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Incentives Matter...Especially With Kids
Creating Household Zones
January 14, 2016
How many times have you needed to tidy up the house in a period of 15 minutes and felt like it was impossible? Perhaps you were heading out for the day but plan to bring someone home with you for dinner. Or maybe someone called and would like to drop by unexpectedly. You aren’t trying to strive for perfection but really you don’t want people tripping over toys, looking at last night’s half eaten popcorn bowl, or sitting on unfolded laundry in the living room. If you live alone, then it is all you and you just have to get busy. We will have to talk more about strategies later to help you stay up on household chores. However, if you have children or a spouse or a room mate, then creating a household zone system is a must have, regardless of how old your children are right now. Even if they are 3 yrs old, they can be helpful. In addition, putting the system in place now will reap rewards well into the future.
Household Zones should be areas of the house that are communal living areas (not your own personal bedroom) and areas that are open to the rest of the house. For instance if you have a storage room that you seldom go into, then you might remove this area from consideration as part of this process. I actually include my laundry room in the process because, while it can be a catch-all, I really want it to be picked up every day even though guests don’t usually walk into the room.
So the idea is that you divide the areas of your home into as many areas as you have people to accomplish the task. For example let’s assume you have three children between the ages of 8 and 16. Now divide your communal areas of your house into three sections. My areas have changed over time as my kids grew up and left for college. The areas I have right now are:
Zone 1 – the kitchen, dining room, and office
Zone 2 – the front hallway and living room
Zone 3 – the hall bathroom, laundry room, and back toy room (it actually is no longer really used for toys but it has been the “toy room” for so long that I haven’t renamed it. It presently is used for piano practice, playing ping pong and wii games, using the exercise machine, storage for my business, housing board games and a few other things.)
In our house the cue is “Everyone go pick up your extra room” (that is ‘extra room’ or 'zone' as opposed to ‘your room’ meaning ‘your bedroom’). Everyone takes about 5-10 minutes picking up anything in their zone that doesn’t belong in that area of the house…shoes, plates and cups, schoolbooks, jackets, games, blankets, scissors, cell phone chargers…whatever has been left where it doesn’t belong. We actually do this every morning and sometimes in the late afternoon or evening as well.
The great part about this plan is that the better part of the house can literally get picked up in 10 minutes or less. Everyone works together to get the job accomplished. One thing you will notice pretty quickly is that the kids who typically pick up after themselves become quickly frustrated when they find their sibling's things out all of the time. They rationalize that since they put their own things away, then shouldn’t the sibling be required to put their own things away. So, the not so great part of this plan is that those who don’t pick up after them selves are not held accountable, and those who do pick up after themselves aren’t rewarded. It’s another value decision of parenting…which do I want more right now….the clean house…or the life lesson for my kids?