Chores have to be done. Most of us, including kids, don’t like to do them. But there is a way to not only get chores done but have some fun while doing them. I use a practice called chore jurisdictions.
If your family is home together, maybe you homeschool your children, or if you notice when everyone is home on a weekend, the house can get messy, quickly! Now, multiply that by eleven (yes, we have eleven children still at home!), and that mess can be quite overwhelming. However, with that many helping hands, it can also be cleaned up quickly.
In this post, I’m sharing what chore jurisdictions are, how to use them, who accomplishes them, and when we use them. If you’ve missed any of the other posts in my household management series, you’ll want to be sure to check them out!
- How I Manage Our Home
- Morning Routine for a Productive Day
- Teaching Our Children to Have a Productive Morning
- The Importance of Chore-Time for Kids
- The Importance of a Healthy Breakfast
Why I Love Chore Jurisdictions
It’s so easy for mom to just handle all the chores. We know how we want the job done, and oftentimes, it will take us less time than it will our children (especially during the training period).
However, mom can’t maintain a clean household all on her own, especially if no one else is taking a proper level of ownership.
In our home, we use a different type of chore system than most. It’s called chore jurisdictions. This means that each area of the home is assigned as a chore or an area of responsibility to one child. Having your chores set up like this will bring sanity to your day, clarity to your children (because they know what’s expected of them), and you’ll find that your home will begin to run very smoothly.
How to Set Chore Jurisdictions
There are a few tips I’d like to share when it comes to setting up chore jurisdictions:
- By Zone – Chore jurisdictions refer to areas or zones of the house. This could be a portion of the living room, dining room, or even the whole shared bathroom. Instead of delegating individual tasks, such as taking out the trash, replenishing the firewood, or mopping the floors, you delegate areas of the house. The child assigned to that area is responsible for keeping it tidy throughout the day.
- Maintain Expectations – The main focus is getting and keeping it “tidy”, not necessarily deep cleaning it. This is where we moms can easily become frustrated. Keep in mind your child’s age and abilities when setting standards for what “tidy” means to you. Then remember to hold them accountable. Like I always say, “You can’t expect what you don’t inspect.”
- Age Appropriate – The areas assigned should be age appropriate; for instance, we have our toddlers fix and tidy up a bookshelf. We have our older kids clean and tidy a whole bathroom and maybe the space in between.
Another reason for doing chores this way is that it helps maintain the uncluttered feel of a house, especially if there are many people at home at the same time. Human psychology says if an area is messy and untidy, people quickly make more of a mess (like a stack of papers, for example, will cause someone to continue stacking on top of it).
The tidier you can maintain a home, the tidier it will stay. To make sure these chore jurisdictions are being done, we add them to the daily schedule as “chore jurisdiction time.”
How to Assign Chore Jurisdictions
Everyone! In our house, we assign chore jurisdictions to each person. Everyone has a responsibility that is age-appropriate. This sets a level of expectation that everyone helps, right from the start.
It goes without saying that babies are excluded, but toddlers are not. We usually start assigning chore jurisdictions at about four years of age. If we have a younger toddler (age 2 or 3), they may get buddied up with an older sibling as their helper.
As the children move up in age, they move up in chore jurisdictions. I also have more information in my post on the importance of chore time for kids.
The Exception to the Rule
The one exception to this rule is that one person is in charge of running the jurisdiction. This person has no chores. They can train and inspect the chores being done.
This is also important because, if unexpected company should show up, they can greet the company and visit with them while the others finish up the chores.
We don’t do this because we feel the house has to be in perfect condition for company, but it’s nice to have a welcoming and comforting home for guests. It also teaches our children how to be good hosts.
The next question needing to be answered is where do we assign jurisdictions? We only assign public parts of the house such as the dining room, living room, shared bathrooms, etc. These are all areas that guests and the whole family will use.
The bedrooms are each person’s responsibility, so they are not included in chores jurisdictions. If your children’s bedrooms or a playroom are areas that might be used when guests come, this may look different for your family.
One thing to note is that we do not assign the kitchen as a chore jurisdiction because this is a highly productive area. It’s not fair if one person always has to tidy up a place that is almost always messy.
We do chore jurisdictions three times a day throughout the day, every day. One is after morning chore time, one is at the end of school or before lunch, and the last is after evening chore time.
It goes very quickly because the chore should only take less than 5 minutes for each jurisdiction. Remember, they’re just tidying, not deep cleaning.
You may wonder how these areas ever get truly cleaned. One time per week, each chore jurisdiction gets deep cleaned. This is scheduled and each child is responsible for the same area, but that area is now getting deep cleaned instead of just tidied (floors mopped, rugs vacuumed, etc.).
We use my homemade all-purpose cleaning powder and homemade glass cleaner throughout the house.
Homestead Hack: We often call jurisdiction time when we feel the house is becoming a mess. Sometimes this isn’t even during the three daily scheduled times. This method really does turn into a sanity tool. During those moments when the house is messy and crazy, call out jurisdiction time and in less than five minutes everything will be reset.
So how do you train someone to do a chore jurisdiction? By showing them. The first few times you (or an older sibling) will need to walk through each step with them to set the expectation. This way, they learn how to do it exactly as it should be done.
Writing out a list can be helpful for those children who can read. For the younger ones, teach them what the area should look like when it’s complete. This can be a good visual help for them.
Homestead Hack: Try to keep those extra chore jurisdiction calls to a minimum, so the scheduled jurisdiction calls seem manageable. Also, keep them fun and lighthearted, maybe even play some music. We like to play a song and see if we can all finish by the time the song is over. After we’re done, we’ll all go take a fun break outside together.
As you can see, maintaining a tidy home doesn’t have to be difficult, and it doesn’t have to be a chore everyone dreads. Make it a fun activity that everyone does together and find ways to make it rewarding (beyond the rewards of what a tidy house brings).