The Bucket Chore System

Renee shares a bucket chore system that is working well in her home. It’s quite similar to what I do for our school bags

The Bucket Chore System in a childs room

Cleaning: if it was more like eating chocolate I’d totally get into it, but it’s not. It’s the never ending, laborious, unrewarding and thankless job that never seems to have a beginning or an end, only ever a middle.  Put it this way, if cleaning was a fairy tale, the damsel never gets to the bottom of the washing pile to ever have time to met her prince charming, she’s left kissing frogs and hanging out with pumpkins FOREVER.

This year I decided I’d had enough frog kissing and it was time to put a little more household cleaning responsibility back onto my two children, with the creation of a Magnetic Peg Chore Chart for the fridge. The chart was such a success, to the point I rarely have to refer to it anymore because chores are just done, that I decided to add an additional level – buckets. 

The idea for buckets, I need to credit to my cousin. This system is one she developed years ago for her three sons and used into their teen years with success. I just thought the concept was brilliant and if it could work with teenagers, then it would be a winner with my two small children. 

How do the buckets work?

In a nutshell, every child has his or her own ‘bucket’, which they are responsible for. The aim of the bucket system is to reduce, as my husband would call it nagging about picking up random little items you find throughout the day (shoes, socks, toys, pencils etc). Instead, items are dropped into the rightful owners bucket and once a week the owners of each bucket have an allocated timeframe to empty their buckets or the items get confiscated, binned or even donated to charity. These choices are to the discretion of the parent, but my cousin stressed that follow through was everything with making this system work, especially with older children and teens.

How I implemented the bucket system 

STEP 1: Which bucket?

I decided that tuff tubs were really the best choice for our home because they have a good size flat bottom, are light weight plastic, have handles so small children can pull around, come in many colours and are flexible. Perfect for what I needed.

STEP 2: The purchase

Rather than purchasing the buckets myself, I took the child on shopping trip to select their own bucket colour. No surprises they went for their favourite colours, my daughter purple, and my son blue. I really wanted them to have a sense of ownership about their buckets, the same as they felt for the peg chore chart. And it worked! They were actually excited about getting their buckets home to test them out.

STEP 3: Location

It became very clear, in early implementation, that the core success of the bucket system was really location, a spot that was easy for me to access regularly throughout the day. I decided on a small corner in our kitchen, the most used room in the house after the lounge room. I walk past this spot constantly, so it made sense to locate the buckets there, I could pop the random items I found into the buckets without having to walk the extra mile to bedrooms. Perfect!

 The Bucket Chore System in the kitchen

STEP 4: Empty the buckets day

Unlike my cousin who had teenage sons, my children are still only little and do require assistance with putting the items in their bucket away. We quickly created a weekend routine, whereby we;

  • Take the buckets into the master bedroom.
  • Fold all the washing a put every persons clothes into their bucket (note that I normally get them to put their stinky shoes away first from the bucket, so the clean clothes aren’t sitting on top).
  • I take the bucket into their bedroom.
  • A parent helps each child empty their bucket and put their clothes away.

Often we complete all the clothes folding on Saturday, but it’s Sunday afternoon before we actually empty the buckets. This works wonderfully, as it breaks up the household chores and the children can help with more without loosing interest. Bucket empty time is usually pretty civil; my daughter will often put her music on and even help her little brother out with his bucket. 

 The Bucket Chore System putting stuff away


The Bucket Chore System putting stuff away boy

As a working Mum, I can’t express how in love I am with the bucket system. It really has made a difference to my daily workload of general tidy-up and the children know which bucket is theirs and what is expected of them on the weekend. In fact, it has worked so well, that the Daddy of the house has requested his own bucket so I will stop ‘nagging’ him about taking his tools back to the shed. Apparently, they can be trained at any age 😉

Are you using a similar system in your home?

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  • Reply
    jennifer wilson wean
    April 13, 2015 at 3:14 am

    We have milk crates we use for their toys in the living room. The toys were getting out of control , all over the floor . I had them clean up the toys and put them away and an hour later those toys were still away but there was a new army of toys that took their place over the carpet ! I got them each a separate milk crate and told them the toys had to be kept in the crates when they weren’t playing with them. Any toys found on the floor – NOT in the crates would be donated to purple heart or thrown own whichever mommy decided ! Now they are much better at keeping their toys organized , only an occasional toy now is on the floor . Its been working pretty well so far . NOW to try to make it work for their room ! lol

  • Reply
    May 27, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    As an older mum, this system worked very well.
    We had a slight variation in that one bucket was used and at the end of every day the kids would empty it to find what they needed for the next school day.
    I have found that if teenagers are not organised in their room, they feel very unsettled in many areas of their life.
    Train early!

    • Reply
      May 27, 2015 at 4:38 pm

      And we have 5 girls!

  • Reply
    Jane O'Connell
    September 14, 2015 at 9:51 am

    I have done a similar thing from when my kids were little, they are both teenagers now, although I have much smaller ‘tubs’ which their clean washing goes in to. They have been responsible for putting their own washing away since they were little and they know if their tub isn’t returned they don’t get their clothes. It has helped with responsibility and ownership of clothes and belongings in general, keeping wardrobes tidy, eliminates the “mum where’s my ??” Because my answer is “have you looked in your tub?”. I didn’t do toys, because I like breaking tasks into small manageable jobs, which I believe works better.

  • Reply
    Dorothy Wise
    November 24, 2015 at 12:01 am

    I really like the bucket system! I am a working mom of two boys and I really count on them to help me with the housework. They both have individual chore charts and I can say that no matter of the occasional fights about their chores, they are doing a great job cleaning and organizing their room! I want to keep it interesting for them so I am willing to try the bucket system! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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