With six kids and sixteen years of parenting under my belt, how well I know the continual quest to beg, bribe or bully children into helping pick up the house! Chore charts, payment systems, rewards and penalties have come and gone, but one idea that has stood the test of time at our house is "the zones."
We assign every one of our kids a room or rooms that is theirs to keep picked up. If the preschoolers made a mess in your zone, I'm sorry, but it just became your job to help them pick it up. (Since most pre-Kers are equal-opportunity mess-makers, it tends to even out eventually.) If an older sibling left their belongings in your zone, you either move them into their zone, or make sure they remove it from yours. If it belongs to Mom or Dad, you put it away for them (oh yes, you do!--after ALL they've DONE for YOU) or ask what they'd like you to do with it.
If an item in your zone belongs upstairs, you put it on the stairs leading up; if it goes in the basement, you put it on the stairs going down there. The person in charge of clearing the stairs puts those items in the owner's bedrooms, and the owner takes it from there. If you don't know where an item goes, you ask Mom.
When are you done? When your zone looks ready to have its picture taken! That may mean you not only pick up, you also straighten the rug or tuck in the slipcover or straighten the books on the shelf. Mom is the final judge of whether you are done. But please, develop a little pride in creating an orderly and inviting zone for all to enjoy! (I do see it happening as they get older....)
Do we rotate who gets what zone? Very rarely--and I believe that's been part of the long-lived nature of this strategy. We move other chores around a bit to even things up as fairly as possible, and the work has stayed balanced or even been reduced for the older ones as the younger kids have become older and able to take on a little more. Occasionally a couple kids have asked to trade zones, and as long as both want to, that's fine--but basically, they seem to prefer the zone they've always done, and that's made it way easier for we parents of the few remaining brain cells to remember who has what room.
Right now, the daily zone/chore balance looks like this (this does not include once a week chores like cleaning bathrooms or dusting, although they basically work in their zones for those too):
Bantam16: the kitchen/dining room zone at lunchtime; his bedroom; the basement bathroom; unloading the dishwasher and vacuuming as needed.
Blondechick14: the kitchen/dining room zone at dinnertime; her bedroom; the upstairs bathroom; the living room; the upstairs hallway and stairs.
Bantam12: the family room; his and his brother's bedroom (putting brother's things in a pile for him to put away); the main level half bath; the kitchen/dining room at breakfast-time.
Bantam8: the basement stairs; emptying trash and recycling bins; helping Chicklet4 clean up her room; clearing and sweeping the kitchen/dining room floor.
Chicklet4: her bedroom, with Bantam8's help; helping pick up her things in other people's zones; the "Cinderella job" (cleaning spots off the tile floor in the kitchen/dining room with a rag).
Bantam2: undoing everyone else's work; he takes this responsibility seriously.
And as we all know, you can only expect what you're willing to inspect, so put that "Inspector job" at the top of YOUR daily list.
"Zones": They help my kids work for me!
(For more Works for Me Wednesday posts, visits Rocks in my Dryer.)