“Sleep when the baby sleeps” is great advice until it’s time to cook or clean. Little Bo was never really one to be set down by herself for any period of time, so for the first two months of her life (and even long after), she was happiest in my arms. As a “crazy” attachment parenting mama, this didn’t bother me at all, but it did make cleaning feel next to impossible for months.
Before I became a mom, I never really understood the need for a cleaning schedule. Just keep things clean! No schedule needed, right?
Wrong. False. Just, no.
I’m pretty sure if I didn’t stick to a cleaning schedule nothing would ever get done in my house. I’d be able to keep my place maintained for a while, but eventually it would just build up and build up until the psychological weight of the mess completely immobilized me. And then, one day, I’d find myself living in filth until the type A control freak inside me runs through the house with a swiffer broom like a mad woman. Hours and hours later, the house would be spotless. For a while.
With a baby, though, this tornado method of once-a-month madness was not sustainable. I didn’t have chunks of several uninterrupted hours to clean, so I needed a way to get the house as clean as possible in as little time as possible. It turns out, I needed a cleaning schedule. It took a few weeks of tweaking, but I’m happy to report I have created a system that really works for me. The best part? I probably spend only about 15 minutes a day actively cleaning.
HOW TO MAKE A CLEANING SCHEDULE THAT WORKS
Are you desperate for a new cleaning routine that will keep your place looking good with minimal effort? Here are some tips:
MAKE YOUR MESS MANAGEABLE
When The Mr. and I shared a 538 sq. ft. Apartment in Cambridge, a solid 75% of why the place never felt clean was because so many of our things did not have an easily accessible space to “live” in the house. If you wanted to put towels away, for example, you first had to shove over all the other stuff that lived on the towel shelf. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but half the time stuff just didn’t get put away simply because doing so was a pain! I swear, it was harder to keep that tiny place clean than our current apartment, which is twice as big.
Part of the problem is we just had too much stuff and not enough space. The other part of the problem is our stuff wasn’t organized so that it was easily accessible. We ended up moving to a bigger place (which, for obvious reasons, isn’t always an option for everyone) where every item had a designated, accessible “home” in our house, and it made keeping things clean MUCH easier.
If you can, before you even begin this process, aim to organize or reduce what you have so that putting it all away is easy. If you have to move over other stuff access what you want, stack things to make stuff fit, or store things in a place that doesn’t make sense (Confession: We store bulk paper towels and toilet paper in the guest bathroom shower!!), consider if this extra hassle is contributing to your weekly mess and aim to purge or reorganize where necessary.
If you have kids contributing to your mess, look for toy storage solutions that keep toys grouped together (e.g. all the dolls go in the doll bucket) and hidden (opaque storage is your friend–cube style shelves with fun colored bins are perfect for this). And of course, consider donating toys that have been outgrown or that have gone unnoticed for a while.
MAKE A MASTER LIST
Create a list of tasks that must be done for your home to feel clean. I recommend mentally (and possibly physically) going through each room in your home and jot down what would need to be regularly done. For example, for my living room to feel clean, I’d need to pick up my daughter’s toys, swiffer the floors, and dust the TV stand. Once the toys are picked up, it’s actually a pretty low maintenance room.
To make this easier for you, I made a printable master list worksheet!
CREATE A PLAN OF ATTACK
Next, decide how you want to tackle this list. Do you prefer to clean one room at a time (e.g. clean the bathrooms on Mondays)? Or would you rather get similar tasks done together (e.g. clean all the toilets on Tuesday)? Or perhaps some combination of the two (e.g. on Mondays the kitchen gets a good scrub down, but the rest of the week you clean by type of task instead of by room). If you work long days and are exhausted when you come home, perhaps a dedicated “cleaning day” would be the best fit.
Choose whatever works for you, but remember: Your main objective is to create a manageable routine, one you’ll actually stick to. For me, that means breaking my cleaning up into bite size pieces so I don’t fall into my old routine of overwhelmed and immobilized.
Now that you have a list of what needs to be cleaned and have an idea how you’re going to attack it, make that list more manageable by consolidating similar tasks and noting tasks that you can get away with doing monthly, semi-annually, and yearly. Items like “dust TV stand” and “dust bookshelf” can obviously be grouped together under dimply “dusting” or, even more broadly, “clean surfaces” (which would include tidying the surface beforehand so it can actually be dusted!). Shorten your master list as much as possible so it’s a bit easier to mentally swallow. Making my list as short and concise as possible has been one of the best ways I’ve found to get myself to actually keep up my routine over time.
All that’s left to do now is assign your tasks to the day it makes the most sense to do them. For example, Mondays suck so I never assign tasks I hate to do on a day that’s already consistently (and possibly universally) terrible. But for you, it might make the most sense to do the tasks you enjoy least first so you don’t risk putting them off to the later point in the week when you’re probably going to be too tired or unwilling to actually get it done. If you’ve decided on a designated cleaning day, maybe get the dreaded chores done first thing in the morning and save the more enjoyable tasks for last. If you know you’d like to have a particular day be low maintenance, only assign a few easy things that day.
You may have to tweak things as you go, but you’ll soon know what works best for you. My printable cleaning schedule makes this part a breeze! Print a few different versions of your schedule and tweak it until you have something that will stick, then hang it up somewhere in the house where you will see it regularly.
Want to see what I came up with?
My husband is an attorney, so he works long days and doesn’t have a ton of time to iron. But he still needs to look good for work! So I help him out by doing a ton of ironing. And because I like it get it done at the beginning of the week so it’s out of the way, Monday made the most sense to do it!
TUESDAYS: Clean toilets
I hate cleaning toilets, so I make this an easy day. It’s also an extra pain because my daughter is at an age where exploring the toilet is super fun…for her. Not so much for me. I don’t find putting odds and ends in the toilet as appealing as she does.
WEDNESDAYS: Clean tubs
I also hate cleaning tubs! But it’s amazing how much faster scrubbing the tub is when I do it every week. So I do it every week.
THURSDAYS: Clean surfaces & mirrors
I actually really enjoy this. This is my opportunity to put away big stuff that’s been left out, say on my dresser or the TV stand, and to dust, which (like the tubs) is a quick wipe down.
FRIDAYS: Clean floors & kitchen scrub down
This means vacuuming the carpets and swiffering the wood floors, wiping up dried spills as I see them. This is the day the kitchen gets a full scrub down as well–cabinets, cook top, microwave, appliances, etc. all get a good scrub.
That’s it! Since my husband works 60-90 hours a week, I like to have the house clean by Friday night. I think it helps him feel less stressed knowing he doesn’t have to spend what precious little free time he has on the weekend cleaning, and it means we can spend that time as a family instead.
There are a few things I do as I go throughout the week: Dishes, like I said, and also laundry and tidying. We don’t produce enough laundry in a week to justify separating lights and darks and doing multiple loads, so as soon as the hamper is full I dump it all in the wash (probably not going to get Homemaker of The Year with that admission, but it works for us).
Doing the laundry as I go also means folding as I go, which means there is never a mountain of laundry to fold, just one load at a time every few days. A lot of people hate laundry, but I’ve never understood why since the washer does the work! I start a load, go on with my day, and fold while watching Netflix or my daughter playing.
Tidying is the other thing I do each day. This consists of putting away the day’s toys, stacking things that are still being used or that you’re not yet ready to put away (my great-grandfather used to say “Even sh*t looks good stacked”), and slipping anything you left out back where it belongs. Just a quick run through of the house. And if you do it every day, it’s really not intensive.
So there you have it! What does your cleaning routine look like? Share your best tips & tricks in a comment below, or just leave some comment love if you enjoyed the post!
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