I like having a clean home.
I do not like cleaning my home.
Naturally these two truths cause some internal and external conflict around here.
I want the dust bunnies to magically disappear, or even better, never show up at all. I want the dishes to wash themselves and the floor to stay spotless and the bathrooms to somehow repel all the nasty bathroom gunk that builds up everywhere.
Talk about unrealistic expectations.
For a few years now I’ve attempted to figure out a cleaning schedule for myself, a way to ensure that the house is sparkly and fresh with minimal effort on my part. For a few years I’ve been failing at that. I’m just not the kind of person who can say, “On Tuesdays I mop and on Wednesdays I scrub toilets!” and then actually follow through.
Acknowledging this about myself has been remarkably liberating.
I’ve read a few books this year that have helped me better understand myself and how to focus my energy toward self-improvement. One that has had the biggest impact are Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin. (That’s an affiliate link, btw.) Not only did I learn SO MUCH about how to make some positive changes in my life, but I also learned why some changes I’d already made were working so well.
I’d like to come back and give a full review of the book in another post, because it’s been such a game changer for me. But today I just want to share a few chore- and habit-adjacent strategies that seem to be working for me.
Because some of us just don’t want to vacuum every day. Some of us forget to put away all the accoutrements of one activity before starting another. Some of us won’t do the dishes every night before bed, no matter how much we might wish we would. AND THAT IS OKAY.
Weekly Dish Rotation
I’ve had a few friends seem truly shocked that David and I take turns doing the dishes, but it makes such perfect sense for us. We both hate doing it yet we both know it needs to be done. Here’s how we do it:
My week starts Sunday night with a clean slate. I have complete control over when and how often I run the dishwasher and wash pots + pans. If we run out of bowls, I know it’s my fault and I quickly remedy the situation, but I’m under no obligation to keep the sink empty and the cupboards full. By Sunday evening, though, everything has to be clean and put away before I can “pass the torch.” David reserves the right to inspect my work before he tells me, “Torch accepted.” Then his week starts and I’m off the hook until Sunday again.
It’s not a perfect system, as some weeks are heavier on dishes than others and I often end up washing a dish or two during the week just to get through meals with the kiddos. But we’ve successfully kept this up for a year or more. It works for us.
The takeaway: divide and conquer. Share the worst of the household chores with the other people who live with you. There’s no need to be a martyr. Nobody will be thrilled when it’s their turn, but everyone will be happy that the job gets done AND they get an occasional day off.
Breakfast, Then Bed
I have fallen into a morning routine of getting up to feed the kids breakfast, then eating my own on the couch while checking social media and email. When I’m finished, I head to the bathroom to put in my contacts and am then ready to face the day’s tasks.
Quite a while ago I decided on a whim to make the bed after putting my contacts in. It took 30 seconds. I realized it would be an easy thing to keep doing, so I have. Now I eat, lose the glasses, make the bed, then come back out to deal with the day.
I make my bed daily. I can’t remember the last time I forgot. It has become such a mindless task now; it’s “just what I do” after I put in my contacts.
The takeaway: add a new habit to an old one. By piggybacking a new, simple task onto one that is already a well-established habit you make the new habit much easier to maintain. The trick is keeping it simple. I tried adding some more time-consuming chores to that morning routine and failed miserably. Quick and easy is key.
Laundry + Netflix Night
I don’t mind doing laundry but I could not for the life of me figure out a time to fold it and put it away. It just never seemed convenient…or desirable. I was diligent about doing laundry every week but never folded it. So it piled up in my bedroom, sometimes for weeks at a time.
After reading Better Than Before I realized I needed to make it both more convenient and more enjoyable. So I paired it with a “bad habit” I had of watching shows on Netflix in the evening.
Now my Monday nights consist of watching TV and folding clothes. I get to binge for an hour or two without feeling guilty because I’m being super productive! I then put all my clothes and David’s away and leave the girls’ stuff out in piles for them to put away first thing in the morning (which, incidentally, they do quite happily).
The takeaway: combine something you want to do but maybe oughtn’t with something you don’t want to do but really should. This works best if at least one of the tasks is fairly mindless because let’s face it: multitasking is a joke. Listen to a podcast while cleaning or eat a handful of chocolate chips while responding to tiresome emails. Just do something that adds a little joy to a joyless job.
Have you read Gretchen Rubin’s books? Have any of them impacted the way to do things around the house?
What about your daily/weekly/never-ending list of chores? How do you get them all done? I’d love to add a few more tips and tricks to my arsenal.