Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Different Kind of "To Do" List

I wish someone could give an estimate how many of us are list makers.  I'm sure for every 10 people, 9 would end up raising their hands if asked the question, "Are you a list maker?"

Whether it's at home, at work, in our volunteer work, coaching, or any other aspect of our lives, we make lists of all that we need to do.  Sometimes they are just a few lines on a single index card, sometimes they can fill entire notebooks.  But often, on Facebook and Twitter and over cups of coffee and glasses of wine, we complain about how overwhelming those lists make us feel.
We also make lists for others.  In particular, we make lists of chores for our kids to do around the house.  Whether you pay them an allowance for doing these tasks or don't, a booming industry has blossomed around this subject, one that produces stickers and dry-erase charts and printable tables.  Then there's the "Honey-Do List" section of the notepad and Post-Its world, allowing the organized spouse to leave cute notes for the other with reminders like "fix the back door", "change the oil in my car", and "call your mother".
But despite all the lovely charts and charming notepaper, many of us fight the Chore Wars in our homes, juggling all our tasks while feeling as though we're constantly reminding our spouses and kids to do their tasks, arguing through our clenched jaws about picking up toys and emptying trash and putting clothes into the hamper.
Here's a hint to alleviate some of that stress.  You're going to write a "Not Mom's To Do" list.

Sit down and write out all the chores that need to be done in your house.  As you write each chore down, note in parentheses the frequency of the chore (daily, every other day, weekly, and so on).
Then mark which ones you'll do - with a circle or your initials or with a highlighter, just mark the chores you can handle as part of your regular schedule.  If you don't trust anyone else to make sure your whites stay white and your delicates aren't washed with Hubby's greasy work clothes, keep "Wash & dry clothes" on your list.  If you are the worst cook in the world, "Make dinner" can go without your name next to it.  If you're a Coupon Queen, "Grocery shopping" is all yours.
Here's the fun part: make a list of what you DIDN'T mark and their frequencies.  That's your "Not Mom's To Do List".  Mine lists daily chores like emptying the hamper & trash cans, taking the recycling out, and unloading the dishwasher on it. They're all simple chores that don't take up a lot of time... but do when you're paying the bills, making dinner, and getting kids to bed on time without the help of your second-shift working spouse.
And now for the secret surprise: don't assign any of the chores on that list to anyone. Instead, hold a family meeting.  Give a copy of your "Not Mom's" list to each other family member.  Explain that you don't care WHO does those chores, but only that they are to be done, without argument or reminding, within the designated time frames.  Realistically, you'll still need to remind them, but it takes on a whole new feel, going from "Do your chores! Have you emptied the trash yet?" to "Is the list done?"  Arguments are not your issue, and the negotiating skill set your children will learn from this will serve them well in every other aspect of their lives - if they can negotiate with a sibling, doing so with bosses, roommates, and spouses hopefully won't be so challenging.

Hold your ground.  Keep a little of your sanity intact.  Sit back, and let the compromising start.


J-Tony said...

I am a list maker. In fact just before I read this I was going over my coaching list.

Heather said...

Hi there! I'm Heather and I was hoping you would be willing to answer my question I have about your blog! My email is Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com :-)

Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl said...

I like this idea, even if you don't have kids.. maybe a husband list!