You know those cute little cleaning schedule posts on Pinterest? Monday’s you clean the bathrooms, Friday’s the bedrooms. Monthly the appliances, etc etc etc. You see those and think “how cute” and then you laugh and laugh and laugh trying to imagine your family sticking to anything like that.
Well I’m that mom. No, not the laughing one. The one who made a cleaning schedule and actually sticks to it (most of the time).
Do I have an immaculate house? No.
Do I at least have a sorta clean house? Kind of.
I have three kids, a Saint Bernard who drools and sheds constantly, a husband who was never taught basic tidying skills and I run a family business. So it’s about as clean as it can get on any given day.
But there are big muddy paw prints on the floor. There are cobwebs and crumbs, fingerprints and clutter.
So why do I bother with a cleaning schedule when I’m still up to my eyeballs in the evidence of a well-lived house?
I’ll tell you, but first…
Did you know…?
Compared to about 150 years ago, Americans have four extra hours of leisure time per day. That means, we perform actual work less now than we did before electricity, the internet and smartphones. Our corner of the world has become a less toilsome place. This gives us extra time to relax.
Since the dawn of the Age of Television, video watching has increased over 30%, to an astounding 7 hours 50 minutes per day. And that’s just TV. Add in watching stuff on tablets and smartphones and because of multitasking, we’re managing to leisure with video more hours than we’re awake. Yet more than half of U.S. workers feel on the verge of burning out from stress and we do 50% LESS cleaning than 40 years ago (only 10 hours of household cleaning a week versus 30 hours).
So more time is spent leisuring but doing so in a way that seems to make us more harried and stressed, while our homes are getting messier and messier.
Why bring this up? Because it boils down to a skill that seems to have fallen out of favor. A skill that we don’t cultivate much these days. That is, the skill of discipline or, if you prefer, the cardinal virtue of prudence, the virtue on which all other cardinal virtues are developed.
We base a lot of what we do off of how it makes us feel. We exercise our freedom of choice, that is, our free will, in a way that keeps us feeling good. Does the activity in question give us a rush of dopamine and serotonin? Yay! Does it make us feel poopy and tired? Boo!
This pursuit of good feelings has left us dissatisfied overall. We choose what we want versus what’s best for us, and we’re paying the price. Young Americans have never been so depressed and melancholic.
On the flip side of freedom of choice is freedom for excellence. That is, by temporarily restricting what I do, I become more free. For example, I may want to binge watch OITNB on Netflix but instead, I temporarily restrict what I want to do and practice my ukulele instead. That practice may leave me unhappier at first. It might be really hard. I might get really frustrated with my playing or seeming lack of progress. But should I continue to choose to practice versus watch TV, I will soon have the freedom to play the ukulele freely. I will have exercised my freedom for excellence.
While choosing to clean the house might not make me adept at a skill I necessarily want to boast of (being a good housekeeper), there are a couple of benefits that can’t be overlooked. The main one is discipline. Without discipline, we simply cannot develop any other skill. Discipline is the foundational skill on which all other skills are developed. Without discipline, you wouldn’t be able to practice or continue to practice your skill of choice.
By sticking with a cleaning schedule, you help develop the general skill of discipline, which has enormous carryover benefits to every other area of life.
Secondly, it gets easier. Playing the ukulele may make me somewhat frustrated or unhappy at first but as I continue to work hard and practice, I will learn to align my desires with my needs (I may now actually want to play the ukulele and not want to watch tv). Discipline would then actually make my life easier and more freeing. I no longer am a slave to my feelings at any given moment. I can notice the feeling but rationally choose something else, something better. I may want pizza and ice cream but if my goal is to lose 10 pounds and I already had tacos and margaritas earlier this week, I can recognize this and have a nice home cooked meal instead.
So creating and sticking to a cleaning schedule is an act of discipline that ultimately frees us from our feelings, and the skill of discipline is the foundational skill on which all other skills in life are based. Developing it in one area will have immense carryover to others. So while keeping a cleaning schedule might not seem very important in and of itself, it is immensely important in the grand scheme of things.
Theory aside, let’s look at the practical development of a cleaning schedule, should you want to test this idea out for yourself.
Step One: Audit. What needs to be cleaned?
Step Two: Make a list of chores you can reasonably do in a week. Key word: Reasonably.
Step Three: Assign each chore to a day, keeping in mind other commitments. For example, if your office job leaves you drained on Mondays, don’t assign your least favorite chore that day.
Step Four: Get to it!
Step Five: Stick to it! If you miss a day, make it up as soon as you can or if that’s really not possible or if you find you’re not doing your other chores because you feel backed up from that one you missed, just take a deep breath, and wait til the following week to do it (this would probably be a great opportunity, however, to practice discipline and just get it done despite how you feel about it. Remember: It DOES get easier).
Your cleaning schedule doesn’t have to be Pinterest-worthy. If designing something pretty will make you more apt to stick with it, then go for it. But it’s not necessary. See?
It’s a mess! But who cares if I actually get it done?
Here’s my cleaning (and general) schedule for the week, sans sloppy handwriting, which I segment by morning/evening.
Monday: Vacuum and wash downstairs floors. Clean couch (I have a Saint Bernard who drools so washing the couch on a weekly basis is necessary).
Tuesday: Clean downstairs bathroom.
Wednesday: Vacuum and wash downstairs floors.
Thursday: Wash all bedsheets; vacuum upstairs floors.
Friday: Vacuum and wash downstairs floors.
Saturday: Clean upstairs bathroom.
Sunday: no chores – I try and take the Sabbath seriously. No servile work.
Every day, I make beds, do laundry, and wash dishes but those are so ordinary that they don’t *have* to be on my list. I put them on my list, though, because I like crossing things off my list. Yeah I’m not person LOL.
I also don’t put things on my schedule that I know I just won’t regularly do. Like clean my windows or wipe the fingerprints off the kid’s bedroom door. These will happen when I notice them and when I go into a cleaning frenzy. I’m fine with that approach to these less crucial chores since, with my other obligations, I don’t want to bog myself down unnecessarily. So trust me, I’ve got a Saint Bernard who sheds and drools constantly, I know I need to wipe down my walls regularly, but it’s more of a “I do it when I notice it” type of thing. I’ve made my peace with it.
But also, I have a Saint Bernard and little kids who crawl all over the floors so I do clean the most trafficked place very frequently – the downstairs floors, which get vacuumed and washed three times a week.
Overall, not too bad, right? Following this cleaning schedule has actually been very freeing and my house is consistently cleaner than when I had a cleaning service since I’m not just waiting until they show up and I’m not just piling up the mess til I can’t stand it anymore or company is coming over. It isn’t perfect, but after all, that’s just not the point.
How about you? Have you had success with cleaning schedules? Or do they get overwhelming for you? Leave a comment below!