I’m a scheduler. A list-maker. A spreadsheet junkie. If I’m going to make a resolution work, I have to make a plan for it. And while I like having a plan, I don’t like making a plan. I find putting all the pieces together, and remembering all the pieces, to be incredibly taxing. On our drive home from Georgia, my husband kept asking, “Are you sure you’re okay over there? You’re stressing me out, you’re thinking so hard. You promise you’re not mad at me for something?”
I wasn’t. Since I have finally found peace with my commitment to stay home, I was formulating a strategy for becoming a better and more efficient housekeeper. The strain came from trying to keep all the variables in mind – when the garbage goes out, when I volunteer at the school, what day makes the most sense to clean, to go to the grocery store, when to cook big meals to freeze, what days the kids have activities, how many different chores can I realistically fit into a day and still have time to write. Each time I’d work out a plan, I’d remember another task that I hadn’t accounted for. Like laundry.
Consequently, it took almost the entire seven-hour drive for me to figure it all out. Since several people responded to my New Year’s Don’t Judge post saying they had also resolved to learn to keep house this year, I’m guessing there are other foundering folks out there who want to keep a cleaner home, but are overwhelmed by the length of the “to-do” list and aren’t quite sure how to approach all these tasks. I found my new book, Home Comforts, to be incredibly helpful in this regard and highly recommend it for the aspiring homemaker. If you don’t have time for that, or just want to have a basic plan to work with, here’s what I came up with.
Daily housekeeping tasks: make bed, put clothes in hamper, remind kids to make their beds and pick up their clothes, prepare meals and clean up dishes afterward, wipe kitchen counters and table, pick up and put away, perform whatever weekly task is scheduled that day.
Weekly housekeeping tasks:
Monday: sort and launder all clothing, volunteer at the kids’ school, iron, fold clothing and put it away. Read housekeeping book if there’s time. Swim practice, so plan for easy/frozen meal.
Tuesday: bake, write
Wednesday: clean kitchen, plan meals, make grocery list, order meat. Mini-laundry day, write. Swim practice, so plan for easy/frozen meal.
Thursday: ask kids to strip beds before school, launder bed linens and bath towels, clean house, empty all garbage cans, put trash & recycling at curb
Friday: grocery shopping, write
Saturday: special projects (monthlies, semi-annuals) in morning, cook/bake with kids
Sunday: rest day/family day
Monday: Laundry day. I haven’t gotten to the section on laundry in my book yet, so I’m just going to give you the basics of my current process. I collect all the laundry from everyone’s hamper and sort it down in the laundry room. There are usually at least six or seven loads: warm darks (blues), warm darks (reds), warm whites, warm jeans/zippered clothing, cold gentle cycle darks to hang dry, cold gentle cycle lights to hang dry, kitchen napkins and dish towels. I tend to do the hang-dry/lay-flat loads first so that I can hang them before I volunteer at the kids’ school. That way they will still be slightly damp in the afternoon, making them easier to iron than if they are sopping wet or completely dry. For the dryer loads, I activate the buzzer on the dryer so that I hear when a load is done and can take the clothes out before they get all wrinkled from sitting in the dryer. That’s my ambition, anyway. Washing all of the laundry for our family of four, from sorting to put every piece away, takes about 12 hours.
Tuesday: I think Tuesday will quickly become my favorite day. This will be the day for bread baking. Or for smaller baking projects, like muffins or homemade granola bars for everyone’s lunches. Or for no baking at all, but simply a day for writing and/or errands.
Wednesday: When everyone is out the door for school and work, I remove everything from the kitchen counters, wiping things down as I go (toaster oven, bread box). Then, starting at the top and working down, I wipe cupboards using 409, then counters using Bon Ami, then appliances using 409, then the bottom cupboards using 409, then the sink using Bon Ami. I disassembled the stove top to wash the drip pans and pulled the knobs off to wash the grease off of those. (FYI, I have never done this thorough a cleaning in a home we’ve lived in except when we move out.) I put everything back together, then swept and mopped the floor. Whether I will do this every week or not remains to be seen, but I did this whole sequence for the first time today, and it took me about an hour and a half. I wonder if that will become quicker over time since I this time I basically did a deep clean, and next time, since it will only be a week’s worth of buildup instead of months’ or years’ (gross!), it might be more of a simple wipe down.
After cleaning the kitchen, I plan meals for the following week and put together my grocery list. We order meat from the Virginia Tech Meat Center, which only has pickups on Thursday and Friday, so I have to get my order in on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, I run whatever laundry has accumulated in the past two days. It’s a light laundry day, but without it, we would run out of underwear, socks, and napkins.
Thursday: The big cleaning day. I chose Thursday for housecleaning for a couple of reasons. The first is that I want the house to be clean for the weekend, but I don’t want to do it on Friday. I like Friday to be an easy day. The second is that we put the garbage out on Thursday night, so it makes sense to clean and empty garbage cans as I go, then take it all out as a finishing touch.
I first collect all of the linens, both bed and bath, and start them washing while I clean. With cleaning, I start at the top and work down, both within the house and within each room. I start by dusting on the top floor of our townhouse, then washing windows and mirrors, then cleaning bathrooms, then emptying garbage cans, then vacuuming the floor. I vacuum the stairs, then do the same routine on the main floor. I vacuum the stairs to the basement, and finish off with the same routine down there.
I usually goof around while I’m doing this because it is tedious, so it’s hard to say how long it takes. I often stop and check email, and of course to change over the laundry. Last week I combined cleaning day with grocery day, so it was hard to say how long the cleaning part actually took that day. Tomorrow I guess I’ll know.
Friday: I do the grocery shopping on Friday, and if I’ve planned well, I won’t have to waste a bunch of time during the week running back to the store. Since I want to keep house and write, I’m trying to be as efficient with the housekeeping as possible, and I think this is a major area for improvement. I probably made three or four 30 minute trips plus an hour long trip each week when I wasn’t planning well. That’s almost three hours at the grocery store when I could be knocking it out in one.
Saturday: Saturday mornings are for special projects (filing, budgeting), monthlies (changing air filters), and semi-annual housekeeping tasks (flipping mattresses). I have a spreadsheet for this that I will share with you soon.
Sunday: Rest. Hike. Write. Enjoy.
The first week of putting this plan into action went surprisingly well, given that I had forgotten to account for being out of town for ten days. Unpacking from the trip, restocking the fridge, cleaning up the mess we left from Christmas, and putting all of the decorations away took two full days. Now that that’s all done, and life is back to normal, I’m curious to see how this schedule goes and how long it will take me to do each day’s work. I’ll keep you posted. Until then, happy housekeeping.