Because of this post, it seems that there's some interest lately in my own particular housekeeping habits. Strangely, before this discussion came up, I'd been musing for awhile on this topic--sort of--as one worth writing about. Specifically, I'd been thinking about how, gradually and over time, I have embraced a fairly set-in-stone schedule in many aspects of my housewife life. My theory is that this has been an almost unconscious evolution toward making my life as a stay-at-home mom more structured, like the previous grad-school-and-ambitious-career life I was so familiar with and good at for so long. All those years of Ph.D. courses and dissertation-writing and licensure exams and clinic work required discipline, structure, and, yes--a schedule. You can take the mama out of the goal-driven career life, but you can't take the goal-driven life out of the mama? Or something like that?
Anyway, I thought I'd share a few thoughts about what works for me in terms of maintaining our home--not because I think it's necessarily better than the way anyone else manages theirs, or that I believe my way is the right way for you, but because, well--it seems like some people are interested. And also because my main housekeeping strategy was an idea taken from someone else, for which I am grateful. Who knows--maybe it will work for you, too. And yes, I realize that in that Sunday-morning post I was COMPLAINING about my housekeeping workload; but honestly, the way I do things around the house really does work for me, better than anything else. I'm not saying it makes me love housecleaning, but it generally keeps the house neat and my family sane.
A quick note, first: in our house, pretty much all the cooking and cleaning falls under my responsibility. This is a joint arrangement between Christopher and me, and though I don't enjoy cleaning, I do think this arrangement is fair and right (for us). I know that some stay-at-home moms do not see keeping house as part of their full-time jobs, but instead focus on parenting duties and share the housework with their partners after-hours. However, in my family, we agree that keeping house is part of my job as a SAHM. Christopher does the dinner dishes, unloads the dishwasher (usually) in the morning, and folds the laundry, but I do everything else--and there's a lot of "everything else." This works for us.
My basic strategy is simple and old-fashioned. What it boils down to is this: I dislike cleaning so much that it is far more distasteful to me to have to spend a whole day or weekend cleaning an entire messy house than it is to do a little cleaning every day, according to a set schedule. Awhile back I was reading the book Woman First, Family Always by Kathryn Sansone (I won't get into the merits and flaws of this book here), and was struck by the author's suggestion to make a written weekly list of all household chores and then check them off as they are accomplished over the week. Simple, right? But until then, my housekeeping approach had been fairly thorough but haphazard; there was little rhyme or reason to what I'd do when, and I couldn't guarantee that certain chores would actually get accomplished every week. Kathryn's idea seemed like an easy way to take the thinking and procrastination out of household work and instead make it focused, quick, and reliably done.
So now I do have a list--it's on a white-board on the fridge door--and every weekday I have a set group of chores I accomplish that day: on Mondays I clean the kitchen, shake the rugs, and sweep/Swiff all the hard floors, for example, and on Tuesdays I dust all the rooms. Fridays I vacuum everything, empty the trashes, and switch out all the dirty towels for fresh. You get the idea. In a normal week, I try to leave weekend days free of all chores except laundry and cooking (neither of which are included on my list, since they are ongoing tasks performed as needed), and I clean the catbox every day. But everything else has its own day, and I rarely deviate from the schedule. While, on the surface, this may seem crazily compulsive or fanatical, in actuality I experience it as exactly the opposite: it reduces an overwhelming job (keeping the entire house clean) to daily, short tasks that together add up to regular weekly cleaning. And I bet many of our mothers--or grandmothers--counted that as perfectly natural. I should note, however, that there are glaring omissions from my list, such as wet-mopping, which gets done whenever (and rarely), and that changing the sheets does not happen every single week. Oh well. See, I'm not a perfect housekeeper, am I?
I love my little schedule; I love knowing at the end of each week that my house actually got cleaned (mostly) top to bottom. That doesn't mean I enjoy cleaning, but it's part of my job right now, and every job has its unpleasant duties. My schedule at least makes cleaning house straightforward.
Now: how do YOU do it? Do you clean on a schedule, or not? Do you clean at all? Do you share cleaning duties with your household partner, if you have one? Do you hire out? Are you an at-home mom, and does that inform how you keep your house? I'm curious. Fill me in!