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When our children were young, chores were a part of each day.  For me and for them.  While I knew that it was important they learn to work, my husband and I struggled with what to expect.  As time passed, we realized that we would need some way of stating and reminding them what the expectations were for each assigned task.  One tool we used was our “This room is clean when…” lists posted in a frame in each room.  As long as the child was able to read, the need to nag was greatly minimized.  If the child wasn’t reading yet, pictures helped.   The lists looked something like this:


  • Straighten pillows and afghan(s) on couch and chairs
  • Clean up floor clutter and trash
  • Tidy surfaces
  • Check under furniture for stray items
  • Dust
  • Empty trash
  • Run sweeper over carpet daily/ vacuum on Saturday


  • Empty dishwasher (dish drainer when we didn’t have a dishwasher)
  • Clear table
  • Place dirty dishes in dishwasher (or stack neatly for hand washing)
  • Complete hand wash
  • Tidy and wipe down counters and appliances
  • Sweep floor
  • Empty trash
  • Wipe up any sticky/dirty spots on cabinet fronts and walls


  • Clear surfaces
  • Tub toys put away in net bag
  • Wipe down fixtures-inside and outside
  • Empty trash
  • Clean mirrors
  • Check linens; put out fresh if needed
  • All clothes go IN the hamper, not around, on top, or close to
  • Scrub all fixtures and surfaces on Saturday


  • Make bed
  • Tidy floor/ toys put away
  • Place dirty clothes in the clothes hamper
  • Fold and place clean clothes in dresser (DO NOT put dirty clothes in drawers)
  • Tidy surfaces and closet floor
  • Check under furniture for stray items
  • Empty trash
  • Run sweeper over carpet daily/ vacuum on Saturday
  • Dust on Saturday

Twice a year, I would go through their room and straighten every drawer, closet, shelf, etc.  If they worked with me without whining, they had some say in what stayed and what left.  If not, I purged on my own.  This clear-out generally happened once at the beginning of the summer, and once before Christmas.  I also went through our school supplies, kitchen cabinets, and all closets (linen, coat, etc.)  Not always our favorite thing, but we all enjoyed the clearer spaces.  Some years I would save the excess for a yard sale; most of the time, it went to the local charity shop.

One of the greatest advantages to these lists is that the standard was set.  My mood, their whims, or a tight schedule didn’t affect the expectations.  They were clear, posted, and easy to follow.  When the children were first learning the procedures for each room, Mom or Dad would work with them.  As they got older, they could take care of each room on their own. As adults, they can clean, sort, clear, and organize their own living spaces.  That is a great pay-off!