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Our cleaning routine used to look like this: Wait until the house gets so dirty you can’t stand it and then clean, clean, clean for hours until it’s back to an acceptable level of cleanliness. Rinse. Repeat.
I’ve been married for 7.5 years and a mother for 5, and it’s only been in the last year that I’ve felt like I’ve actually gotten a handle on the household chores. I’ve worked on improving my habits and routines for most of those years, one area at a time, and I’m still refining them today.
If you’re still struggling with household chores — cleaning, laundry, dishes, etc. — be sure to read Amy’s encouragement (I love her #6!) at The Finer Things in Life, as she shares how she tries to improve in this area.
Here are my 5 tips for setting yourself up for success:
1. Identify the main areas where you want to improve.
Making broad, overarching resolutions is probably the number one reason that they fail. It’s hard enough to create new habits when you do them one by one, not to mention when you try to take on 387 new habits at once! A resolution to “be a better homemaker” is almost impossible to keep because, one, it’s very broad, and two, it’s rather vague.
Instead of trying to change everything at once, pinpoint just a couple areas where you’d like to improve and start with those. It may be the ones you feel like you could most easily change or the ones that have to do with your pressure points. Or maybe you want to pick the most “obvious” ones so that you’re not left racing around your house trying to clean up when you have company coming.
Whichever areas you choose, limit yourself to just three or four and write down what mastering those chores would look like in your home — putting laundry away right after it comes out of the dryer or keeping the counters clutter-free, for example. As always, the important part is setting goals that work for you. You don’t have to keep your house spotless in order to consider yourself on top of the chores. Suzy Homemaker’s home might be cleaner than yours at the end of the day, but set realistic goals that meet your family’s needs and stop comparing yourself to someone else.
2. Make chores part of your daily routine.
The easiest way to stay on top of household chores is to make them part of your everyday routine. Wipe down the bathroom counters while you’re getting ready in the morning. Take laundry to the laundry room before breakfast. Sweep or vacuum after meals. Put away toys before lunch and bedtime. Build your routine around these key areas so that they become second nature.
Rather than having to muster up the energy to clean the whole house from top to bottom, you’ll be able to keep your home in decent shape with just a few minutes of effort a couple times a day. You’ll still need to set aside some time for cleaning, but you’re house will stay much cleaner and straighter between cleaning sprees and it won’t take nearly as long to do.
3. Make a weekly schedule.
While some chores need to be done daily, others fall into the weekly category. Create a weekly schedule for yourself with different tasks assigned to different days. For example, I like to clean on Friday afternoons so that my house is clean and we can enjoy the weekend without worrying about the dirty bathroom or a list of chores that need to be done.
My grandmother, who recently passed away at the age of 79, was notorious for her weekly routine. For as long as I can remember, Wednesdays were the day she went to the parlor and to run any errands (and then to Kmart afterwards to buy a treat if she had any of her grandchildren with her!). She had a laundry day, a cleaning day and a commissary day as well. Routines work because they take the guess work out of things that have to be done, and I think we could learn a lesson from the older generations in this area.
4. Get kids involved.
There are days that I wish I had the enthusiasm of my girls when it came to household chores. They love to vacuum with our stick vac, sort dirty laundry into the baskets, dust the shelves and surfaces they can reach, put away dishes and more. If I try to clean without getting them involved, I usually end up frustrated because they’re fighting or whining. But when I take a minute or two to get them involved, we all have a lot more fun.
5. Figure out what motivates you.
Finally, figure out what motivates you to get your chores done and make those things part of your routine. When we’re struggling to get moving, we put on U2, Johnny Cash or another favorite CD. Like the Seven Dwarfs say:
Just whistle while you work
And cheerfully together we can tidy up the place
So hum a merry tune
It won’t take long when there’s a song to help you set the pace
I know that’s true for me! Other motivational tools include the daily emails from FlyLady or hosting regular play dates at your home. Or treat yourself to a piece of chocolate or a few minutes reading a good book as a reward for finishing what needs to be done each day. Everyone’s motivation will look a little bit different, so spend some time thinking about yours. Finding your motivation is the most important step to making lasting changes!
Are household chores an area you struggle with? What is the top area you want to focus on this year?
The 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010 series is sponsored by Get Organized Wizard. Find ready-made action plans, organizers and checklists for more than 200 projects in the Life & Goal Organizer.