Getting it All Done

I operate best in a calm atmosphere.  Where there is clutter, I have mental clutter.  It has taken me a long time to realize this about myself, and it took a while to adjust to that realization and figure out how to operate best with it.  Now that I have, I often have people comment on how clean my house is, and question how I can possibly get it done with two children who are so young.  My secret is organization – of my belongings and my cleaning system.  Below are some of my “cleaning truths”.

* Everything in your home should be beautiful and functional.  This is a Waldorf principal that just rings in me, every time I see or hear it.  Don’t surround yourself with useless junk.  And what is useful can and should also be beautiful.  The more of a joy it is to look at your home and your things, the more joy you will get from setting your house to rights.

* Doing the cleaning in small, daily chunks keeps the house clean overall, without having a strained day of trying to get it all put back together after a week of neglect.

*Daily structure and a system of some sort makes it easier to get everything done in a timely manner.

I’ve tried several different “systems” to keep me going.

Fly Lady is great, and I’ve recommended her to many others.  But, at the end of the day, when I was done cleaning, I had to come back and spend more time that I was comfortable with cleaning out my inbox from her promotional emails.  Also, I don’t ever amass much clutter, so throwing 30 items into a trash bag was not feasible for me.  And it always bothered me that I was supposed to and I wasn’t.

Sidetracked Home Executives (SHE) was also a great system, but was ultimately too much for me.  I have small children and because of this, I need to be flexible.  I felt like my entire day was scheduled with this system, with no room for sitting down and playing Cattle Round Up.

Ultimately, I’ve alternated between 2 systems that has worked for me.  I have Outlook on my computer, and use it to organize my appointments, chores, and commitments.  I put in my morning routine things – take my medicine and vitamins, get off the computer.  I put in my daily chores for that day – clean the bathroom, dust, sweep and mop.  This allows me to have a time set aside for doing these things, as well as a pop up reminder that I’m not supposed to be online, I’m supposed to be working on something.  It is a good way to shake me out of an internet haze and send me back to the real world.  And it makes sure that the houseplants get watered before they get limp!

The other thing I’ve done is a small piece of the SHE system.  I have a file box that fits note cards.  It is a beautiful tin box, ornately painted, that I found at a yard sale last summer.  On blank index cards, I wrote down each of my morning chores.  They are in the box in order, with dividers for the days of the week.  As I do each chore, I shift it to behind the next day, at the back of the stack.  This system really keeps me on track because it helps me to focus on one item at a time.  Multitasking while cleaning doesn’t really work so well for me.  I like to be able to have one clean surface done to look at when I get flustered.  From there, I can clean another entire surface, or focus on one other task.  I also have my weekly chores behind the daily chores.  For example, on Mondays, I do a big cleaning of the house.  The bathrooms, the dusting, the wood polishing, etc.  I sweep the floors most every day.  I mop every few days.  A great way to mark these as being different is to use different colored cards for the daily and weekly chores.  If you don’t have different colors, you can simply color the top edge of the cards with a marker or crayon.  When I’m done with my morning chores, I start on my weekly chores for that day.  If I need to stop and help a child go potty, or play a game, or make a snack, it doesn’t matter.  My card is still sitting there waiting for me to finish it up and turn it, and I don’t feel like I’m getting backed up.  And if I don’t get all of my cards done in one day, it doesn’t matter.  The chores will still be there the next day, or the next week.  They’ll get done.  And over all, my house looks beautiful most days!

My daily chores:
Plan dinner, set it out, make sure it isn’t frozen
Medicine and Vitamins
Empty Dishwasher (Micah has almost always done this one by the time I get up)
Clear and wipe table after breakfast
Clear counters.  Wipe counters and stove.
Tidy living areas (Living Room, Dining Room and maybe Playroom)
Wash any full laundry hampers
Sweep the floors
Clear and wipe table after lunch
Make the bed
Tidy kids’ room
Bring laundry downstairs
Switch laundry
Fold and put away finished laundry
Pick up toys and return to playroom
Put away toys in playroom
Clear and wipe the table after dinner

This might sound like a lot for one day, but because I stay on top of everything all of the time, none of it takes me very long.  I always have the morning chores done by about an hour and a half.  The afternoon chores also take about an hour and a half most days.

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