I am a very messy person. I can effortlessly make enormous messes by never putting anything away, leaving things out 'for later', and putting things in piles... because, well, why not? I also have a gene which allows me to sit in the middle of this giant mess, reading a book and oblivious to the world. It's a wonder I have never lost a child in amongst it all, really. For very many years of my housekeeping life, I lived in a rather tumultuous mess that I alternately ignored, or which worried me terribly, because I wasn't quite sure what to do about it. Then a few years ago, fairly simultaneously with starting this blog, we started a huge renovation, which required that we pare down our possessions to the bone and live in about three rooms for several months. It nearly killed me.
But I realised something important. I need far less 'things' than I had imagined possible, the house looked very beautiful with hardly any possessions in it when it was finished, and I didn't ever want to go back to living in a big mess.
Over the last two years I have slowly developed a set of routines that I mindlessly follow everyday. I know if I do it all, all the time, the house will be spotless. I rarely do it all, but I do enough, enough of the time, that it looks fairly OK all the time. I have since realised that the reason I was so overwhelmed by housework, was that I saw it as an enormous amorphous blob, without form or structure, beginning or end. Having a routine means that when I have finished the day's work, it is done. No more until tomorrow's jobs. Sufficient unto the day.. then I can read my book in a lovely tidy space instead.
Here are my routines. There is one for the beginning of the day, one for the evening, one for the days of the week. This means the weekends are gloriously free, except for the morning and evening ritual..
The last child, and The Man leave for school and work at 8.30 every morning. Before then, I aim to have the beds aired and made (I make mine, nag at the others), dishwasher emptied and repacked, first load of washing on. After the morning rush, I sometimes need another cup of tea. Then, cleaning up the kitchen, which generally looks like a bomb has gone off in it by half eight. Putting everything away, wiping down the counters, washing the dishes. Then I start at the front door and work my way round the whole living area (hall table, kitchen, dining, living room, hallway) putting away anything that doesn't belong, pushing in the dining chairs plumping up cushions. Feels very 1950s, but sadly I am rarely wearing heels and pearls at this point. Living area now clean and tidy, and will likely stay that way for SIX WHOLE HOURS! Do the same for bathroom, and change hand towel.
5ish I start nagging the children to clear the dining table and put away their stuff from the living areas. I continue to do this and cook dinner, and drive children to and from various extra curricular activities, all at the same time. After dinner, we try to parcel out the clearing and dinner dishes jobs more or less fairly. From 7 until 9 during the week during term time it is homework time, no TV or screens. The Man and I take turns (not in any kind of organised way) putting Posy to bed and cleaning up the kitchen. Wipe down the stove, sweep the floor. Again, a quick sweep around, putting away things that don't belong in the living area. This time we can make the children put them away. Then, peace again in a lovely tidy space. And maybe a drink..
Monday: Laundry. Wash everything in the washing basket until it is empty.
Dusting every room (except for the three older children's rooms, who theoretically do this themselves. Ditto vacuuming). Vacuuming all the rooms, including couches, laundry and bathrooms. Don't forget to vacuum the bathtub with the upholstery attachment. It looks almost as if you have cleaned it...
Grocery shopping. Menu planning.
Tuesday: Laundry. Master bed sheets and all the towels.
Cleaning the bathrooms and the laundry. Alternate weeks, scrubbing the grout, or mopping all the floors.
Wednesday: Laundry. Wash everything in the washing basket until it is empty.
Vacuuming living areas. Half and hour to an hour on The House Project*.
Thursday: Laundry. Children's sheets.
Friday: Laundry. Wash everything in the washing basket until it is empty.
Vacuuming living areas and bathrooms, including that tub. Cleaning toilets, basins.
Cleaning kitchen. This was once too big a project, so I broke it down. Each week I clean one of the four walls of the kitchen, vacuuming out drawers, cleaning down cupboard fronts, cleaning out fridge, cleaning oven, range hood, dishwasher, bin cupboard etc. It all gets done over the course of a month.
The Boy does his own laundry, and takes turns cleaning the downstairs bathroom with me. The Boy and The Girl wash their sheets on the weekend, the three oldest vacuum and dust their rooms (ha). They all give me a hand with everything else if they are feeling helpful at the time..
*The House Project. Starting at the front door and working all the way around the house doing everything that isn't covered in the weekly cleaning. Washing windows, light fittings, cleaning out cupboards etc. This takes several months because it is the job that most often gets dropped... still, at least it happens more often than never..
I would love to know how other people arrange their housework. It is not such a popular subject at dinner parties, but for goodness sake, everyone has to do it, and I am an incurable nosey parker. How do you get yours done?
Edited to add: I have since posted some very detailed (OK, obsessively exhaustive) daily routines to walk you through a week of household routines. You can find them starting here.