a peek inside the fishbowl

31 Jan, 2013

Chore bore

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life|parenting

Do you like my dust bunny? :)

Dust bunny

The issue of CHORES has been on my mind since we moved back into our house this past fall. The renovation added an extra 700 square feet to our living space – which was great – but that also meant there was more to clean. But it’s more than just the extra space. A brand new white kitchen and gleaming black counters meant that I was suddenly a lot more interested in keeping the place sparkling.

The question remained, how should I tackle chores in such a way that it doesn’t (a) kill me and (b) involve hiring help?

I’ve written about household tidying routines before. Some of you may remember the Focused 15, and it still works although we haven’t been initiating it as often as we used to. (If you are looking for a great way to involve younger kids in keeping the house clean, THIS IS IT.) We recently decided to take things a step further and start a chore jar.


The kids aren’t thrilled, but heck, neither am I, but we (correctly) figured this was the easiest way to get the house clean and KEEP it clean. And at 11 and 13 the girls are more than capable of wielding a toilet brush and/or floor mop. (Heck, in pioneer days girls this age were mucking stalls, sewing their own clothes, tending to the fire, and chopping wood. I think ours can scrub a toilet.)

Here’s how it works. There are four slips of paper in a jar. They are as follows:

  • BATHROOMS (a complete cleaning of all three bathrooms)
  • VACUUM and mop the whole house
  • Miscellaneous TIDY (pick up everything, empty garbages and recycling, dust)
  • KITCHEN scrub down (empty/fill the dishwasher, wipe down counters, clean sinks, polish appliances, tidy fridge)

Everyone draws a job and we do it all in one go on a Saturday or Sunday morning. It takes a few hours to finish, but then it’s DONE. I personally like doing the chores on Sunday, because it means that we start the week off with a clean house.

We’ve discovered a few things along the way. Bedrooms need to be done first, regardless of who draws what chore. The TIDY person needs to get started first, because the VACUUM person needs a clear floor, and the vacuum person needs to tackle the bathrooms first, because the bathroom person needs to get in the bathrooms etc.

Amazingly, it works. Our house ends up clean. It’s not perfectly clean, but it’s clean, and I’m not the one having to do it all. (!)

You’ll notice that laundry isn’t on that list. I tackle clothes-related laundry on a different weekend day. I take care of the sorting and washing, and everyone puts their clothes away themselves. The sheets are usually done sometime during the week. (Sidebar: I iron our sheets! After this post I started putting them on the bed while still damp from the dryer and ironing them in place.)

I’ve been obsessing about shiny kitchen sinks lately. I read this years ago and the ferocity of it has always stuck with me. But there’s some truth in there too. There’s something about an early morning encounter with a cluttered and spotty kitchen sink that is off-putting for me. So I put the question out on the Fishbowl Facebook page (hoping I wasn’t alone in my quest) and this is what you said:

Alan Viau: “Ha ha. The post reminds me of my mother. She’d say that she loved a clean environment – just give her enough Mr. Clean and Ajax. All those chemicals down the drain! With a stainless steel sink, rubbing with steel wool does wonders. I like coming down in the morning to a clean kitchen. Seems like the right way to start a day.”

Carrie: “I love a clean kitchen, but something tells me Flylady has more time than the rest of us.”

Alicia: “I do love a shiny kitchen sink. It makes the kitchen feel clean even if there are dishes piled beside it I don’t always make it shine but when I do I just use a drop of dish soap and a splash each of vinegar and baking soda.”

Marla: “I’d love shiny. I’ll be happy with empty. Voltaire: Dans ses écrits, un sàge Italien dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.”

Er. Maybe I AM alone in my desire for sink sparkle. What about you? Do you insist on shiny, or just plain empty? :)

2 Responses to "Chore bore"

1 | Heather @smart_spaces

January 31st, 2013 at 1:55 pm


Got a good chuckle from the sink question. I do love a shiny sink but will settle for an empty one. I shine my stainless steel sink with a wee bit of mineral oil. No bleach or harmful chemicals reside in my home.

2 | Making New Year's resolutions with kids >> a peek inside the fishbowl

January 1st, 2014 at 10:02 am


[…] of chores, you can make a resolution to tackle them in a more organized way with a chore jar. (This is what we do, and it is […]

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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