I am not a naturally tidy person. If my house is clean and organized, it is because I've worked hard. If I don't pay attention, my house is likely to become complete chaos. Before I had children, I could get by cleaning a little on the weekends. Even then, there were parts of my house that were rarely clean. I can remember thinking that the toilet in my master bathroom was so disgusting, I didn't even want to get sick in it. I imagined myself having to clean my toilet before I could throw up in it. I was able to keep the main room clean enough, easily enough, though.
After I had my first child, I stayed home with her and watched two other babies. I had my hands full but was able to clean some during naps. In the beginning, they were so little they didn't even make any messes. Over time, I added another child of my own and the girls got bigger. The kids were making more messes and my house was becoming out of control. Since I watched other people's kids, I had people coming to my house every day. I guess I just got tired of being embarassed by my house. I was able to keep the main room clean enough but I cringed if someone wanted to use the bathroom. Plus, there was NO WAY I would let them go into my bedroom. The problem was, I didn't know how to keep on top of everything. I always liked organizing. I remember organizing my parents' fridge and pantry. I love bins and baskets and boxes. If I get a new purse or wallet, I get so excited to clean out the old one and put everything in the new one. Surely, this meant there was hope for me, right?
Last year (2010), I started researching how to clean and organize. I borrowed every cleaning/organizing book available from the library. (I'm too frugal to buy all those books.) I would actually take notes in a spiral notebook (what a dork.) I also searched around the internet and found lots of information there as well. Two of my favorite books were The Messies Manual and Sidetracked Home Executives. I found flylady.com online. There were lots of places I got information but these are the ones I got most of my inspiration from.
After I did all my research, I started planning. I took a look at every room and wrote down everything that needed to be done in each room. I decided how often all of those jobs needed to be completed. I divided them into jobs that needed to be completed daily, every two days, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, seasonally, twice yearly, and yearly. I created a plan for daily jobs (called my dailies.) Next, I created a generic monthly calendar and filled it in with jobs that needed to be completed each month. Lastly, I took the jobs that needed to be completed less often and spread them out throughout the year.
Below is how I divided all of my jobs. I am aware not everyone would agree with how I have divided the jobs. This is not going to give you a house that looks like a model home. It is not necessarily what I consider ideal. It's what I can do at this point with all of the other things I also have to do. It has given me a place to start and I can modify as I find necessary. I am also doing considerably better than I did without all of my lists and charts. I started using all of these in January (of 2011) and feel really good about how it has worked.
I call the tasks I do every single day my dailies or daily tasks. I have heard this called minimum maintenance. I consider my calendar of monthly tasks my minimum maintenance. Dailies are what I need to do each day just to get by. My monthly task calendar lists the tasks that need to be done every other day, once a week, once every other week, or once a month. Those are the tasks, in addition to may dailies, that need to be done to keep the house in decent shape. Not great, but good enough.
Each day I...
make my bed
complete 1-2 loads of laundry
tidy the house
do the dishes
(I feel it's important to mention I also feed and care for between two and six kids.)
I can go a day without doing some (or even all of these) but much more than that and the house starts to look really bad.
Make my bed
This is a relatively new addition for me. I used to be one of those people who believed it was a waste of time to make my bed if I was just going to sleep in it and mess it up again that night. I must say, having my bed made just puts me in a different frame of mind. For the amount of time it takes (hardly any) compared to the effect it has on me (huge) it is totally worth it. I feel like it helps me start the day right. Plus, every time I walk in my room and see a made bed I get a little boost. It sounds silly but I am so proud of myself and then I feel like doing more.
My main floor is mostly a hard floor with some area rugs. I use a cordless stick vac (Eureka cordless Quick Up) to vacuum my hard floors and a vacuum cleaner to vacuum the area rugs. I have two large, black dogs and if I don't vacuum every day or two, the dog hair drives me crazy. I know this is one area some experts would say it wasn't necessary to do so often. I started this when my first child began spending a lot of time on the floor. Since then, there has barely been a time I haven't had someone who needs to spend tummy time or who is crawling. Even if I don't have a crawler, kids just naturally lay around on the floor and I feel better having them on the floor if it has been vacuumed.
The cordless part is important. I tried using a stick vac that was corded and it was too frustrating. The cord was super short. I felt like I was constantly plugging, unplugging, and re-plugging.
Complete 1-2 loads of laundry
This is a relatively new way of doing laundry for me. I used to do all my laundry on one day. We have a laundry chute so I'd start by sorting the basket of laundry at the bottom of the chute. I'd make my piles all over the laundry room floor. As a load came out of the dryer I would take it to my family room to fold. After each load was folded, I put the clothes in the appropriate basket (each bedroom had it's own basket.) After the laundry was finished, the laundry room floor would be clear and there would be several baskets loaded with clothes to be put away. That is where I got stuck. I was good about washing and folding but then the clothes would often stay in the baskets. As things got busier around here, that method stopped working as well. For one, I wouldn't always get all the laundry finished. The piles would either sit there or I would have to put them back in the basket. Also, there might be something I wanted to wear (or wanted the kids to wear) and it didn't get washed. That meant they couldn't wear it on that day and it wasn't going to get washed until the next laundry day, maybe a week away.
I decided to try the 1-2 loads per day that many of the experts recommend. So far, it has worked very well for me. If I do 1-2 loads on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I often don't do any laundry Friday, Saturday or Sunday. The putting away of the clothes is more likely to happen because it doesn't take as long. (Although, I occasionally still find myself with clean, folded clothes left in a basket for several days. Especially towels. I'm getting better, though.) I also started having the kids empty their own baskets. Their drawers might not be as neat as they would be if I put the clothes away, but we are working on it.
I had to come up with a sorting system so the laundry room floor wouldn't constantly have piles of clothes on it. You can see a post on that here.
Tidy the house
This is something that doesn't take very long but has huge results. If the kids and I pick things up every night, we spend a small amount of time and avoid a huge mess. I try to have the kids take anything that is theirs to their rooms on their way to bed. I have tried a couple things to reinforce this. First, they both have what I call a "tidy basket." Their tidy baskets are small, canvas-like, handled baskets. They can load lots of little things in there and easily carry it to their room. I have also tried "fining" them for anything left out. They would have to complete an extra job for every item of theirs I find after bedtime. We have also tried doing a "10 minute tidy" before dinner instead of before bed. Sometimes when we are heading to bed, there is not time to spare to tidy. I'm going to have to reinstitute all of those.
Do the dishes
I clear the table and rinse the dishes after every meal. I try to have the dishwasher loaded as well but if that doesn't get completed during the day, I almost always make sure it is finished before I go to bed. If the dishwasher is too full I will leave some (rinsed) dishes in the sink overnight. I know there are people who would say I should just wash them by hand and put them away rather than leaving them in the sink. No. It's ok with me if they sit in the sink overnight waiting to be loaded into the dishwasher.
In addition to my dailies I have jobs I complete every other day, once a week, twice a month, and monthly. I have arranged these jobs on a monthly calendar.
Follow the link below to see an early draft of my cleaning calendar. I know I need to do some work on the calendar. For now it's a work in progress.
Monthly tasks chart
(I recently changed how this chart can be accessed. I'm hoping it can be opened and printed. I'm going to work on it. If it doesn't work for you, check back.)
More of my cleaning routines, schedules and calendars.