The following is a guest post from Tan at Tan/Green:
My first baby was due on a Wednesday and I started maternity leave the Friday before. In those few intervening days, I experienced a fit of organizational nesting: how was I going to keep track of household chores and keep the house clean once I had a whole new person to care for?
Cleanliness and tidiness are important to my psyche, and I knew that if chores started falling by the wayside I would experience even more stress than that which comes with a first baby! And I know my husband well enough to know that he would help — but that I needed to lead the charge. With all of this in mind, I decided to calendar our chores in a generic, long-term format. (Note: If you like to-do lists, this plan is for you! You get 48 of them, which is not near as crazy as it sounds!)
Here’s how I did it:
1. Starter List
I stood in the center of each room and listed all the cleaning and maintenance chores associated with that room, making sure to include even the most remote tasks like vacuuming under the fridge, dusting the ceiling fan, polishing silver, changing the shower filter, etc.
2. The Breakdown
Next to each task I determined the frequency of the task: daily, weekly, every two weeks, monthly, quarterly, six months and yearly. I found that the daily tasks were already part of our routine so I considered those taken care of and focused on the rest of the list.
3. Weekly To-Do Lists
From the remaining tasks I started four lists – Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 and Week 4. The weekly tasks hit each list, the twice a month tasks were alternated on Weeks 1/3 and Weeks 2/4 and the monthly tasks got added in turn one for Week 1, one for Week 2 and so on till all weekly, twice monthly and monthly tasks were covered. Then, I reviewed the lists to make sure logical tasks were paired (such as laundering the dog beds, cleaning their crates and washing the actual dogs…). These four lists got copied for each month and laid out on the calendar. As a bonus, on months with 5 weeks you get a whole week off!
4. Add Remaining Chores
The weekly and monthly chores fall in place pretty easily but scheduling the quarterly, six month and yearly tasks took a little more effort for me. I needed to try it all on the calendar to “see” where things like ‘clean out garage’ or ‘pot shelves’ should end up. I used a number of sticky notes and some trial and error, but by and large, I added a yearly task to the first week of each month, a six month task to the second week and a quarterly task to the third week. This worked pretty well once I rearranged to match task to season (like cleaning out the garage in the fall) and took into account if multiple tasks would require the same prep work (like moving the bed frame).
5. Put it on the Calendar
As mentioned, I kept my lists on sticky notes – ones large enough that I could write out all four weeks’ lists…resulting in twelve stickies that I can reuse each year when we start our new calendar. And did I mention Week 5 is an off week?
I don’t know that it is possible to get everything on the lists on the first try but I have found this to be a fantastic framework to add to. It can be an evolving system for your household.
Check in with the family. The first thing my husband said upon seeing “the system” was: what about the yard? Right, that needs care too — so we added it in.
Reassess. Now that you are actually doing tasks on a rotation, is the interval right? Something might need to be done more often and some less often.
Consider changes when they happen. New drapes? Decide where their care fits on the plan. Replacing your flooring? Check out manufacturer recommended care and add it to the calendar.
Now, we haven’t followed our plan to a T, but having the lists done in advance and not having to try to remember the last time we dusted the pot shelves takes a certain level of stress out of caring for the house. Calendaring the chores seemed daunting at first but all in all this took about an hour and a half to accomplish. And since I do love a good To-Do List, I kind of even enjoyed the process!
Tan Wells is a working mom living in Las Vegas. She has degrees in communication and in technical theater from Penn State and Yale, respectively. In recent years she has become passionate about natural living, staying organized and balancing a career, a family and personal fulfillment. Some days that works better than others – you can read about Tan “trying to be a granola mom in a fast food world” at her blog Tan/Green.