Zone Defense: Chores Edition

I’ve struggled the last few years with trying to find a way to keep the house generally cleaned up with so many little kids running around.  I spent most of the last few years going back and forth between “crazy cleaning lady” and “It’s not worth the effort”.  I had a very hard time finding a good balance.  I was either spending hours every day and evening trying to pick up, wipe down, and wash just to have it undone in 3 seconds, or the house just wasn’t getting even picked up because I was just so OVER doing so much work to have things still look like an absolute disaster mere moments later.

As the kids have gotten older I started enlisting their help with chores.  I tried chore charts but even with pictures instead of words, they had a hard time remembering everything.  I tried just having them in charge of picking up their room everyday, but it was almost always a meltdown between the sisters into who was responsible for what mess.   And I was still left with the rest of the house, which was a lot of work!  Just dishes and after meal clean up for 6 people is a lot of work.  Never mind all the rooms that need swept, vacuumed, and wiped down.

I just got tired of it all!  Bahhhhhh!  I wanted the kids to help in a meaningful way.  But I also wanted to make sure that when THEY were cleaning I was cleaning.  I didn’t want to have to keep stopping to break up a fight or “check” chores that only half done.  So we could just do the chores and be done.  And we could move on to the rest of the day.

So I established rotating cleaning zones.  Not rooms.  But simple zones.  No complex list of things to remember.  Very simple, related things that have clear expectations to what is defined as “done”.

Annie is already a good rinser and stacker. It takes a lot of persistence and patience, but even young children can be genuine helpers during chore time.

We’ve been doing this for about three months now and it works GREAT!  It’s very simple for the kids to remember.  The oldest two (6 and 4) can do the zones WITHOUT help (yay!).  Annie (almost 3) helps me with my zone or helps Daddy with farm chores.  Everyone is working at the same time.  Not me trying to work while the kids fight or trash the house in the name of making a play fort for Barbie.  Our morning schedule looks like this now:

4:30-7:30a: I teach online.  The kids wake up and play upstairs quietly(ish).

7:30a: Breakfast

8a-9a:  Chore Zones!  The girls and I rotate inside and Sam does his outside farm chores.

10a: School for Myka.  And then free playtime until lunch.


So what are the Zones?  Glad you asked! 😉

ZONE 1: Dishes.  Wash, rinse and put them in the drying rack.  Wipe down the sink/counter/stove.

ZONE 2: Pick up main spaces:  Clear the breakfast table, pick up living room, vacuum both rooms.

ZONE 3: Girls’ bedroom: Make beds, put toys in toy box, put away any clothes left out.  My rule is nothing is left on the floor.  If it’s on the floor I will sweep it up and put it in the trash!  Not kidding!  Many a Barbie accessory has been swept away.

Ivy completes Zone 2!


We rotate zones everyday.  It’s a cycle.  The only issue we had was the girls’ figured out that the next day was going to be Mom’s turn to pick up their room and totally TRASHED it because they didn’t have to do the clean up work.  Or so they thought!  I nipped that in the bud pretty quickly.  Sometimes the girls (well, Ivy) try to “get away with murder” as they say.  I caught her to other day turning the vacuum on and just letting in run so it sounded like she was vacuuming even though she wasn’t pushing it around.  Nuh-Uh little lady.  That’s not going to work around here.

There have been a lot of positives.  A large percentage of the house is getting cleaned everyday and not just by me (yay!).  The older girls also have a new appreciation for how annoying messes are because they are directly invested in the cleaning process.  The cycle is predictable and our schedule is so regular that there isn’t any whining (usually) about chores.  They eat breakfast and there are many days they get to work without me asking.

We follow the “zones” Monday through Friday.  No chores on Sunday!  On Saturday, the girls are allowed to watch TV or use their tablets, but only after their zone is done.  And Saturday I usually do a deeper clean, so I’ll have an extra thing or two they need to accomplish before turning on a show.

My hope is to add one more zone in the next year.  Once Annie can do chores independently.   Then pretty much the whole house will get a pick up and wipe down on a daily basis.  That makes me very happy!