Who enjoys doing chores? No one, that’s who. But what if I told you there were ways to make chores fun? Or, at least, more fun than they seem now.
Chores include house work, meal prep, yard work, paying bills, running errands, grocery shopping, tidying up, cleaning, repairs, scheduling, and planning. Exercise — body maintenance — is a chore for many of us. I’m sure there are others. Let me know in the comments what YOU consider a chore, OK?
And what’s this got to do with organizing? Well, you really can’t just organize your stuff and expect it to magically stay that way, by itself, forever. Sorry to disappoint you!
Like I tell my clients, every organizing project has a time management component. If you don’t take a few minutes a day to maintain your new systems by putting your things away where they belong, and by cleaning up the messes you made, it will all pile up again and be more difficult to deal with later. Also, things change. New stuff comes into your home or office. You move house or change jobs. A new hobby replaces an old one. Things that were once quite important to you are now cluttering your space and preventing you from living the life you want now.
Here are 15 ways to make chores fun:
- Change your mindset. One of my favorite Wayne Dyer quotes is this: Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change. Try thinking of chores as something you CHOOSE to do, instead of something you HAVE to do. In Why I Love Chores I recommend getting clear about WHY you are doing what you’re doing, which makes it easier to keep doing it (or easier to quit doing it, as the case may be). In Being Organized Isn’t Easy I list ways in which it is much harder to NOT be organized than it is to do what’s necessary to get and stay organized.
- Call it something else. In Girl Scouts we called it kapers (yes, with a “k”). Doesn’t that sound more fun than chores? Imagine yourself capering (with a “c”) about like a brownie elf. Chores, tasks….how about magical moments for ensuring a smooth, enjoyable life? I just made that up right now. Do you like it? Be creative, and let me know what you came up with!
- Simplify: Almost any task can be simplified. For example: How many categories of laundry do you have? Could you combine a couple of them? I separate lights and darks, and throw in an occasional pure white load. A client of mine separated by all the colors of the rainbow. So it sometimes took months to get enough purples for a full load. I kid you not. It was very stressful for her and took up a lot of space. In my series Six Organizing Systems Everyone Needs I help you think through how to maintain each system; who will do what, and when.
- Downsize your stuff: Everyone has laundry and dishes to do, no matter how small their living space, and how few clothes and dishes they own. But it’s a lot easier to take care of your stuff when you have less stuff…um, right? And it’s so-o-o much easier to clean surfaces that are clutter-free.
- Ask for help: I suggest that you Do, Delegate or Dump each item on your To-Do List. Ask yourself: Is it really worth doing? Then, just because you’ve chosen to Do a task doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help. Maybe you need to Google how to get rid of toilet hard water rings. Or maybe you need someone’s physical help with turning a mattress. Offer to pay them, or do them a favor in return if it’s otherwise hard for you to ask.
- Join forces: Ask a friend if she’d like to take turns decluttering both of your closets together. Cook in bulk and swap portions with friends or spend a day cooking together and freeze the results. Get older kids to do their own laundry. Institute a family 10-minute Tidy Up session each evening after dinner, but before TV/reading/play time. Make it sound like fun. Treat it like a family game and it will be!
- Call a friend: For some, chatting while you work makes the time pass more quickly. It depends on the task, of course. This works best with something quiet (not vacuuming) that takes more time than effort, such as doing dishes or folding laundry. A hands-free phone is a must.
- Listen to music: Find something upbeat that makes you happy. Try a new Pandora station. Get something you love that you only listen to while doing chores. Treat yourself to a portable device with ear buds if you don’t already have one.
- Listen to audio books: This is how I make chores fun! One of the best forms of multitasking I know is to listen to audio books and podcasts while doing housework or yard work. You can listen to the latest best seller, learn business tips, or be inspired by a TED talk while you work! As with calling a friend, this works best for me if the task is manual and relatively free of decision-making. It does not work if it’s the first time I’m doing something and I need to concentrate on following written instructions.
- Watch TV: This one doesn’t work for me because I really like TV and never have it on unless I am actively watching a purposely selected show. Most chores involve looking at what you’re doing (and missing part of the action) or leaving the room periodically (and missing the dialogue too). But if you enjoy watching TV while folding laundry, or whatever, good for you! Carry on.
- Upgrade your tools: It’s always more fun to use nice tools, isn’t it? Although I like to Buy the Best and Forget the Rest, they don’t have to cost a lot. When’s the last time you replaced your ratty, old dish towels? If you use a squeegee for windows, is the edge still smooth and straight? Have you managed so far without a garlic press but always wanted one? Treat yourself to a new kitchen tool if it will make things easier, and if you plan to use it often.
- Call it exercise: If you use an electronic fitness device, or even a low-tech pedometer, by all means don’t forget to use it while you are doing housework, yard work, shopping for groceries, or running errands! Add in a little fitness by parking in the farthest away space.
- Create a chore chart: You know those kids chore charts with colorful pictures and markers to give them credit for completing each task? Maybe you’d like some credit too. I tried it for a while and it was really fun! Here are some ideas for buying or making your own.
- Take breaks and reward yourself: I combined these two tips because different types of rewards work for different people. I don’t recommend a whole day or weekend of organizing or cleaning. And it won’t be necessary if you regularly do a little maintenance. But, in any case, stop and rest/relax/rejuvenate before you get tired and cranky. For some, the break itself is a reward. For others, add in a hot cup of tea or a piece of chocolate. Maybe you’d rather power through, and for each week of successful home maintenance you treat yourself to flowers at the market. Consider alternating between chores and an equal amount of time spent on a hobby. Say, a half hour at a time. Set an alarm! I reward myself with Guilt-Free TV.
- Give yourself a break! Give Yourself Permission to relax and/or ask for help! Embrace the Clutter because fighting it doesn’t help. In How Clean Does Your House Really Need To Be? I talk about finding your sweet spot, between clean, tidy, and organized. And in Confessions of a Professional Organizer I admit to being organized enough, but not one bit more. (More organizing is just more work.) Do I Practice What I Preach? talks about habits (they’re hard, but possible, to change), maintenance strategies (they’re necessary), and backsliding (it’s normal).
Which of these strategies are you going to try?
How do YOU make chores fun?
Please share in the comments below!
Copyright 2016 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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Listening to music takes my mind off of what I’m doing, and rewarding myself when I’m done is a great motivator.
How do you reward yourself, Janet?
I think it is almost impossible to understate the importance of mindset. Two people facing the exact same task, but approaching it with different attitudes, can have a completely different experience. Self-talk greatly impacts how we encounter the various ups and downs of life. I can psych myself up for almost anything:)
I agree so much I can’t think of anything else to say about it! 🙂
I’ve been considering creating a chore chart for my kids but I didn’t want to call them ‘Chores.’ I think they’d roll their eyes at me if I called them ‘magical moments.’ I guess I’m going to have to get creative! Then there’s that whole mindset thing. That might work on the six year old–iffy on the ten year old. Ahhhh–visions of a clean house and two smiling boys cleaning up after themselves. A mother can dream–can’t she?
I’d love to know what you end up with — types of chores, format, what you call them (kapers?), etc. I think the key is YOUR mindset and whether or not you make it sound like fun. What if, in addition to daily things like dishes and caring for pets, you all do several different chores at the same time on a Saturday morning, and take turns choosing where to go out for lunch after….?
I try to say these positive things too!! And teach my kids the same! It totally helps my perspective
Actually, talking on the phone while you’re doing chores is rude. I hate it when I can hear my friends doing chores – it signals that I’m not that important or interesting because the conversation usually ends when they finish the chore. When I talk to someone I give them my full attention because I value them.
I did say, “For some…depends on the task, of course…something quiet…” I get that you think it’s rude. So I hope none of your friends ever call you and do chores at the same time! I know lots of people, though, who would welcome a multi-tasking chat. Possibly even by mutual pre-arrangement. Another factor would be how often you talk to one another. If only once a year, yes I would want, and would provide, full attention. But not all conversations are that important.