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Mom works full-time and takes college classes. Dad works full time and then some, plus participating in Toastmasters and the Rotary Club. Son, a high school junior, has a driver's license and an after school job. Daughters one and two, high school sophomores, are cheerleaders, soccer players and popular neighborhood baby-sitters. That kind of family schedule keeps everyone off the streets, so to speak, but who scrubs the toilet? Folds the laundry and feeds the dog? Shops for groceries and pays the bills?

One family found a way to split the responsibilities fairly and keep the chaos to a manageable level without hiring outside help. This is how they did it. Actually, this is what Mom said, and everyone else went along. She decided, after all, that any sixteen year old who could clean the restrooms at McDonalds could scrub the tub at home, and do it just as well as she could. The family home would no longer be treated as a drop-in site for changing clothes.

She divided the housework into five logical, roughly equal, sections: living/dining room, bathrooms, outdoors, cooking and laundry. These were assigned on a rotating schedule, changing every Sunday night, with as few rules attached as possible. The sections included things that needed to be done weekly; exactly when was up to the person who held the duty for that week.

Each person was responsible for picking up after themselves, cleaning their rooms (or not) and taking charge of their assigned area for one week. That was all they had to do: personal caretaking, and one area of the home.

Tidiness, not spotlessness, set the standard for the living areas. Before the chore was turned over to the next person, though, the area had to be super-cleaned: windows and mirrors washed, everything dusted, thorough vacuuming on the inside. Since the rotation was at the end of the weekend, it required a about an hour on Saturday or Sunday to spit shine. Outside duty included a clean patio, yard chores, garbage put out on collection day, and washing the car sometime during the week.

Laundry for five people meant a couple of loads washed, dried, and folded every day; by Sunday night, there was to be nothing in the hamper. Each person was responsible for putting away their own clean clothes. The "laundry slave" for the week took care of putting away linens. Nobody ironed; that chore fell by the wayside along with nit-picking standards. The only critical ironing--Dad's work shirts--went to a commercial laundry.

Cooking meant planning and preparing a daily dinner meal that included a main dish, salad and a vegetable within a weekly budget. It also meant cleaning and sanitizing the kitchen before bed.

The weekend before the plan went into effect, everyone canceled all outside plans and told friends not to visit. The phone ringer was turned off and the answering machine volume turned down.

The family created an orderly house. They moved furniture and vacuumed under it, dusted around every book and candle, washed windows, scrubbed and waxed the kitchen floor. The basket of mismatched socks went away. Bags and boxes went to the thrift store, and out of season clothes were stored in labeled boxes. They made a shopping trip to stock up staples: groceries, cleaning supplies, paper products. This established an atmosphere of working together (like it or not, in some instances) and gave everyone a fair starting place.

Of course problems arose. Son, who hated the laundry duty, purposely ruined a load of gentle things. He replaced them from his paycheck. Daughter number one decided that Jello was a vegetable; daughter number two ordered pizza for three nights in a row and ate up a whole week's grocery budget.

Arguments got loud over who was changing clothes too often, or putting clean things back in the hamper, who left a mess in the bathroom or messed up the kitchen in the evenings. Not everybody liked the meals. Sometimes, some areas still got messy. But, overall, the situation was a dramatic improvement over the times when nobody cleaned anything.

But by the end of the first set of five weeks, the advantages of working together far outweighed the disadvantages. The kids learned to put a meal in the crockpot before school. They knew, when they had a chore they hated, that they only had to do this for one week. They all learned to respect each other's work because they all had to do the same thing sooner or later. Everyone knew where responsibility lay.

One more chore was added in after about three months: budgeting and paying bills. This one didn't follow the weekly rotation. Rather, on payday Thursdays for a two month stretch, one of the kids sat down with Mom and Dad to balance the checkbook and write out the checks.

This family kept the basic structure for two years, and it worked. The house became a tidy home where friends were welcomed without embarrassment. Everyone learned that as members of a household, they held responsibility for its management.

Mom got her degree, son left home able to manage an apartment on his own, and the girls were freed from a sense of obligation to perform, single-handedly, the drudge work of creating an organized home for their families.