I used to love weekly housecleaning.
As a teenager and early college student, I had a weekly rotation of a few private homes I cleaned. (This paid the way through my two years at community college.) Learning the thorough, methodical cleaning I was expected to do—and seeing the spotless nature of these homes in contrast to my own—I became inspired to do the same kind of weekly cleaning in my bedroom. I dusted each surface with care, making my personal space (in a tiny houseful of 8) a place of perfection and peace.
Later, as a single teacher living on my own in a tiny attic apartment, I kept the routine, this time cleaning the entire apartment every Saturday. Bathroom, kitchen, vacuuming, dusting. Yes, I was busy, but cleaning my apartment didn’t take that long. Plus, it was a welcome break from the constant mental work of lesson planning.
Perhaps more importantly, I was a perfectionist whose equilibrium was disrupted by clutter and dirt.
A year after my husband and I were married, I started back to teaching again, and eventually we added foster children to the mix. All of that (plus the fact that my husband is less of a stickler for clean than I was) pushed weekly cleaning to the back burner.
Sometimes it was forgotten. Sometimes we were too busy. And sometimes, I found to my horror, I no longer cared.
Until it got bad enough.
When my bare feet felt the grit of crumbs on the hardwood floor, and the kitchen stove was hidden beneath grease splatters and burnt-on spills, and orange scum started taking over the shower, THEN disgust aroused me from my apathy. Or the pent-up frustrations of a tired mama boiled to the surface.
I needed a solution to handle two full-time jobs. (That’s the reality for working moms—house and family are still a full-time job, even if you only have a few hours in the evening to do it all.)
My husband and I desire to be hospitable and make a habit of having people in our home. But we can easily be deterred from this by either the overwhelming chore of having to clean the house for company when we are tired and busy, or the alternative of feeling shame when people see how we really live. I don’t want my insecurity about my house to keep us from practicing hospitality.
If we routinely do the little things, our home may not be spotless, but it can at least be presentable, ready enough for company.
Since I operate best with checklists to keep me focused and productive, a couple years ago I created a monthly cleaning chart. I needed a way to simplify the overwhelming decisions about the plethora of items and spaces that needed to be cleaned daily, weekly, monthly, or just a few times a year.
I also needed to break house cleaning down into bite-size chunks so it didn’t seem like such a chore. Doing one small task each day felt more manageable for me at that stage of life than devoting one day a week to cleaning the entire house. A chart would eliminate the need to constantly think about what needed to be done.
Since I first started using this chart, I have modified it from time to time to fit our changing needs. Here is the chart which is hanging on the back of my broom closet door, out of the way but easily accessible.
A few key features:
- No dates—this chart is reusable every month
- Five full weeks of cleaning will fit the configuration of any month
- Chart includes weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and occasional cleaning tasks
- Most tasks are fairly quick (10-15 minutes)
- Easily adaptable as household needs or schedule changes
How I organized and prioritized items on the chart to suit my needs:
- Tasks that are most important, or most frequently needed, are listed weekly. Less important tasks are listed biweekly.
- Tasks which only need to be done a few times a year are scheduled for weeks 1 and 5. They may not get done on a particular month that, say, begins on a Tuesday and ends on a Thursday.
- Longer tasks (cleaning the stove, ceiling fans, or cars) I schedule on days of the week I typically have more time, while reserving the shorter tasks (vacuuming, sweeping the porch) for days I typically have other obligations (grocery shopping, women’s Bible study).
- Whichever tasks I want to teach my children, or at least work on together, I schedule for Saturday when they are home from school.
- As schedules, needs, or preferences change, I shift items around and create a new chart to follow. (I’ve noticed our shower is way past due for a scrubbing. Maybe I need to move that elsewhere on the calendar so it doesn’t get skipped. And maybe I should move vacuuming to a day my husband isn’t working from home.)
- Because many tasks are so quick, I can double up if I missed a day, or switch them around to suit my schedule that week.
- The chart doesn’t limit cleaning to the days specified. (I need to make sure I sweep my kitchen floor AT LEAST once a week. It probably needs it daily, which I can fit in some days better than others. But worst case scenario, it gets done one time that week.)
Now that I am a full-time stay-at-home mother, I have kept this routine of daily short cleaning tasks (perhaps better than before) rather than reverting to weekly cleaning. I still have other things I want to accomplish in a day (Bible study, blogging, building relationships or serving other women, gardening, cooking, time with my husband and child) so I like being able to squeeze in a bit of cleaning without it taking over my whole day. I can do it quickly in the morning, or I can save it until after school for a quick task to do together.
By doing a little each day, the house is already presentable for inviting someone over for dinner on the spur of the moment. This clean(er) house makes for a happier mama, a more peaceful home, and greater motivation to be hospitable.