Updated: Nov 5, 2019
Family. You can't pick them, but if you have a toddler, you probably have picked their nose. Admit it. Though living with people with different personalities, ways of thinking, and tastes can be difficult, it is so good for us to learn to love and embrace them. Even celebrate them.
Curating our home improved our family relationships. Holding on to what we love allowed us to better focus on who we love and why we do what we do as a family. Decluttering our home birthed an improved version of us; what we nerdily refer to as Team Travis.
Three useful components of creating more teamwork in your family are: mission, meetings, and serving together (here, serving is in the form of taking care of your home, but outside the home is so important too).
Our minimalist mission statement is posted on our fridge. Maybe after we revisit it I will DIY something fancier, but it works for now. Our eldest daughter posted this acrostic under it one day. Not sure how many more years we will all fit in the photo booth at the beach!
This Mission, Should You Choose to Accept it
Though you don't get to pick your family, you did get a say in your spouse (I'm assuming). If you chose well, this person most likely is a reasonable person who loves you and you share a similar vision of life together already.
Often it's not until you are in the trenches of parenthood that you fully grasp the magnitude of your mission together and how important it is to be on the same page, or at least in the same chapter. There are times when it feels more like mission impossible and it is you (or your marriage), not the message, that will self-destruct.
Even if you have embarked on your family journey without a road map or perhaps got a bit off course, have no fear. It's not too late to turn on your GPS and find your way. Asking for directions from someone who has been there isn't a bad idea either, as humbling as that can be.
The path to intentionality starts with, well, intention. If you aim at nothing, that's what you get, right? Sometimes your intentions change as a couple and as a family, and that's great if the changes show growth together. You have to start somewhere. A basic and simple vision or mission is great even if it is a bit loose to begin with. With every decision made, the discernment muscle is strengthened and who you are both individually and as a family becomes more and more clear.
Since I am all for simplicity and delegating whenever possible, rather than reinventing the wheel, I am going to hand this topic over to Tsh Oxenrider. She knows a thing or two about simplicity. Her blog The Art of Simple is a great source for anyone trying to live a more intentional life. Check out her post about creating a family mission statement.
Our mission statement is pretty simple. Now that our kids are a little older and we have figured out this simple living thing a bit more, we will revisit and flesh out our statement a bit using the Franklin Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families website. Tsh (and most other bloggers who blog on the subject of family mission statements) refers to this resource.
My husband believes in what I'm doing enough to proofread my posts and pose for pictures. He even changed from shorts into pants since his hairy legs looked weird with our clothed ones. What a guy and an act of service. True love!
Team Travis is an ever changing work in progress. We have a regular meeting of the minds to bring about unity and forward movement. Our meetings are not elaborate and through trial and error we have come up with something that is the right fit for us right now. There are a million free printable family meeting agendas out there to try out and pull ideas from.
Ours looks like this:
My husband and I get much praise from our daughters for chopping firewood and cooking healthy food. It's like we are Ma and Pa Ingalls.
Ways to Improve
We try to keep this light-hearted and team oriented and don't single out anyone. "Doing laundry is super easy when your clothes are put into the hamper. And if the clothes are turned right side out first we do a cartwheel!"
We look at our synced Google calendar accounts together to refresh our memories or spot any glitches. Every week we fill in a weekly dry erase calendar which is organized by person. (see picture below) My oldest likes to write in the special classes rotation at school for her and her sister.
Planning Family Fun
It's fun to brainstorm Friday movie night, weekend plans, vacations, etc.
A different person gets to pick Saturday dinner each week.
Everyone's favorite part. If you were an animal...If you had a super power...you get the idea.
Paying our girls for certain chores is a tool for teaching them about money. Our chores are built into the days of our dry erase calendar and they check them off as they complete them.
Banana "ice cream" with peanut butter and chocolate chips is a favorite.
Dance parties with wonderfully bad dancing, board games, etc. We just started doing intermediate jigsaw puzzles together. Talk about nerdy!
Our meetings occur after our two-year-old is in bed. We currently have an eight and five-year-old in attendance, so we keep things moving and each part of the agenda is brief or even skipped sometimes. We try to keep the KISS approach (Keep It Simple Sweetheart) and the perspective that it's about creating unity above all else. Further adult planning can happen after the kids are in bed.
We usually have our meetings on Sunday nights. Because other tasks hinge on this meeting (chore payment, a bit of meal planning), meetings are part of our family chore schedule. For more on that...read on!
I drew up a paper calendar with our weekly chores and placed it in a 14x18 inch frame. After looking ahead to our week together, we write the events on the glass with dry erase marker (the chores won't get erased this way). Adding chores to a calendar acknowledges that they take a bit of time and keeps us from becoming over-scheduled. The kids' chores have circles beside them to fill upon completion. They use a dry erase marker instead of a #2. Why do kids love dry erase boards so much? This board is high enough to be out of the toddler's reach but low enough for the big girls. You could also design a calendar on your computer to print. That's probably what a normal person does.
Be the Change (or Adulting)
We (ok I) have used a chore schedule for years. It keeps me focused and accountable. I felt much better about all my diy and making projects when I had a clean plate. I no longer wondered when the last time the sheets were changed, which felt like adulting in a good way. Afterall, I am an adult.
Completing a small daily task just felt good. As a parent it can be hard to complete a thought or sentence at times. According to The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, keeping the tasks small and easy allows for small wins and this leads to forming habits.
I find the words chore and schedule to be soul-sucking. Thinking of a new term to call planning small, manageable tasks that keep your home from getting nasty and dysfunctional might help. Whatever I call it, a chore schedule is a useful tool.
Chores have been much less burdensome since we simplified and decluttered our whole home category by category. Getting to the dirt is easier and way more satisfying than shuffling around piles from room to room and constantly reorganizing. Cleaning became a breeze.
Procrastination is a brain drain and kills my fun. It's way easier to "eat the frog" first thing in the morning when I know the frog. I am always surprised how quickly I can complete a daunting task. When I time myself, I realize that sometimes it's easy to make a mountain of a mole hill. I expend much less energy when I just do it. Of course if you really do have a mountain of stuff rather than a mole hill it can be hard to clean or focus on a task unless you declutter.
Planning just a small amount of maintenance tasks each day keeps our home from becoming dysfunctional. According to Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting, we all have quirks which are simultaneously gifts. When overwhelmed, these quirks can slide into disorders. Removing the clutter from your home and schedule is vital to the health of your family.
I'm not proud of it, but I bribed my 2-year-old to cooperate for this picture.
She's still a rookie when it comes to teamwork.
Recruiting Your Team
If you don't have a cooperative household team, this could be a good topic for some family meetings over plates of cookies. To keep the tone upbeat and positive, avoid finger-pointing or blaming by using "I" statements. Leave space for everyone to share. Together, create a list of priority tasks based on your family mission statement. You may choose meal planning if you value health, hospitality, financial stewardship, or family dinners (without a million trips to the store) as a task.
Be prepared to hear, "It will just get dirty again!" regarding cleaning. Teach small children that even animals keep their bodies and homes clean to stay healthy. For older kids, relate it to hygiene. "You do wipe every time you use the toilet, right?"
After agreeing on what chores are most important, it's time to assign. A task doesn't have to be completed by that person 100% of the time, but it's good if they make sure it has been delegated. Asking for help is part of being a good team.
We used to post the weekly chore schedule like this one on the fridge, but now we combine the chores with our weekly calendar. As long as they are getting done, It really doesn't matter how you do it.
Making a Schedule that Works
Your routine will change with the season of life you are in. Dusting baseboards will surely not rank as a priority through some of them. Create a chore schedule that works for everyone's schedule. There are free printables for schedules out there, but a custom one designed by you might work the best. Other creators don't know what your life looks like.
Making something myself and owning it makes me more likely to do it. If the visual reminder isn't enough, setting an alarm on a phone can also help a habit form. During the month of December my 'Move Elf on the Shelf" alarm goes off at 9 pm. I can't really write that on a calendar. It's how I beat mom brain.
Some tasks will be daily and some are weekly. Tasks done less often are best added to Google calendar which conveniently allows you to repeat the event in many different ways. Some tasks are still as-needed, like how often the floor is swept and mopped. Some days are messier than others. Our kitchen floor is usually swept daily and mopped once or twice a week with a microfiber mop. We have white tile, so it's pretty clear when it's needed!
Some weekly tasks include: bills and budget (we use Every Dollar), taking out the trash, bathroom and kitchen cleaning (both so much quicker after decluttering), meal planning, grocery shopping, and various laundry categories. (Laundry is one of our most common client complaints and will have a post devoted to it next time!) Knowing the housework is accounted for helps to fight decision fatigue (What should I tackle today?) which is another help for mom brain. Relief from the feeling of procrastination allows for more enjoyable downtime as well. It becomes easier to let go of tasks that don't really seem to fit and become more intentional about resting, because it is so necessary.
The kids have coordinating chores that include gathering waste baskets on trash night, folding some of the easier laundry categories like napkins, and various kinds of towels (basically flat rectangular things), putting away their clothes and cleaning their sinks in their bathroom, mirrors and the windows of the doors. Their daily chores include making their beds (we don't expect hospital corners!), setting and clearing the table, and tidying up after themselves. Creating a toy library has made this super easy. See the why and how in these posts.
Try coordinating tasks. (On Mondays I will wash the towels, how about you fold them after school?) Post the schedule as a family or add them to your weekly calendar like we did. Even after the routine becomes habit, it's useful if a teammate is down for the count and needs a substitute.
The girls do a quick five minute chore each afternoon. Since I wash bath towels on Wednesday, their chore is to fold washcloths. Folding and arranging fruit are just two of their many talents.
Gumption, Gratitude and Grace
Sometimes it's just easier to do things yourself. But the easy way isn't always the best way. Getting everyone involved builds ownership, responsibility, and provides an opportunity for teamwork. It may take more time and patience, but starting with small jobs for small people is important. Even if you didn't start young, it's not too late for older kids to learn. Kids thrive in predictable environments. They like inviting their friends to a clean house. They just probably prefer that you do all the work is all. This is one of those parenting times that they will thank you for later. Chores and owning less are two ways to fight entitlement and inspire gratitude in your family and for each other.
At the end of the day having grace for your family and yourself is the most important thing. Praise your five-year-old for folding that wonky pile of folded napkins (and resist refolding them). So the toilet didn't get scrubbed today. Tomorrow is another day and, instead of beating yourself up, just be thankful for indoor plumbing! Having an all or nothing attitude with housework or anything won't get you far. Just pick up and try again tomorrow or the next time that chore is scheduled for, if it can wait that long. Don't forget your team can ask their teammates for help too.
Now get out there, play, and have fun! Go team! (Insert butt slap here.)
If you have read the books and tried online courses, but they aren't working for you and you could use a hand decluttering and organizing one-on-one in your home, let us help you. Read more about our method. Need-based financial assistance is available.
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