Every single cleaning schedule I have looked at, whether on the internet or in one of the many books I have read on home management, has failed me. I have tried several different systems and, though wonderful in theory, they are often very difficult to stick to so I usually give up on it. Part of the problem is that keeping house, in this day and age is challenging in and of itself, and the other part is that these schedules are designed for other people. I’m not “other people” and I often don’t work like them.
The Curse of the Perfect Cleaning Schedule
Here’s my news flash for you: There is no perfect cleaning system or schedule. You will not find one. It doesn’t exist. Stop wasting your time looking for it.
This doesn’t mean you won’t learn anything from reading all those amazing blog posts, magazine articles, and books about how to clean your house. There is a ton of great information out there and you can learn a lot from other people. Let me fill you in on a few things that I’ve learned:
I don’t work well in the evenings.
After mothering and working and errands all day, by evening I don’t want to work. This means I go against the cardinal rule of most housekeeping advice: Most nights I don’t clean up my dinner dishes, I don’t pick up toys, and I don’t wipe my counters. I wake up to a mess. If evening cleaning works for you, that’s great, but it’s not the only solution.
I work much easier if I know what I’m supposed to do but I don’t do well at keeping all of those details in my mind.
One of my favorite housekeeping books is called “Side Tracked Home Executives”
I set up and used the system in this book for about a year. After that, I just couldn’t keep up (due to a high need baby and postpartum depression) but I still use aspects of this. The main element of this system that I use is my list of tasks. The book guides you through every room in your house and shows you how to make a list of everything that needs to be done in that room. Nitty gritty things, like cleaning light fixtures, baseboards, and walls. It is quite an undertaking, but it can really help to write down all of your housekeeping tasks, along with the time it takes to do it and how frequently you want it done. If you know that you have a plan to get the dead flies out of that light fixture, you don’t have to stress about when you’ll do it.The less mental clutter you have, the more attention you can focus on living life.
Instead of trying to tackle my whole house, I started with one thing. My “thing” was my dining table.
After our first son was born, we felt that a family dinner at the table needed to be a priority. That was impossible at the time because the table was stacked several feet high with junk. I had read several books/articles at that point that told me I needed to buckle down and do it. One book, however, told me to take 10-15 minutes per day. Even with my baby who needed to nurse 20 minutes every hour, I could commit to 10-15 minutes per day. Or at least most days. Within about a month (or maybe it was two) the table was cleared off. I committed myself to making sure that, even if it only lasted for a minute, I would clear and wipe the table every day. Looking at my cleared and clean dining table gives me a sense of peace, even if the rest of my house is in shambles.
While focusing on my dining table, the rest of my house managed to stay livable.
At this point, I can clear my dining table in a matter of minutes. Then I look at my kitchen counter and think, “it just doesn’t seem right to have a clean table and dirty counters.” So the clean “one thing” starts to spread. My theory with my counters is the same as the table: if they are cleaned and (hopefully) wiped at one point during the day, I have accomplished my task. If my counters (and in turn my dishes) didn’t get gone, at least I still cleaned my table. When I feel overwhelmed with how far behind my house has gotten (can we say “ridiculous first-trimester fatigue?”) I know that if I start with my table, the clean spot will spread. I always have a starting place.