Simplifying Home Life – Chore Edition

Chores…they’re never ending! It seems that there is always something needing to be done, whether that’s the laundry, bathrooms, kitchens, you name it. I’ve struggled for a long time to find a routine that’s worked for me, for our family, and for our household. And lo and behold, that means that there isn’t a “routine” at all!

Allow me to explain. Over the years, with changing schedules, houses, family size and circumstances, (I’m looking at you, pup!) a set cleaning routine has either changed drastically, or, the chores that comprised that cleaning routine have evolved into things we do on an as-needed basis. There are things that we do on a regular basis to keep up on our household cleanliness, and some of those tasks are done daily, so I don’t really consider them “cleaning”. I’m referring to the general maintenance things that have to be done so that they don’t pile up on you and wreck havoc on, say, your cooking area for tonight’s dinner because you didn’t do the dishes from last night’s meal. The dishes, kitchen cleanup, and general household tidiness are things that we do on a daily basis, often without even thinking about them.

So if I don’t consider those tasks true cleaning–you know, the things like dishes and picking up the living room–how do I tackle everything else? Here’s a few rules of thumb that I go by:

Analyze Your High Traffic Areas. Here’s the thing. Those ickier tasks, like scrubbing down the showers, do take a little planning, time and effort. Yet, we feel amazing when they are done. Showering in a clean shower is pretty much the equivalent of sleeping in fresh clean sheets! But keep in mind that each family and household are very different. The high traffic areas of your house and my house are going to differ, and perhaps by a lot. Your hall bathroom might need cleaning on a more regular basis if you have three children sharing it, versus my guest bathroom only being used by our four year old. If you have carpet and wear shoes inside the house, or have children or pets, your carpet will be a high traffic area. Analyze what gets used in your house the most, and that will be where you want to concentrate your cleaning efforts.

For us, that means vacuuming at least once a week, giving the bathrooms a light spiff in between deep cleanings, and keeping up on our kitchen counter clutter. Trash and recycling is dealt with on a daily basis, and dishes are loaded into the dishwasher or hand washed as needed. Those are our high traffic areas.

My husband and I decided long ago on a standard for how tidy and clean we want our home, and because of that, forcing ourselves into a box for when we do certain chores just didn’t seem to make sense. We’ve adopted an approach of doing something when it needs to be done. That’s not to say that I stop everything I’m doing to give the bathroom a cleaning during a hectic weekday morning. More or less I’m saying that I’ll take the 20 minutes to clean the downstairs powder room in the upcoming days once I see that it needs to be done.

Divide and Conquer What’s Left. As for who does what in our household, there’s not a rule of thumb for that. Whoever gets to it, gets to it. There are certain things that my husband generally takes care of, such as lawn mowing and maintenance. It’s just not my strong suit, you guys. I can’t even start the lawn mower! So he handles that area of household maintenance. By default, since he’s usually out there doing lawn stuffs anyway, he also tends to get to things like weeding and mulching before I do as well. In turn, I typically am the first to get to the bathrooms. There are not labels in our house of who’s got which duty, rather, everyone is participating, which lightens the loan on everyone.

As our son gets older and likes to “help” with chores too, we have certain things that we ask him to do each day. We feel that this helps serve several purposes. One, we’re teaching him that loafing while everyone else does chores is not okay in our family. Everyone contributes. Everyone is a part of the household. Secondly, he gets to take pride in contributing, and for some of these chores, he earns a little money for his children’s envelope system. The key is finding age-appropriate chores that are well within his abilities. The main chores that he does daily include picking up his toys, placing dirty clothes in his hamper, setting the table, feeding our dog, and weekly, he helps us fold and put away his laundry. In the spring, summer, and fall, he helps us water our outdoor plants and flowers and he also assists with weeding. He also likes to try to operate the vacuum and sweep the floors, though mom and dad help him out with these.

In the end, every family and household is different, and you have to find what works for yours. I’ve read a lot of household cleaning routines from bloggers online, and some of them are very ambitious–vacuuming their floors!?)–for instance. That’s just not something that’s needed or is going to work in my household, and I’m okay with that, at this stage of my life.