Family Family Affair: Rally Your Kids to Conquer Chores

by Megan Nye | December 19, 2018

It's the million-dollar question: How do busy families stay on top of keeping their house organized?

The answer: Make it a family affair.

Between laundry, dishes and taking out the trash, maintaining a somewhat orderly household with kids can seem like an uphill battle. There is hope. Following an easy-to-implement action plan and you can help rally your family, develop positive life-long habits, create harmony, deeper bonds and, ultimately, conquer your household goals — together.

Huddle up with your family

The first step is getting everyone’s head in the game.

  • Spell out what needs to be done. Take the time to list out all the chores and home maintenance tasks for which your family is responsible. John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada, a software tool for managing and organizing your home, recommends organizing your chores into simple categories — everyday tasks, weekly activities, outdoor maintenance work, seasonal projects and more.


  • Tackle what you like. Adriane Weinberg, owner of the organizing business An Organized Approach in Ambler, PA, suggests pairing family members with chores based on preference. “Pick what they like to do or at least don't hate doing,” says Weinberg. Additionally, she notes, identify which people are uniquely qualified to tackle certain tasks — such as needing a driver’s license to do the food shopping or being tall enough to dust the light fixtures.


  • Set family meetings to develop a strategy. Family meetings can help everyone feel involved while taking a team approach to tackling responsibilities. Amy Powell, a 42-year-old mom of two teens from Livonia, MI, confers with her busy family each week to review their upcoming schedules, assess everyone’s availability and divide up that week’s responsibilities.

Want your efforts to really stick? Make your planning session fun or memorable for the whole gang. Plan over a pizza or head out for a round of mini golf once you’ve wrapped up your confab.

Family meetings can help everyone feel involved while taking a team approach to tackling responsibilities.
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Delegate strategically

Getting the kids involved is not only a savvy method for divvying up the household workload, but also an excellent way to get them ready for the responsibilities of adulthood. The key: ensure that the tasks you assign are age-appropriate and in line with their abilities.

Heather Nelson, a 40-year-old mom in Greenwich, CT, says the sweet spot is giving her three boys increasingly complex duties over time. She eases her sons into larger chores by first breaking those tasks down into individual, manageable pieces — like learning to fold before assuming responsibility for the entire laundry process.

“Don’t underestimate your kids!” Nelson says. By the age of seven, all three of her boys were successfully tackling their own laundry each week.

Ben Soreff is a dad of two and also a professional organizer with House to Home Organizing in Norwalk, CT. He notes the importance of specific goals for kids.

“You can't tell them to clean their room,” he says. “They will just shove everything in the closet — they need clear directions.” Consider giving your kids a checklist with line items for corralling stuffed animals, making the bed, dusting surfaces or vacuuming.

Father holds his son while pushing a lawn mower in front of their house

Be patient — and encouraging

Recognize that learning how to conquer a chore takes time for kids — and adults. Powell, for instance, found success by focusing on one new chore each year. For example, she’ll teach her son to clean the bathroom, then have him practice that task all year in order to master it.

Whatever your approach, don’t drive yourself nuts with unrealistic expectations. Rather than insist on perfection, aim for “good enough.” Keep in mind a minimum standard that’s both acceptable to you and achievable for your helpers.

Mark Aselstine, a 38-year-old dad of two boys from El Cerrito, CA, says his 2-year-old son still has plenty to learn when it comes to technique. But he appreciates his enthusiastic efforts in putting away clothes and setting the dinner table for the family, so he encourages any effort. 

Young child helps his mother fold a towel from the laundry

Help your family visualize goals with a chore chart for kids

It’s essential that you communicate expectations and responsibilities clearly. According to a study from Wake Forest University, a written to-do list has been scientifically proven to enhance productivity and efficiency, and can get everyone (literally) on the same page. Chore charts are also a popular tool for parents who want to stay organized but would prefer not to micromanage or nag their kids.

In her own home, Nelson whipped up a simple but effective grid of color-coded cards for each day of the week and positioned it on her fridge. With one color assigned to each kid, the entire family understands each member's role and responsibilities.

Powell, meanwhile, opts for a more detailed “responsibility chart,” which includes chores and other activities like personal grooming tasks, reading and more.

Want to go digital with your plan? Aselstine says his family can’t live without their digital assistant. He and his wife make use of its electronic shopping list, which allows them to add items at home or on the go. His 2-year-old even “helpfully” pitches in — adding cookies and ice cream to the list when his parents aren’t looking.

Juggling jam-packed schedules? Powell’s family relies on the Cozi Calendar app, a digital family calendar that allows them to keep track of sports schedules, social events, appointments and more all from their mobile devices. “It has been a life-changing addition to our family,” shares Powell. “I can't imagine how we would keep everything straight without it.”

Also consider Google Calendar, another tool for keeping schedules organized, or Wunderlist, an app that helps you plan and collaborate on projects.

A written to-do list has been scientifically proven to enhance productivity and efficiency.
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Keep your eyes on the prize

You want to teach your kids personal responsibility and the value of contributing to your family’s goals. And, ultimately, you want a clean, organized home while still enjoying time with your family.

Of course, even with a solid plan in place, you may still find it’s impossible to achieve perfection. Give yourself a break and consider alternatives. Everyone faces periods of life that are exceptionally busy or stressful. In times such as these, focus on clearing what you can off your plate without heaping on the guilt.

Identify chores that can be done less frequently than your current schedule requires. Explore which tasks you can eliminate entirely or put off to a less busy time. And give yourself permission to hire out responsibilities — lawn care, housekeeping, have groceries delivered — that are weighing you down.

Don’t get discouraged — chore time is the art of the possible. That said, it is possible to create a plan for a more organized and productive family. It’ll require you to be positive, proactive and able to weather some growing pains, but trust that it will be as unique — and, yes, sometimes as messy (but no less beautiful) — as your own family.

Megan Nye

is a personal finance freelance writer whose 3-year-old son helpfully "mows" the carpet twice a week. Her writing has been published by Business Insider, U.S. News & World Report, Personal Capital and Northwestern Mutual.