Usually in moments of complete overwhelm, I come to the conclusion that “something has to change”. Thankfully, rather than get in my car and drive away, sometimes I’m inspired to fix at least one small aspect of my otherwise chaotic life. The following fixes are by no means a complete guide to house-keeping, but rather a few habits that have helped me chip away at the task.
1. Sunday routine
On Sundays, the one day my husband doesn’t work (darn you six-day Mexican work-week!), I clean the whole house and plan the meals of the week. At the risk of totally boring you, I’m going to spell it out for those of you who need someplace to start.
I clean the kitchen which includes:
- clean the windows (fast not perfect!)
- wash the dishes
- wipe the counters (and put anything on the counter away)
- wipe the table and chairs
That’s it. Keep it simple.
Then I clean the bedroom and bath. I start with the dry tasks:
- clean the windows
- use the same rag to clean the ceiling fan blades
- strip the sheets
- pick anything up off the floor and sweep the floor
Then I move to the bathroom and:
- scrub the toilet
- spray and wipe the counter
- use the same rag to wipe the toilet
- wipe the walls if they need it (it’s a tiny bathroom, so this is easy)
Then I move back to the bedroom (they’re connected) and:
- put clean sheets on the beds
Voila! I have a tiny house. This is a major benefit of having a tiny house.
It’s important to use the same routine: the process becomes habit, and efficient, and there’s no time to second-guess yourself (or talk yourself out of doing part of it). I actually have it written down in my phone in the app Google Keep and referred to it the first few times.
Once that’s done, it’s time to meal plan. I use the free website pepperplate.com. It’s super easy to import your recipes (just copy and paste the url). Then when I plan the week, I just start typing on the day within the calendar “planner” section, and it automatically suggests the recipes I’ve imported. I do my grocery shopping daily, so I just hit “Add to List” and it will add that day’s ingredients to the shopping list section. Seriously so easy.
I resisted meal-planning for a long time. It seems so rigid. But it’s something that I read about so often and that has helped so many busy mothers, so I decided to try it. I feel so good when I have something great to offer my family when dinner-time rolls around. And it definitely helps us save money and not eat out.
It’s important for me to do all of this when my husband is home because otherwise who knows what the kids would get into. Doing the whole house just once a week keeps things kind of clean. Which is good enough for this stage of life! Having a scheduled time to do it means I don’t stress myself worrying about it, because I know it’ll get done on Sunday.
2. Get your supplies in place.
I have a bucket full of clean rags. I take the entire bucket with me, along with my spray cleaners (one glass, one surfaces), my broom, and my mop, and my mop bucket. The revolution for me here was getting a bucket and filling it with rags. It’s the little things, isn’t it? The alternative was grabbing two rags, starting the job, and then running back to the kitchen for more rags.
It’s important to get all the supplies together at once so that once you start, you’ll just effortlessly flow onto the next task. If you have to leave the room you’re cleaning to go get the mop or the broom, you risk being side-tracked and never coming back!
3. Get the kids to help clean after every meal.
The kids love throwing half-eaten apple wedges, cloth napkins, empty cups, whatever. It’s annoying. We tell them to stop, but I understand they’re impulsive and they will eventually stop. In the mean-time, we’ve instituted a clean-up time after every meal. Carlos and I sit at the table and hand them things and tell them where to put it: Ketchup bottle, in the fridge, half-eaten dinner, in the fridge, empty plate, in the sink. They’re learning! Even the baby loves to help out. Once the table is cleared off, I hand somebody a wet towel to wipe the table, while the others pick up any stray towels or cups or toys off the floor. Biggest brother has gotten the hang of sweeping. They make a big mess, but many hands make light work!
4. I bought a dust mop
If you have hard floors, do yourself a favor and buy a dust mop. I love my dust mop. I regret it took me this long to buy a dust mop. You will be astonished at how quickly you can sweep the floor. For the first two weeks I had it, I’d yell at Carlos, “Watch me sweep!!! Watch me!!! Look, I’m already done!!! Look at me and my dust mop!!! Are you watching??? Did you see??? One minute!!! That would have been fifteen with a regular broom!!! Look at me and my dust mop!!!”
Really. Stop what you’re doing and go buy one.
5. Touch it once.
When I take laundry off the line, rather than taking the basket of clean clothes to the bedroom and leaving them to go do something else, I insist on taking the time to put them away in the moment.
This also works for dishes. When putting a dish away, rather than just leaving it in the sink, wash it in the moment. “Touch it once”: once you’ve touched something, see the action through to the end.
This also works for brain-touches. What on earth is a brain-touch? Let’s say I’m walking from point A to B in my house and I see a sock on the floor. My brain has touched that sock. Best to pick it up and put it in the dirty hamper right away, so my brain won’t have to touch it again. See?
6. Podcasts Rock!
I have Serial (Season 1) to thank for this one. That’s a podcast, in case you’ve been living off-grid. Basically, I put in my earbuds and play my podcasts off my phone. Heaven is washing the dishes and listening to a fascinating program about something I’d never thought about before. Or scrubbing the bathroom and learning something unexpected. No really!
When I first started Serial, it was soooo addictive, that I’d finish all my housekeeping and look around for more to do because I didn’t want to stop listening.
If you’d like to join me, here in housekeeping heaven, download the app Stitcher (or iTunes for Apple people) and search for the following podcasts. Then click the little plus-sign to add the show to your “Favorites”. When it’s time to cook dinner, mop the floor, or my favorite, hang up laundry, just go to your favorites and see who’s posted a new episode.
Besides Serial, other favorites include:
Freakonomics, This American Life, 99% Invisible, Planet Money, Radiolab, TED Radio Hour, Revisionist History by Malcom Gladwell, On the Media, Katy Says, Respectful Parenting by Janet Lansbury, and Farmer to Farmer.
7. A Load of laundry a day
I have Flylady to think for this one. If I do laundry everyday, I never get behind. And as we learned in Touch it Once, laundry means the whole process: start a load, take yesterday’s wash off the line and put it away, then hang up the new load.
I also have two laundry baskets by the washing machine. When I’m done putting clean laundry away I take the dirty laundry from the bedroom to the washing machine and sort it. When it’s time to put a load in, I usually just switch every day between colors and whites.
I also have extra laundry baskets. Sometimes I just can’t put the laundry away in the moment. Having extra baskets is the difference between piles of clean clothes on beds that fall and merge with dirty clothes on the floor, and keeping everything neat until I get a chance to put them away.
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