If It's Thursday, I Must Be Churning
June 6, 2008 12:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in becoming more organized and consistent with my housework routine.

Recently I started assigning different tasks to different days, so that I would be able to say "Okay, it's Tuesday, I need to water all the houseplants" instead of wondering "Yikes, when did I last water the houseplants?"

In that vein, I remember an old poem about housework:

"Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday."

I wonder if it's really possible to organize household chores in that way (obviously the poem would need to be modernized). What kinds of chores would work in that model, and what kinds wouldn't? Do you do your housework based on a daily or weekly routine? And if so, what types of chores get their very own day?
posted by amyms to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
I should add that up to this point, my housework routine has always been to just haphazardly do everything that needs to be done to keep everyone alive and healthy, and to keep at least the living room, kitchen and bathroom presentable for guests. So far, it's workable, but I feel like my house is always in a state of controlled chaos. I'd like to feel more organized and efficient, and to have more of a game-plan when I start my day.
posted by amyms at 12:47 AM on June 6, 2008

You should check out the FlyLady. Her system is based on building a set of routines - daily routines, weekly and monthly routines. You will want to check out the section on the Control Journal which is where you details your routines. I think you find it just what you are looking for.
posted by metahawk at 12:50 AM on June 6, 2008

I have browsed the FlyLady site when I've been in what I refer to as my "Dorothy Domestic" moods, metahawk, but I haven't checked it out in ages. Thanks for reminding me!
posted by amyms at 12:59 AM on June 6, 2008

I can recommend having a look at Speed Cleaning, an Australian book I got after it was recommended in some magazine. It breaks it down to a particular room for each day (Monday: Bedroom(s), Tuesday: Lounge/Dining Room, Wednesday: Bathroom, etc.) and has a whole chapter full of tips for each room on how to work more efficiently. It also has some very helpful hints on what to do if the house is a mess and you have unexpected guests!

I like it particularly because it tends to focus on greener and more economical cleaning rather than commercial detergents. (Basically, you can clean pretty much anything with bicarb and/or vinegar.)

I managed a couple of weeks of sticking rigidly to the routine before slipping, but still use the basic principals.
posted by dogsbody at 1:47 AM on June 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm not huge on doing housework, but I like housework done because it gives my mind a little free space. I've tried some of the flylady stuff, but frankly the site is so...messy...that I don't trust the advice even as I get fed up looking for it.

One day when I wasn't looking for anything in particular at the bookstore, I found and have since been using Home Comforts, The Art and Science of Keeping House. It's a reference book and big-picture housekeeping advice book, too, with sections on just about everything. There is a section on how to create your own daily/weekly/seasonal approach to basic chores, with some history on why things fell to certain days as in your poem above, and suggestions about what might make sense for a modern life. It's well written and immediately useful and I recommend it highly.

The other resource I've used is the about.com section on housekeeping called 15 Minute Cleanups for Every Room. They're not a strategy for a whole-house system, but they're much more accessible to me than the flylady. They're also easy to print out and leave covertly in each room. Mr Cocoa knows where they are (and Baby Cocoa will be indoctrinated when the time comes) so we know there's a cheat sheet available when we do a group clean (which is not that often...).
posted by cocoagirl at 3:39 AM on June 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

When I was a kid, mum washed sheets and towels on Saturday - boys sheets and kids towels one week, girls sheets and parents towels the next. This had the (doubtless unintended) side effect of making sure we were all up and out of bed at a reasonable hour, at least every second Saturday.
posted by jacalata at 4:09 AM on June 6, 2008

Amyms, I hear you. I moved recently and am trying to figure out what works and when. Flylady's intentions are wonderful but I found myself overwhelmed by the emails. "Home Comforts" has been amazing as a reference work and chapter 2, "Easing Into a Routine," is what you're looking for as an organizational starting point. Your local library may have or be able to obtain a copy for you.

It's much easier to keep house when there is routine. For me, it's wash and baking on Mondays; bathroom cleanup on Tuesdays; grocery shopping on Wednesdays; gardening and cooking throughout the weekend. Then there are the daily tasks, like making beds, meals and cleanup, trash emptying and general wipe-downs (keep a spray bottle of 50/50 vinegar and water on hand -- you'd be amazed how much stuff it will clean up and how often you'll use it because it's there and portable).

In addition to the daily stuff, I have a rule: Clean up at least one thing each time I pass through a room. That can mean anything from throwing a baby toy in a basket to vacuuming. It also means that I am perpetually cleaning up somebody else's mess -- two small children and a shedder of a husband -- but visual clutter makes me nuts and I feel better in a tidy environment and know that I am making at least some progress toward that goal every time I pick something up.

This means having "stuff stations," established spots for things that need to be put away later. One stuff spot is a stair basket at the foot of the stairs and at the end of the day it comes up and gets sorted out. Recycling and car-bound objects go by the front door. The keys for me have been to limit the number of stations (otherwise, there are piles everywhere); to make sure stuff gets to those stations; and to deal with these places daily. It doesn't matter when the recycling goes out, as long as it goes out. If I had to do morning recycling every day, I think I'd go insane. As long as I know it will happen at some point, I feel better.

Flylady, IIRC, recommends one new habit every 30 days. I can't commit to that because the scheduling aspect seems so oppressive. But I can do some things every day and not be paralyzed by it. Remember, your system doesn't have to be perfect, just workable.

Good luck.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:47 AM on June 6, 2008

Flylady works better if you subscribe and just follow the emails.
posted by konolia at 7:09 AM on June 6, 2008

monkey toes hit on a very important concept- every thing has a place. Any object in your house has a spot where it belongs and can be returned to. That way when you are cleaning/straightening up, you don't have to go through the mental nightmare of trying to fit all your stuff into not enough space. Once you've got that (giant) project out of the way, cleaning up is just a matter of putting the puzzle back together. And that will probably help the rest of the family stay tidy.

And, as well, makes the cleaning and straightening process go way faster.
posted by gjc at 8:01 AM on June 6, 2008

adding to the flylady fan club. the website might not be to up to your sensibilities, but the advice is golden.
posted by allthingsbright at 8:18 AM on June 6, 2008

I use a cleaning calendar that I made up myself which works pretty well for keeping my apartment at what is a pretty acceptable level (I think) of non-sloppiness and organization. I do live in a fairly small space (two bedroom apartment), but when I was growing up my mother had a similar calendar for our house so I think it could scale upwards and still achieve basically the same effect. There are just three or four items for each day, of varying levels of difficulty and time-intensiveness, so I don't start feeling overwhelmed and decide I just don't want to do anything at all. For example:

clean bathroom sink (takes 20 seconds in the morning, I do this everyday since it's the first thing I look at in the morning)
mop floor
straighten up

clean bathroom sink
garbage (ie, empty all wastepaper baskets, take bag to dumpster if necessary, clean trash can if I really really feel like it)
wipe down shower

Other items that have their own day are vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing the kitchen sink, and cleaning the toilet. There are a few things that are monthly or twice monthly, like taking a look at the carpets to see if there are any spots or dingy places, or cleaning the windows. Since motivation is a problem for me, I don't try to make up for things I miss one day the next day (unless I just feel like it - but trying to force myself to do stuff has the opposite effect); I just wait until they show up on the calendar again.

Sometimes I'll notice when I'm doing something (usually straightening up, which is a twice-weekly thing) that it doesn't really need to be done that badly, in the past I probably just wouldn't have bothered. But I've noticed a lot of improvement in the way my home looks by keeping to a schedule; and it also makes for easier cleaning jobs - a lot of things now are maintaining a level of clean, rather than cleaning stuff that's really messy or dirty.
posted by frobozz at 8:40 AM on June 6, 2008

Check out the first post from PrettyPansies in the Retro Housewife forums.

Also, I want a butter churn.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:55 AM on June 6, 2008

Thanks everyone for the answers and the links. I recently decluttered several closets, cupboards and shelves in my house, getting rid of years'-worth of "stuff" that wasn't being used anymore. It was very exhilarating, and it makes the house feel fresher and tidier. I want to get myself on a better housework schedule in order to keep that feeling, so thanks for the good advice!
posted by amyms at 11:05 AM on June 6, 2008

You can take a look at my chore chart if you like. I just have have a 1-bedroom apartment and not a house, so there's less work overall, but that really helps me keep on top of things. It's also highly idealized -- I don't really dust every day, and more often than not we don't get to the things on the left hand side at all (keeping up with the daily cleaning makes it less necessary, or so I rationalize it). The idea isn't so much "must check everything off every day" as it is "I've got 15 minutes to clean up, what can I do with it?" Like MonkeyToes, almost all I ever use is vinegar and water in a big spray bottle -- it doesn't irritate my eyes at all, so I'm more likely to use it.

I've got my chore chart laminated and on my fridge, and it really helps me keep things straight. Feel free to modify it!
posted by shirobara at 11:35 AM on June 6, 2008

This is a really great post. Yay, another bit of routine with which to engage my obsessive list-making tendencies!

I tried using vinegar to clean stuff, but I just abhor the smell. I bought a big bottle of Mrs. Meyers Organic Cleaner Concentrate instead. You can put a couple tablespoons in a repurposed spray bottle, or a 1/4 cup in a bucket of mop water, or use it straight on harder stains... however you like. It smells great, and it's lasted me a long time.

but then again I really don't mop very much...
posted by GardenGal at 8:08 PM on June 6, 2008

« Older What influences do you come from?   |   Where to find Federweisser/Sturm, or something... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.