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When my husband and I bought our first home, I struggled to keep up with the housework. It makes me anxious to come home from work and have a living room strewn with used dishes across the coffee table; mail, opened and unopened scattered about; halfhearted cooking attempts still lingering in the kitchen; piles of laundry lounging near the hamper, or in “intentional” piles right next to my husband’s side of the bed.
What I really wanted was a clean, calm sanctuary to come home to. Some place that was immediately relaxing and inviting, not overwhelming and stress-inducing.
I asked around to my organized coworkers, reviewed cleaning blogs, and determined what we needed was a schedule. Quickly, I was reminded of the cleaning schedule my mom used to put on the wall of the living room when we were kids, and those were our chores for the day. I honestly can’t say I hate the idea of doing one or two things a day to make the rest of the week easier. Having something to do to keep up my home, get my hands doing something other than playing on a phone or typing on a keyboard is a good thing. It’s very grounding.
I will note I also tend to live in smaller homes because small homes are easier to clean (and heat, and have a smaller mortgage usually). My current home is around 1,450 sq ft. My previous home was around 1,200 sq ft.
Start with a Clean Slate
If your house is in a state which is overwhelming to you, it may be beneficial to have a “cleaning day” where your entire family just focuses on getting the house spic and span. Start at one end of the house (the easy end) and work your way to the other. Clean surfaces, take out trash, vacuum, change bedding, wipe down baseboards. Do all the things you would normally avoid doing, just this one day.
Then once that is done, you can start your cleaning schedule. At that point, you’ll just be maintaining the hard work you did on that one day!
When you come home from work, what do you immediately notice that stresses you out? Is it dirty dishes in the common areas and not in the sink or dishwasher waiting for their time to shine?
Make sure you hit these trouble spots at least a couple times a week.
Do you have a lot of kids, and therefore a lot of dishes and laundry?
You’re probably going to want to make sure you do at least 1 load of laundry from start to finish every day (folded and put away), and have that dishwasher loaded before you go to bed at night. Unload it first thing in the morning (usually takes me 3 minutes max) so dishes can easily go in the dishwasher throughout the day instead of piling up on the counter or in the sink.
Do you have a significant other who opens mail and just leaves it on the counter? Or who has multiple hats and you find them on top of your candles, hanging from the arm of the chair, off of a lamp, really anywhere you can hang a hat and it doesn’t fall on the floor? Do you get exasperated because no matter how often you ask him to stop this, it still continues?
(This is not based on my personal experiences at all.) We all have those little habits that drive the other person crazy. (Mine is leaving my socks on when I take off tights, so they’re like a little laundry puzzle you have to solve before they go in the wash. I’m working on it!
Be sure to just do a quick sweep when you get home or before you go to bed for any aggravating offenders like these. Hopefully your SO will help you out.
You’re coming home after work, or you’re trying to fit in cleaning around play dates, naptimes, school shuttling. Either way, there’s probably a lot that you’re trying to juggle and if you’re anything like me, you’re not very good at asking for help.
Think about what you do when you have guests over. I don’t mean Mother-in-Law visits, I mean friends who might pop by for a cup of coffee and a little chat, who are comfortable with you but you still clean up a bit to make sure they know they can drink out of your mugs without feeling icky. (#realtalk )
What areas do you make sure you clean first? Make sure those are on your chart at least once a week.
When I first started doing this, I wrote out this beautiful schedule and the first day after I got home from work, I made sure to hit every single thing on my list. I was exhausted. A plan doesn’t work if you’re not able to keep up with it! There must be small enough chunks that the plan is sustainable and you feel like you’re reaping small wins throughout the day.
Add more in as you get used to having 20-30 minutes a day dedicated to cleaning. I like to do it when I first get home from work, my shoes are still on and I’m still in “work mode.” Once it’s done, I can get into lounge clothes and not worry about having to get up to do something else.
Time yourself on these recurring tasks. There will be days that no matter what your cleaning chart says, you won’t want to do it. If you’ve timed yourself, you know it’s only going to take 2-3 minutes to empty the dishwasher. Why not do it on the next commercial? Even small steps in the right direction will get you to your destination, eventually.
My dreaded to-do is cleaning the toilets. I know that cleaning the bathroom start-to-finish will only take me about 20 minutes. You can stand anything for 20 minutes, can’t you? (A little Kimmy Schmidt logic for you there.)
Everyone benefits from a clean house (easier to find things, less germs, more space to play cards, layout a puzzle, cook a great meal) so everyone should be pitching in.
In my house the issue isn’t that my SO is unwilling to help, it’s that he feels like he doesn’t know what needs to be done. I also think cleaning by yourself can feel very lonely sometimes. Enlist some helpers! Many hands make light work.
Sierra’s Must-Do List
- A clean kitchen before bed every night. (Dishwasher loaded, running if a full load.) Counters wiped down and as few things on it as possible. Coffee pot prepped and ready to go off at 7:30. I feel like the kitchen is often the soul of the house and if it’s dirty, nothing feels clean.
- A load of laundry started in the morning and put away before bed. (If you live in an area with high electricity costs, you can reach out to your energy company and see if they have a “rates by time” table or “discounted rates” table. This will tell you the best time to do laundry or run the dishwasher. I reached out to mine and unfortunately they don’t offer that in my area. Worth a try!
- I know this isn’t cleaning related, but in the morning I also like to make sure I know what’s happening for dinner later that night. Get out meat to defrost if that’s the plan.
- If my husband and I had a snack afternoon/evening, I make sure to pick up wrappers/bowls/cups from the living room area before bed.
Sierra’s Cleaning Chart
- Empty Dishwasher (AM). This makes it easy for dishes to go in throughout the day (by whoever used the dish).
- 1 load of Laundry S2F (start to finish). I like to start a load of laundry when I wake up in the mornings. Throughout the day I’ll switch it around. If you work during the day, just switch it when you get home. Fold and put it away before you go to bed. This keeps laundry manageable throughout the week so you don’t have to spend your entire weekend contending with a mountain of dirty clothes.
- Put away articles of clothing, shoes, clothes. So when you get home, shed your layers in the right places and put them back where they belong.
- Recycle junk mail; put papers away. When checking the mail, throw away/recycle junk, newspaper ads, file paperwork (or put into scan box for handling later). NO papers left out! All important papers must go in the same place – a document box by the desk for processing when I have more time.
- Store media out of sight. Return movies to the movie rack. Return books to the bookshelf. (Preferably this happens immediately after the item is used.)
- Process coins and receipts. Empty pockets/purse of change and receipts. If grocery receipts, they go into the document box so Sierra can process into her Grocery Price Book.
- Sweep Floor. We have 2 dogs that both shed a lot. We have to sweep every day (all hardwood except the 2 bedrooms) to make the house feel clean. You may not need to sweep as often as we do, if you don’t have big black dogs who shed constantly on your pine floor.
- Clear all bathroom surfaces. Quickly wipe down bathroom counter after you use it at night, in morning. Keep the surface clear of anything other than soap, mouthwash, a candle.
- Put kitchen items away. Keep the counters clear. Store appliances in the garage when not in use. Put dishes in dishwasher as used. When my husband and I cook together, I normally start by chopping veggies, he starts the meat. I finish before he does, so I start cleaning up behind him as he cooks.
- Vacuum couch. This is just one of those things you learn as you experience life. Beautiful blue velvet couches are for families without kids or pets. That’s something I wish I had known before purchasing it! I am constantly vacuuming the couch because it attracts hair like none other.
- Tidy living room.
- Tidy dining room.
I know this sounds like a lot – but if you add in one or two over time, it all becomes habit.
Monday – Clean bathrooms.
- Clean the toilets, tub/shower, mirror, counters, sweep floor and spot mop.
- Dust shelves.
- Restock essentials (toilet paper, Q-tips, cotton balls).
- Replenish towels. (Change hand towel, towels on towel rack.)
Tuesday – Wipe down dining room table. Dust.
(In living room, dining room, bedrooms, office.)
Wednesday – Empty garbage in bath, kitchen, office, laundry room. Take trash to curb.
Every trash receptacle should be emptied. Move this to the day before your scheduled trash pick-up.
Thursday – Vacuum.
Bedrooms, rugs, etc.
Friday – Clean out fridge.
Saturdays are normally our grocery shopping days, so Friday we clean out the fridge and take stock of staples that we need to replenish.
Saturday – File and scan papers in office.
We keep all our important papers in a pretty little document box and go through it once a week for processing. As mail comes in, I’ll add bills to my budget right away, but the physical paper can wait until Saturday.
Sunday – Change bedroom sheets.
There’s nothing like crisp, clean sheets to start your week off right.
With my cleaning schedule tailored to my day, and my home/family’s needs, I feel like I can host people on short notice (like my many sisters and their spouses), have my parents over for dinner, or have neighbors stop by without becoming anxious.
How did you get into the groove with cleaning your house?