Is there a Flylady for FlyFulltimeworkingCouples?
March 20, 2007 11:46 AM   Subscribe

Is there anything like FlyLady but for people who actually work outside the home? Lazy 20-something couple is looking for help keeping our apartment from being a sty.

I love Flylady, but I can't keep up with her ... are there any similar systems that work better for people who work outside the home? Flylady seems mostly geared towards Stay-at-home-Moms, and while I am envious of people who are able to squeeze in a load of laundry at 10am, I am not one of them.

My new husband and I are trying to work out our household chores angst so that we stay on top of basic cleaning, but I guess our parents didn't teach us how to act like grown-ups.

Any links, books, or suggestions on how to set up a *realistic* plan for cleaning/organizing and splitting up chores between two lazy people who work long hours would be great.

A housekeeper is, unfortunately, not an option right now. And, as often as I ask, the cats refuse to pitch in.
posted by tastybrains to Home & Garden (31 answers total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
There's a great checklist from Real Simple that tells you what chores need to be done each day, each week, and each season, as well as how long the chores take. It's online for sure. That's what we use.
posted by sugarfish at 11:56 AM on March 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

I have a friend who used a modified version of the zone plan (this was pre-internet heyday so she probably never heard of the flylady). She did one room/chore before work each day (she worked full time and was a single mom). Wouldn't something like this work for you two?

Also, it might help to figure out what the problem is before looking for a flylady-type solution. Is it clutter and too much stuff? Or just cat-hair-blanket-on-everthing combined with dust, crumbs and a shower with a 2 week old ring?

Finally, while a cleaning service isn't in the cards right now, would outsourcing the laundry to one of those pay-by-the-pound places help out? Laundry piles are always my main problem.
posted by necessitas at 12:26 PM on March 20, 2007

My mother's main suggestion, that does seem to really work, is just to keep on top of things, and not let the mess pile up.

Put dirty clothes away (in a hamper or basket) when you take it off, hang up things that don't need to be washed.

Wash dishes right after dinner, dry them and put them away (doing this together, one washing, one drying really helps keeps things moving and takes less time than you'd think).

Make your bed in the morning.

If you don't have to go out to do laundry, then use the waiting-around time for other chores. Vacuum, straighten up a particular area.

Have a place for everything.

Bathroom cleaning can go pretty quickly once you get into the habit of it--I use Comet/Bon-Ami as a universal cleaner and just scrub everything down--the more often you do it, the easier it is--there's less to scrub at. Take turns at this.

Cat stuff I'm not familiar with, as I don't have a cat, but it can also be put into these boxes of "do it right away, don't put it off."

The huge thing is to get into the habit of it. Use each other--dishwashing time can be the time to talk about your day, go over random things, just chatting time. Do your part, and make sure the other person is too. Make it a routine. As things turn into a routine, get done over and over, they take less time(!), get easier(!), and don't seem nearly as daunting.
posted by that girl at 12:39 PM on March 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a big fan of setting a timer for thirty minutes and working until it goes off. If both of you do it, that's a whole lot of cleaning that gets done each day--it usually takes me two or three days of catching up, and then I end up spending about half of my timer time doing things like organizing books and cleaning out cabinets. I recommend keeping a list (even if it's just in your head) of "things to work on once the basic stuff like laundry and the dishes are done," and do those once you get the basic stuff under control.

It's completely shocking how little time it takes to do this stuff, I think.
posted by hought20 at 12:41 PM on March 20, 2007 [6 favorites]

Best answer: The checklist sugarfish mentioned does indeed seem to be on the web (assuming I have the right one). If you want something slightly more ridiculous, they also appear to have a similar checklist formatted like a periodic table.
posted by moss at 12:43 PM on March 20, 2007 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: OT tip: Stay-at-home moms hate it when people "envy" all their "free time".

Just to clarify - I didn't say it was free time, but if you're working at home, you can stick some laundry in the washer whenever you want. When you work outside the home, you physically cannot do these things, thus severely limiting the possible hours of the day when you can do these things.

Because I live in an apartment, everyone wants to do their laundry in the evenings after work, making it alltime warfare.

Also, it might help to figure out what the problem is before looking for a flylady-type solution. Is it clutter and too much stuff? Or just cat-hair-blanket-on-everthing combined with dust, crumbs and a shower with a 2 week old ring?

It's all of the above. It's keeping the place clutter free, which we've been working on, but also the basic keeping things actually CLEAN. My husband is asthmatic so it's really important we tackle the cleaning part of it to cut the dust.

Finally, while a cleaning service isn't in the cards right now, would outsourcing the laundry to one of those pay-by-the-pound places help out? Laundry piles are always my main problem.

Having to go somewhere takes away the convenience, I think ... it's a pain in the ass to lug it up & down 3 flights of stairs to wash it, but I think it would be even more of a pain in the ass to then have to lug it outside and bring it someplace.
posted by tastybrains at 12:45 PM on March 20, 2007

Response by poster: Total aside: Wow, the mods are really on the warpath today huh? I respond to a comment and it's gone before the page refreshes.
posted by tastybrains at 12:48 PM on March 20, 2007

Can you have someone come pick it up? When I lived in an apartment, I refused to schlep laundry down three flights of stairs. We had a guy come twice a month, take all our laundry, and bring it back the next day. It definitely made a big difference and was worth the money.
posted by sugarfish at 12:48 PM on March 20, 2007

Response by poster: Can you have someone come pick it up? When I lived in an apartment, I refused to schlep laundry down three flights of stairs. We had a guy come twice a month, take all our laundry, and bring it back the next day. It definitely made a big difference and was worth the money.

Believe it or not, I actually tried to find something like this. I was only able to find one place that does fold & wash laundry locally, and it's not really convenient to where I am located and they don't pick up or drop off. I wish. I think maybe these services are more common in urban areas - where I am at is pretty suburban, so most people except those in my complex probably have washers & dryers.
posted by tastybrains at 12:56 PM on March 20, 2007

Even though the Sidetracked Home Executives (two sisters, slobs and disorganized, use a file card system to improve their lives and clean up their homes) recommend Flylady, you might like their stuff better than the Flylady system that nags you on email all day. I think it's more adaptable to what works for your home and family situation.
posted by anitar at 1:25 PM on March 20, 2007

I sort of do flylady stuff, but not all the way, cause, well, I work all day, etc. So I do stuff of Flylady's that I think is a good idea, (like, doing one new habit at a time, working for 15mins and taking a break) and ignoring the rest of the stuff, because frankly some of it's pretty darn cheezy, and just not really important (it's just the two of us, I clean the bathroom weekly, not every morning. Frankly, I'm curious about anyone who needs to clean their toilet daily, and what their diet consists of...)

To cut back on cat hair, I have a swiffer, a gigantic lint roller I got at Target, and the cat's couch covered in an old blanket I try to wash once a week or so.

The cat also gets baths, which he hates.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:25 PM on March 20, 2007

Best answer: I have one apartment laundry tip that's saved me lots of time:

- Sort your laundry the night before -- set it up with the basket full of clothes, detergent and a stack of quarters in front of the door.

- In the morning, the minute you wake up, shuffle it down into the washers. Go back upstairs and set an alarm for 1/2 hour later (then nap or eat breakfast or whatever).

- Shuffle back down and put the stuff in the dryer. Set an alarm for 50 min later. Get ready for work.

- Head down to the machines one more time, take the clothes out of the dryer and lay them flat on your bed to fold when you get home.

My husband and I do this once a week each (so, twice a week), and laundry no longer rules our evenings or weekends. I'm too sleepy to even notice I'm doing a chore. Breaking the sorting, washing and folding into three chunks of time makes it less daunting. And I never have to fight for a machine early in the a.m.
posted by limeswirltart at 1:44 PM on March 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

Your Laundry Dilemma: I'm trying to reformat my mornings with a solution that might also work for you: put a load of laundry in first thing in the morning, switch it to the dryer before you leave for work, have husband take it out of the dryer when it's done.
This obviously only works if your husband leaves for work as least a half-hour after you do, but you get the idea. It also works way better if you "pre-sort" your laundry, so you can just grab a bag and go, rather than spend morning time sorting.
Alternatively, the pay-by-the-pound thing might actually be perfect for you - you only have to lug the laundry to and from the car/laundromat once, and you can do it on your schedule, instead of having to 'free up' the building's dryers.

Modifying FlyLady: I've taken some of her tips, and made my own modified chore list in Excel, which helped immensely. It has weekly tasks and monthly tasks, and I print a new sheet each month. Whenever one of us does a chore, my husband or I put our initials in that chore's box for that week. Each week has a zone, flylady-style, so that "vacuuming" for the week only relates to one zone (part of the apartment). This was great for seeing who does what and how often. We actually weaned ourselves off of the monthly chore list, and have been doing OK without it for several months now.
That's just one example of how to modify flylady stuff. I still clean my sink when I want to feel more in control of my kitchen grime, though.

The right tools also make cleaning much faster and easier. I just got a microfiber wet/dry dust/mop thing at Target that has made cleaning a little easier.
This book has some good tips.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 1:52 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 1. Do your laundry only once a week and do your laundry at the laundromat. It really does save time - you can usually get ALL of your laundry done in an hour and a half. Bring hubby along with you and while you're waiting for your laundry, play a game of Scrabble or talk or read.

If you NEED to do a mid-week wash, only do a wash and then bring the clothes back up to the apartment and either hang them to dry on a line somewhere in your apt or lay them out (on the bed) to dry.

2. Don't go to bed until the kitchen is clean. Have all the dishes washed, dried and put away. It's so nice to wake up in the morning to a clean kitchen.

3. De-clutter. Seriously. We recently moved and I made sure to de-clutter the house before putting it on the market. I can not stress enough how much easier it was to keep the house clean when it was de-cluttered.

4. Vacuum the high traffic areas once a day. Not a big deal - but it forces you to pick your stuff off the floor. Seeing those vacuum lines will make you smile, too!

5. Do what you can when you can. While you're letting the water get hot for your shower, take some cleaner and a sponge and clean out the bathroom sinks. Clean the toilet. It only takes a few seconds and by the time you are done, your shower will be ready! While you're waiting for the macaroni to cook, scrub out the kitchen sink. While you're watching tv - fold laundry.

6. Keep cleaners VERY handy. If you have more than one bathroom - make sure you have cleaners in each bathroom so that not having cleaners on hand can't be your excuse. Same with the kitchen. Have your kitchen cleaners in the kitchen. And Sprout the Vulgarian had it right - the right tools do make a difference. That doesn't mean you need fancy stuff, but if you have windows and mirrors in the house, make sure you have window cleaner and paper towels handy.
posted by Sassyfras at 2:20 PM on March 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

When I read your question, what jumped out at me was, "My husband and I are trying to work out our household chores angst." There's a reason that you two aren't cleaning and tidying, and you need to figure out what it is so you can come up with a solution. I know you don't have the training and the habits that some other people have, but that's only part of the problem.

You really do know that you need a place for everything, but you probably haven't designated assigned locations. What's stopping you? Do the two of you disagree over where things should go? Do you have a nagging feeling that you wouldn't actually follow through? Does the job of creating places for all the things just seem too daunting? Or... what? It's easy for someone to tell me I need to reduce clutter and throw out stuff I don't use, but the reality is that I don't know where to start, and once I get down to it, I argue with myself about whether every item should stay or go. I'm thinking you might have unspoken worries about cleaning and organizing.

Not trying to make this into some big psychological thing, but two intelligent people living in a dusty, messy place -- there's a reason. 'Laziness' is code for "I have trouble getting motivated" or, more often, "Something is holding me back."
posted by wryly at 2:32 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: First off, there are some really *great* answers here! Keep 'em coming!

What's stopping you? Do the two of you disagree over where things should go? Do you have a nagging feeling that you wouldn't actually follow through?

Ok...there are a few things.

1. Each of us are packrats in our own ways. I attach sentimental value to way too many things and thus can't part with useless things easily, even though I know that eventually these are things I am going to stuff in the attic until one day my grandkids look at them and say "WTF?" and pitch it out. My husband on the other hand is a packrat in that he's an engineer who loves to tinker. He keeps every little random screw & scrap of wire "just in case" he might need it for a future project. Because you never know. However, this is less of an issue than the actual cleaning / chores routine stuff. Next year we are buying a house and I can store my sentimentals (mostly stuff from my mom & grandmother who are both deceased) in the attic, and he will have a workshop for all his "just in case" gadgetry. We're not as bad with other clutter except for ...

2. Paper clutter. Right before the wedding, I was stuffing all non-urgent mail and paperwork into large shopping bags. I wound up with FIVE shopping bags stuffed to the gills with mail. We're just really bad with the mail and tackling it as it comes in, though I've only got one shopping bag left, and I'm at least throwing the catalogs in the trash right away, the stuff that needs to be shredded in a specific "shredder food" box, and everything else...well that stays on the kitchen table until the cats knock it on the floor.

3. Yeah we have trouble getting motivated. Who wants to clean? Husband likes to think he cleans as he goes, and while we can debate whether he actually does this, that's his cleaning philosophy. I on the other hand can be really messy, but on weekends I go into a cleaning frenzy where I will carve out an entire day just to catch up on the basics. But this is a waste of a weekend and I usually don't even make a dent in what I want to get done.

I just want us to have a routine where we split up the chores or rotate them in a fair way, and have some sort of system to ensure they get done often enough to prevent nasty buildup. I'm all about making things easier. For example, the litterbox was getting to be a pain in the butt, so I got a self-cleaning litterbox. Do they make self-cleaning apartments?

It's just really important to me to figure this out before we move into a larger space and before we have kids, because I can't imagine it getting any easier.
posted by tastybrains at 2:52 PM on March 20, 2007

This may be a baaaad idea . . . but . . . as for your clutter - I understand. You should see our garage. Stuff everywhere. I know there is important stuff out there but I don't have the time or motivation to go through it now. But one day I will. And it's a comfort knowing it's out there somewhere should I want it. I understand you not wanting to throw stuff away, especially if it's sentimental.

But what to do with it? I hate taking the time to sort stuff. What I've done, is just throw stuff in a box and put it in the garage or storage unit or attic - wherever. It gets it out of the house at least and I don't have to deal with it. Then, I'm basically clutter-free and can therefor start a cleaning routine.

Do you have a storage unit you could use to store your stuff? Get it out of the way for now. Focus on your apartment and maybe one by one, go through a box here and there.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:10 PM on March 20, 2007

Best answer: If you like any of this basic plan, do all of the things mentioned BUT implement it in a limited way to start with. Just the bathroom, or just the kitchen. Or just the mail. Or start with just weeding out the mail and getting the bed made for a week. Get some success under your belt, and then do more. And remember, preventing things form getting worse is actually an improvement.

List all chores, maybe even breaking them down more than you normally think of them. It's easy to clump them together again later if it makes sense. Cleaning the kitchen is really several steps, for example. (It doesn't have to make sense. I unload the dishes, and my husband unloads the utensils. I do all the loading and pan-washing while he deals with the mail. It's the only way we can stand dishwasher duty and paperwork.)

Define your terms. Cleaning the bathroom sink means using some kind of cleaner and a sponge/rag/paper towel, not just splashing water. Normal evening kitchen clean-up doesn't include mopping the floor every time.

Divide up the chores. go down the list, alternating between the two of you, each choosing one chore per turn. Flip a coin to see who starts.

Decide how often each thing should be done. This can be changed -- don't worry! Just take a stab at it.

State specifically when each chore should be completed. This prevents you from running out with the trash just as the truck is leaving the neighborhood -- and it also involves less thinking.

Make a FEW rules. All dishes should be rinsed and stacked to one side of the sink. The bathroom has to be completely tidy every time you leave it. Kitchen must be cleaned before you go to bed. That kind of thing.
posted by wryly at 4:20 PM on March 20, 2007 [3 favorites]

FlyLady drives me nuts with her cheerful cheeziness (and I always have to remind myself she has no children at home) but some of her thoughts work for us. DH and I struggle mightily over this one, and I'm avidly reading this thread for ideas.

We do better when we formulate some routines, a la Flylady-eg running a load of dishes every day and getting them put away right away. Getting laundry put away. Making the bed. Nights when I set the timer for fifteen minutes and everyone in the house works on one area, like the living room lead to amazing progress. The Sidetracked Home Executives mentioned above say that "laundry [or the dishes] isn't done til it's dried, folded, and put away". Getting rid of the piles makes a huge difference.

We also do better when we have people over a lot, as I've learned we are both completely externally motivated when it comes to cleaning. I like my house clean but am lazy and can live with it pretty messy, but don't like to have it that way when folks come over.

And hey, OP wasn't implying that folks working at home have an idyllic life of leisure, I don't think. I work 30 hours a week now and have two children, including a one year old, and while my life is really crazy, I do have opportunities to get some things done that I didn't when I was working 50 hours a week. For instance, I never run the dryer when I'm not home, so I have a lot more time to get the laundry running now than I did before.
posted by purenitrous at 6:00 PM on March 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Not necessarily true. I personally know someone with 4 children (including twin toddlers) and a fifth on the way who does not lead the idyllic life of leisure you imagine.

I never once claimed that being a SAHM was an idyllic life of leisure. I'm sorry that your friend doesn't have much time to relax...I guess having an outrageous number of kids can do that to you. However, this thread has absolutely nothing to do with being a stay-at-home-parent, it has to do with working couples keeping their place together. I mentioned SAHMs twice: (1) To explain that FlyLady is geared towards SAHMs and thus suggests things that are physically impossible for a working person like doing laundry at 10 am, and (2) To explain that for some people who spend their day in the same building as a washer and dryer, laundry is at least a possibility whereas it isn't for someone who spends their day in a different building.

I am sorry if my non-parent, full-time employment status is so upsetting, but that's what this thread is about. Two DINKS who want a clean place.
posted by tastybrains at 6:05 PM on March 20, 2007 [3 favorites]

Oh relax, everyone. I'm working from home right now (kidlessly) and it's undeniably never been easier to keep a clean house.

Here's my biggies:

1. Absolutely declutter, especially knickknacks. I don't know how you get motivated to do that. For us, it was a cross-country move. Everytime you pick up an nonessential object in your house imagine the cost and pain of moving it a thousand miles or so. If you wouldn't do that, chuck it.
2. Clean as you go. While I'm waiting for things to cook, I'm washing up and cleaning counters. Generally, as soon as dinner's over, I do the dishes and pans. As I get ready in the bathroom, I wipe down the sink. It's just automatic and mindless with me and that's how daily upkeep cleaning should be.
3. Good, handy equipment. Get stuff you like using and that works well for you. If you have mostly tile/wood floors, a Hoover Floormate cleans them fast -- a Roomba might be even better for you. Keep the floors dust-free, and you'll go a long way to helping with your husband's asthma. I keep antibacterial wipes under the kitchen and bathroom sinks for fast cleanups. If you're frugal, a spray bottle of white vinegar cut with a little water stinks like hell but cleans counters and glass like a charm.
4. Frequent light cleaning. If you clean the toilet and tub every few days you'll never have to use elbow grease or feel sick doing it. Again, keep the stuff handy and do it in the morning, along with making your bed. It'll make your blood move and make you feel better about your day.

Those things, and keeping most things in cabinets (where they won't collect dust), are the most useful things I've done. I can't deal with systems and reminders and nagging so I just do them. My husband's more of a "I'll take a few hours on Sunday and get this shit done" type so I just leave some of the bigger jobs to him, and we are all happy. (Oh yeah, and if I had to share laundry facilities I'd say screw it and drop it off to be done somewhere else because to hell with that.) Good luck.
posted by melissa may at 6:29 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer:
and I'm at least throwing the catalogs in the trash right away
Don't throw them out right away. Call and ask to be taken off of their damn mailing list, THEN throw them out. (Yes, I know this will take precious time, but think of it as a time savings account if you can actually stop getting some of these things.)

IF you're organized electronically (my room is a mess but my computer is kept squeaky clean) you can ask for digital bills, bank statements, and so on as well.

Also you might find this useful--I find that keeping stuff too long is as much or more of a problem then just keeping stuff in general (do I really need this paid bill from ten years ago?). You could possibly combine this with the Getting Things Done method, where you keep a folder for each month and file things as they come in into the folder that they should be thrown out by, then each month just glance through that folder and toss things.
posted by anaelith at 6:34 PM on March 20, 2007

Oh and I forgot -- get a shredder and keep it next to your desk. I just funnel all junk mail directly into it -- sometimes it piles up a bit but never like it did before I had one. Pretend you're Fawn Hall and Oliver North is screaming into the intercom for you to hurry before the godless Dems come to indict you both. I get through most of life's drudgery in a similar fashion and I highly recommend it.
posted by melissa may at 6:36 PM on March 20, 2007 [3 favorites]

I was a sentimental hoarder, as was my mother, and my mother's mother before her. Long story, but I got stuck with a house full of another family's stuff and that cured me of my hoarding.

Now, I choose a certain number of items that I will keep (such as "I will keep 20 items from my grade school days" or "I will keep as many items as fit in this box") and the rest get donated and/or dumped. It's like going shopping with my own stuff.

I hear you on the Fly Lady stuff. That woman sends SO many emails in a day. I think she should have Fly Lady Light. And I hear you on the laundry issue. I've been a SWW, a DINK, a DINK who works at home, and now I'm a WAHM. (whew!) Even though the kid keeps me running, I can multi-task on laundry and cleaning the bathroom. In fact, I don't think I cleaned the bathroom as thoroughly as before I had to camp out at bathtime.
posted by jeanmari at 6:36 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm going through the same thing right now. I loosely follow Flylady and Real Simple, sort of blending them until they work for me. I prefer to do quick hits of cleaning every day followed by a more intensive (maybe 30 minutes) once or twice a week.

In terms of chore breakdown: what do you hate or aren't good at? What are you okay with? What about your husband? For example, I'm not a great cook and somewhat enjoy doing dishes, so my SO does the cooking and I do the dishes. I hate unloading the dishwasher, but don't mind doing the toilet (strange now that I re-read those last two lines). I feel very strongly about clean countertops, but I'm not great at putting my clothes away. So if you start with that, at least you guys are doing things you either don't mind doing, or would prefer over something else. If there's something you both loathe, maybe you take turns.

In terms of general clutter, I've found the biggest improvement has been the "having a place for everything" rule and all the various questions about whether or not you need something (most times, you don't).

I also implemented a "temporary stuff" box where every day I go through and "sweep" my house of all the random stuff that clutters surfaces and doesn't seem to have an obvious home. Once a week goes by or the box gets full, I make myself find a home for it. If there's no home for it after an extended amount of time, clearly I don't really need it and I get rid of it. This has helped keep my place clean on the surface (because it's all in a box) but it's also easy to go through the box and distribute the items to their proper place. It's not as overwhelming as if I looked at a messy room and had to start cleaning. The trick is to actually clean out the box and not just hide it away like the bags of mail though.

Finally, visit to get yourself off the lists for credit card solicitations. I opted out and I hardly ever get junk mail any more. It makes me more willing to go through and read the important mail when the pile isn't so overwhelming.

In terms of getting motivated, give it three weeks - once you see the difference, that might be enough. Plus I read somewhere 21 days is the amount of time it takes for something to become a habit. :)
posted by ml98tu at 8:36 PM on March 20, 2007

Best answer: (Mrs. derMax speaking here)

After subscribing to the FlyLady mailing list for ages and letting 7000+ unread messages pile up, I realized I wasn't getting much out of it. I'm half of a DINK myself, and not living in the same time zone as the Flyladies I was getting reminders to get up and put my shoes on at 2pm my time. Didn't work too well. I also got hives at the 'aww my cute 3 year old is blessing my house with her toddler-sized feather duster' tone.

However, you can take away some of the FlyLady wisdom. For example, the 57 thing boogie (disposing of/putting back etc. 57 things at a time, rather than like trying to clean out your whole basement in a weekend) or making sure to go to bed with a clean sink. Tackling one zone to straighten out at a time can work too.

As for reminders to do can set yourself reminders, with an online system like Remember The Milk, or with index cards. Or I don't know..get your mom to bug you? (My mom does this semi-annually and inadvertently by coming here for a visit, which is great motivation for a deep cleaning session.)

If you prefer organization and cleanup-type books with a less gushy tone than SHEs and the FlyLady, here are some books that may appeal:

For organizing your space logically and de-cluttering: Organization From the Inside Out, by Julie Morgenstern This one really really helped get our house in reasonable order.

For beautifying your space, another motivation for de-cluttering: Apartment Therapy: The Eight Week Home Cure.

For cleaning your house efficiently: Speed Cleaning and Spring Cleaning (two books) by The Clean Team.

For getting your life together generally, time management: Getting Things Done. GTD works even for keeping up with laundry!
posted by derMax at 8:53 PM on March 20, 2007 [3 favorites]

Flylady calls people like you "Payroll SHEs" and has recommendations that you adapt her system to fit your own life. The principles of having a morning and evening routine, for example should work whether or not you do (outside the home that is.)

Her system is not set up for fast results-it is set up to form habits. Once you have that understanding it is relatively simple to adapt it to one's life circumstance.

Oh, and do get a timer if you do nothing else.
posted by konolia at 9:51 PM on March 20, 2007

A couple of ideas.

Split up the work along preference lines. Make sure it's fair, obviously, but I'd say wet areas for your hubby, dry for you. Mainly because the wet areas are better suited to a clean as you go philosophy, whilst vacuuming is more of a weekly blitz.

Have systems/routines for things that get out of hand easily. I always wash the dishes before going to bed, though this has more to do with cockroaches than anything, but it does keep the kitchen clean. For the mail, have a pin up board or box for the bills etc, a "to be filed" box (which you do eventually have to empty, but at least you know where it is, and if it's in a box, it's neat), a recycling/rubbish bin, and the shedder all in the same sensible place. By the phone or computer is generally obvious. Then you can sort the stuff as you walk in. Doing a walk through returning stuff to where it's meant to be before you go to bed is also a useful one.

Obviously your laundry needs something similar, but I'll leave that to you, because I can't think of anything good. Could you maybe take the dirty laundry downstairs on your way to work in the morning and put it somewhere safe? Then you might be more likely to do it as soon as you get home, because you don't have to go back up the stairs and get it. I'd then have an agreement that the other person has to go and get it and bring it upstairs.
posted by kjs4 at 10:48 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well, I brought my A-game in my comment yesterday, but in light of everyone else's comments, I have a bit to add:

I find that if my husband and I clean the apartment at the same time, we end up doing more cleaning than if one of us tries to clean alone. Even if he's vacuuming the couch and I'm emptying the dishwasher, there's a solidarity to it that's heartening. Sometimes these tandem-cleaning moments arise spontaneously; he starts straightening up, and I jump in to help.

My chore list/spreadsheet, mentioned above, could be a really useful initial way to gauge what is getting done, and who is doing it. We found that I was WAY more likely to clean the bathroom as I go along (a la Sassyfras' advice), and he is better at remembering to take out the garbage on trash night. So there's a natural division of labor there that we work with, instead of trying to alternate. But neither of us remember to vacuum, so we both have to work on that.
Once you know what is/isn't getting done, you can address the problem areas with the chart, or coin-flip, or whatever.

wryly's advice about having a way, or expectation, for how each task gets done is HUGE. Maybe you and your husband could write up a little household manual for how to do each cleaning task. Cute!

When we first moved in together before we were married, I couldn't understand why my then-boyfriend had such a hard time cleaning/tidying up. After talking to him about it, it turned out he just didn't know where stuff went, so he couldn't put it away.
Have a designated place for EVERYTHING. Even stupid stuff that you don't think needs a place. For instance, clothing left in living areas goes on the owner's side of the bed. Papers left in living areas goes on the owner's desk chair. Now we can clean up after each other, without being afraid we're putting things in the wrong place!
Have Boxes, Will Label. Get some cheap, (deep) shelves, and put some boxes on them. I re-use shipping boxes like from amazon or wherever. Push the top flaps in so the box is always open, and label the side with what's inside: First-Aid; Toiletries; Electric cables; Cat Toys/Grooming; Stationery; etc. Now you both know where those things go. If you don't want to see the boxes, get a cabinet instead of shelves.
This, by the way, will become AWESOME when you have to pack to move.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 7:53 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Mail - I have a "No Junk Mail" sign, which curtails most of the junk. Bills, I pay online as soon as I get in the door and file away in the filing cabinet hidden away in the closet. I then recycle any junk mail, and the envelopes/extraneous material included with the bills. I could probably have a separate garbage pail in my office for all of this recycling stuff, but it's easy enough to just toss the papers in the recycling bin.

Clutter - I make it a habit of NOT having clutter anywhere. If I leave a pile of cds next to my cd storage - it magically accumulates more cds. If I have a magazine or book on my coffee table, they magically multiply. Dishes in the sink? You guessed it... I curtail this by putting things back in their place as soon as possible. My coffee table has drawers, and I toss whichever book I'm reading in there. If I start to notice clutter accumulating, I put the items back in their place. If there is no place, I find one.

Kitchen - When I do dishes I wipe down the counter top and around the sink. I often use my dishwasher as a drying rack, so I don't have to look at drying dishes in a dish rack - and don't have to spend the extra time drying them. When dinner is over, I do the dishes. Unless I have company, in which case I'll probably use the dishwasher for its actual purpose, or wait and clean them afterwards.

Dust - I have hardwood floors, so I don't have to do much vacuuming. But I try and give a good sweep every couple of weeks, and spot-dust/sweep more often than that.

Bedroom - I read somewhere (Home Comforts, probably) that you should let the bed 'air' before making it - so I usually get up, shower, eat, and make the bed just before I brush my teeth and head to work.

Bathroom - This is all about spot cleaning for me. I keep everything I need to clean it under the sink, and address issues as they arise. It would probably help to keep the bathroom counter a littler drier than I sometimes do, though.

My parents are pack rats, and not exactly clean, so I seem to have taken a super minimalist stance. I'm probably a little overly minimalist, but it keeps things neat. I live alone which helps in that I'm the only one responsible when things get messy, but also means I'm the only one responsible for cleaning.
posted by backwards guitar at 8:05 AM on March 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: You are all geniuses.

I can't wait until our place is nice & clean for good!
posted by tastybrains at 9:12 AM on March 21, 2007

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