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Planning Neatness

Are you naturally neat? Is your living room company-ready any time the doorbell rings? Do you sleep more soundly when all your dishes are washed before bed?

I’ve known people who could easily say yes to each of these questions. I’ve been in their houses.

I am not one of them.

Not the view from my living room window.

After I got married but before we had kids, I lost a 12-pack of toilet paper. I couldn’t figure out where on earth that thing had gone . . . it’s not like losing a watch or a pair of fingernail clippers.

I finally found it two weeks later . . . when I folded the pile of laundry on my couch. Yeah.

Add in three boys, homeschooling, a part-time work-at-home job, activities at church, and I have an even harder time maintaining an appearance of neatness around here. When I wrote about Mom’s Influence last month, I mentioned that my own efforts toward housekeeping have a direct effect on whether the rest of my family pitches in to do their share.

(For example, when I’m sick and don’t do any cleaning for a few days, the house becomes an indoor landfill. I cringe to think what would happen if these menfolk were truly left without me for some reason . . .)

Knowing that, I determined a little over a year ago that I would buckle down and do better with this housekeeping thing!

My house still doesn’t look like Better Homes & Gardens, but I can open the door to an unexpected guest without apologizing on most days now. How’d I do it? Lists and schedules.

First, I made a list of every chore that I want to have done each day. This includes things like:

  • Sweep Kitchen (morning & evening)
  • Vacuum Living Room
  • Unload/Reload Dishwasher
  • Hand Wash Pots/Pans
  • Put Away Toys/Books

On a second list, I wrote chores I wanted done weekly:

  • Mop Kitchen
  • Clean Toilets
  • Clean Bathroom Sinks
  • Change Sheets

And finally, on a third list, I wrote out the things that I wanted done monthly or less often. Among other things, this includes:

  • Vacuum Under the Couch Cushions
  • Clean Refrigerator/Freezer Shelves
  • Steam Clean Carpets
  • Declutter Bathroom Cabinets

You get the idea . . . of course, your lists may look drastically different from mine depending on your home and your family’s needs.

With these three lists complete, I made six schedules – one for every day of the week. (We rest on Sunday and do only the basic chores like loading the dishwasher . . . and sometimes we don’t even do that. :-))

On these daily schedules, I divided the daily and weekly chores up between the five members of our family, assigning age-appropriate tasks to each person. For example, four-year-old Robert is supposed to empty the bathroom trashcans once a week, pick up his bedroom floor every other day, and pick up the dirty towels out of the bathroom floor twice a week. (Notice I say, “supposed to.”) Eight-year-old James is scheduled to unload the dishwasher only once a week, while 11-year-old Nick does it three times a week.

Each person is slated to take care of at least two chores each day. Being the mom (sigh), I have the most chores on most days. Since my husband, Jon, works at an outside job, he usually has the least number of household jobs (besides Robert). Otherwise, I tried to keep things relatively balanced.

I also scheduled things for morning or evening. Since I want the kitchen floor swept twice a day, one person is scheduled for the morning and someone else for the evening.

On each daily schedule, I’ve typed each person’s name with their chores for the day (and each person’s name & chores are highlighted in the same color each day). Beside each chore is a check box so that we can mark things off as they get done.

I keep the schedule pages in a plastic sheet protector, which is taped to a closet door in our hallway. It’s very visible to everyone throughout the day (so no one has any excuse!) I also have a dry-erase marker hanging from a string that I taped to the door. That way, we can easily mark off each chore as we do it.

Now I’ll admit right now that our chore schedule is not 100% check marked at the end of each day. Sometimes it is, and I’m very happy on those days. Everything seems more peaceful when the house is neatly kept. 🙂

When we don’t complete all the chores, though, I don’t stress. I just change the sheet to the next day and we begin again. Just pick up where we left off and move on. Simple as that . . . stressing out never helped anything.

For the monthly and less often chores, I made up 12 calendar pages and plotted out the tasks. Most of those tasks fall to me, but it helps tremendously for me to see them in writing. Like the daily schedules, I keep all 12 of these pages in a plastic sheet protector taped to the closet door.

We’ve been using this system for a little over a year now, and it’s working quite well for us. We’re certainly not museum-quality, but things stay much neater than they did when I was flying by the seat of my pants. However . . .

Lest you think all my talk of chore charts makes me a perfectly polished housekeeper, here’s a picture of my living room right now.

We spent most of today away from the house but have been here long enough to mess things up and play some Mario Kart. (Anyone else still playing Super Nintendo?) Not many of those check boxes are marked today . . . oh well, there’s always tomorrow! 🙂

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    1. I’m convinced that having kids at home means that a clean room can only exist in very short bursts … very, very short bursts.

  1. Love it!! Thanks for the reality photo at the end. I once had guests over and since it was planned, I was able to clean my house very well. My friend has only seen my house at that stage and now considers me TYPE A! I laughed so hard and realized how “fake” I had come across to her trying to be “perfect” when on any other given day, my house will look anything but that! Now, I’m trying to find that ” middle ground” and teach my kids the value of their part in keeping a home.

    1. Very funny! What an honor to be mistaken for a Type A, lol.

      I always tell my kids, “We’re a family, and it takes all five of us to keep the house looking nice. You can tell hy looking around that I can’t do it all by myself.” 😀

    2. Esther, that reminds me of something my son said once when we had company. We had spent all day cleaning the house and getting everything ready. When the couple (a man who works with my husband and the man’s wife) entered the house, my son said, “See all this?” as he waved his hand to indicate his surroundings. “This is all fake! We spent the whole day cleaning the house. It’s never this clean except when we have company!” Needless to say I nearly died of embarrassment. I can laugh about it now only because it happened a long time ago. I think it was even more humiliating because he was telling the absolute truth!

      1. Wendy! That cracks me up.. One of my sons, would have totally done the same thing if he was around that night! He is soo blunt sometimes! Glad you are able to laugh about it now! =0)

  2. This is exactly what my heart needed to hear today. When we got home to a very messy house tonight, I was in tears. My littles are 5 and 2, so their responsibilities aren’t very big. Sometimes its all I can do to make it through a day. Thank you for showing a real life photo of your living room – mine looks about the same – and it restores my spirit.

    1. I’m glad the post encouraged you, Jen! A lived-in house is a loved-in house, and I wouldn’t trade that for the neatest showroom in the world.

    2. Jen, your words ‘Sometimes its all I can do to make it through a day’, made me cry, I am just the same. So overwhelmed sometimes. Cindy thank you so much for being REAL, it ministered to my heart as well.

      1. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. We homeschooling moms have an awfully lot of responsibility, but the rewards are so worth it. You’re in my prayers, Clare! Hugs to you.

  3. This sounds very similar to a schedule I established several months ago. It works so well when we all do it! Lately they have gotten off track but we just pick back up at the current day on the schedule and by the end of the second day, we are back on track! We love it! As long as I don’t have to fight them that day to do the small chores they are scheduled, we end up with more play time together! The kids love that…..I only wish they’d always remember that they love that! 😉 The main difference is that they earn a nickle for each of the things on their schedule. Also, on the back of their charts in the sheet protectors, I have 3 checklists. The first for their morning routine, things like brush hair (big issue with 3 girls!), brush teeth, make bed, etc.; Second for their bedtime routine, like pick up bedroom floor, brush teeth, get drink, potty, kisses (so nothing can be excuse for having to get up 5 times during read-aloud time); Third list is a general room cleaning checklist. Things like, bedding, clothes, toys, trash, etc. Checklists really help them stay focused on the task and it gives them a place to start when the mess appears overwhelming. They each have their own sheets so they can take them with them and we use dry erase markers on the sheet protector to check off each task as it is completed. Then on Sunday, they are given 5 cents for each chore completed that week. This is my attempt at incorporating good stewardship training. If they really do bad (my discretion) that week on their chores, I have the authority to say, no pay. 🙂 Loved this blog! Thanks for sharing! It’s always nice to hear that someone else has a plan that works…..most of the time. 😉

    1. Those are great ideas, Michelle, thanks for sharing! I totally agree about wishing the kids would remember how much they enjoy having clean rooms and a clean house. Some days are easier than others, definitely.

  4. OH forgot to mention that my girls are 8, 6, & 4. And SUPER messy! Wonder where they got that from!?

  5. Wow! Another me. It’s amazing how the house explodes on Friday’s around here. And sometimes when we’re not home either . Actually, today I cleaned up the kitchen really well. All papers got FILED and stuff put in it’s rigt place…but than again it’s only11:30am!

  6. I am so, so, so excited to follow your blog! Glad you wrote a guest post! This was wonderful on so many levels. I am a neat freak. I detest messiness, it makes me feel like I can’t breathe. But, alas, I work outside the home and my (wonderful, talented and awesome husband) works from home and homeschools and cooks and raises the kids all day and evening. And his feelings on cleaning are very different than my own. I decided a while ago to not make issue of messiness considering the fact that he does EVERYTHING else and it’s all monumentally more important than cleaning! But still, I can’t breathe! Anyway, your post made me feel better about the state of my home. And I’m SO glad to know someone out there doesn’t think it’s a big deal to not be a neat freak. I tend to think everyone loves cleanliness as much as I do, therefore it is the world’s most important thing. Which only adds to my pressure and breathlessness… THANK YOU for releasing some of this for me!

    Also, thank you for posting the schedule. I need to see how people do things. I’m really excited about doing this. My husband said recently that he wanted to do a chore chart. I’m the chart maker and organizer, and he’s the implementer. Now that I’ve seen your schedules and charts, I can do this! THANK YOU for taking the time to post them!

    Also, we live in WV as well! Great post, I’m very grateful for it!

    1. Hi, Leslie, how neat to meet a fellow WV homeschooler here! Email me sometime and we’ll see how far apart we are. 🙂

      It’s interesting to hear from “a neat freak” about this. I do love cleanliness and a tidy home, but it’s just not in my nature to keep it that way!

  7. My mother is one of those people. I always joke that Better Homes and Gardens could show up for a surprise photo shoot at any moment and she could have the house ready in less than 5 minutes. I can clean for a week before she comes to visit and still feel like my house doesn’t measure up.

    1. I can sympathize. My mother-in-law and grandmother never thought my house was clean enough no matter how hard I had worked. Of course, my mom says my grandmother wouldn’t let her sit on her bed during the day when she was growing up because that would muss up the covers. And I don’t bother having my kids make the beds! 😛

  8. My Mom (who is way more of a neat freak than I am) always tells me our house SHOULD looked lived in. There should be toys scattered about and shoes to trip over, we are in fact a family of five who spend much of our time at home! It can’t all be uncluttered and totally clean!

  9. Thank-you for this post and the pic of your living room! My house annoys me greatly! Yes we can do better, but trying to motivate everyone (including myself) is horrid! My husband gets very annoyed and voices his frustration…which in turn makes my frustration build. My parents make it very hard on me too. When I was growing up, our house looked like mine does and I am an only child. I have 5 children. But now my mom is OCD when it comes to her house. She makes it miserable when we visit. We need to do better than what we are, but I really just have to loosen up and go with the flow. Thanks again for this post!

  10. I used to be like that also with 2 kids but now that I have 4 it dont happen too often, I try to keep the livingroom clean so if we get popovers I am not too embarrassed! Thanks for the list I will put it to good use!

  11. When we start cleaning up, the first question my kids ask is, ” Is someone coming over?” I’m working on setting up a daily routine similar to yours so that my kids will know what is expected. And so we can keep the chaos at bay 🙂 Thanks for sharing your system!

    1. Oh yeah, I get that too! Until I instituted these lists, my youngest would ALWAYS ask, “Who is coming?” when I would vacuum. And he still asks, “Where are we going?” when I dress him. I forgot to add “dress kids” to the schedule…

  12. THANK YOU! All I can say is that. lol My living room looks like that most days and I am so not a neat person but my sister is and I HATE it when she steps foot in my home. I am going to try some of your ideas. I have a chore chart/reward chart thing and its just not cutting it.

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