Monday, September 10, 2007

What Our Grandmothers Knew

Have you ever seen those "day of the week" tea towels? The ones who have Holly Hobby or kittens or dancing fruit doing domestic chores? Monday is wash day, Tuesday is ironing day, etc. One day I looked around at the disaster area that was my home and remembered these little towels. Could it be that our grandmothers and their predecessors had the right idea? They were forced to do one chore a day because washing clothes involved hauling water, building a fire to heat it, wringing it out by hand and having it dry all day outside. Never mind making their own lye soap. I had the advantage of modern conveniences but somehow my house didn't look it. Would having a schedule actually help me get more done? Was it too anal even for Virgo me? And most importantly, would I actually follow it?

It's not that I was a slob, exactly. There just never seemed to be enough hours in the day. When the boys were infants I was too exhausted to do more than necessary to keep the health department from the door. As they became mobile it was a never ending cycle of picking up one room while they trashed another. At some point the chaos and crap would become so overwhelming that I'd have to deal with it RIGHT NOW or go insane. So I'd stay up late or get up early and go on a cleaning frenzy. And end up more exhausted and crabby as well. But now with the boys in preschool for a full day, it was clear that I needed a plan.

I tried FlyLady but couldn't keep up with the email. Besides, there's just something odd about someone you've never met sending you an email telling you to shine your sink. If it was your mother emailing that would be different. I have a love-hate relationship with Martha. A cleaning lady wasn't practical -- I'm home all day, it's not in the budget, and it's creepy. If I don't want to clean my own toilet, why would anyone else, no matter how much I was paying her?

Thus, my own version of the Tea Towel Cleaning Schedule:

Daily: laundry, dishes, make beds, toy pickup, vacuum downstairs, kitchen maintenance & bathroom maintenance. (feed the fish used to be here too until he went belly up)

Sunday: plan menus & make grocery list, outdoor chores, check calendar & get ready for coming week

Monday: grocery shop & filing

Tuesday: Clean upstairs bathroom, dust & vacuum upstairs, run errands

Wednesday: Clean kitchen, clean downstairs bathroom, dust downstairs

Thursday: Mending/ironing, put garbage out in evening

Friday: Organizing (pick project each week)

Saturday: Change sheets, wash towels, dust & vacuum upstairs, outdoor chores

I typed it up on a nice neat list and hung it prominently on a kitchen cabinet. Partly to remind myself of the schedule and partly in the hopes that the other people who live here and are able to read might pitch in of their own accord.

After eight months I can say that it does work. For the most part, the house is cleaner and is staying that way longer. I am less stressed because I can think to myself "yes the kitchen floor is a mess, but I will take care of it on Wednesday." The kids have some developmentally appropriate chores that they can handle and enjoy doing (their future wives will thank me someday). When hubby asks what he can do to help I tell him to check the list.

I have also learned a few things: don't post anything on your cabinets that you don't want party guests to read and ask questions about, it doesn't really bother me if the beds are unmade but if there are dishes in the sink the whole house is dirty, clean both bathrooms on the same day, I still forget to dust, and somehow allowing either the ironing or the filing to slide causes the whole system to collapse (these are the two tasks I actually enjoy the most but are the easiest to ignore).

I now have time to work out, pursue hobbies, and those big jobs like organizing closets, painting the kitchen and going through unpacked moving boxes are actually getting done. Slowly, that's true, but progress is being made.

Thanks Grandma.

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