Thursday, November 4, 2010

Managing the Chaos - Creating a Household Maintenance Schedule

How many of you household managers, when asked to describe in one word how you feel most often, would answer, "Overwhelmed!"?  Whether we are full-time household managers, or have another job in addition to that profession, most of us probably nodded our heads.  We are overwhelmed.  I don't know about you, but I am constantly looking for ways to streamline, simplify, and organize so I don't feel quite so frantic all the time.

I'm not going to pretend that I have a streamlined, simplified, or organized life.  But in pursuit of the holy grail of Having It All Together (ha!) I have run across some things that work for me as a household manager.  Of course, as my children grow, things will change and need to be adjusted, but a couple of things have helped me feel like my head is hanging on by a thread (a little Harry Potter shoutout for you there) as opposed to falling off completely.  One of those things is keeping to a cleaning schedule - or more accurately, a household maintenance schedule.  Each day has its own tasks to be completed on that day of the week.  (Monday is laundry day, Tuesday is bathroom cleaning day, etc.) I actually started doing this almost a year ago, when I was working full time. It worked just as well for me then, albeit a bit differently, as it does now that I'm only working part time. This is also a really good idea if you are a student - you are juggling so many things between classes, jobs, and extracurriculars that I imagine a scuzzy apartment is easy to find yourself in.
A household mainteance schedule is born from the same concept as menu planning, and offers many of the same benefits:
  • It saves time. Scheduled weekly (or bi-weekly) maintenance of any task means that things will always be in a state of relative clean. When you take the time each week to wipe out your fridge shelves, sanitize the sink, scrub toilets, or swipe dust off of baseboards, things don't even have a chance to get grimy. That means that any time you go to clean, it will be easy-peasy and very quick, as opposed to requiring buckets of elbow grease and hours of your precious time. A twice-weekly cleaned toilet takes 2 minutes to clean; whereas a neglected one could take an hour to clean (don't ask me how I know that.) Take a few minutes each week to wipe down your range top and never scrape at built-up grease again.
  • It reduces stress. You always know when the last time you did something was.  This keeps things cleaner in general - it's easy to forget that it's been an entire week since you vaccuumed along the baseboards.    This way you know that your enviroment is always at a base clean level.  I don't know about you, but I can only relax if I know I'm not kicking up my heels amidst grime. 
  • It encourages whole-family participation, and reduces fights about "helping out around the house."  David knows that Monday is laundry day, so he works really hard to run the laundry machines on Sunday so that I can fold and put away by the end of Monday (he HATES folding laundry.)  On Wednesday morning, he often wipes down the bathroom mirrors or runs the toilet brush around the bowl because he knows that Wednesday is bathroom cleaning day.  Knowing which tasks need to be completed on which days eliminates the guessing game as to what household work is the top priority, and enables family members to work together towards a well-maintained home (and eliminates the oft-used excuse that "I didn't know what needed to be done!") 
  • It helps manage clutter.  We all know how quickly stuff can build up.  Doing a systematic, once-weekly whole-home cleaning means that any unnecessary stuff has to be dealt with every. single. week. - significantly slowing things down.  I am much more inclined to pitch stuff that I don't need if I know I'm going to encounter it again and again till it drives me crazy.
  • It is healthier.  The basic reason we need to keep clean homes is because it is unhealthy to live amidst dirt and debris - period.  If you can't say for sure when the last time you disinfected your sink was, how do you know it was recently enough?
  • It saves money.  I swear to you, I am so overwhelmed with things as they are that if I let the household maintenance get away from me for even a couple of days, things would be such a mess that I would eventually throw my hands in the air and hire a professional cleaner.  I'm never tempted to do that using this system.
A brilliant resource for getting started with making your own (realistic!)  household maintenance schedule is The Flylady.  I can't say enough good things about her.

I will probably share our household maintenance schedule next week, including the steps it took to come up with a plan that makes the most sense for our household, just so you all get a sense of how things run and how my head is still on.  In the meantime, do you follow a home maintenance routine?  Why or why not?


  1. I started following a weekly dinner lineup and when we left our apartment for a home, I started a laundry schedule. We also do things like load and unload the dishwasher on a bit of a schedule so things don't build up. And I try to tackle the stove whenever there are spills.

    But, I don't have a schedule for bathrooms and vacuuming the stairs YET. I've thought about it and I'm feeling more motivated. :)

  2. Wow, HI!!! I've been following you forever. I'm frankly a little starstruck you're commenting here *blush*

    I should have said I am really type-A so this kind of thing works like a charm for me. I realized as I was writing part two of this post that there are things that are weekly, things that are bi-weekly, and things that are daily - so it sounds like pretty much what you're saying you do.

    Also, being Jews, we have kind of a built-in schedule - the house has to be ready for Shabbos! :)

    Shabbat Shalom to you!

  3. nearly headless? how can you be nearly headless? [i got the harry potter shout-out, and wanted to let you know]

  4. Thanks, lady. I got your counter-shoutout (that line's from Harry Potter Yanshufim, which we just watched, yay!) and I appreciated it.

  5. I am a work at home mom (working on an e-commerce site). All day while working I sit and look around at my house and at the clutter and undone chores that bog me down. I really have no excuse, I'm just not scheduled.I was led to your blog by Kosher on a Budget's Mara. I have only started to skim your posts but I love them so far. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  6. Hi Lana, Thanks for commenting. Just thinking about your situation...Do you think you would benefit from building something like 10 minutes into the end of your workday schedule just for cleaning the immediate area where you work?
    Clutter is the bane of my existence. The only reason I'm kinda glad we've been moving so much, actually, it kind of gets rid of itself.
    Thanks so much for reading! <3


Thanks for your comments! They make my day.

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