Thursday, February 13, 2014

How I Handle Housework (hint: it involves lots of lists!)

When I wrote my last post on my New Year’s resolutions, I mentioned that I have a housework to-do list that mostly works for me at this point, and threatened to blog about it. One kind commenter encouraged me to go ahead and write about it, and that’s all the encouragement I needed! :D See how little prodding it takes to get a writer to write?

The truth is, though, that between when I wrote about my resolution and when I’m writing this post, I edited my housekeeping list again.

I say “again” because I’m always doing this. I’ve been keeping lists ever since I got married and had my own home, and they’re always a work in progress.

And I think that’s necessary. I think to keep house you have to be a bit flexible. You have to realize that your life is constantly changing (at least while your kids are growing) and so what works one year might not work the next.

On the other hand, some things never change: the dishes always need to be done, the bathroom always needs to be cleaned. And so you have to have some kind of structure. And some way of prioritizing.

The List
So here’s where I’ve landed now: I have a list that I print out every week. The list always has these things on it:

-a menu-planning section: this is where I just jot down what I’m making for dinner each night. I usually make my grocery list at the same time that I fill this out.

-an “other cooking jobs” section: things like desserts I want to bake, or veggies that need prepping.

-an “ongoing projects” section: this is where I list big jobs that might take more than one week to accomplish. Recent entries include things like updating our will and fixing an insurance foul-up.

-a “declutter” section: I’m slowly decluttering our house, and I just write down what part I’m working on this week, so I don’t forget. (I have another place where I keep track of the date I finish each room. Seriously, this is a year-long thing. Not quick. I have to write it down in order to have any chance of remembering where I am.)

-a “weekly” section: This is really the heart of the list. This is the stuff that has to get done each week in order for life in our house to stay sane. Right now (again, this changes with life stages), my list includes:

-watering inside plants (2X)
-watering outside plants (2X)
-upstairs bathroom
-downstairs bathroom
-sweep patio
-vacuum upstairs floors
-clear desk of paperwork
-back up computer

You’ll notice I don’t have “clean the kitchen” or “clean the downstairs floors” on there. That’s because those are really daily. I’ll get to daily stuff in a minute.

-a “monthly” section:
These are the things that aren’t urgent, but do need to happen regularly. My list includes:

-clean out purse
-clean fridge
-wipe down walls
-clean microwave
-buy next month’s gifts
-clean van
-pay bils
-file stuff

And that’s all that’s on the list. It sounds like a lot, but it fits onto one sheet of paper. I have a template in Word, and I just print it out – one copy per week – and then make whatever notes on it I need to. When it comes to the “monthly” section, I’ll just cross off the chores I’ve already done right away. I’ve experimented with a lot of different formats, and this is really the one that works best for me.

Two other necessary parts of the system
However, this list by itself isn’t enough to keep things ticking over cleanly in our house. There are two other things I’ve found that I need to do.

A Daily Walk-Through
I’ll be honest: I’ve fussed and kicked against this idea for years. I honestly want to be able to just check off my weekly and monthly chores and be done with it.

But it’s not enough. If I just did that, we’d still have a messy house.

What I have to do is spend at least five minutes in each room of the house – per day – and pick up, straight up, and wipe down whatever needs to be picked up, straightened up, and wiped down.

So, do I clean the bathrooms every day? No. Not if by “clean” you mean “scrub and polish every surface with appropriate chemicals and implements”. No, that’s a once-a-week thing. But do I clean the bathrooms every day? Well, yeah. If by “clean” you mean “wipe up anything particularly gross and take a minute to sweep up loose hairs”.

And when I do that? It’s a lot easier to do the deeper cleaning once a week. So much faster.

Again: I kind of hate that I have to do the walk-through every day. But oh-my-goodness, I love living in a clean house. So. Much. Love. It makes me feel sane in a way you wouldn’t believe.

And so it’s worth it.

The even-longer to-do list
Here’s the last part of the system: underneath my weekly print-out that I talked about above, I have another list. This is the list that holds long-term projects. You know, the stuff you think you’re going to have time to get down when the long summer months come but that you actually end up getting done in dribs and drabs on the busy weekday evenings? Yeah, that stuff. The small repairs, the complicate paperwork, the it-really-would-be-nice-if-we-replaced-that-forty-year-old-whatever-with-something-that-actually-worked-properly
It’s the stuff that, if you don’t write it down, will bug you. But if you do write it down, then someday, someday, you can cross it off and feel incredibly accomplished.

And if you keep this list around for a year or so, you can actually see progress. It’s magical.

So that’s it! And – since I’m always interested in doing this more efficiently – I would love to hear what works for you!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

Argh! I just left a long comment and feedly are it! :( well, the main thing was a request for a photo of this list. I'm having a hard time visualizing how all that fits on one page.

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

Ate, not are.

Jessica Snell said...

I'll email it to you, Em.

Marcy said...

I realize you posted this forever ago, in Internet time, but, well, I'm here now. :)

I like this, may incorporate some of it...

One thing that's working for me right now is Not so much for structure as motivation, although it does have a couple structural things I like. Because much as I'd love to be a focused, disciplined person, that's just not reality. What is it FlyLady says...? "Make it fun or it won't get done?" HabitRPG helps me with that. It's amazing how motivating it can be to earn virtual gold, or keep from killing your party members in a boss fight by completing most of your dailies... And then even with the stuff I really HAVE to do, like laundry when everyone in the house has run out of clean underwear, I feel extra proud and accomplished as I earn a new pet or something in HabitRPG. :)