My home is not as clean or neat as I would like it to be (it’s a dump, folks), but it gets a smidgen better every day. By the end of the year maybe it will be fit for visitors! As it is, I do most of my entertaining in the back yard, where a high level of dirt is not just tolerated, but expected.
Something I learned (the hard way, as I learn everything) when I quit working to go Hausfrau is that I don’t get anything done without a schedule. I figured that I would clean stuff as necessary. It never occurred to me that I could actually watch the dust accumulate while I ran back amok doing whatever chores were least like work and most like fun. The first few weeks off work were enormously productive (I excavated the dining room table on day one and we had our first meal there in a year!) but as soon as I settled in to a groove I quit cleaning almost entirely.
If you share this unfortunate need for structure, here’s my advice: let Martha be your boss. Yes, Martha Stewart. Say what you like about her, but the woman runs a tight ship, housekeeping-wise.
I got Martha’s mammoth manifesto: Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook, from the library and copied down her three cleaning checklists. I cut out what didn’t apply to me (like servicing gas appliances and maintaining swimming pools) and made one schedule out of it. (Look at it here.) I pushed all the major work into the days Monday through Thursday because Matt works four tens. That frees me up to hang out with him or be his third hand on his own projects over the weekend. (Martha’s checklists are also available for free on her website. Daily Checklist, Weekly Checklist, Seasonal Checklist.)
Once you get into the swing of things your daily duties take just a few minutes per room per day. (No, really – if you clean it every week without fail even the bathroom only takes about ten minutes. I swear!) The trick then is to spend a few extra minutes in each room. For instance: my living room duties include dusting, vacuuming, and whisking away stuff that has migrated from other rooms (gun cleaning paraphernalia, quilts, dirty dishes). That’s it. So when I’m done with that, I go back to the living room and stand in the middle, doing the Clint Eastwood squint. I ask myself: What else can I do? Vacuum under the couch cushions? Organize our record collection? Sift through one of the bookshelves for stuff we don’t read that can go to the thrift store? Do one or two little things like that in each room after you’ve officially finished – just a minute or two more each week – and eventually it starts to have a cumulative effect.