My Secrets to Less Time Cleaning

I think I like Montessori so much because of the emphasis on external order and kids taking care of their own environment.  I love clean and orderly spaces, but I also admit I do not like cleaning.

Even kind of a little bit.

Over the years I have tried a million *proven systems* and checklists to improve my cleaning, but the thing I didn't like about any of them is that they all required...well, lots of cleaning.  I never did get FlyLady basics down into a smooth and easy routine.   Even though I do think it's important to teach my kids how to do all household cleaning tasks, I don't really want them spending all of their time cleaning either.

This is the chores and cleaning routine system we have established that has worked well for us the last couple years.  I know this is probably hard to believe with a house of 7, but all told I rarely spend more than 7 hours/week cleaning.

Each weekday (M-F) we have two cleaning bursts of 15-30 minutes.  The jobs are designated based on both the day of the week and the week of the month.  Everyone knows which job is theirs and that we clean first thing after getting up from the table.

Morning Cleaning:  After breakfast I clean up breakfast dishes and sweep the entire main floor. During the same time I give each child a job based on the day of the week.  Mondays we do laundry.  Tuesdays is the kitchen.  Wednesday is laundry room and mopping.  Thursday is bathrooms.  Friday is outdoor porches (we have two plus a patio).   I make my bed each morning and encourage the kids to do the same but don't stress about it if they don't (our bedrooms are all on a separate level with a door I can close if someone stops by unannounced).  Everyone is pretty reliable about putting their clothes in the hampers on a daily basis, even the little ones.

On bathroom day, for example, Logan empties all the garbage cans (we have 3 bathrooms), Kylee wipes down the sinks, Caleb does all the toilets, and Aidan sweeps/mops the floors.    On the days that we don't have enough jobs to go around, I add in jobs from our monthly list.   Each of the four weeks of the month have their own special area to focus on (upstairs/bedrooms, basement, windows/washing trim, and outside).   We focus on decluttering and deep cleaning of those areas during the designated week of the month (changing sheets or dusting bookshelves for example).

Lunch Cleaning:  After lunch, I work on anything left to do with the daily/monthly jobs and sweep the main floor a second time.  The kids each have an area of the house they are responsible for keeping organized or clean on a daily basis.  Right now, Logan is in charge of helping me with laundry, Kylee is in charge of straightening shoes and coats, Caleb is in charge of lunch clean up, and Aidan is in charge of the basement play area.  Because they have been trained in how to do these jobs, they are now mostly able to work without direction, although I do check their areas each day.

I usually work a bit longer after lunch on laundry day because I can rarely finish it entirely in the morning (although I try).  The only other cleaning that happens during the day is dinner dishes which Tim and Aidan combine to finish between after dinner and before Tim leaves for work the next morning.

Laundry:  I do laundry three times/week, no more.  People try to convince me to do it more often, but I am stubborn and resist heartily.   I hate cleaning, remember.  Thankfully, I now live in a house with better places for dirty laundry that aren't my living room (unlike the picture above).  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are laundry day.  It comes down in the morning at breakfast and I will switch it while we do schoolwork.  Moving heavy wet laundry from our top load washer to front load dryer is a great heavy work job for my sensory seeking son when he needs a break.  Lots of lifting and stretching and twisting involved.  Grateful for a main floor laundry room!   When I am finished folding, everyone is responsible for putting all of their own laundry away.  Usually happens in 5 minutes before or after dinner, but only those 3 days/week because whatever else I do I always wash, dry, fold and put away on the same day.  Then it is completely finished on the non laundry days.

Now, if we stopped there we would cover all of the jobs that needed doing and my house would look great during the week but not so much on the weekend.  Monday would come with a huge amount of catch up which would probably make this schedule unsustainable.

Weekends:  If you made it this far, now you get to hear the real secret to my cleaning system.  The weekend clean.  Saturday and Sunday we don't clean anything other than to do meal prep and clean up so the kitchen doesn't get too scary.  Once each weekend, then, we all clean the house top to bottom as a family.  Usually we aim for late Sunday afternoon, but depending on what we have planned, we sometimes do it first thing Saturday morning or evening.

Each week we alternate between starting at the top or the bottom of the house.  We move floor by floor with a broom, a vacuum, and a big garbage bag.  Since bathrooms were done on Thursday, mopping on Wednesday, and the kitchen deep cleaned on Tuesday usually a good pick up and decluttering of shelves is all we really need (bedrooms usually take the longest).  When we are all helping (ahem- Logan, Kylee, and Caleb), we can do it in an hour but even when it is mostly Tim, Aidan, and I doing the heavy lifting it rarely takes even two hours.  I will often focus on extra deep cleaning from our monthly job.  This week, for example, I mopped all of the bedroom floors.  Other weeks I will assign someone to dusting or washing windows.

Now, there are things like gardening (and processing produce) and decluttering/organization that aren't on this list.  I keep a running list of projects related to those jobs that I would like to get done and dedicate one or two afternoons each week to my own personal projects (although often the kids do help).  While I don't like cleaning, I DO like decorating, decluttering, and gardening and enjoy seeing the fruits of my labor on those sorts of jobs.  The key to my list is that I limit myself to one or two projects each week.  Any more and I don't have time for writing and constantly feel like I'm running from behind.  Afternoon project time is generally dedicated to writing 1-2 days/week, projects 1-2 days/week, and a last day for household things like budgeting, appointments, etc.

The weekend clean is truly the biggest key to our cleaning system.  It is a habit of our family and everyone knows about it, so they expect it to show up each weekend.  There is nothing that can make our schedule too full for the weekend clean.  When we have out of town plans, the kids and I will do the whole thing on Friday before we leave, meaning we come home to a house that is as clean.  The kids see Dad pitching in regularly and we are able to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.  In many ways, we have a weekly lesson in many hands make light work.  We also start our week with a clean house.

Scheduling our work and cleaning together is one way that our family lives our mission statement when we promise to work together.


Amy Eichsteadt said...

Thank you for sharing, Heidi! This was so helpful. I too have tried many "cleaning schedules" recommended by people, but it never seems to last long or work well. I'm a visual person, so without seeing a "chart" of chores/work broken down, it's still a bit hard to formulate a complete picture in my head of how things run for you, but I definitely took away some great tips that I will work to use to create a schedule for us. I too crave order and now that we started home school this year, order is even more necessary for the day to run smoothly. We have a long way to go, but inspiration like yours helps me keep my head up :) P.S. I love your weekend FAMILY cleaning idea (because right now it seems like weekends are for everyone else to have fun and mom to do all the cleaning ;)

Heidi said...

Wednesday I'm posting more about this topic to help explain more of the nitty gritty about how it works in terms of getting everyone on board. I'll see if I can translate it all into some sort of table at the same time

Angie said...

My current struggles lie with little people. Sometimes I tell myself it will be more manageable when they're older but yet...I want to start some routine now for me because I dislike cleaning and struggle with decluttering, too.