Welcome to Part 3 of the Homemaking for Real People Series! Last Monday I wrote about my why behind the idea of “Good Enough Housekeeping.” Today I’m going to talk about how we can start keeping our house in good working order and relatively clean without being total neat-freaks. I think most of us would like to have a house that feels uncluttered and could be “good enough” for company in under an hour. So we have to find a way to balance keeping order and not getting caught up in the details. Let’s get to work!
Define Your Priorities
The first step to creating a workable housekeeping routine is to take a good look around your home and decide what areas are the most important for you to keep clean and neat. You can do this a couple of ways. First, think about the areas in your home that get the most use, like the kitchen and bathrooms. Those are probably going to be your highest priority for getting and keeping clean because they need to be ready for use so much of the time.
You may also want to go through each room in the house and identify “problem areas” that seem to perpetually get messy or cluttered. Once you have identified all the problem areas, you can (hopefully) think of a solution to help keep those messes at bay, whether that be adding a daily “clearing up” time specifically for those spots, or better organization, or maybe just better habit training for your children (or yourself!).
Take some time to write down a list of the areas of your home that are the highest priorities for you to clean, maybe even listing them in order of importance. I would also challenge you to write down at least one area that is NOT a priority for you right now, and give yourself permission to let it go for a while.
Divide Up Your Tasks
Next it is time to think about what specific tasks need done in order to keep your priority areas neat and tidy. Write each task down, then note how frequently you would like it to be done. In my kitchen, for instance, these are the main tasks that need to happen on a regular basis:
- Wash dishes: at least daily, preferably after every meal
- Wipe down counters and table: at least once daily, preferably after ever meal
- Wipe down stovetop, sink and faucet: once daily
- Sweep floor: once daily
- Mop floor: once a week
- Empty trash: once a week, or as needed
There are some extra deep-cleaning tasks I could add to that list as well, but they are things that need done less frequently, like cleaning out the fridge, reorganizing the pantry, and cleaning the oven.
Once you have written out what specific tasks you have and how often you need to be doing them, take a good, hard look at that list and make sure you have reasonable expectations for yourself and your family. When I look at my list above, for instance, I know that although I would like to have the kitchen and dining area mopped once a week, that rarely actually happens. So I need to decide if it is my routine or my expectation that needs to change.
Decide on a Plan
Finally, it is time to make a plan. This is the most personal and flexible part, so I am not going to give you specific instructions on how to make your plan. You need to find a routine for cleaning that works for you and your family. If you have children 3 and up, they can be taught how to help with some basic chores. If you are married and your spouse is willing, perhaps you can divide up some tasks between you. It may help to create a short list of morning tasks and evening tasks that you can post somewhere in your house to remind you to get those key things done daily. You may want to assign specific days to specific rooms, or to specific weekly tasks so that you know they will get done on a regular basis.
The key in our “Good Enough Housekeeping” routine is having grace and giving ourselves permission to miss a day here and there. Maybe you even need to plan a “day off” every week in which you purposefully don’t do any housework beyond what is absolutely necessary. Keep your expectations reasonable. Don’t compare yourself or your current situation to someone’s pretty Pinterest or Instagram photos. Do what you can, when you can. Remember to put relationships first. Housekeeping is an act of service to your family and those who enter your home, but it is not the end all be all!