How to Create a House Cleaning Schedule
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Wondering how to create a cleaning schedule for your house that doesn’t set you up for failure? It’s a goal that many of us have, and a common New Year’s Resolution.
Around this time of year, we’re all looking for a fresh start. For some of us, that involves committing to a diet and exercise plan. Others decide to take up new hobbies or break old negative habits.
If your New Year’s Resolution involves establishing a regular, ongoing cleaning routine for your home, these steps will walk you through it.
Why You Need a House Cleaning Schedule
Sometimes, in our eagerness to make changes, we rush into new projects and wind up burning out.
We resolve to exercise daily, for instance, so we get up on January 1 and go for a run. But on January 2, we’re sore and exhausted, so we decide maybe daily exercise isn’t the best approach. We take a day off which turns into two, and before the end of the week, we’ve forgotten all about our original plan.
Balance Your Time and Energy
When it comes to creating a cleaning schedule, it’s important to spend time strategically thinking and planning rather than just rushing in. So, before you start scheduling tasks, be honest with yourself about two things.
How Is Your Health?
Many people with long-term conditions find they have both high-energy days and days when their pain or fatigue keeps them from doing anything at all.
If you know pushing yourself physically one day will leave you exhausted the next, you need to accept that reality and either pace yourself or plan downtime into your cleaning schedule.
What Else Matters to You?
You aren’t suddenly going to feel an all-consuming love of cleaning that makes everything else in life less interesting. Schedule your housework to fit around what else matters to you.
If you’re a person who enjoys doing nothing on Sunday, don’t set yourself up for failure by scheduling chores seven days a week.
Or, if Friday nights involve staying up late and enjoying your wine, don’t schedule your hardest cleaning tasks for Saturday.
How to Create a House Cleaning Schedule
Step 1: Set Your Own Standard
Whose cleaning standard you are trying to meet: yours, or someone else’s?
One reader sent me a despairing message because she couldn’t leave perfectly parallel lines while vacuuming as her mother-in-law does. She felt inferior every time the in-laws visited because of that.
But isn’t the point of vacuuming to get the carpet clean, not to make a pretty pattern? After all, the lines disappear as soon as someone walks over them.
I pointed out that if she’s seeing parallel lines on her mother-in-law’s carpet, it means the woman vacuumed right before they came over. Who knows what her house looked like before that? Her just-cleaned house shouldn’t be someone else’s daily goal.
2. Decide Which Rooms Matter Most
Most of us have a place or two in the home we need to be clean for our sanity’s sake.
For example, I cannot stand cooking in a dirty kitchen, and after dinner, I like to read in the living room. So, those two rooms are my cleaning priorities — when they’re tidy, I feel more positive about life in general.
Maybe you prefer your bathroom to feel like a spa, or a cluttered bedroom makes you cringe. Perhaps you and your spouse enjoy watching Netflix after the kids are in bed, but can’t stand being surrounded by all of their toys.
The point is to pick a room or two where you’ll focus a little effort every day to keep it in tip-top shape, while the rest of your house gets enough weekly attention to bring it up to your standards.
3. Evaluate Your Available Time
How often do we tell ourselves we need to make time to do something we tend to put off, like cleaning house or flossing our teeth before bed? You can’t make time. No one can. We’re all limited to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You can, however, find the time to do things. You do that by acknowledging there are some things on your schedule that aren’t going to suddenly disappear, so you’ve got to plan around them.
Do you only have a half-hour each weekday but plenty of time on the weekends? You’ll want to create a cleaning schedule that allows you to keep your two most important rooms up to your standards all week then fit cleaning the rest around that.
Give your two essential rooms daily attention, then work on the rest of your home from the next most important places to the least.
4. Pick Your Cleaning Approach
Are you a task-based or a room-based cleaner? Before you create a cleaning schedule, figure out which approach makes the most sense to you.
Some people prefer
I’m a room-based cleaner because having a clean floor doesn’t register in my brain if the rest of the room is still a mess. (That’s why I have printable house cleaning checklists for each room. It just works for me.)
5. Consider Your Daily “Puttering,” Too
All of us have certain daily tasks we do around the house that we don’t count as “real cleaning.” Wiping the table after a meal, for example, or picking up damp towels from the bathroom floor and hanging them up.
It’s important to keep these tasks in mind when you’re planning your schedule, or you’ll wind up spending an hour “puttering around” doing them then still have to find the energy to actually clean house.
The point is: determine what tasks need to be done every day to keep the house up to your standards, and how long those tasks take. Keep that daily amount of time in mind when you’re planning the rest of your cleaning.
(See also: How Often to Clean Everything in Your House)
6. Schedule Your Cleaning Sessions
Make it official: add your cleaning schedule to your calendar. You can just note that Monday is the day you clean the bathroom or vacuum floors, depending on your approach. Or, you can get specific and make an appointment with yourself.
Since I use a room-by-room approach, I use a recurring reminder on my phone to do my Daily Cleaning Checklist and recurring weekday reminders for each room. On Sundays, I don’t schedule anything because having a day to relax is vital to me.
So, plan your house cleaning tasks, but also plan to give yourself downtime.
7. Be Flexible
Once you’ve created a house cleaning schedule, be prepared to adjust it as you learn more about your energy levels as well as your home.
You may find that you’ve got two difficult days scheduled back to back, and that leaves you worn out all week. Or you may discover that some rooms don’t get messy in a week, so you can move them to an every-other-week schedule instead.
The point is, your house cleaning schedule isn’t set in stone. Revise it as needed.
A Final Note
There are bound to be times when you just can’t stick to your schedule, no matter how much you’d like. Maybe the kids get sick, or you do. Maybe work gets crazy, or some other demand on your time pops up.
Those things don’t mean you’ve somehow failed. Success here isn’t about following your schedule perfectly despite every bump in the road. It’s about not letting a bump throw you off the road and into the ditch.
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I just reread this post and had a thought about room based versus task based cleaning. The fly lady system I attempted to use was task based. What often happened was I’d get 3/4 way down the list and run out of time and the last things didn’t get done. So I did a search for room based versus task based. And concluded that in general room based is more efficient. Take a hotel maid for example. She’d never change the sheets in every room and then go back and dust every room. That’s crazy. She does the entire room all at once and then moves on. But I kept thinking about this. Staying with the hotel model, consider the hallway fixtures and carpeting. She would not vacuum just outside a single room! And very likely the carpet would be done on a slightly different schedule and by a different person. So here is my plan.
Use a room based system for the individual rooms, especially the bath rooms. Most everything in there needs done daily — there are always toothpaste splatters on mirror, smears in the sink and evidence of use in the toilet bowls. These jobs are easy, the entire room is done in under 5 min. because every item I need is stored right there. Nothing like carrying a dripping bowl swab room to room.At your suggestion I bought several packages of colored microfiber towels. The last task in the bathroom is to drop my microfiber towel on the floor and use my foot to wipe up any spills, drips etc. I use two – one for the toilet and one for everything else. It’s the everything else towel that wipes the floor. I even have a small round laundry hamper in each bathroom for the used towels.
As far as the more whole house jobs, like dusting high corners and getting cobwebs, vacuuming baseboards etc, I broke this down into groups of similar rooms. Since I cannot just put a vacuum in every room I have one that lives in the linen closet. It does the bedrooms and their closets etc. The other lives in the entry closet and is used for the living room, entry and the carpeted part of the family room. There’s no carpeting in the dining nook, kitchen or the section of family room where the breakfast bar is, and the kitchen and family room are one continuous space. It would be ludicrous to mop only the kitchen or only the family room so it’s grouped. I just use a dry dust mop on most of it and spot clean as needed around the sink. I find that daily mop ups of spills allows me to not have to clean all these floors at once.
Once a week I do bath and bedroom floors Once on a second day I do the rest. Monthly I do a deeper vacuuming and go under the furniture.
Sorry this was TL;DR but your post inspired me to stop cleaning stupidly and start being efficient. 🙂
That’s an excellent explanation of exactly why task-based cleaning is so inefficient, Clare. You’ve pretty much found your way into doing it the same way that I do: most things are done by room, but the floors get ungrouped in my kitchen, laundry room, half-bath, and living room since they all flow together. The rest of the time, I use my room-based printable cleaning checklists and from start to finish in one room before doing the next. It’s nice seeing an entirely clean room when I’m done, instead of a cluttered and messy room that happens to have a somewhat clean floor.