Overwhelmed by Housework? Monday Routine

Good morning my lovelies! Here we are, ready for a week of housekeeping, Blueday-style.
First, open all those blinds and curtains and let the sunshine in. If it is summer, make sure all the windows are open to let in the cool morning air.

Did you think you were going to get an early morning cup of tea? Hold on, a couple of jobs first.
Throw a load of washing into the machine. Today we are going to be washing to bottom of laundry basket. Don't worry about sheets and towels - that is tomorrow's job. Just keep on putting the loads through until there is nothing left to wash. If you are likely to forget, put the stove timer on to remind you when it is time to hang out the washing and put the next load on. If there is anything that needs soaking, pop it into a bucket in the laundry sink now.

Do you have children to wake up? Do it now. If yours are like mine, they will growl at you and tell you to go away. I give them a five minute warning and go and get myself dressed. If your children are like mine were ten years ago, they will have been up since dawn, and you will be doing jobs around them. Good luck!
While everyone is blearily getting breakfast, and in between boiling the kettle and making porridge for the small person, I put away the dishes on the dish drainer and unpack the dishwasher. This means the family can pack all their own breakfast things straight into the dishwasher.

When breakfast is over, everyone makes their own beds. You may have to make beds for little children, but they can put the pillow on top and arrange their teddies. Dress the children while they are in the room with you, and help them put away their pyjamas, or throw them in the laundry (PJs, not children).

If it is summer, close the windows again, and shut the blinds to keep the sun out. In winter, I open up the house as soon as everyone leaves to air it out for half an hour.

Do you need to hang out washing yet?

It's time to clear the kitchen table and benches. Is there fruit in the fruit bowl that needs to be used? Put it on the bench for lunch. Have the flowers reached the end of their life? Put them in the compost, and rinse out the vase. Finish packing the dishwasher. Empty the kitchen bin, the recycling bin and the compost. Are there any dishes that need hand washing? On days when there aren't I just rinse the compost pot, but if I need to do the dishes, I scrub the pot as well. Wipe down the kitchen benches. Wipe out the sink. Change over the kitchen hand towel, tea towels, and dish cloths.

Now you should have a clear and clean kitchen. Wipe down the kitchen/dining table. The only things left on it should be flowers or the fruit bowl.

Next we are going to whiz around the living areas, tidying as we go. If you have a lot of clutter, don't despair, just concentrate on clearing the most vital spaces, no more than five minutes for dining room, living room, hallway. Make sure you can sit on the couch, clear off the coffee table, and the top of the hall table. Once you have decluttered (don't worry, we'll get onto that later in the week), this daily five minute whiz around will keep your living areas permanently tidy (well, once the children are out of toddlerhood!). Head to the bathroom, and tidy that (I do it while cleaning my teeth). Change hand towels in the bathroom.

Well, now your kitchen is clear and tidy, your living areas are respectable, your bathroom reasonably presentable. Doesn't that feel better? We will be following this little routine every morning, and by the end of the week, all these spaces will be a lot clearer, just for five minutes' tidying per room (well, ten, because we will be doing it at night as well).

This whole routine is possible to compress into the time before leaving the house for school or work. Easier, of course, without a bunch of small children, but still possible, especially as it becomes more routine, and especially if you have a helpful partner and children. Back in the day when I was homeschooling, we would start 'school' now, and I would keep doing the washing throughout the morning, but start the major housework jobs after lunch.

Now it is time to start the job list for Monday - dusting and vacuuming. Dust all the surfaces in the living areas and the hallway. I start at the door of my living room and work my way around the living room, dining room, kitchen and hallway. Again, dust around clutter if you need to. Don't worry, it will all be gone soon! Otherwise, lift up objects, dust them, dust underneath them, and run the duster along visible skirting boards.
Edited to add: If you have an open fire or woodstove, brush it out this morning BEFORE you dust. I forgot this morning and had to dust twice :(

Vacuum or sweep all the areas that you have dusted. Use the upholstery attachment to vacuum the couches. I also vacuum the back porch (mudroom), laundry and bathroom. While I'm in the bathroom, I vacuum the bathtub using the upholstery attachment, because my three girls have very long hair which they brush enthusiastically next to the tub each morning. There, now the house is visitor-ready. Tidied, dusted, with clean floors in all the living areas.

Do you need to hang out more washing now?

Next it is time to dust and vacuum the bedrooms, and less-used rooms. In our house that is the study and a downstairs family room (our main living areas are upstairs because our house is built into a hill). My three oldest children dust and vacuum their own rooms on the weekend, which leaves me with two to do. Now is a good time to evaluate - bearing in mind that there is still grocery shopping to do, do you have time to dust and vacuum the bedrooms? Sometimes I leave these until Wednesday, when I will be vacuuming the living areas again anyway. Edited to add: I knew I would forget something. Tidy before you dust and vacuum. Obvious I know, but I am obsessive, and felt I had to add it. Again, if there is lots of clutter, just tidy for five minutes or so. Eventually that clutter will be worn down by sheer persistence, and will go and live somewhere else.

Time for a well-deserved cup of tea. It is time to plan the week's menu, and write a shopping list. Remember to also plan for children's lunchbox lunches and snacks. Don't forget lunch for the stay at home parent and family lunches on the weekend. Are you having anyone over for dinner? Are you going out for dinner and need to take something? Is there a birthday party? Do you have a movie night with chips and popcorn? Picnics? What needs to be used up from fridge and pantry? The more comprehensive your grocery shop today, the less you will have to dash out to the shops during the week, which really eats in to your time and energy.

Is there something you need to do now for dinner? Defrost something from the freezer? Put the slow cooker on?

Right, how is the washing going? Done yet?

OK, off to the grocery store. If this doesn't work with your schedule now, you will have to tweak the menu to make it last until grocery shopping day, and then do your week's menu on that day.

Right, after you have put away the groceries, and put those reusable bags back in the car, you get to have a leisurely lunch and a nice cup of tea. Do clear up afterwards. Put the dishwasher on if it is full, or handwash the dishes. Clear the kitchen benches again.

Bringing in the dry washing, folding, sorting and putting away is the next task, then the major jobs are done for the day. Except for ironing. Is there much? If you have a big ironing pile, start on it now, just a few items every wash day over and above what you have washed. I don't iron much, just business shirts, the occasional summer dress, and summer school dresses. Winter school shirts are always under jumpers except for the collars, so I don't do them! I usually iron when I have about half an hour's worth (once or twice a week), and watch a gardening show on telly.

If you have children coming home from school, get them to unpack their bags straight away. Lunchboxes go straight in the dishwasher. Deal with their vitally important pieces of paper now, along with the mail, while you are drinking your tea and forcing them to eat fruit. I have a little black diary, in which I write down all the dates and information from the school papers. Then I put the pieces of paper themselves in a folder with plastic sleeves that I keep in the hall table drawer. It contains all the timetables for school and sport and ballet, the canteen price list, and all the school activity papers, because however much I write in my diary, there is always some vital detail I leave out. When I put a new sheet in, I do a quick check and pull out old ones for activities that have already happened.

The mail gets immediately recycled, filed in the study filing cabinet, or put in the 'to do' basket in the hall table drawer. If it goes in there, it also has a note in my diary reminding me what action to take on what day - pay a bill, ring for an appointment etc.

Before you start dinner, make sure there is heaps of space in the dishwasher. Unpack it if it has gone through a cycle in the day. Wash any dishes on the sink. Start with a clear space. As you cook, put ingredients away. Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher, or stack them next to the sink. If you hand wash, and have five minutes while you are waiting for something to cook, fill up the sink and wash some dishes. While you are cooking, keep an eye on the ingredients you are using. Now is the time to start next week's shopping list. I keep mine permanently in the pantry cupboard with a pen. Jot down anything that you notice you need every time you cook.

Now, is it time for little peoples' bath yet? After the bath, put all their clothes away or in the laundry basket and wipe out the bath with an old towel. Is the bathroom as tidy as you left it this morning?

When dinner is about fifteen minutes away, it is time for children to put their toys (or giant creative messes) away and help set the table.

After dinner, oh look, more dishes. Wipe down the benches and the stove.

Sweep kitchen (if it needs it. To be honest, I often skip this!)

Edited to add: Check menu for tomorrow. Is there something needing to defrost in the fridge overnight? Check diary for tomorrow's appointments.

We have screen free time for homework between 7pm and 9pm.

Older children need to be reminded to put all their dirty clothes in the laundry and clean clothes away. Do they have everything they need for tomorrow at school and after school? Musical instrument? PE kit? Ballet gear? ALL their school uniform? Encourage them to lay it out. Pack school bags for tomorrow.

Before they go to bed, they need to take all their stuff to their rooms AND put it away (ha!). Before you go to bed, make a tour of main living areas again and tidy the day's bits and pieces away - newspapers, shoes, toys, laptops, glasses. Straighten the dining room chairs. Plump the cushions. Tomorrow morning your tidy living room and kitchen table will be like a happy house smile! While you clean your teeth, put away whatever is out of place in the bathroom again. There is generally something...

Well, that was a long day! But we have achieved so much. The house is tidy and clean, and the washing is done. The mail and the children's papers are organised, there is food in the house and a menu for dinner for a week. Today was the hardest day. Tomorrow we will be tackling the bathroom, but don't worry, it almost certainly won't kill you!

Sleep well, and I will see you bright and early in the morning.


Heather said…
Yes, cleaning the bathroom surely will kill me! Cleaning the bathtub is the most awful chore known to man.

That is a great routine that you have laid out for the day. Mine is kind of similar, only I probably slack off a bit in the mid-morning and then go into overdrive right before I have to pick up the kids. I can be a bit of a procrastinator.
This is a wonderful post, tho I do feel a bit exhausted having read it. What a day! I think I'm going to print this out and see how faithfully I can follow it--at least for a day. It's possible I'm too old and set in my ways, but we shall see!

Jo said…
Hi Heather and Frances, I am sure you are both completely capable housekeepers - I would find it incredibly difficult to change my routines over now, but Frances, if you give it a go, let me know.
And Heather, I always think cleaning the bathroom will kill me. It is such a relief when I get to the end and am not dead yet! And I am the opposite to you. I run around in the morning, and then need to have a little rest after lunch to keep me going.. but it is wonderful what a deadline will do for motivation!
Tanya Murray said…
You kept it so up-beat and positive and full of energy. I really liked your idea for the plastic sleeve folder for all the school papers (slap forehead) why didn't I think of that! This post is an excellent example of the "job" that is done in the home. I don't mind doing it but I like people to acknowledge it. Must pass this post onto our grown children... Now it's their turn to clean and raise.
Jo said…
Tanya, you are right. I suddenly realised as I read your comment - housework is largely invisible in our society. It is not visible, discussed or valued. Women are afraid to talk about it because it is so politically incorrect to be concerned about housework - we are supposed to have moved beyond it. I'm not sure how, because practically we all have to eat and appreciate a clean bathroom...
OH my - will the washing up/dishwasher stacking, packing, unstacking and packing ever end? It seems so endless - and there's always stuff 'drying'. I'm all ok with the vacuuming. Dusting - it's more a needs basis things for me, but it helps to have 'dusters' in every room (just rags, or odd socks). Washing is an ad hoc thing, prior to the new house, I put it on in the evening, having it finish in off peak (before I woke up) then I'd hang it out. Now that hanging it out is on the balcony I'm less excited about that option (it's also still a touch dark too)... And naturally, working, and groceries, don't mean I do them when you do. But I think you have a good system going!
Jo said…
I do think it is much more possible to do things on an as needed basis when there is one or two of you. Once you get a tribe it descends into chaos without military precision!
So do enjoy your more flexible routine while you can. When I was part of a couple, we washed once a week, on the weekend, and did the dishes once a day. Those were the days!
Totally agree with you - I imagine children (and dogs) and think, wow, if I think the washing up quantity is high now, woowa!!
Jo, i am EXHAUSTED reading this. Monday sounds like a killer! i'm glad you've said it's the worst day - laundry days are. i am lucky it is just me and i can get by with mostly one load; two when it is sheets-changing day.

love also to see your five minutes tidying, i dod this before i leave for work and before i go to bed, too.

My apologies for only just getting to reading your week now (and it is almost over!) - i am so looking forward to it.
Jo said…
e, I am generally exhausted by the end of Monday. The trouble with having a larger house, is that there is so much of it to clean. Darn, what were we thinking?
Anonymous said…
Jo I am in total awe. This post just shows what a ridiculous title "working mother" is. Ever met a mother who didn't work? Nope me neither.

Its really interesting that as you mentioned, as women have moved into the workplace strangely, many men have been very slow to pick up the household side of the bargain. I often think about this because despite being married to a much bigger feminist than myself I find myself doing far more domestic drudgery than my darling boy unless I stoop to nagging.

After much musing I've decided that this is due to two main reasons. Domestic tasks have little value in our society so neither men nor women really want to go out of their way to devote time to these tasks. This makes cleaning a negative arms race as to who can hold out from doing any for longest. On top of that there is still a massive societal pressure on us girls to take responsibility for domestic bliss. This plays out on our flat because while neither Chris nor I put much store by cleaning its me who feels shame if our friends see how grubby our floors are. This fear of being judged pushes me to scrub where chris would be happy to leave it in peace and enjoy some down time.
Thanks society for telling us domestic duties are a waste of time but judging us -not our menfolk- if they get missed.

I love these posts for hitting back. Taking pride in all your hard work and Mega organisation rather than letting it be dismissed.
Jo said…
Libi, this is a brilliant comment, thankyou, and you have encapsulated the problem so well. Housework has been devalued for both sexes, but women are still programmed to feel the guilt. So true.
I think there is work to be done in feminist theory on this one. But imagine the courage you would need as a PhD student in feminist studies, fronting up to the sociology professor with a proposal for a thesis on housework.
I do think it is very peculiar that something so central to the lives of every single person - that is, the comfort and organisation of the space we all live in, should be the
somehow be the subject of such contempt for anyone with a brain, and the responsibility of anyone without a Y chromosome.
And it is so hard to do a job well if you are think it is pointless and unimportant.
CHerr said…
Dear Jo, I cannot overstate how accurately your blog reflects my frustration about my current housekeeping circumstances. Luckily for me, your routine has been written helpfully. I work 8-14 hours a day with Tuesdays off (starting at 07:00) and am physically and emotionally exhausted by the time I get home. You can (most likely not) imagine the kind of mess I live in, with literally mountains of paper/documents all over the place, all the washed clothes folded on the seats of the room adjacent to the kitchen (where the washing machine is) having never been put away (what is the point, if i have to wear them as soon as I get out of the shower and the bathroom is adjacent to this room, whereas my bedroom is upstairs?). Needless to say, the task of tidying up, let alone cleaning, is no longer on my to do list. However, neglecting these mundane activities has begun to have a negative impact on my life, especially from the social point of view. I haven't brought friends round for years. It is 5am as we speak (as i write this) and have not been able to sleep overwhelmed with dread at the prospect of anybody dropping by to wish a merry Christmas and i decided to browse the web looking for advice on housekeeping from 'real life' cases/situations. I am so glad I came across your blog. I happen to have two weeks off work for the Christmas celebrations and I decided that enough is enough. I am starting your routine this Monday and see how it goes. Will be happy to offer feedback. In the meantime, many thanks again for your insight on this topic. It is the one I have found to be the most helpful so far.
Jo said…
Dear Cherr, I am so happy that you have found something of use here, and I can absolutely understand how you feel, believe me, I have been there.

When it all gets so awful that you can't sleep, that is a miserable situation indeed.

I do wish you all the very best with your quest - please do pop in and let us know how you are doing. If you join in on the comments section in the latest post, we will all be cheering you on:)

And yes, I would love some feedback with how this routine works in your situation. I have tweaked it myself as my circumstances have changed over the year.

So, kudos to you for having a go, sending happy decluttering vibes your way:)

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