As a stay at home mom, my other job is to take care of our house and all of the needs of our family. Just like many of you I have to keep up with the laundry, clean the bathrooms, cook most of our meals, do the shopping, the vacuuming, dusting, whatever. Basically, second to keeping my children safe and healthy, I have to keep us from living in squalor. And I have always struggled with keeping the level of not-squalor acceptable, livable, and preferably company-appropriate.
Things working against me:
- I am lazy. I would much rather read through the hundreds of blog entries in my reader rather than clean something. I would rather lay down and drool in front of a bad reality show from VH1.
- I have two small children who quickly "un-do" anything I have done, faster than I can "re-do." While I clean one room, I often have to sacrifice another room so that their mess will be contained.
- Keeping things clean is hard. I do not have the instinct to not mess up a house. When I put splenda in my coffee, I most times will leave the empty packet on the counter instead of turning around, walking four steps, opening the pantry door and putting it in the trash. I leave junk mail on the counter instead of straight in the trash. I throw my clothes on the bathroom floor because it's such a long walk to the closet and I just don't feel like it.
I have found that the state of my house is directly related to the state of my mood. It's all very chicken-and-egg: When my house is clean, I am happy, but also when I am happy I am more likely to clean. When I am grumpy and overwhelmed and moody, I don't feel like doing anything productive and so I'd rather just mope about having a messy house.
I am always interested in how other people "keep house" because I am still looking for the magical formula that will work for me. And basically there are two different kinds of people: those who are just born neat, who would instinctively put the empty splenda packet in the trash and for whom things being in order is just part of who they are. And then there are people like me who are fighting themselves everyday not to just throw stuff in a pile to deal with later, then cursing themselves "later" when they have mountains of junk and splenda packets to deal with.
So, here is my new plan:
Clean your house for company.
Or even better, have your husband clean for company because he is so much better at it and he just can't take it anymore. This step isn't really necessary, but it starts out by making things much more manageable.
Assign each room of the house a day of the week.
For me, all rooms or groups of rooms (like the kids rooms and bathroom) are assigned Monday through Thursday with a small group of things on Friday since I hardly ever feel like doing much on Fridays. Monday-kitchen; Tuesday-master bedroom and bathroom; Wednesday-living room, dining room, family room, office; Thursday-kids rooms and bathroom; Friday-laundry room, powder room, foyer and steps.
Make a list of all the chores or things that should be done weekly in each room or zone.
For example, I want my toilets cleaned every week and the floors vacuumed. I don't need (or want) to dust my baseboards every week, so that doesn't go on the list. I also don't list the "everyday" chores like "empty the dishwasher" because it has to be done for us to move forward in the day. Also, laundry is an everyday chore that I just always do.
On that particular day if the week, DO SOMETHING FROM THE LIST.
For example, yesterday was Monday, my kitchen cleaning day. I cleaned the microwave and coffee maker and wiped the counters and the faces of fingerprinted appliances. Then my children wet-Swiffered the floor while I vacuumed the dining room (I was working ahead cause I felt like it). There are still several things I didn't check off the list like cleaning the stove. I hate that chore because no matter how hard I try it always looks dirty so I'd rather not bother.
And you know what? It is better than nothing. This is my new mantra for housecleaning. It is better than getting frustrated and discouraged and sitting on my butt reading blogs of people who I'm convinced have immaculately clean houses.
Next Monday I will tackle the kitchen again, I might skip cleaning the microwave if it still looks clean from this week, and maybe I'll try for the stove. Either way, each week is a brand new start. I try and do something off the list.
And it's better than nothing.