Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Keeping a Clean House

Be forewarned that this post is going to reveal a lot about my OCD-ness and other neuroses.  Hopefully this will be of some help to the other OCD-ers or even wannabe OCD-ers.

In creating our Boucher Family Binder, I dedicated a section to "Household Management."  In a previous blog post, I mentioned that this is the place where I keep anything and everything related to the running of our home.  I can't even begin to tell you what a difference these checklists are making in reducing my stress level.  I've always been a list maker.  Seeing what I have to do and when I need to do it forces me to be more productive.  

When I was still teaching full-time, I was always running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  I'd go from school to home, eat dinner amid my schoolwork, convince myself that I was at a stopping point, maybe watch a show, and get to bed around midnight or later.  Housework was always relegated to the weekends, but it seemed to get postponed as we found more exciting things to do than dust or deep-clean the kitchen.  

When I transitioned to staying at home, I was overwhelmed with the time freed up for the housework (or at least the outside perception that I had all of this "free time" to create domestic perfection).  I had no idea where to begin.  Finally, two years into this stay-at-home gig, I'm figuring out that I need "do it" lists--very specific "do it" lists:  daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal "do it" lists.  I know this is silly, but I call them "do it" lists rather than "to do" lists so that it sounds like I have more of a commitment to actually do the things I write down.  

First, I have my Daily Do It List for keeping straight the logistics of my day.

This is where I relegate my daily mind clutter.  Before I go to bed each night, I write down any appointments or places I need to go ("go"), important or out of the ordinary tasks I need to accomplish ("do"), items I need to purchase ("buy"), people I need to call or somehow contact ("call"), and what we're having for dinner that night so that I keep the prep time in mind when I create that day's schedule ("cook").  Putting it all on paper before the day begins helps me to go to bed without obsessing over all that I need to accomplish the following day.   I used to go to bed with all kinds of mind clutter and keep myself up at night, thinking about all of the things I needed to do, go to, buy, cook, or people I needed to call/e-mail.  Now, I figure all of that out before bed, put it on my Daily Do It List, and go to bed without the mind clutter.

WARNING:  Before you read on, please keep in mind that everyone's definition of clean is different.  You must decide what is a healthy balance of safe (especially in the kitchen and bathroom) and manageable for your schedule and priorities.  You might look at my lists and think, "Is she crazy?!  Why does she vacuum that much?!"  On the other hand, you might look at my lists and think, "Gross!  She only vacuums under furniture once a month!"  The following lists are what works for me (as of now!), and they might be too lax or strict for your style.  Pick and choose what'll work for you!  

Now, enter the Daily Cleaning Schedule.  This is the list of the bare bones things I do everyday to keep the house functioning.  

I committed myself to doing these things each day to make them habit if they weren't already.  Wiping down the kitchen sink and bathroom sinks, tubs, and shower walls after each use is taking a huge chunk of time out of my deep cleaning routine.  Some call it crazy, I call it working smart, not hard.    

Then, I have my Weekly Cleaning Schedule.  

The goal of my weekly cleaning schedule is two-fold:
  1. No more playing "catch up" or panic with unexpected visitors
    • Having specific days for household tasks holds me more accountable to actually doing them.  This ultimately means I get to spend more time doing what matters.
  2. Keep Sunday a day of REST and WORSHIP.  
    • I have a new rule that it all will and must wait on Sundays.  Can I tell you how much more our family loves Sundays now?  
To create my weekly cleaning schedule, I listed all of the things that I think need to get done in our house on a weekly basis.  I consulted a few other websites for guidance on this.  No wonder I was getting stressed out!  I was keeping all of these things in my head and expecting to remember to do them all and try to conquer as many as possible each day.  That system wasn't working.  I ended up overwhelmed, and the perfectionist in me delayed housework because my mentality was that if it wasn't going to be perfect, it wasn't worth doing.  I'd wait for the right amount of time to come along to do a chore rather than doing what I could when I could.  Mothers of young children know that my system of waiting for the "perfect time" to come along to do a chore was bound to fail. 

After listing all of the things I want to accomplish each week, I considered what our family's schedule looks like each day.  I considered what my motivation level looks like on various days of the week, what items require more time or attention, and in what order I will be most likely to accomplish these items.  I tried creating a weekly schedule before, but it wasn't nearly this detailed or accurate in terms of what I'd actually do.  If something unexpected comes up like a last-minute playdate or a sick kiddo, I let myself off the hook when I need to and reassign items that don't get accomplished to other days.  I tell myself that the goal is to teach my children by example that it is important to care for home and family through cleaning and cooking and everything else, but that it's equally important to spend time with one another and having fun.  True to how I've always been, I'm much busier these days trying to keep up with my cleaning schedule, but I end up having much more quality time with my children and Philip because everything that needs to get done is actually getting done.  

Next, I have my Monthly Cleaning Schedule

As you might have guessed, these are the things that only need to be done once a month.  Quick tip:  Work with your microwave to clean it.  Put half of a lemon in a microwave safe bowl full of water, and let it run for five minutes.  When done, wipe down the inside of the microwave walls with the steam.  ¡Voila! 

Finally, I made a Seasonal Checklist of the chores that need to be done each of the four seasons.   

That's it!  These lists are keeping my home clean.  I hope they help you and your home.  Work smart, not hard, and spend more time doing the things you love with the people you love!

If you're interested in a copy of these lists as Microsoft Word docs that you can edit for your own use, e-mail me at cboucher08@gmail.com.


  1. This is great! Matt and I are buying a house and I think I'll borrow these to try and keep things organized from the get-go. :)

  2. Staying organized from the get-go is a great way to not get stuck in a clutter-filled house. Only unpack the stuff you'll actually use. Leave the rest in boxes with "expiration dates." Open them on the expiration dates. If you haven't missed the contents by that date, donate 'em. Hope house-hunting is going well (if you haven't found something already). Welcome back home!

  3. Catherine - I love these lists! I'm going to borrow some things from them. Also, I like that you call your lists Do It lists. I call mine Ta-Da Lists because it feels like magic when everything is done! Hope your family had a wonderful Easter!