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My whole life, I’ve been part of a family that teased each other. It’s a sign of affection and comfort, and the cleverest zings are the funniest. The goal is to make each other laugh, not to hurt anyone’s feelings… which is why no one teases me about my housekeeping.

I am a terrible housewife. Granted, I never aspired to be a housewife. It’s not my calling. But, for the past 12 years, I’ve known that maybe I ought to be doing more chores than… well, the precise amount isn’t important here.  I used to clean when I worked up a nice panic attack about it, if that tells you anything. And I played video games. Turns out, there is a game out there that made doing chores fun…and now I wish I knew about it sooner!

there's an app for that

Wanna Turn Chores Into A Game? There’s An App For That…

I enjoy The Sims franchise, Mario Kart, and spent seven years on a massively multiplayer online game called World of Warcraft.  I dipped my soul into that pool of fantasy, slaughter, and random jerkwads.  I killed pixelated enemies with friends and family, I compiled a substantial fake fortune, and I became a self-taught expert on the game’s pets, mounts, and pretty dresses.  I got one of the first freaking phoenix mounts on my server.

I did a lot of gaming instead of cleaning, is what I’m saying.

Fast forward to now.  I have a toddler and a baby.  The house varies between very messy and somewhat tidy.  I do slightly more cleaning than I used to, mainly because I have to.

Then I stumbled across Habitica.

The idea of gamifying chores was new and interesting.  I’ve tried “track your goals” software before, but having to plan and log any sort of work was just one extra chore I didn’t want to do.  However, I am the kind of person who enjoys receiving pixelated rewards for my efforts, and Habitica seemed right up my incredibly geeky alley.

Within a week, I’d roped my husband, sibling, and siblings-in-law into the game, the crew I most regularly killed things with in World of Warcraft.

And we LOVE it.  Even my five-year-old nephew is playing on an account run by his mom.  He gets excited every time he gets a new pet and has “worked his tush off” to level and get rewards.

By doing chores.

We’ve all done things that we’ve been putting off for ages. Scheduling appointments; getting storage out of the baby’s room; scooping litter boxes.

Cleaning the kitchen.

Not every day is an adventure in housecleaning.  Some days, it’s just washing my face and keeping the kids alive.  (No, really, that’s one of my daily habits.  “Keep the Kids Alive.”  Set the bar low so you can’t miss, folks.)  But when I feel the urge for a snazzy pixel reward, there are always about a dozen to-do lists for me to choose from.  I moby wrap the baby and get to work hemming pants, washing bottles, and maybe sometimes but not always flossing.

Even the cat has benefited. Playing with him hasn’t been a priority since having kids, but now? Get that red dot, kitty. You’re a big strong hunter! Rawr!


How It Works

Make an account on Habitica and you’ll be asked to create an avatar. The pickings are slim, but most gamers know that old-style pixel graphics are fine.  Plus, you get new gear and pets as you “play” the game.

Habits – Stuff you do multiple times a day or less than once a day.  A habit can be positive (xp! gold!) or negative (lose health).  Examples include: floss, pump, play with cat, drink water, or healthy/unhealthy snack.

Dailies – You get experience and gold for finishing a daily and lose health when you miss one.  You can set these up to do certain days of the week or every X days.  I have “Change Bedding” for every 14 days and “Change Towels” for every Saturday.  Examples of something you want to do every day include: medication, eat breakfast, or brush teeth.  Checklists on dailies never increase rewards.

To-Dos – Checklists on To-Dos increase rewards per completed checklist item.  Examples include: errands (with the checklist: DMV, groceries, pharmacy), finish project (with a checklist of steps), or holiday (with a checklist of things you need to do to prepare). I have 11 checklists right now because I always have things I need to do or finish.  It is so easy and such a relief to have the plethora of projects I need to finish in one place.

Is it free? – Everything you need to play, progress, and enjoy yourself is free.  I’d say about 80% of cosmetic upgrades can be gotten without paying any real money, and 100% of vital function is free.  If you poke around, you’ll see a Time Traveler’s section which requires a three month subscription to buy a retired item set; elsewhere, you’ll see things that cost Gems which are bought with money (unless you have a subscription, which allows you to trade gold for gems). Real money is used to keep the site running, and the prices are very reasonable because much of the content is provided by volunteers.

So if you think a game would help motivate you, go for it!  If you think it’ll be another stressful step between you and the things you need to do, don’t do it! And whatever your strategy, good luck!

making cleaning fun

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