A Surprising Upside in a Down Economy - Family Togetherness

Filed under: Expert Advice: Just For You, Expert Advice: Home Base

Most families I know have been affected by the recession. Some moms have shifted from part-time to full-time work. Others have returned to the workforce for the first time in years. Even in homes where jobs are intact, folks are cutting back on luxuries and extras -- like cleaning-service visits.

Times like these call for family teamwork as never before. Requiring kids to help with housework is a good thing to do anyway. You're teaching them responsibility, which is a lot like the measles -- if you don't catch it 'til you're an adult, it's a lot worse.There's an economic upside, too. While your kids are learning to help around the house, you can cut spending and teach them the value of money at the same time. Here's what I mean.

When children lose essential items, you have to replace them -- right? -- and that costs money. If they store things in designated places, you'll have to buy fewer replacements. Try some of these ideas.

storage binsDesignate a plastic bin for orphan socks and gloves so everyone will know where to look for missing mates.

Hang a see-through shoe organizer in a handy place and label the pockets so kids know where to put small parts items, such as hair accessories, game pieces, guitar picks and shoestrings, when they find them.

Put a plastic bin near a door to collect sports gear. After games or practice, have kids deposit knee pads, cleats and batting gloves inside so they always know where to find them.

Create clutter-free zones
in your home. Belongings left in these designated areas go to "Clutter Jail" -- and there's a fee to get them out. This plan works best when mom and dad play, too. Let kids collect the fine when you leave things out.

dust panAssign family members certain areas
to clean. Define what "clean" looks like and set deadlines. For example, you might tell a child to clean his room by noon Saturday. Make it easier by providing a clean plastic dustpan to use as a toy scoop for multi-piece toys.

Put a small laundry basket
in your child's closet for tossing dirty clothes until it's time to tote them to the laundry area. Encourage compliance with a "Swine Fine" for those who don't cooperate.

Create opportunities to use less water, electricity and gas. Put kids who are old enough in charge of washing their own towels and sheets. This way they'll think twice about using a new towel every time they take a shower or climbing into bed with sandy feet. Plus, fewer loads mean less energy consumption. (Install child-level hooks or towel bars in the bathroom for easier hanging.) laundry hamperEven a toddler can join your clean team. Put a sock on her hand and show her how to wipe off baseboards. Obviously, this will help you little, but your child will learn from an early age that everyone contributes to your home's upkeep.

What's that? You say, My kids simply won't cooperate when I assign chores.

Whoa! Never take no answer for an answer. And by all means don't do the job yourself.

If your kids watch TV, play video or electronic games...if they spend personal time on the computer...hear this and relay the message to your kids: Activities such as these are not God-given rights. They're privileges. And with privilege comes responsibility.

When you help your kids connect those two big dots, you prepare them for the big, real world: No work, no paycheck. Your kids need to know that. (Download a Kids' Chore Chart)

Do your children have designated chores? How do you encourage them to pitch in and care for their belongings?

Kathy Peel is the winner of the 2009 Mom's Choice Award for The Busy Mom's Guide to a Happy, Organized Home

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.