The Non-Food Rewards That Help Me Get My Chores Done

I used to have a clean house. I did certain chores once a week, some of them on specific days, and the house was neat most of the time. In fact, when our super-shedding German Shepherd was still alive, a young family came to stay with us. The mother put her little girl on the floor and let her crawl around without any qualms. “Your house is so clean,” she said, letting me know that she wouldn’t put her baby on just any floor.

I look around and wonder what the heck happened. All my routines are gone. I’ve even forgotten what they were. I want my clean house back, but I get grumpy whenever I think about doing the work involved. I’m healthier now than I was back then. It should actually be easier to keep up. What’s gone wrong?

When something behavioral breaks, I try to remember what worked in the past. What worked before will probably work again. One thing I used to do was follow the FlyLady’s advice: Use baby steps to build routines. Do a little at a time. Don’t expect to have everything clean again overnight.

All good advice that I should follow. But I think there’s still something missing. Rewards.

When a friend asked for ideas for non-food rewards, I could relate. I no longer treat myself with recreational sugar and other “fun” foods because they make me sick. Commenting on her post reminded me of the many different ways I can reward myself without using food.

For example, I bought myself a beautiful book of fairy tales (The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales by Maria Tatar) and a Kindle Paperwhite to celebrate finishing the draft of my novel about Rapunzel. A project that took me 3 1/2 years to complete deserves a big pat on the back, so I spent some money on myself.

Obviously, I can’t go this big with my rewards for everything, or we would go broke. However, I’ve remembered something much cheaper that used to work.

They STILL make me smile!
They STILL make me smile!

When I was really ill and struggling to get anything done, I rewarded myself for the smallest accomplishments by putting stickers on my calendar. If I took the dog for a walk, I put a little dog sticker on that day’s date. Stars and flowers were for house-cleaning tasks. I also rewarded myself for time spent on sewing and knitting with a hand-print sticker to make sure I balanced work and play.

It sounds silly, but it worked like a charm. Tasks I normally avoided or complained about got done promptly, and putting the sticker on the calendar made me smile. I would eagerly look for more things to do, ways to get more stickers on my calendar. When I was having a bad day, I could look at the calendar and see how many times I had succeeded through the week. It helped me be more gentle with myself and to accept that not every day was going to be as productive as I would like.

Best of all, these tiny little non-food treats did wonders for my attitude. My calendar covered with stickers inspired me to do more.

Which brings me back to the house. Having it clean is a reward, to be sure. I adore a clean house. But I need a little extra incentive, and since I can’t promise myself an ice cream sundae when I’m done, I think it’s time to get out my stickers.

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Kit Dunsmore

Kit Dunsmore has believed in the magic underlying the muggle world since she was a child searching for the Shetland pony pooka she was sure was hiding in her back yard. She learned early on that books were magic doors into other worlds, and that she could revisit a beloved character or place by opening the right book. As she grew, she decided she wanted to make magic with words, too. Today Kit writes about things she loves: poodles and dragons, witches and artists, quirky underdogs and loyal friends. Whether her setting is 6th-century England, the imaginary Twelve Kingdoms, or an art-obsessed version of modern America, magic always finds its way into her story. She enjoys turning fairy tales inside out and watching characters sacrifice everything to reach their goal, but she also believes in happy endings. When she isn't writing, Kit experiences magic by making things with her hands. Over the years, she's made quilts, fabric sculptures, collages, sweaters, and blank books. Her newest interest is learning how to spin her own yarn, a skill guaranteed to strengthen one of her many delusions: that she is a self-sufficient pioneer woman. She also thinks she is a hobbit, a witch, an artist, and a good cook. Living in the foothills of Colorado, Kit enjoys the giant skies and prairie landscapes which suit her need for wide open spaces. In addition to hiking through glorious scenery with her husband or imagining herself living in the Middle Ages, Kit works as a pillow for her miniature poodle and polishes the next small piece of her handmade life.

4 thoughts on “The Non-Food Rewards That Help Me Get My Chores Done”

  1. Kit, your calendar looks so FUN! I might just need to get a paper calendar anyway, just for the stickers! I’ve been using Habit RPG for the past few weeks, and it’s helping me a lot. 😀

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    1. Tammy, It’s an awesome excuse to buy fun stickers! And if you keep up with it, you use them up and get to buy more! I’ve really missed it and am looking forward to getting back in the habit of using stickers to give myself credit for the things I accomplish.

      Habit RPG looks like fun! Another great non-food reward system.

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      1. Hmmm. Buying stickers and a paper calendar would kind of require that I go into a stationery department, wouldn’t it? Those places are dangerous! ;-D All that paper, all those notebooks, ALLLL those PENS! Ooooh! Lookit that one, I need that one! OOOOOH! Lookit THAT one!

        Okay, you’ve convinced me. 🙂

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      2. Oh, yeah. Office supplies are like cocaine; once you’re hooked, you’re hooked! 🙂 I have the same problem, but it’s nice to have an excuse to buy stuff for a change. Good luck getting out alive.

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