Monday, January 4, 2016

My New Cleaning System

I think I finally landed on a system to help me keep up with the house.
Remember me talking about how I just never can stick with any of the set cleaning schedules or tidiness systems?
Well I still can’t.
My new system isn’t a schedule.

My new system is so simple it’s almost silly to talk about it. And it’s actually embarrassing that it took me 8 years to figure out. (That’s how long I’ve been married, and had my own place to take care of.) But it did. So there’s that.

But I thought this simple little thing was worth a blog post because it’s honestly made a major improvement in my day-to-day since I started doing this a month ago.

Now, because this is the internet, and we may not know each other let me say:

  • This isn’t meant for everyone.
  • If you have a system that’s working for you -- stick with it. We are each unique. If it’s good for you, it’s good.
  • I’m the kind of mom who wished no moms recommended the whole slew of things involving ignoring cleaning to love on the baby. BECAUSE, I’m disinclined to clean normally pre-motherhood, and with that advice I’ve had a lot of mom-guilt show up when I do clean. (And seriously, some cleaning does have to happen some times, even with a baby around.)
  • I’ve always been the kind of person who makes messes while I try to clean. When I was a teenager, half way through cleaning my room, all my clothes ended up on the floor or bed because I got distracted and started trying them on.
  • I’ve tried to do cleaning schedules, and can stick with them (doing them full force and perfectly) all of two weeks before burning out and not cleaning (or doing much of anything) again for a month.
  • My brain has a hard time hearing itself these days -- three kids, and the postpartum hormones still working themselves out.

So all that said, what have I come up with here?

All it is, is a notebook where I write down the stuff I accomplish each day.
(This notebook is from Target -- I bought it about a year ago with other plans in mind, that I never got around to.)

Sometimes I write out things I need to get done during a certain day, the night before.

But more often I just write out the date, and under it I write down the tasks I get done that day.

It might sound silly, but it’s rocking my world.

This whole thing started out with me writing out bigger goals (Big stuff that might lead me to be more of who I hope to be) and projects that I hope to work on (stuff to get our house and decor done.) And I was also just generally hoping to stay more on top of things. I was going to look for some kind of app to help me out -- and after an evening of searching, just decided to use good old pen and paper. And I’m actually really glad for that -- sometimes pen and paper are just entirely superior.

Initially I tried to make goals for each day ahead of time. (In this case, goals meaning tasks like laundry, or what have you.) But pretty quickly I realized my day wasn’t heading down that path. So in order to not feel defeated I wrote down what I was able to accomplish.
I decided to keep doing this. I don’t have a strict rule about when I write out goals ahead of time, or what things I do write down each day. It’s all terribly flexible.

But this has been perfect for me because:

  • It helps me feel accomplished. Before I started doing this, I honestly had no idea if I had a productive day or not. Life was just blurring together -- in that stay at home mom (with a baby + sleep loss) haze. I could get to feeling down pretty easily thinking I wasn’t ever doing anything at all, even when I was. This helps me “hear myself think” and “see myself accomplish."
  • It’s a major motivator for me. My pride just can’t let me go a whole day without writing something down. I’ve had days where I just feel exhausted and really would have done nothing normally (without this notebook my pride didn’t notice me doing nothing), and then (some days not till 4:00pm) I start thinking about how I will have a blank spot under that date and so I go do something small, like clear the table. Once I clear the table I feel good and think it’d be nice to do those dishes. Once I do those dishes I feel like a champion and I clean a bathroom. (Just general examples of ways this plays out.) Writing down each thing is like fuel for my fire. It really does get me doing more and more.
  • It’s perfectly flexible. I don’t need to do more than I feel physically, emotionally up to, or have child-time-allowed-ablity (nice word right? no, it’s terrible. Just let me have it. Blame the mom brain.) I can do the stuff that is calling out to be done, and I can add on as I see fit.
  • I write down even the little things, like brushing the girls hair. Because honestly, for me, brushing the girls hair isn’t easy for me to remember or get done. So doing it is an real accomplishment, so it gets to be written down. If getting the baby to nap that day was hard, then it counts too. I write down meaningful conversations I make time for. I write down important emails I write. Things that normally “don’t count” really do -- so I write them down, so I can see I AM doing things.
  • I will note things that made the day hard (“This kid is sick today”), so I can see that I still persevered and did my best. 
  • I have a record of when the last time I got around to (fill in the blank) was. It can potentially prevent me from going insanely long between cleaning bouts.

During this month of writing things down, I’ve lived through two weeks of really rough flus for the kids, and I STILL got stuff done. Normally I would have let the house fall to pieces. (And we would have all lived and been fine on the whole.) But with this notebook around, I was able to keep my wits about me and take little moments, when I had them, to keep up with house stuff.

I also made it through the Holidays while hosting family 3 times (not perfectly mind you. And not as fantastically as I had hoped. But I did do it.) While still getting some pretty major projects done outside the home duties. And still accomplishing enough home duties that I was able to host! -- Normally getting the house ready for guests is outrageously hard for me in this house so far -- granted we’ve been renovating, sickly-pregnant, both, or taking care of a baby….but anyway -- my point is, this notebook helped me out a lot in the month I’ve been using it.

Pretty quickly after I started this thing, Blake started commenting on how much I had gotten done. And soon after how impressed he is. Things like that. (He’s never worried about how much I get done, he’s extremely understanding of the SAHM plight. These were sweet compliments.) So this notebook was kind of an overnight “wow factor."

I didn’t write down things EVERY SINGLE day this month. There were days where my mom was in town and she baby sat while Christmas Shopped. Those days I just kinda let blur together due to being SO busy I had no time to write. But generally I just leave this notebook open in the kitchen with a pen there, and every time I get anything done I am excited to go write it down. It makes me happy.

I’ve also written down a big idea I have for something -- right in the middle of my days -- because it’s a goal and this notebook is just kind of my goals journal.  (My “Lady’s Home Journal” if you will. Sorry, I couldn’t keep that one in.)
I like that this is my own free flowing whatever I want to do, whatever helps me out, kinda of notebook that’s just evolved from what was working and who I am.

I don’t know if I will do this forever. But I do see myself doing this for a good chunk of time.

I just thought I would share incase anyone else might be wired in a way this would help them out.

What do you think? Are you a cleaning schedule person? Does this notebook idea appeal to you? What’s your chosen method of keeping up?


  1. Love it. All around, love it.

  2. Yes. I think this is something I could actually keep up with! Great idea! It's perfect too for things like washing sheets, which doesn't have to be done every day But should be done (more often than I do it)... This is the perfect "do what you can" way to clean!

  3. This is a great idea! I have tried so many times to make a cleaning schedule and I can never stick with it more than 2 weeks. I love making lists though! And keeping the lists all together in a notebook is a great way to keep track of things. I might have to try this when we finally get into our own place!

  4. I have been using this particular system forever and love it. I didn't do it to the extreme that you have, so you have taught me a few things for sure. Thanks for taking all the pictures and for making this easy for anyone to pick up. Appreciate all the attention to detail. Anyone on the fence, just try it!

    Bo Tolbert @ HJS Supply Co.

  5. Such an interesting way to look at to-do lists. I never hold myself to getting everything done but I have certain things I have to do everyday: pushups, squats and plank, read a chapter in a book, and any cleaning task. The cleaning task is important for me because I hate that and I put it off at all costs.

    Larry Brannon @ Leonard Brush And Chemical

  6. I have a similar system but mine is on a chalkboard in the kitchen. Each week I make sure to eliminate everything on the list, then create a new one every Sunday night. It is funny but I actually look forward to erasing one cleaning task at a time as I make it though the week and enjoy how clean the house is.

    Bob Wolfe @ The Maids Triad

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