Thursday, March 6, 2008

Housekeeping Made Easy aka The Old-Fashioned Approach aka Routines for Routine-Haters

Disclaimer: This new housekeeping plan is as yet completely untested. I've only been doing it for a week.

First of all, here are my two little cliche catch phrases that motivate, encourage and calm me.

"A chore a day keeps the grime away."

"Something is better than nothing."

I'm sure these remarks have been uttered many a time by housekeepers the world over, but as I myself do not recollect having heard them in conjunction with housekeeping before, I shall now proceed brashly to claim authorship of said phrases.

Second of all, I mentioned I've been praying about the state of my house for years. I'm here to tell you no lasting housekeeping change shall ever be effected if not accompanied by an equally monumental change of heart. Which is entirely God's business. In other words, step one for me in keeping my house was: pray about it.

Now. My husband is a great project-starter. Unfortunately for him, I have always championed project-finishers, one of which I am. (This fondness for fellow project-finishers is no surprise. We all love ourselves.)

However, project finishers are not great project starters. In other words, if they don't see that a project can be worked from start to finish in a foreseeable amount of time, they do not deign to attempt the project at all.

This runs me into a snag when it comes to my home. A BIG snag. For example, if I can't do all three loads of dishes in one sitting, I do no dishes at all. If I can't fold all eleven loads of laundry in one afternoon, I fold no laundry at all. If I can't enforce the putting away of every single toy that has been got out, I don't enforce the putting away of any toys at all. You get the idea.

But my project-starter husband has helped me to see the error of my ways. Not by preaching me sermons, bless him, but by doing something. By starting. I believe God made it clear to my heart, after my years of praying, that my husband has the right idea. Just start. Just do something. Something is better than nothing.

In this way, I've tricked myself into having a cleaner home. Because once I start, and I see that progress has been made, I am motivated to continue, and possibly, even, to finish.

My other catch phrase, 'a chore a day keeps the grime away', is the premise of my system, which I now probably don't need to explain, as I'm sure you're all light years ahead of me already.

BUT.

Here's what made the difference for me. Here's the thing that suddenly made all the pieces fall into place in my mind. Here's how I broke through my barrier of a perpetually chaotic home.

After I took that personality test, the post about which prompted this post, and I realized I'd been trying to be something I'm not, and I realized I couldn't keep my house clean linearly because I'm not linear, I sat down with my little brain notebook, found a blank page, and wrote 'House' at the top in red pen. Then I underlined it. Then I stared at it for a while.

I almost began to list the conventional, cultural housekeeping expectations I'd had my whole life, but then a new thought struck me:

I don't CARE about conventional housekeeping expectations. I don't CARE if I'm not Martha Stewart. I don't CARE what the FlyLady thinks I should do every day.

This mental loosing of myself from the bonds of tradition gave my 'house' page wings. Instead of making an intensive list of preconceived tasks I had been repeatedly told must be included in every good housekeeping system, I wrote down three questions.

1) What do *I* care about when it comes to my house?
2) What bothers *me* the most about my house?
3) What does *my* family need?

I then made three columns and listed the answers to my questions.

I care about:
being presentable
clean children
clutter
easy cleaning
daily routine
time for devotions

I hate:
messy floors
blocked walkways
unavailable seats

My family needs:
clean clothes
clean dishes
sanitized surfaces

I had conversed briefly the previous day with a friend whose house is 'together' about what she does, and she said she uses the old 3x5 card system, with, in essence, two chores a day on it. You pull out the card, do your two things, and you're done for the day.

Simple.

I acquired 3x5 cards.

I made 3 per day. Dawn, Morning and Evening.

I filled them up with tasks pertaining to what works for me and my family.

I listed 2 unique chores per day (one cleaning chore and one clutter chore), and a few 'every day' things.

I then gave myself permission to view these cards as a guideline. An ideal. A great idea. NOT a rule. NOT a taskmaster. NOT a condemnation in the event of deviation, which would most assuredly occur.

I then decided to focus on implementing just the Dawn Routine. And just the first thing on the Dawn Routine (for now). And I decided if I happened to do any of the things from my other 2 routines, it was just a bonus. A nice treat. Above and beyond the call.

I have made one solitary rule regarding these routines. If I do ONE THING from ONE of the cards, then as far as housekeeping is concerned, that day was a success. Something is better than nothing.

Incidentally, I like the 3x5 cards better than the FlyLady binder journal thing because they're small. They're just clipped together with a binder clip, and I can take them all over the house. Plus, they're not nearly as intensive. And I don't have to flip pages to get to the current task. It's always on the top card. Whatever part of the day I'm in, that's the card that's on top.

So. Here's my system that works for me and my little family, basically in list form.

Oh. I also made a rule about my computer. Blogging is my BLACK HOLE. So I made a rule about computer time. (Which I always break, and which I've given myself the freedom to break. No legalism allowed!)

Oh. Also, I took all those big overwhelming tasks that I never start because I can't finish, and broke them up into little, tiny, bite-sized chunks. Each part of the task gets done every day, but they're all on different cards. So I've tricked myself into not being overwhelmed by them. Example: "I'm not really doing all the dishes right now. I'm just emptying the dishwasher." "I'm not really doing all the laundry right now. I'm just putting the wash into the dryer."

Oh. Also, I put my unique chores on the morning routine card, because I'm not a night person.

Oh. Also, I added fun beauty things to my routine. Paint nails. Put lotion on feet.

My unique cleaning chores are:

M - clean toilets
T - clean bathroom counters/walls
W - sweep floors
Th - wipe down boys' computer area
F - wipe down LR tables/hearth

My unique clutter chores are:

M - media clutter
T - shelf clutter
W - dining table clutter
Th - boys' computer area clutter
F - LR tables/hearth clutter

And my daily routines look basically like this Monday sample:

Monday Dawn (rule: no computer)

get up at 5 am
make coffee
empty dishwasher
put wash in dryer
devotions
read non-fiction (to avoid the Black Hole)
breakfast @ 7 am

Monday Morning (rule: no computer until work is done)

bathe & shave
wash face (mask)
brush teeth
clean toilets
fold clothes
media clutter
paint nails

Monday Evening (rule: after work is done, Jeff before computer)

clear floors
clear furniture
gather laundry
put load in washer
start dishwasher (which I've been loading all day a dish at a time)
wipe off counters
brush teeth and chew gum (to avoid late night snacks)

In addition to these routines, I made two sets of task lists for the boys.

Boys Before School:

go potty
eat breakfast
brush teeth
get dressed

Boys Before Bed:

pick up toys
bathe
brush teeth
go potty
story time
pray/sing
lights out

There you have it, folks. If I do everything on my 3x5 cards, my house is how I want it every day. I'll let you know how it goes.

I pray that in a month I won't look wistfully back on this post and wish I could have stuck with it.

I pray that in a month (or two or six) I'll be able to attest to having mastered my Dawn Routine and moved on to the conquering of my Morning Routine.

For the time being, I can say I am very much enjoying having coffee every morning (and thereby being able to stay awake long enough to make it through my prayer cards and Beth Moore study. See the forward momentum?)