In Search of the Elusive, Perfect Chore Chart

Choresapalooza Part 2 of 4

Spoiler Alert: It doesn’t exist.

In Part 1 of Choresapalooza, I revealed an ingenious solution that eliminated the daily arguments in my house over who scoops the dog poop. Part 2 is lessons learned from my journey in search of the perfect chore chart — one that will magically resolve all arguments once and for all.

I have an obsession — some would call it a weird obsession — with chore charts. I make lots of them. Simple ones and complex ones. Ones with hand-drawn pictures and ones with words and bullet points and diagrams. Ones in painstaking detail for each portion of the day, and ones that show a sweeping overview of the entire week.

Deep in my squishy little heart, I know if I can just find the right format, with helpful color coding and the correct combination of words and pictures, the kids will do all of their chores every day, thoroughly, on time, with no reminders. (That’s how it works, right?)

One of my earlier attempts:

Early chore chart for young Otto

Pluses: Pre-literate Otto can read it by himself! Cleverly divided into morning and night chores, with handy checkboxes!
Minuses: Otto, as it turns out, is not into checking things off.

Here’s an attempt to get the after-school routine down:

After school routine chart

Pluses: Fun pictures! They’ll want to look at it and do what it says!
Minuses: They don’t care about fun pictures. They keep dumping their coats on the shoe box.

I was especially proud of this one:

Elaborate chore chart with movable sticky notes

Pluses: Awesome sticky note color coding with a handy legend that makes it clear when to do what! A chore chart masterpiece.
Minuses: Constant racing up and down the hallway knocks the cards off. It’s a pain in the butt for me to move the cards back up to the “to do” section every morning. And maybe, one or two (or a dozen) too many cards to keep track of.  (Wasn’t the idea to make less work for me??)

I used to think everyone made chore charts like these, until a friend came over and stared quietly at my latest creation. “Holy shit,” she whispered in awe. “My kids are lucky if I write them a list. Most of the time I just yell at them to pick up their clothes.”

I silently congratulated myself for being AMAZING. Not to mention TALENTED. And then, reality  came creeping in and burst my bubble. Because to be honest, even with these beautiful, thoughtfully-designed charts that I have poured my heart and soul into, I too yell at my kids to pick up their clothes. And they still need reminders to unpack their backpacks when they get home from school.

Every. Damn. Day.


You’d think after ten years of this parenting business (and many more years than that on the planet), I would have given up the illusion of perfection, of being able to control what anybody else does. Nope, apparently not.

Somehow, some little part of me still fervently and desperately believes that control will make me safe. And, even more irrationally, that I’m powerful enough to maintain perfect order in an imperfect, messy, chaotic world.

Hmm, I think I need to make myself a chore chart:

Chore chart for Mama

* Pro tip: always offer incentives!

Okay, so maybe I haven’t attained chore chart perfection and eliminated all chaos and unpredictability from my life. Sadly, as it turns out, chore charts don’t magically solve all your problems. Like my children being physically and psychologically incapable of removing the underwear tangled up with their pants before tossing them in the laundry.

However! My chore chart odyssey has not been in vain! I’ve learned some great stuff, like how to get my kids on board with doing chores. And how to keep them (and me) at it,  week after week, month after month. 

Most exciting, I’ve gained some surprising insights by chatting with my kids about chores …  like the mystery of WHY Otto never remembers to unpack his backpack (to be revealed in Choresapalooza Part 4!)

Coming next: Choresapalooza Part 3: Three tricks I use to wrangle my kids into doing chores.

Veronica Beck

Veronica Beck is a technical writer, blogger, and formerly reluctant parent.

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

Who would have thought that chore charts would give a glimpse into your soul? How wonderful it is that you know that control doesn’t keep you safe- but there’s still tht tiny bit of you tht believes it. I think it’s that way for most of us. Thank you for verbalizing it.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x