This month, we’ve been talking about scheduling.  We’ve handled picking our priorities and filling in the cracks.  It’d probably be irresponsible and a little bit mean to move on without addressing the issue that can steal the joy from both: that is the responsibility of cleaning and taking care of a household.

Andy Warhol said:

When I think about what sort of person, I would most like to have on a retainer, I think it would be a boss.  A boss who could tell me what to do, because that makes everything easy when you’re working.

In nowhere is this more true for me, in my life, than in the department of cleaning.  When I first got married, I felt like a rockstar if I made dinner and vacuumed the floor on the same day, but as more and more children arrived and all the attendant messes that arrive with them, I became totally overwhelmed with the simple task of keeping my house relatively clean.  I needed a boss, someone to tell me what to do, when to do it and equally as important, when to stop.

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I turned to my usual sources to figure it out.  I read and I asked unsuspecting friends (whose houses were actually clean) how they did it.

The surprising realization I discovered in doing this was that people with clean houses didn’t spend more time cleaning, they just cleaned more frequently.  They had established habits and routines for cleaning and taking care of the other household duties and stuck with them.  My first step in learning to keep my house cleaner was to figure out what my habits and routines should be.

Figure out what needs to be done

I made a list of daily, weekly, monthly and semi-annual chores.  To see my list, click here.  To create your own, ask yourself the following questions:

  1.  What are 4-6 chores I should do every day?
  2. What are 5-7 chores that should be done on a weekly basis?
  3. What are 3-5 chores that should be done monthly?
  4. What chores should I do at least once, possibly twice a year?

After creating the list, I tried to stick with it.  I’d like to say I do the daily and weekly chores at the same time every day or week, but I don’t.  I just know I need to fit it in and I do it when I can.  I’m still trying to figure out how to fit in my monthly chores and just did my deep cleaning for the first time in years with my kids over the summer, a practice I hope to duplicate each year in July and January, but we’ll see.

Stick with your established routines

The next step was figuring out how to fit these routines and habits into my daily life and still be a nice person, a trick with young children, for sure.  Here are a few methods that have worked for me.

Set realistic expectations and time limits.  My house is very, rarely, totally clean.  Accepting that fact has actually helped me feel more willing to clean.  When I stopped expecting perfection, I could spend 10 minutes here or there, make a small, or big difference and go on with my life.  Lowering my expectations for myself has also helped me to do it more frequently and I’ve found the surprising truth, that it’s easier to keep something clean that it is to get something clean to start with.

Enlist help.  I’ve also had to come to terms with the reality that I am only one person and this is a big responsibility. So, I enlisted the help of the people who helped make the mess:  my kids.  My kids are responsible for keeping their bedrooms and bathrooms clean and a few additional chores they do according to their age and of course, they do their own laundry.

Make it as easy as possible.  Sweeping and mopping are my hardest chores, they hurt because of some shoulder problems and they also are tiring, most times, I dread them.  My husband must have sensed this, because last year, he convinced me to buy a Roomba or robot vacuum, which does all the vacuuming and sweeping for me.    It used to take me 30 minutes to clean up dinner, which meant I rarely, consistently did it, but now it takes 10-15 minutes because we all work together for most of it and the Roomba does the rest, super helpful.

Combine.  The last way, I’ve managed to continue my routines and habits is to combine them with other activities.  I do some cleaning while my kids eat breakfast, or while they are talking to me after school.   I will also, listen to a podcast, scriptures or a book or practice singing, since those are all things I enjoy doing and they help me forget that I’m actually doing something I don’t want to do.

Alright, all of you who have actually been to my house can stop laughing now.  You and I know, that my house is by no means the cleanest on the block, but it is not overwhelming.  I know what needs to be done,when and that helps me to feel free to spend more time on my priorities and rejuvenating leisure activities because a last minute dinner, full sink, or emberassingly messy room will steal the joy from both.


What cleaning habits and routines have you established and how do you stick with them?

Write it down in a journal, talk it over with a friend or leave a comment below or on Facebook.


Helpful Resources:

I actually laughed out loud when I read this book.  It is the story of 2 sisters who, together, went from feeling totally overwhelmed by life and all their responsibilities, including their cleaning responsibilities, to feeling in control and on top of things.  It will take you through the process of getting in control of not just your cleaning, but all your other responsibilities as well.

This book is created using principles in the first book.  You can also check out her website here.  You can sign up for her emails, which will give you suggestions for what to clean when, but I would still recommend reading her book to get an overall idea of her plan.