So we’re on Part 6, and we’re finally getting to house cleaning systems! In Part 1 of this series on house cleaning we talked about what factors are needed for a clean house. In Part 2 we discussed how Expectations enter into the mess. In Part 3 we began to talk about what your expectations should be, dealing with bugs. Part 4 covered expectations and dirt, mess and stuff. Part 5 dealt with expectations and Ability.
It may seem silly to not get to this section until Part 6 but I think that there is so much more involved in house cleaning problems than the “how-to” of the actual cleaning process. Most people don’t struggle overmuch in how to actually clean – a bottle of detergent soap, a rag and time usually does a good job on most issues. But really, how “clean” your house feels has so much to do with the level of clutter and mess, how long it stays clean when you’ve cleaned, and how much effort it takes to get it clean.
There are a lot of different cleaning systems out there. As I mentioned in my previous posts, I don’t believe it really matters overmuch in which you choose. Just stick to it. I will be covering a few here, but if anyone is curious about what system we actually use, I decided to describe it.
First, our cleaning is both helped and hindered by the fact of six kids 11 and under in the house all day every day. Many of the routine household tasks like loading and unloading the dishwasher are completely in the older kids’ “bailiwicks” now (I will cover kids and house cleaning chores in the next section). Yet with so many people using the same space, even if just one of them leaves something out in each room, we rapidly have a messy house. About four years ago, when we chose to bring the kids home for schooling, we spent the entire summer getting our house cleaning chores all sorted out. I knew that once we actually started school, we wouldn’t have time to also train them all in a brand new system of chores. I posted our system at the time on this blog post.
Over time we have modified the original chore charts but the basic ideas has remained the same. When the children were very young, I used their chore chart to help me get myself scheduled. Here is a version of that:
As you can see by the chart, I felt that I needed help remembering/scheduling the bigger chores like floors, clothes, kids’ rooms, trash and baths. At the time I had 4 children 6 and under.
Now, with six kids we are officially a LARGE family (plus one dog). With several still using diapers, it simply wouldn’t work to do laundry only twice a week. I do laundry, 1-3 loads worth, every day. The same goes for everything. Dishes must be loaded into the dishwasher, run, unloaded, and loaded again. Floors simply would be filthy if we didn’t sweep or vacuum every day. And, we homeschool every day, not just a few times a week (this was our preschool schedule).
So what we do is sort all the chores into our master chore chart and begin with them right after breakfast. When the basics are done, we begin class for the morning. A break for lunch, some more chores, afternoon class and then done until dinner. We reserve some chores for Saturdays, like scrubbing bathrooms. And some chores look simple on the chart but are harder – the person on vacuuming also has to pick up everything off the floor before they can vacuum, with sibling help. With laundry every day we have the laundry person sort into piles as it comes out of the dryer (it rains here half the year, a clothes line isn’t an option), and then everyone puts their stuff away at some point in the day. The kids are responsible for keeping their rooms “usable” – ie, I can walk into them when needed – and they do their pickup as needed (this has been a long and hard slog). This is an older version of our current master chore chart that stays on the fridge:
We have the bathroom chore split up by Saturdays here, so 1st Saturday of the month “J” would clean the bathroom by this schedule.
That’s about it for our current system. Also, something that isn’t obvious looking at this schedule is this: we stay home most of the time. If we were bouncing around the place taking children to a whole bunch of activities all the time we simply wouldn’t have the time to clean. For our sanity we limit activities to one night a week, currently. I feel like our house never really has a chance to descend into utter chaos as long as we are basically on our game. Of course, if the stomach flu hit or we moved again, that’s a whole new story…
As for other systems….
- Most cleaning schedules and systems vary by one thing: whether you tackle cleaning in small chunks, or devote regular large chunks of time to it. You must decide which system will work for you.
- I know people who highly recommend the regular, day by day, cleaning method popularized by Fly Lady.
- While not a cleaning system, I read Jen Hatmaker‘s book Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. I suspect Hatmaker’s book is more helpful for people who live a typical American life. I didn’t find it terribly life changing because I was already a convert to down-sizing. But it’s a good read! And it might help get rid of some clutter that will in turn make keeping a clean house easier.
- I have heard good things about Marie Kondo‘s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Basically, get rid of whatever doesn’t bring you joy. I am guessing she doesn’t often deal with large families full of little children. Just sayin’ – my kids would have nothing in the small-toy-that-hurts-when-you-step-on-it category if I did a Kondo clean! Ha!
- Here is a challenge that I know has inspired at least one friend’s down-sizing: 40 Bags in 40 Days
- And of course, the internet has 1 million and one different pages out there with house cleaning advice, schedules and help. If you feel helpless and like your current system isn’t working, try another!
Again, I think my advice remains the same. Figure out what you need to do, figure out how it will best work for your family to split it up, and stick to it. And if you have kids, start training them at about age 3 to help.
More on what chores kids can and should do coming up next….
Some of the things I’ve mentioned at Amazon:
Jen Hatmaker’s: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess