Monday, November 17, 2008

Works for Me: Housework

There has been some talk on our blog recently about household chores, and I thought that I would share a recent revelation that I have had about what works for me when it comes to doing housework. As I said in one of my comments, I grew up with a mother who did a great job keeping our home clean and tidy, while at the same time making it a warm and welcoming place for our family. I always knew that my mother was great at all things related to keeping a home - cooking, cleaning, organization, you name it and she was (and still is) as good as it gets! However, my mother also felt that we children should not have any household chores aside from keeping our own rooms tidy and picking up after ourselves around the house. Her reasoning was that we were busy enough already with schoolwork and outside activities, and that we would have plenty of housework of our own when we became wives and mothers ourselves. Yes, mom, that's definitely true :) But I wish that I had gotten the chance to learn these household skills from the master herself, because now I feel as if I am having to teach myself how to clean, cook, and organize a home! 

So, here is what works for me :)

After more than five years of marriage, I think that I have finally figured out what makes me tick when it comes to housework. I have always enjoyed cooking and baking, so learning how to prepare meals for a family has been less of a task and more of a joy for me. I also don't mind doing laundry, especially now that we have a washer and dryer in our own home! But cleaning...Well, let's just say that I don't enjoy it any more than the average person :) The trend in the past has been that I would spend all week telling myself that I should clean the bathrooms, vacuum, dust, mop, etc., and each day I would wake up dreading the same list of tasks. Finally, by Friday I would barrel through all of my cleaning tasks and at the end of a couple of hours, the house would be clean and I felt satisfied and relieved! "That wasn't so bad," I would tell myself. "Next week, I'm going to do everything on Monday so that I can enjoy the rest of the week without dreading the housework!" But alas, Monday came and went without housework, then Tuesday, and suddenly it was Friday again and the cycle continued. I even tried assigning specific tasks to certain days (Monday for bathrooms, Tuesday for vacuuming, etc.), but this schedule only made me resent the housework that I needed to do and was psychologically not helpful for me.

So, here is what DOES work for me. As you can see in the above picture, I bought myself a lovely piece of stationary paper on which I have made a chart of my weekly household tasks. Along the left-hand side are the tasks (vacuum, groceries, bathrooms, etc.), and horizontally across the top are the weeks (I think I was able to fit 5 weeks across). When I am finished with a task, I check it off on the list. Here are the benefits to this system for me:

1) The chart serves as a reminder to me of what tasks I need to accomplish in a given week
2) When I have finished a task, I get to check it off
3) My husband is able to offer his help with a task that I have not gotten the chance to do yet
4) There is not the pressure to complete a task on a certain day, but it sure feels good to check off lots of items at the beginning of the week!

Everyone works differently, so this system may or may not be helpful to you! But I thought that I might as well share what works for me, and my hope is that maybe it will work for someone else out there as well!


Molly said...

This is a great idea--I am definitely going to steal it! I'd also like to thank Kat and all of you ladies for your suggestions on the last cleaning comment thread--I am using lots of the tips in 'Home Comforts' and finally like I have cleaning under control!

B-Mama said...

Kat--this is brilliant for check-off-the-list people like me! I love that there is no real time constraint within the week AND that it communicates household cleaning needs to your hubby without you having to nag!! Excellent!! Thanks for the tip!

Mary Alice said...

I love this -- it gives you the flexibility to take weather, playdates and even moods into account. Having a list also means that if there is a task that I can't get to "right now" I can write it down instead of having it hang over my head.

Bethany said...

I am interested in trying this idea.
Both my husband and I love to cook, so we trade off this responsibility. He usually does the dinner dishes and more of the laundry, but the rest of the chores are left up to me. As a person with poorly evolved organizational skills (that is to say I have none) I am going to see if this will work. The fact that it is flexible enough to work within the whole week, but specific enough to remind me of all the chores to do, might help us reduce the amount of towels have from 20 down to 10 because I'll be able to remember to wash the towels.

I wonder, is there a patron saint of organization?

Jeanne in Tampa said...

I don't care. I live near a beach = one laid back Florida resident who rents with her husband.

Why bother? I just make sure that my living room rug is somewhat clean. We need a new floor in the bathroom. Clean the kitchen floor once YES, ONCE EVERY TWO WEEKS.

Fridge gets clean about every other week. Towels never get folded until you need to put them away, the next day.

Ultra ironing gets done about every three weeks.

Dusting about every 10 days.

Spray and clean the inside of the cabinets about every three or four months, because in Florida you have roaches if you don't.

And just clean up as you go.

...Otherwise take a road trip every weekend. Let someone else shovel the snow and rake leaves.

I went to the beach this weekend to the Blue Water Cafe at Ft. Pierce, Florida and watched people fish.

You don't go to heaven based on how you clean. I want to get to heaven with tomato sauce on my shirt just to prove a point. Make sure my bathroom is dirty and so is my kitchen floor.

I want to have the last laugh.

God is laughing.

B-Mama said...

Jeanne, I appreciate your laid-back approach and embrace it on various days, depending on the mood in the household. I will admit, you're on the intense side of things with respect to fridge cleaning--such a task NEVER gets done around our house! Maybe I should add it to my weekly chore chart?!!

"H" said...

Every other week we pay $90 to a crew of cleaning ladies that descends on our house like a whirlwind and does all the cleaning (though we have to do all the organization, tidying, dishes and laundry) in less than one hour. We save hours a week for ourselves and support a small business and hard workers. It's the best money we spend. Of all the things to outsource as parents, cleaning ought to be #1 on the list. If there's any way you can afford it, get a recommendation for a good cleaning service. Wouldn't you be better off spending that time cooking more wholesome foods, exercising, or spending more quality time with your family?

texas mommy said...

Thanks for sharing, Kat! Great ideas!

Mary Alice said...

Jeanne, while I agree that there is no contest here, household cleaning is less about appearance and more about logistics for the young mothers in our group. It is entirely different when you have a household full of little people who will throw most of their food on the floor only to have it be eaten by a crawling baby several hours later. I have to sweep under my table at least three times a day. I know that God has not given you a vocation to motherhood, and I am sure that you have established strategies for getting your graduate work done. Our vocation is to keep a home for our families and we all appreciate hearing how one another are finding success, since none of us were "educated" for this task -- there was no home ec at Princeton, but I'm ready to go if you need any ancient Greek translated.

As to the comment about the cleaning service, I go back and forth on this issue. There have been times when I thought that it was very important for me to "bond" with my home, to know what needed to be done and how to do it, and also when I felt that I had more time to clean than I had money to pay someone else. I do agree that in the time/money equation, a cleaning service is much more cost effect than other things we might do to save time such as eating more convenience foods.

Right now, we have someone coming in to clean every other week, and it is a great blessing to be able to have that luxury (we just started last week), especially because I am about to have a baby. However, with five kids and being home almost all the time, I was surprised at how quickly the house got dirty again! The bathroom where the kids brush their teeth twice a day is entirely smeared with toothpaste in two days, the cheerios on the kitchen floor, etc. So, while I don't need to put "scrub showers" on my list, I have plenty of household tasks that need to get done as well as little things that sometimes get forgotten, like trimming the kids nails. I am attempting to create daily "to do" lists like the one Kat described, we have these for school work and it means that by the end of the week everything is pretty much covered. Also, if I have a list, it will be so much easier when the baby comes and someone is over and says "what can I do to help?" I can grab my clipboard and say "hold the baby while I place the internet grocery order" or "would you mind bringing in the trash cans from the street."

Also, I love that Kat points out that this list allows her husband to help. When my husband is home on leave, he wants to be helpful, but often does not know what I need to get done, I think having a list like this would really make things go more smoothly for us.

I have created simple lists for each day of the week, and my plan is to keep adding tasks as I come across them so that they will have a time, this is like a simplified version of the chore part of the Mother's Rule, I think.