Saturday, April 24, 2010

day 113 & 114: resources for chores, household management, and more

This post will encompass both weekend days since it will likely get lengthy! Next week, we will do age appropriate chores—one age group per day. Then we will be done with chores for a while! And go back to more preschool information via Jonathan’s Journal. I want to finish preschool in plenty of time in May to discuss summer activities, helping your students during the summer (whether your children go to school or school at home), and much more! (I always have big plans….just not always enough time to do them all!)

Are you ready for a complete, annotated list of sources about this topic? Okay…..bear with me:

1. Choreganizer cards---I talked about these in morning routine posts. (See and

Besides using these for morning routines, after school routines, or bedtime routines, they are also outstanding for chore charts (which is probably what they were intended for).

2. Accountable kids. This website offers a complete program for teaching children chores and responsibility, including immediate and delayed rewards and much more. I developed our own systems, but if I was just starting out all over again, I would definitely consider this program:

3. Book: "401 Ways to Get Your Kids to Work at Home" (McCullough and Monson). This was one of the first “teaching responsibility and chores” books that I had—twenty-six years ago! It contains many, many tips for teaching children to work at home and also gives dozens (or hundreds?) of organization/storage tips. Available at

4. Book: "Sidetracked Home Executives: From Pigpen to Paradise" (Pam Young and Peggy Jones). This was another early book I used to organize our home. It introduces a detailed index card system for household tasks, from daily jobs to seasonal and year ones; from laundry systems or spice organization. I found it especially helpful when I was having trouble prioritizing. I always worked diligently, but I got easily “sidetracked” by projects—had a lot of trouble with faithfulness to daily tasks. This book helped with that, too, with its priority card system, etc. It’s a pretty fun read also. Available at

5. Book: "A Housekeeper Is Cheaper Than a Divorce: Why You Can Afford Household Help and How to Get It" (Kathy Fitzgerald Sherman). While the title of this book is obnoxious, its ideas for delegating and dividing work are not. While most of us cannot afford a housekeeper (and the author gives less credit to families working together than I believe is accurate, in many cases), this book puts housework and relationships in their proper order—and gives many good ideas for delegating and dividing work. Available at

6. Book/System: "Managers of Their Home" (Teri Maxwell). This book is not for the faint of heart. If you have a large family, homeschool, and are having trouble “getting it all done,” this book is for you. It includes a detailed system of organizing all of the work in a large family home. It is a system that takes a lot of time to implement—but the time saved once it is implemented is amazing and worthwhile. (If you are easily overwhelmed by elaborate systems, this approach and the “Sidetracked” one above are likely not for you.) Available at

7. Cleaning Products and Books: The Cleaning Center (Don Aslett). This site is where I get the majority of our cleaning products—as well as lots of help and tips. Don Aslett’s books are amazing—and I have even used a couple of them for read alouds for our children to help the learn to do things more efficiently and effectively around the house. This company’s cleaning products and tools are affordable and effective. Our favorites include Showers and Such (remarkable shower cleaner without the strong fumes or dangerous chemicals), Foaming Bowl Cleaner (like the showers one, it truly removes rust and water stains), and the Window and All Purpose cleaners (65 cents a bottle as a little packet that you add water to!). Available here

8. Book: "Clean in a Minute" (Don Aslett). This little book has taught my children and me how to clean quicker and more efficiently. I highly recommend it for learning how to clean fast and thoroughly. (Available at )

9. Child sized tools. I always loved getting my littles their own sized broom or rake. The site that follows has pint-sized tools and utensils to get your little ones working alongside you:

10. Book: "Make-a-Mix Cookery." I will review this book later in the year, but this is where I started with my mega cooking. It is not specifically mega cooking, but it has many “mixes” (i.e. Italian meat, hamburger mixes, white sauce balls, homemade “Bisquick,” and much more) that I have used over and over through the years. I am on my third copy (due to excessive use!), and I highly recommend this for home cooks who are serious about cooking from scratch. Available here

11. Mega cooking site: Thirty Day Gourmet. This is the site I use for mega cooking help nowadays. Their basic freezer cooking manual looks wonderful (“Thirty Day Gourmet’s Big Book of Freezer Cooking”), but I use the software (item #12). This site will help you immensely if you desire to do freezer cooking of any kind:

12. Software: Thirty Day Gourmet Edition of Advantage Cook Software. This is the software that I use now for all of my recipes. It is a long process getting them all switched over from WORD (and some from EXCEL) to this, but it is so worth it since this software lets you adjust the servings at the push of a button. After many years of adjusting recipe amounts on napkins, in my head, and on scrap paper, I so appreciate that aspect of it. In addition to being able to plug your own recipes into it, this software comes fully loaded with the Thirty Day Gourmet’s Freezer Cooking recipes (again, fully adjustable). I love this program. Available at

That should get you surfing—and give you some resources to help you in your family’s chore schedules and household management. Thanks for joining us. It is a pleasure sharing life with you.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

day 112: other home management systems, part ii of ii

Home management systems continued from yesterday:

1. Maintenance Moments With Mom (MMM)—A couple of times a week the kids and I have a fifteen to thirty minute work session that I fondly call MMM (not to be confused to my special time with Kara that is also called MMM—Magazine Moments With Mom!). During this time, we just tackle a disorganized area of our house. For instance, right now we are working on our books and bookshelves, sorting things to sell for our daughter’s Missionary Marketplace, an ebay store in which she is going to sell things to help raise her monthly funds for her new full-time mission position. I am amazed how much we can sort and organize in a couple of sessions a week—if we do it consistently. If you don’t think that fifteen or thirty minute organizing increments would make that much difference, consider these two thoughts: (a) How do you eat an elephant? ; (b) organizing specialists say that it takes twenty minutes a day to keep organization systems up. What can four of us accomplish in an hour or so a week?

2. Family Work Days—The older kids and I used to call these “Big Work Days,” but I don’t have the stamina and our kids soon did not have full days to devote to projects around the house (especially once they started college during high school (duel credits) or jobs or ministries. So now, I realistically call them Family Work Days and am grateful for whatever time we have and however much we can get done. Family Work Days are reserved for seasonal cleaning, outdoor work, etc. We like to end Family Work Days with something fun and relaxing, like movie and pizza night.

3. Mega Cooking—Twenty years ago this summer I was expecting our fourth baby in eight years, and I hit upon a book called “Make a Mix Cookery.” I started doing many of the recipes in there and soon had a freezer full of pre-prepared meats, sauces, etc.—and was just a short step and a couple of months away from what I now call Mega Cooking—cooking meals, entrees, and any other “make ahead/freeze” recipes that I came up with. Later I discovered that Freezer Cooking was the hip thing—and there were actually books published with recipes. (I had been using Make a Mix recipes and experimenting with my own.) When the girls were home, we had long, and actually enjoyable, cooking days. We loved it—and Kayla (our oldest daughter, missionary girl) and I still cook together whenever she is home or I am there as it is truly one of “our things.” Through the years, we have had Mega Cooking weeks in which I took a week off from school in order to make hundreds of meals and entrees and put in the freezer. Now we have shortened versions of that in which any of us from two to five of us go to the kitchen and cook and freeze. I have streamlined it to where we always do, say, all ground beef entrees, or call chicken breast entrees, etc. I love having freezer meals and mega cooking times help me get some of those in the freezer every month.*

4. Family cooking night—In a few minutes, I will post this blog and gather in the kitchen with Ray and the three boys for family cooking night! We enjoy gathering together to slice, dice, and julienne—as we talk or listen to audio books or radio dramas. Tonight we are making homemade pizzas. Many nights we prepare salad ingredients or stir fries. Oftentimes when we have finger foods or other dishes to carry in, we will work together to make them. And I have to tell you, when we need to, we can have a meal on the table in no time flat!

5. Mom’s organizational methods—As a long time homeschooler of several children, I have learned many, many techniques for organizing and getting things done. I have too many to list here; however, I will explain my best daily method for getting things done—my A-B-C approach. The weekend before the coming week I open my “Weekly Planner” (the pages that have the seven days laid out on a two page spread). On the half of each page that lists the days, I write beneath each one what we have going on that day. On the other half of each page, I write A+, A, B, C, and Later. Under each letter, I write things that I need to do (besides my daily schooling and work around the house). I put the most important things under A+, then A, and so on. I add to this as I think of things, always keeping my planner at my fingertips. Then when my week begins I do the regular things I have to do each day FIRST. Then I move onto A+ or A and work on anything I can get to. (For me, these include writing lessons for our books, blog writing, editing; they also include cleaning projects, such as cleaning out the freezer or other non-daily tasks; they also include anything special I want to do with or for my kids, such as lunch with Cami, edit Kayla’s final paper for her; they include anything special for school, such as doing library holds, lesson planning, extra (non-daily/normal) lessons or help that someone might need, etc.) In any given week, I may not get beyond any B’s at all. Sometimes I do! However, I know that I am accomplishing the most important things—and the remaining things can go on next week’s list.

*Note about mega cooking—this large cooking skill has allowed our family to bless and help so many people through the years. We often cook parts of or all of banquets/lunches for our daughter’s disability ministry; we have cooked for people with sick family members, deaths in their families, and new babies. Mega cooking has given our children so many skills in math, kitchen work, organization, efficiency, and more. It has given them tools to help others in their times of need. I can’t say enough about cooking together as a family!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

day 111: other home management systems, part i of ii

In addition to daily chores, we have several systems/schedules that we use to get other things done around the Reish home. I will list a dozen or so systems that we have used through the years—some work well with younger children, some with older children. Some are profitable with several children, some with just a couple.

Each family has its own dynamics. For example, a homeschooling family must consider how it will get three meals prepared, served, and cleaned up in the midst of school work. A non-homeschooling family’s mornings are likely the busiest times of the day, getting everybody ready, fed, and out the door. The ages of your children, the number of children, your educational situation, parents’ work schedules, and more all come into play in developing home management systems.

Maybe some of the ideas below will help you manage your home more efficiently—and give you more time for reaching your children’s hearts and training them in godly character.

1. Daily chore sessions—see yesterday’s post for a sample of this and the previous days’ posts for details on setting up a daily chore schedule. The twice a day (now, formerly three times a day) daily chore sessions help us keep all of the daily work done. We have done daily chore sessions ever since I can remember—and we seldom have dishes in the sink or laundry piled up as a result of it. Again, if you have trouble getting daily work done, implement these chore sessions and focus on getting those down pat first. You will be amazed how good it feels to have daily work done each day—and how helpful your children (and spouse!) can be in getting it all done.

2. Morning routines—I use morning routines for children’s personal tasks—their own grooming, dressing, bedroom straightening, and picking up their own things. (See morning routine blogs from early in the year.)

3. Room to room—Before we begin a daily chore session, we have a five minute period that we call “room to room.” This means that everybody stops what they are doing and goes through the house and picks up anything they have had out. This allows whoever has to clean or do other tasks in a certain room to do that without having to work around people’s toys, books, socks, etc. We also use “room to room” before we do family cleaning times and other times when things just need picked up.

4. Jurisdictions—After room-to-room time, and before daily chore sessions, we have “Jurisdiction time.” This is a five minute time period in which everybody goes to their designated area (thus, the word jurisdiction) and straightens up, fluffs pillows, organizes things that are in disarray, etc. Again, this allows the cleaner (or laundry person or meal person) to do his job. We also use “room to room” and “jurisdictions” right before Dad gets home, a few minutes before company arrives, when we are walking out the door (and don’t want to come home to a mess), etc.

5. Blitz—Blitzes are quick! They are times in which we all (whoever is here at the time) work together for a certain amount of time in just going through the house and picking up, organizing, and/or cleaning. The type of blitz and the duration of the blitz is dependent upon the need at the moment. For instance, if it is Friday evening and we didn’t get to chores that day because of a field trip or something, we might call a ten minute blitz for laundry, dishes, trash before we start our family night. Or if we only got to daily chores all week, with no family work sessions (for weekly cleaning), we might call a fifteen minute cleaning blitz in which we all clean. Blitzes obviously do not work well without Mom or Dad or both leading it. If you truly want to go fast, you have to model that for the children.

6. Family cleaning time—As our children have gotten older and are involved in more activities along with their work schedule for our publishing company, it has gotten harder and harder to set aside a two hour period of time each week for us all to do weekly cleaning. I tried passing out individual jobs (i.e. vacuuming, mopping, bathroom cleaning, refrigerator cleaning, etc.), but it just didn’t seem like everything was ever done all at the same time. Thus, we began family cleaning times. We were amazed when we began how much we could get done when all eight of us (before the girls all got married, went to college, and went on the mission field) or all five us (currently) were going full steam. We run family cleaning times as follows: we set the timer for thirty minutes, pair off in teams of two, and assign each pair a room. I give instruction as to what needs focused on (windows, washing the registers, cleaning the rugs, etc.), and we get out the cleaning basket and go. I shout out the remaining time in five minute increments, and in thirty minutes, Ray, the children, and I have a big majority of weekly cleaning done. It should be noted that we do not declutter or pick up during this time. The children have to have everything up and put away before we begin as we are focusing on cleaning during this time, not picking up.

Numbers 7-11 will be listed in tomorrow’s post. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

day 110: reish family current chore schedule part ii of iii

“Before I knew it, it was time to set the table for lunch. Josiah and I raced to see who could get done with our jobs first. I slowed down at the end so Josiah could catch up---then I let him win! Mommy took me into her room alone and gave me a million hugs. She said she was so happy that I was learning to see how others feel—and that I make Josiah feel important. I think she’ll probably tell Daddy, and he’ll say, “Jonathan, Mommy told me a good report about you!” I love it when he says that—he always has a big smile on his face and tears in his eyes when he does.”*

Okay…our current “daily chore chart” is below. I have to (just have to, you know) enumerate a few more points first:

1. I only have three kids at home now—easy breezy compared to ten years ago!

2. I have no littles. Our youngest is nearly twelve. Thus, there are very few “partial jobs.” Most jobs are given to workers in their entirety. This is a luxury of those with older children who have been trained in diligence. I say that to encourage those with little kids only—train, train, train. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. Now. You will be so glad you did later. (Not just for chore times either; this is training for a lifetime—and we have young adult children who do amazing things in part as a result of this early training.)

3. Because of number two (no littles), I do not have the myriad messes that come with little kids. When I had littles, we had blitzes (stop and pick up everything), three or four chore sessions, long naps for the six and under crowd (!), and more to help regulate the messes—and offset the imbalance of many littles and few olders to help with all the messes.

4. We let a lot slide. Ray works forty hours a week at his job and another ten to twenty on our publishing company and family ministry. I work thirty hours a week on our publishing company and family ministry and another twenty homeschooling the boys. I am not a perfectionist and do not have too high expectations. There’s simply not time for those.

5. Again, we have a small house and small property. We are much more into people (namely our children!) than we are things. If we had more things, we would have more work—not an option right now…maybe later when our company and ministry are not so young and high maintenance.

6. Finally, I do not compare myself with others very much. I have learned to do what I need to be doing right now with what I have—and not constantly wish and dream and compare. There are many things I used to do before I worked so much that I do not do now in terms of homemaking. It just has to be okay that I can’t get to all of that anymore. Comparing with others is dangerous for your emotions, attitude, and spirit. Focus on your life and your family’s needs—not on others.

                                                         Reishes’ Daily Work

Morning Routines (20 mins)—all three boys

Room: straighten your bedroom

Groom: all personal hygiene

Dress: dressed for the day

Mess: clean up any messes you have out (books, water glasses, etc. from previous night)

Jurisdictions (5 mins)—straighten the rooms you are in charge of

Chore Session I (20 to 30 mins)—Before Breakfast

                Jacob (age 11):

Trash in all rooms

Unload dishes

Wash/rinse any new dishes

Load any new dishes

Mom’s room straightened (which doubles as school storage/library)

Laundry M-W-F (complete from start to finish--this carries over into Chore Session II)

Wipe down kitchen trash can

                Josiah (age 15):

Daily cleaning main bathroom

Daily cleaning Mom’s bathroom (which has the only shower; really isn’t “Mom’s bathroom”)

TH—Your hang up load of laundry

Zone Weekly Cleaning:

M—Bath tub

T: Both stools deep cleaning

W: Main bathroom floor

Th: Mom’s bathroom floor

Fri: Shower

                  Jonathan (age 17):

Clean kitchen before cooking, as needed

Cook breakfast for three boys

Clean up cooking messes

Organize fridge

TUES—your hang up laundry

Zone Weekly Cleaning

M—Scrub micro, sink, windows in kitchen

T—Scrub fridge, stove, spices

Th—Sweep and mop kitchen and dining room

F: Freezer inside house

Chore Session II (after lunch):

             Jacob (age 11)

Room to room to put away what you have had out*

Jurisdictions straightened*

Straighten kitchen after lunch; run dishwasher

M-W-F Finish laundry

Rotating jobs:

M—Pick up yard, sweep porch

T—Sweep/vacuum all of downstairs (4 small rooms)

W--Clean out vehicles and organize garage

Th—Chef work (cooking dinner that day)

F—Job from Mom

Unload dishwasher before dinner later in day


Room to room


Th: Finish your hang ups

15 min household blitz or help Mom

Wed: Chef work (cooking dinner that day)

                     Jonathan (17)

Room to room


Tues: Your hang up laundry finished

15 mins organizing upstairs

Mon: Chef work

*Tomorrow I will discuss other systems we have in place to get weekly and other work done, such as room to room, jurisdictions, blitzes, Maintenance Moments With Mom, mega cooking, family work sessions, and more!

*For the complete story of “Jonathan’s Journal, follow this link:

Monday, April 19, 2010

day one 108 and 109: reish family current chore schedule part i of ii

“Before I knew it, it was time to set the table for lunch. Josiah and I raced to see who could get done with our jobs first. I slowed down at the end so Josiah could catch up---then I let him win! Mommy took me into her room alone and gave me a million hugs. She said she was so happy that I was learning to see how others feel—and that I make Josiah feel important. I think she’ll probably tell Daddy, and he’ll say, “Jonathan, Mommy told me a good report about you!” I love it when he says that—he always has a big smile on his face and tears in his eyes when he does.”*

In looking at our chores today and tomorrow, please note that things almost always look perfect on paper. There are many days that I am tied up helping a son with his writing project first thing in the morning and the kitchen doesn’t get done the way I want it done (because I do not check chores before jumping into our morning read aloud). Days when someone accidentally hits the “fluff only” on the dryer, and we wonder all day long why neither of the boys’ loads of laundry is ready to fold and put away….and end up at six pm with undone laundry. Days when nobody starts the dishwasher during lunch clean up, and there aren’t enough spoons for dinner that evening. And on and on and on.

We just regroup and start over. Sure, sometimes I scream, “If you want anything done right around here, you have to do it yourself!” But overall, our children know that they are vital members of this family---because of the way they keep things going by all of their hard work and efforts and because they are loved and cherished just for being who they are. Chores are not an end in themselves---they are a means to an end---a well-run, organized home with everyone doing his part to make that happen.

A little bit about our family dynamics right now: As I said earlier, our chores look so different now than they did five years ago. My girls are all grown and in college or married. (Just a tidbit you might not know—girl chorers are drastically different than boy chorers! ) I used to be home more as homeschooling several children took many hours a day. With only three to homeschool—and two of those in high school and extremely independent learners—I now work most afternoons, writing, teaching, and editing. Our boys are old enough that they have entire areas—all of the laundry; all of the bathroom cleaning; all of the breakfast making—as opposed to children ten and under who have tasks, but not complete areas.

Thus, now you could say that I am a working mother/homeschooling mom who has learned to lower her expectations significantly! However, we have done the hard work of training our sons in diligence and responsibility, so we reap the fruits of much of that training (while still keeping our finger on things to be sure everything gets done). With only five of us here at home, work is fast. Furthermore, we often work together on weekly and monthly jobs (as you will see in the list below).

In a nutshell, here is what “a choring day at the reishes’” looks like:

1. We have two daily chore sessions—before breakfast chores and after lunch chores. (Back when we had so many people to feed, we had three daily chore sessions that were thirty minutes before meals—and one of the chorers made that meal. Now, everybody fends for themselves at lunch, and we have an “after lunch” session instead.) (See below for other mechanisms we have in place for other jobs.)

2. As indicated before, the first chore session has the daily must-do’s; the next one has less important tasks, and so on.

3. The chore sessions include mostly daily tasks—and a few weekly ones.

4. Most weekly work is done by all five of us during “blitzes” or other work sessions we have in the evenings or on weekends, as noted on the chart.

5. Besides the daily chore sessions, the chef for the day fixes dinner in the late afternoon/early evening. (Each son takes an evening meal—as do Dad and Mom.)

6. Besides the daily chore sessions, during the last fifteen minutes of morning reading three days a week, all three boys straighten the rooms, dust, and organize bookcases in the living room and dining room. This helps keep our main living areas less cluttery.

7. Besides the daily chore sessions, three days a week directly following morning reading, the three boys and I have what we affectionately call Maintenance Moments With Mom. These are fifteen minute periods of time in which we maintain an area through decluttering, organizing, etc. This usually ends up being my room (which doubles as a school storage/library, and thus, often has piles of books and paper work) and/or freezers/refrigerators, etc.

8. This chart does not include seasonal work. However, we have a small place and an uneventful property that does not require a lot of maintenance to keep up. (In other words, not a lot of landscaping, flowers, etc.—just a couple of hours a week by a son or two and it is done.)

9. This does not include work they do for our publishing company or our family ministry. Most of those jobs (order taking, book binding, etc.) are paid jobs. (More on teaching kids about money later; however, our kids are extremely frugal—to the point that it sometimes drives me crazy that our girls will not spend money! The boys are learning to manage money well and are extremely generous as well. I say all that to say that not paying for family chores has not hurt any of them!)

10. Nobody receives allowances for doing family work. We all work around the house because we are all members of this family. Our rewards are eating, family nights, mini vacations and field trips, books and videos, movies, plays, and other fun—but they are not linked to choring.

11. The chores listed are on a chart that the kids mark off as they complete the tasks.

12. The chore sessions listed include our new attempt at letting each person do his own hang up laundry. (Prior to this experiment, which the boys really wanted to do as they do not like the way the “little laundry lad” does their hang up clothes, the youngest who could do the job did two loads of laundry per day—one in Chore Session I and one in Chore Session II.)

13. Our house is incredibly small. We gave up a large house and property ten years ago in order for Ray to take a less demanding job to be available for our teens more. (He used to have to work sixty to seventy hours a week as a plant manager in the automotive industry.) Anyway, we clearly have half the work that most people have by simple mathematics—one shower, three bedrooms, etc. However, we have other issues that make our work harder—like that our bedroom doubles as our school room (at least where we store most school stuff), etc. That we have things stored in strange, hard-to-get-to places, etc. This makes more work—so I think it all evens out in the end!

Tomorrow I will post our chore chart (in list form; I’m not savvy enough to figure out how to post the actual chart!). Then days of appropriate jobs for different ages. Then some outstanding chore/responsibility resources. Invite your friends to join us!

*For the complete story of “Jonathan’s Journal, follow this link: