Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Keep To The Schedule

Between traveling for my film and the other work I've been doing, keeping our house clean has gotten to be one of those things that falls quickly by the wayside.

Shortly after I got back from a two week trip out of the country, I looked around my house, threw my hands in the air and yelled "I've had it!" I wouldn't say the place was a sty, and even when my house is messy it's not like Hoarders messy or anything.

But it was too much, and it was causing me anxiety and it had to stop. So I spent a few hours working with a Google Calendar and worked out a cleaning schedule. I wasn't sure if it would work at first, but it's been two months now and it seems to be doing the trick.

First and foremost I have to admit that we don't really keep perfectly to the schedule. But having it helps us identify what we've let slide. If we didn't clean one night because we were out with friends, we know exactly what we skipped out on.

I spent five years saying I would just "do what needs to be done." Guess what, it didn't get done. Some people don't need a schedule to keep their house clean, they really are so well organized and put together that if the trash needs to go out they just do it right then and there and it's finished.

This schedule isn't really for those people. It's for people who say "I can't figure out how to keep my house clean, every time I turn around it's a mess again." It's for people who think, "there's just so much to do and I'm so busy all the time."

The basic idea is this: you divide your house up into five zones. My schedule is like this:

Monday: Living room/dining room.
Tuesday: Kitchen
Wednesday: Hallway and half bath
Thursday: Full bath and master bedroom
Friday: Guest bedroom/Library/Home Office

I don't give myself cleaning jobs on the weekend so that my husband and I can spend time together, and because I usually travel on weekends so that makes it less disruptive.

I set up my Google calendar so that under the description I have a list of the bare minimum that needs to be done in that room. I did make it a calendar on it's own so I can turn it off if I want to.

The main crux of the idea is this: every room has it's day, and if it's not the day for that room you DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT. Obviously if it's a gross mess (like spilled food) then you have to take care of that right away. But if it's not Monday, and I leave my library book on the coffee table, I'm not going to sweat it. It'll get taken care of soon enough. Because each room is cleaned once a week, then it's really difficult for any amount of mess to build up, which is another key to the plan.

For example, right now it's Tuesday, Kitchen day. We took care of everything on that list, and the kitchen is looking good. Because we've been working around the house, our hall closet has gotten a bit disorganized. But I'm not stressing about it today, because I know it's on the schedule for tomorrow.

Now, there's a few other things I added to the calendar to keep this system working. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are dish days. All a dish day means is that at the end of the day, all the dirty dishes should be in the dishwasher. If it's full, it should be run. But we probably only run the dishwasher once a week.

Tuesday and Thursday are laundry days. On those days, I do all the laundry unless I put in a load and there's only a few things left over. Those wait for the next laundry day.

These are the key to making the schedule really work. Dishes and laundry are the two things that you're guaranteed to deal with every single day. You will eat food, and you will wear clothes. I know a lot of people who manage to actually put dirty dishes in the dishwasher as soon as they are done with them. I am not one of those people, I never have been. We also spent several years repeating that we would do a load of laundry whenever the basket was full. This never happened, and most of the time we would try to do three weeks worth of laundry in a single day because we had put it off so long nothing was clean.

Like I said, this schedule isn't for people who already have their act together.

By giving myself a specific day to deal with the laundry, it never piles up. Taking care of it twice a week means that I rarely do more than two loads in a single day. It became a very low stress situation. The dishes are pretty similar. Because we are dealing with it in small increments, and consistently, the dishes don't get out of hand.

I know it probably seems like I haven't actually figured out a way to keep my home clean, but just a way to keep one part of it clean at a time. But the end result has been pretty staggering. What happens when you make sure that the main things are taken care of regularly is that things don't pile up, they don't become insurmountable. When we ended up hosting a game night last weekend, it took me less than ten minutes to clean up and get to what I refer to as "in-law clean." That means that it was the same level of clean that I make things when the in-laws come and visit.

The only way to achieve that for me was consistency, and sticking to the schedule has helped me keep that up. I'm never overwhelmed by my own house anymore because I have a list. Every day I can open up my calendar item and see what needs doing (though by now I have most of it memorized). I've started adding biweekly and monthly chores to it too, so everything is slowly getting cleaner and cleaner. And I've not really increased my time commitment to cleaning, I've just spread it out. It's a matter of five minutes worth of work now saves me an hour later.

I highly recommend a schedule based on areas of the house to anybody that's having trouble keeping their house clean. I don't have kids, but I imagine it can be tweaked to work in a household with kids too, especially if you have one day a week where the kids are all in charge of cleaning their own rooms. I'd love to see somebody with kids use something like this and let me know how it works out for them. I do think that in larger households the number of dish and laundry days would either have to go up or be divided out between people (each family member gets one dish day a week maybe).

Good luck!