Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Coffee Can ... Can

My house is looking better and staying neater than it has in months.

My boys are participating in clean-up time, having fun doing it, and it's taking us less time than ever before.

I think I'm on to something.

I wrote back in December how we were dividing our time into color-coded "zones".  Yellow meant it was school time, blue for rest time, green for play time, and red for cleaning up.  

It had gotten to where all we were using was the Red Zone, and even then we never really finished the list of things to do during that time.  

Enter... The Coffee Can.

It all started one day when company was coming and I wanted the boys' help getting ready.  Instead of chasing them around handing out assignments, I decided to write all the things that needed to be done on little strips of paper and let them draw for them.

It worked so well, I reused the same strips the next day.  And the next.  And the next.

By that time I knew we had a winning system.  Pretty soon I found an empty coffee can, spray painted it -what else?- red!, fine tuned a couple of the paper strips, and made it official.  

Ideally, we empty the can three times a day (immediately following each meal).  It has 12-14 jobs in it.  Some of them only need to be done once a day (make bed), other areas desperately need to be addressed all three times.  If someone draws a job that doesn't need to be repeated, we skip it and move on to the next thing.  Even if we only get to the can once a day, it still makes a huge difference.  

I learned from experience and taped a note to the top: before we even open the can, we make sure the dishwasher has been emptied if it is clean, and everyone makes a trip to the potty.  Work time seems to bring on the urge for some folks, and if everyone is freshly pottied when we begin, then we know they can wait until we're done to go again.  We avoid potty shirkers that way. :)

Sometimes the boys take turns drawing for jobs and we all work together.  I can get more detailed work done this way (like wiping out the microwave).  Sometimes they each draw their own at the same time and I work with whoever needs to most help.  This spreads me thinner, but gets the can emptied faster. 

Another thing that has turned out to be helpful is the way I divided up the kitchen work.  Instead of "put away all dirty dishes" or "put away all food / leftovers", the kitchen is divided into sections.  We clean off one area at a time instead of like things from all over.  Does that make sense?  For whatever reason, that is working much better for us.  Less overwhelming, maybe.

And because I like to know the specifics when I read 'chore chart' type posts from others, I'm going to list the jobs in our can.  Of course, we both know your jobs would be different.  But still, here goes:

Remember, we pull these out in random order, so we end up working back and forth in different areas of the house, and the order is different every day.

To get the kitchen clean:
Clean off silverware counter
Clean off stove counter
Clean off sink counter
Clean off table
Kitchen floor job. Sweep. Quick mop on Tuesday & Friday

Pick up / put away type jobs:
Living room floor job. Vacuum Mon, Wed, Fri.
Put away 12 things living room (not floor)
Boys' rooms floor job. Vacuum Friday
Put away 12 things boys room
Hallway.  Vacuum Monday, Friday
Put away clean laundry
5 minutes laundry room

Make Beds
Clean bathroom.  Scrub potty Mon, Thur.

A few notes:
A "floor job" means to put away all the shoes, toys, etc that may be sitting out in the floor.

12 is just a random number.  Sometimes there are 24 things to be put away.  Sometimes there are 2. 

Our laundry room is also the entry from the carport and the backyard.  It is also where our trashcan resides.  A lot of traffic (plus a trashcan) means stuff needs to be tended to.

Mondays and Thursdays are The. Best. Days. if you are a boy in our house.  Some while back Greg bought some of those clorox cleaning wand things to clean the toilet with.  You know... with the disposable heads?  The boys think they are great.  They starting arguing over whose turn it was to clean the potty, so I assigned days.  Yes, even my immunosuppressed one 'gets' to clean the potty.  We just wash up good afterward.  So all week, you can hear things to the tune of: "Thursday is my potty day!"  "Tomorrow is my potty day!"  "Today is my potty day!"  I think it really must be the highlight of their week.  I'm going to ride it as long as it lasts. :)

So anyway... six chapters later, now you know how we are keeping house these days.  It takes us anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to get through the can.  It is a very consistent, yet highly flexible system, all at the same time.  I love it.  I'm hoping it works for a good, long time!

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Mendi... said...

Awesome ideas! Thanks for sharing!!


Jennibell said...

Thank you for the detail. . .such a great idea!