Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Moms In Need of Mercy Housework Rewards Program

It’s something most of us have, unless we’re die-hard Dave Ramsey devotees: a credit card with a rewards program where you earn points for purchases and can redeem them for gifts when you reach a certain limit. Recently when I was taking a hard look at how to vamp up my own home management (see posts here, here, here, and here), I thought: “Why not motivate myself with my own housework rewards program?” Here's how it works:

Think of time in term of units. ("Duh," I know:)...) But let me flush this out a little. Each hour, you are given four 15-minute increments. Do you know how much you can get done in one (or four?) of these increments if you exert yourself to the max? The answer is a lot, as you probably knew. On the flip side, if you putter around for 15 minutes, doing a little here and there, and only exerting yourself at about 25%, you’ll have much less to show for those 15 minutes.

So in our housework rewards program, you’re going to earn points for time and exertion. Think of walking slowly around a track. You’re moving, but only exerting yourself at about 30%, let’s say. Now you start running. You can exert yourself at 60% (a slow jog), 75% (a little faster), or do a full-on sprint- which would be 100% exertion. Same with our housework rewards program formula:

One minute at 100%exertion=1 point

@50% exertion =.50 points

@20% exertion=.20 points
10 minutes at 100% exertion=10 points

@75% exertion=7.5
One hour at 100% exertion=60 points

One hour at 75% exertion (worked about 45 minutes on the hour)=45 points

Like credit card reward systems, you’re going to reward yourself when you reach a set number of points (for you to determine, as I don’t know what level would be motivating to you). You want to set it high enough that you have to work hard to attain the goal, yet easy enough to keep you motivated.
Let’s take a rewards example of 500 points. When you reach 500 points, you earn a preselected reward such as a pound of great coffee beans, a book, going out to eat, $20 to spend on something fun… whatever you want to pick. Or you can keep accruing your points toward another prize level with an even higher quality prize. Talk to your husband to see what you can work into the budget. If he would like a cleaner house too, and you explain to him the housework rewards program, maybe he'll agree to let you work toward those new potholders you've been drooling over ;)

You can customize the housework rewards program to what works best for you. Maybe you excel at maintaining your home and don’t need an external goal to keep you on track, like those of us in need of more mercy in the home-maintenance department may require. That’s great! Perhaps for you, a simple reward or treat like a cup of coffee after 15 minutes of hard work is enough. Maybe you don't have room in your budget to splurge on a reward (or you just don't want to). That's fine too. You can reward yourself with something completely non-monetary: a morning (or evening) out by yourself, a trip to your favorite bookstore to browse, a hot bubble bath without kids banging on the bathroom door (when does that ever happen?!)…This is a highly individualized program.

So once you've settled on a prize and a point level, how do we keep track of our points? Probably what would work best is to designate a points earning period each day—maybe a half hour or hour for chores after breakfast in the morning, or several smaller 15-minute increments throughout the day. Whenever you decide to get to work, have a little notebook handy. Work as hard and as fast as possible in that points earning period so that you can rack up as many points as possible. So for example, if you say you’re going to work for 15 minutes cleaning your bathroom, aim for 100% exertion. You get the job done more quickly than if you had taken more time at less exertion, and you just earned yourself 15 points. Jot those down in your nearby notebook.

I can hear some of you critical-thinkers out there saying, “Yeah, but wait. If I spent 30 minutes at 50% exertion, I would have 15 points as well. So why break a sweat to get 15 points in 15 minutes?” Good question. A couple reasons: first, you could have earned 30 points in a 30-minute points earning period; and second, let’s award ourselves double points when we work at 100% exertion. As a bonus for those of us with small children who might interfere with us finishing a job in 15 minutes at 100% exertion, you can also be kind to yourself and give yourself double points if you were working at your max but had to stop for a few minutes to tend to your most important job: mom.

If all of this seems too complicated and mathematical, just aim to work as hard and fast as possible to get a job done as quickly as possible. When you’ve done well, reward yourself. I know for me, I can work harder when I’m working toward earning something I want. Just having a clutter-free counter top--as nice as that may be--usually isn't enough to drive me to finish that job when I get tired of it. The external rewards provide a fun way to push ourselves us to keep up the pace when we get weary.

Despite these rewards, the most important incentives for excelling in our homemaking are not material. The heart of homemaking is providing a restful and comfortable home for our husband and children (and guests), where they feel at ease when they walk through the door. And the most important reason to work hard at home fulfilling these goals--

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”—Colossians 3:23, 24
Let me know if you’d like to join our Moms In Need of Mercy Housework Rewards Program! We can all get matching Timex watches and notebooks to keep track of our points! ;) What rewards would you choose for yourself? I'd love to hear!

(linked at Works for Me Wednesday)


  1. I would love to join the program with you! However, you have to give me time to figure out all the rules. I always make myself work 45 minutes and then allow myself 15 minutes to do whatever I want. If I get done with the tast quicker, I can move unto starting the next to have a larger time at the end OR I take the extra time and ad it to my 15 minutes. It's nice to know that I'm not the only Mom that has to have little games to stay focused!:)

    Let me know if you want to start the rewards thing I woul love to be part!

  2. WHEWEY. If I did that you would have to tally the points.

    I always try to get my heart into doing what I do. When I have a happy spirit about work, usually it gets done easier. Usually. That does not include laundry. I can just not get myself to love laundry! ha!

  3. like the thought of getting a reward

  4. If one of the toddlers makes a bigger mess in a different room than the one I am exerting myself at 100% then the points TRIPLE and I go immediately to Starbucks!!!!!!!!!!!

    It's been one of those mornings......

    Liz, I'll do your laundry if you watch T and S. He He

  5. I can't get ANYTHING done in fifteen minutes, with my ONE under four. Seriously, how do you do it? If I spent fifteen minutes at 75-100% exertion, then by the time I was finished, I would have four more hours' worth of work to do in another area, thanks to the simultaneous efforts of my 2yo. How do you do it?

  6. Jodi D., great job! It sounds like you already have a bit of your own rewards program working for you! Mine is nothing official; just an idea I brainstormed to help me find a new way to inspire myself. You could reward yourself after your 45-minutes of work, or tell yourself that if you consistently spend that time every day for a week (for example), you could reward yourself with something at the end of the week. Email me at cheryl@momsinneedofmercy.com and we can talk about it more if you'd like!!

    Jodi--you're funny! Triple points, I like that. If your husband has to buy you a high-dollar Starbucks gift card as your reward, he'll have a new appreciation for what you do :)

    Rachel--Just think of how many points you could earn in those four hours of additional work though! (wink) Seriously though, I TOTALLY know what you're saying! I don't get much done either!! That's why I am always trying to find new ideas that help me. I think the key with little ones is to clean in short concentrated bursts (like 5 minutes, several times throughout the day) and keep their little hands busy while you're working (and keep them right by you!). Hope that helps!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)