Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cleaning and Organization

When we talk about organization, we can't help but talk about cleaning. Partly because organizing stuff makes things look cleaner and makes it easier to clean our homes. Also, as busy moms we have to organize our cleaning time, since usually we are the cleaning crew in our homes, or at least the boss of the crew.

Before we had kids (was there ever a before kids?) and while we just had one or two kids and lived in small apartments or homes, a cleaning schedule wasn't that big of a deal. I grew up in a household where my mom had a housecleaning day. She did laundry on Thursdays and cleaned house on Fridays. When our family was smaller, I could usually do the same thing.

As our family grew and we got larger homes, I found this more difficult to do. Finally, I gave up on the idea of getting the entire house clean all at one time. It was very freeing, although it was completely against my Type-A, perfectionist personality. I decided to scrap the idea of getting the house all clean at once and decided to make sure I cleaned the whole house once a week.

To do this, I sat down and wrote out all the once-a-week and twice-a-week things I did around the house. Then I divided them all out among the days of the week. I still do this, although every year, as my family grows and grows up I change the lists up.

When I first did this I had a bathroom day in which I cleaned all the bathrooms, a floor day in which I swept and mopped or vacuumed all the floors, a kitchen day in which I scrubbed down the kitchen, etc. Sometimes I did that before the kids got up, sometimes while they were playing, sometimes during nap time. Eventually I was able to add in the kids and hand some of these chores off to them. However, even with the extra help, I don't try to get it all done in a day, but rather spread it out.

This spreading out of the weekly cleaning chores has three main advantages for me:

1. I am not worn out cleaning, and have time for other things in my life. We have a rather large house now, and I would have to devote an entire day to cleaning each week in order to get it all done in one day. Frankly, not only would my duties as a mother never permit that, I just don't want to do it. I have grammar and math to teach, babies to nurse, diapers to change, books to read, meals to cook, and emails to write. It's much easier to fit in an hour or two of cleaning a day than it is to carve out an entire day each week to it.

2. I feel as if I accomplished something today. I like lists. I like to-do lists, especially ones that are crossed out. And let's face it, "a mother's work is never done." It doesn't matter how clean the house is today and how wonderful supper was tonight and how great a child did on math today, tomorrow the house will be messy (again), the kids and husband will want to eat (again) and that same child will probably forget all the grammar she ever learned. So knowing that I did accomplish my list helps me not to feel frustrated.

Even more importantly, a completed list gives me permission to stop as well. If I didn't watch it, I could easily work until midnight every night and go to bed feeling like there still too much to do. But once my list is done, I can rest assured that even though I didn't clean the powder room today, for instance, it's on the list for tomorrow. So I can stop and spend time with my family.

3. I am more easily able to fit in monthly or seasonal chores as well. If I tried to have a housecleaning day, there's no way I would be able to do anything other than the basic cleaning on this day. By spreading the workload out throughout the week (and among the kids) I can fit in those necessary chores. I love this, because these types of things were very hard for me to find the time for before I started scheduling a few each week. For me, these are things like dusting blinds and ceiling fans, cleaning out the refrigerator (ideally I'd scrub this baby down every week, but I'm being realistic here - I'm doing good to get to it once a quarter), etc.

I still dream of having a maid one day. Actually my real dream is to have a "Susan" from the last few books in the Anne of Green Gables series. But realistically, I know it probably won't happen until I have no more messy kids in the house to clean up after. Fortunately those kids can also be taught how to clean! Next organizing/cleaning post will be about kids and chores. Now, if I could just teach those kids to eat without getting food all over the floor...

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