each family member somewhere where I throw items that have been scattered about. The box is always hidden away, under a chair, in a closet, somewhere out of my sight. Then, when the box is full, THAT is when I will call them out to deal with it. Far fewer interruptions to their focus.

True Forgetfulness Tools – Wrist Reminders
Sometimes kids “forget” to do their chores because it’s convenient. But sometimes, more often than we think, I believe they truly become distracted and just forget. If this is the actual cause, then these little wrist-bands of wonder may do the trick. I started by assuming the best. I assumed my son was honestly forgetting, that he wanted to remember and sometimes just couldn’t. I developed a reminder that actually attached to his body. It is a long strip of heavy paper (like that used in folders) covered with clear plastic tape so that I can use a wet or dry erase marker to write his assigned task on it, and a loose band slip-knotted through a hole at the top so that it can slide easily onto his wrist. (We use soft hair bands. Whatever you use, just make sure it is loose enough NOT to cause any restriction on his wrist.)

Here’s the key: the strip of paper must be long enough to be annoying. That way, the annoyance factor keeps him reminded (and not incidentally, annoyed–and thus anxious to be done with the task so that he may have it removed.) The other key is that ONLY MOM may remove the reminder. That is how he checks back in with you. That’s also how you don’t instantly lose all the wrist reminders you have made.

Rewarding the Right
There’s one behavior modification application that encourages punishing the wrong. But the flip side of this is to reward the right. What I’m about to share may seem too simple, too obvious, too candy-oriented. Don’t send me letters. Just choose something other than candy. But let me tell you where the idea came from.

My good friend, Melinda Boring, shared a solution that she used when one daughter consistently failed to put away the hair dryer after using, much to the profound annoyance of the other sister, who liked things orderly in their shared bathroom. Melinda’s solution? A little bowl of Tootsie Rolls sitting in the bathroom. Every time the hairdryer was put away, the daughter was allowed to reward herself with a single Tootsie Roll. Such a simple thing. And yet it spelled the end of the hair dryer wars.

I decided to try this in our house. One of my pet peeves is that the pantry door is always left open (everyone has something . . . this one’s mine.) So I placed a bowl of skittles by the pantry doors in a little bunny bowl with the instructions that if they closed the doors, they could have a skittle. And what’s more, if they noticed that someone else had left the door open and they closed it for them . . . they got TWO skittles. Such a small thing. And yet it spelled the end of open pantry doors.

You may one day visit my home and find three dozen purposefully placed bowls of Skittles around my house. One where we keep all our girly hair paraphernalia, one by each neatly made bed, and more by dust rags, vacuums, and folded towels! The possibilities are endless. But till then, I shall stand proudly by my ever-closed pantry doors.

Daily Computer Key
One thing that my youngest Sizzler is greatly attached to is her daily computer time. It’s not a lot of time, but it’s something she really enjoys– make that really, really, REALLY enjoys! So we created a “key” that “unlocks” her computer for her. It’s simply a slip of paper with a key on it and some blank lines onto which I’ve put down the items she must complete before she has access to her computer. Sometimes it’s cleaning out that box I mentioned above. It might be getting everything up off the floor of her room. Emptying the dishwasher. Sweeping down the back stairs. Whatever needs to be addressed that day goes on the list. Usually there are just 2-3 items. But because she starts the process with computer on the brain, it usually takes her just a few minutes to complete the tasks. It’s really just a fun way of saying, “Do your chores before you can go play.” A new twist on a very old concept.

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