Recently, I’ve implemented a new chore system in the Farm Fairy household.
When the baby arrived at our household, the balance of who did what was thrown way off kilter. Suddenly there were a whole lot more responsibilities, as the little one had needs which we had previously not had to contend with. I’m not going to lie, it was seriously hard to find our groove again. The sheer volume of chores was daunting, and we were overwhelmed with the influx of “baby” things. The fact that our home was so embarrassingly out of control left us crabby and short with each other. It was far too easy to just avoid the whole situation by packing up and going out somewhere. Once the door closed behind us, we were relaxed and could enjoy each others’ company. However, I knew we needed to deal with the state of the place at some point.
To start with, I decided to try a system where I rewarded myself for cleaning. This idea came from Karen Pryor’s “Don’t Shoot the Dog”. For those of you who haven’t read it, the author describes a situation where she has to go to a class that she doesn’t always look forward to. She buys herself a chocolate bar and eats a small piece of it every time she accomplishes one portion of her journey. Walked to the subway? Chocolate. On the train? Chocolate. Transferred to the bus? Chocolate. Eventually, she effectively trains herself to go to the class without needing the chocolate. This should apply to cleaning, right?
The first system I made was a colossal failure. I remembered a system my sister used to use, where she wrote her “To-do” list on little scraps of paper and pinned them to a cork board. When the task was completed, she would tear down the job from the board. She described a sense of satisfaction from clearing the board, and found that that feeling of accomplishment was, in itself, rewarding. I didn’t have a cork board, but I did have a bunch of sticky notes from various realtors and charities. The fridge would serve as my cork board. To keep myself on track, I made a rule that I HAD to finish one sticky per day, or do three the next day. When all the stickies were gone, I could reload the fridge with more. As an added bonus, I decided that when I finished all my sticky tabs I would treat myself to a Fudgesicle. That’s plenty motivating, right?
It seemed like a great system, but after about two weeks it started to fall apart. I missed a sticky one day, and then the next I didn’t finish three, and it just snowballed from there. Eventually my “sticky debt” reached a critical mass and I avoided the whole thing. It was easier to pretend it wasn’t there than to admit I had failed. On top of that, my first go around had 42 stickies on the fridge. That is WAY too many stickies to complete if the reward is a measly Fudgesicle. If the reward had been a trip to Hawaii or a new car, then maybe I would have finished it.
The stickies stayed sad and forgotten for a period of time while I grieved my failed system. Eventually, I decided I could rebuild it (I had the technology!). I had learned from my mistakes and this time around, the sticky system seems to be sticking!
Here’s the new system:
These are the job stickies. There are a mix of colours, each chore is randomly assigned a colour.
Underneath the job stickies are the finished stickies. There’s a column for me and a column for Mister.
I have simplified the rules a lot to make the system flow better. The rules are as follows:
1. You must complete one of each colour sticky (that’s 5 stickies) to get a reward.
2. Each participant is the rewards commissioner for the other, so the reward is always a surprise.
3. You can’t write a chore on a sticky that is a colour you need to complete your 5 unless there aren’t any of that colour currently on the jobs list.
4. If a sticky has been up there for more than a month, you can’t add another sticky of the same colour until that task gets completed.
5. No guilt allowed.
So far, it’s working out pretty well. Sometimes we fly through the chores and sometimes we don’t, but because we don’t allow guilt the system doesn’t become uncomfortable. We have fun thinking up rewards, and I usually have a couple for Mister hidden around the house (because the rewards are more effective if they are immediate!).
I think this system could easily be applied to other things besides chores, if you so desired. For example, someone wishing to exercise more could put lists of things like “Go for a 30 min walk” or “Do 10 sit-ups” on the jobs list. As long as the stickies are measurable and you know you can achieve them, you’re golden.
Now, go forth and motivate! I’d love to hear how it turns out if any of you get the inkling to try it. Good luck!