When we raise our children, we quickly learn to setup house rules so that everyone in the household knows what their responsibilities are. It's a great tool for helping children build skills and confidence. It also makes sure that no one person is overwhelmed with too much work related to keeping your home running smoothly.
Creating, monitoring and communicating (via a family command center) the house rules is the most important task in any family unit. I remember how we needed to adjust our family house rules when we moved, or when I or my husband's travel schedules changed. House rules also change when someone retires or starts a business.
At a community event yesterday, I met a woman who said her house was out of control as two of her grandchildren had recently moved in. At first I thought she might be talking about young children with tons of energy, which can be a shock to grandparents who've had a quiet house for years. It turned out that Pat's grandchildren were 18 and 20!
House Rules Change as a Family Evolves
House rules change depending on the age of your children. So I had to quickly change the conversation and advice I offered to this grandmother. What's amazing now is … I'm updating this article and need to write new rules for my granddaughters (ages 9 and 12) who now stay overnight at my house every other Saturday.
Everyone needs to write their own house rules. To help you get started, here are my new rules (printable).
Be Responsible for Your Actions
- If you take something out, put it away.
- If you drop something, pick it up.
- If you make a mess, clean it up.
- If you break something, you need to fix it.
- If you can’t fix it, then call someone who can.
- If you take it off, put it away where it belongs!
Respect Other Family Members
- Always tell the truth and keep all promises.
- If it's not yours, ask before you use it.
- If you use it, take care of it.
- If you borrow it, make sure you return it.
- Listen, say please and thank you!
Share Responsibility at Home
- If you turn it on, please turn it off.
- If you unlock it, lock it when done.
- When pets bark, it's time to feed or walk them.
- Help others without being asked.
- Work hard and always do your best.
- Be you … be happy and remember to laugh often!
Making Room for Extended Family Members
You might have a large house with “spare bedrooms” once your children move out. Then you get to redesign these rooms for hobbies, a home office or whatever space you've been dreaming about. You have fewer responsibilities and more free time to catch up on your wish list. In my house, I have a quilt room that doubles as a guestroom and my husband has space for his astronomy gear.
Pat has sacrificed by freeing up bedrooms for her grandchildren. She's also piled everything into her craft space making it unusable, and that's not good. This led to a discussion about letting go of things she's owned for years. Sometimes you just need someone to give you permission to let go, so I gave Pat permission to let go of the things she hasn't used for more than a year.
Part of this discussion focused on the memories associated with things. As Pat and I had started our discussion on the subject of cameras, I explained that the best way to let go of things you don't use, is to take pictures of things with memories, and create a great coffee table book where you can flip through old memories.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to capture your special memories forever:
- Create traditional photo albums – if you've got lots of photos and don't want to pay to digitize them.
- Get involved in scrap booking – to create personalized family photo albums. Some of my friends get materials from Creative Memories or find a local scrap booking store.
- Upload your digital photos – a photo sharing website like Pinterest or Flickr, to save and share your photos.
- Create digital photo albums – using photos on your phone, as more people will enjoy them in a book on your coffee table. I've used Piccabo to create digital books as gifts for my granddaughter's parents.
- Create photo videos – which take a little more work but they're perfect for my business. For example, here's a story about one neighborhood's July 4th celebration.
House Rules for Young Adults
As our conversation continued, I asked Pat how she was spending her days. She explained how there's a lot more work to do with more people at home. Yikes, I don't think she realized she was running a bed and breakfast for her grandchildren. That's why sometimes sharing your story with a friend can help you find solutions.
Here's what I recommended as house rules for her new house guests:
- Assign chores to each family member. Put assignments on a chart where everyone can see them, for some peer pressure. Make everyone check off chores when completed … hmm, maybe I need to do this for my granddaughters?
- Have each grandchild cook dinner once a week. This involves teaching them how to cook and they'll grumble until it becomes routine. Everyone will benefit when you sit down for dinner as they'll understand the effort that goes into preparing a meal.
- Give each grandchild several cleaning chores (put them on the chart). It will be easier to build a routine if these have to be done weekly and over time, you might add in one extra chore weekly.
All of these ideas made a lot of sense to Pat. She seemed to relax a bit when she realized she could reduce her workload while exerting more control over what's happening in her home. Hoping she's once again able to enjoy her home, even when her grandchildren are living with her.