Everyday Cleaning System

An everyday system, TM, is a simple, commonsense solution to an everyday problem, grounded by a pun or metaphor. Propose/discuss new systems here.
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Everyday Cleaning System

Post by annafirtree » Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:47 am

I am going to try a new everyday system, to help me tackle the mess that my house is too often in. It has one rule:

Clean up after every meal.

Some details in how I plan to apply this rule:
  • When asking myself "what needs to be cleaned", I will look around and answer that question for myself. Broadly, I expect the "public" rooms of the house - living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway, and probably front bathroom - to have everything picked up and surfaces wiped down. Bedrooms, basement, etc. are more optional. But anything that is irritating me probably needs to be cleaned.

    I am allowed to make my kids help, but I can't sit down while they work; we all have to keep cleaning until it is all done.

    I will make an exception if I have to leave right after a meal, but try not to make any other exceptions.
These details, although I think about them, aren't really the point of this system. The essence, and the only thing I have to remember, is really just "Clean up after every meal." If I aim to do that, the rest will take care of itself.

"After every meal" may seem like a lot. And maybe someone who doesn't have little kids could get away with a lot less and still keep a clean house. But I think this is a nice balance for us. It ensures that crumbs from meals will get cleaned off the table before the next meal. It means I have definite times (between meals) where I can engage in other activities without being nagged by the idea that I ought to be cleaning something. And cleaning up three times a day will mean that it never gets messy enough to take very long to clean up. That's the best part.

This method also ensures that the kids won't under-fill or over-fill the dishwasher, since I'll be helping and watching them. It forces me to take a more active role in guiding them through the details of how best to do it all, which I think is good for our relationship.

When we eat a meal, we're already taking a break from whatever else we might have been doing. So cleaning up "after meals" means that I never have to interrupt what I'm doing just for the sake of cleaning. (Although I do have to put off going back to it... but that is usually easier than breaking off in the first place.) Mealtime is also when we generate the most mess; preparation, eating, crumbs on the floor, and so on. So I think "after meals" is an especially helpful time to try to clean.

I don't have to keep a binder full of information on who cleans what when. I don't have to make a written cleaning schedule or progressively memorize a set of cleaning habits. I just have to look around after every meal and say, "Ok, what needs to be cleaned right now?" and then clean it.

Clean up after every meal.

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Post by Mika_Onida » Wed Jan 30, 2013 6:39 am

Sounds awesome! Let us know how it works for you.

I don't have kids, but I did have a feast and famine outlook on cleaning. I'd avoid it feeling guilty for days and then do a big clean up and start the cycle over.

My solution was just to make themes for N-days.
Monday's theme is "make and mend" that means that sewing and big batches of baking get done on mondays.
Tuesday is "tidy"(organizing that doesn't involve cleaning like desk clutter)
Wednesday is "wash and write"(laundry, clean bathroom, and personal goal of writing fiction)
Thursday is "think"(plan and schedule, learn something new, reflect and work on journal)
Friday is "food and fun"(grocery shopping and scheduled fun so I don't forget to do something enjoyable this week)

The point isn't to do EVERYTHING that falls under "tidy" on every Tuesday... it's more that if it's not "tidying" it can wait til the right day. I don't have to keep a binder, and I don't have to feel guilty that the bathroom needs cleaning on a Monday because it'll get done soon enough. It also keeps me from feeling bogged down by EVERYTHING that needs doing.

Maybe not helpful in a house full of kids, but I'm sharing in the hopes it might spark some experiments in others.

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Post by andrewemond » Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:42 pm

FlyLady.net is also a good resource for people looking to better their housekeeping skills. I think the fact that you're starting small is perfect. No need to overburden yourself in the beginning.

One thing that has helped me is systematically downsizing. I realize you have kids so this is more problematic, but just having fewer things means having fewer things to look after. I routinely go through my clothes and sort what I wear and what I no longer wear and then discard. I roughly have about a week-and-a-half's worth of clothing, so when I max out on my laundry, it means I only have to do maybe two small loads, at most.

Finding small ways to minimize mess is a great built-in fail-safe.

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Post by Mika_Onida » Fri Feb 01, 2013 6:30 am

andrewemond wrote:FlyLady.net is also a good resource for people looking to better their housekeeping skills.
Oddly enough.. Flylady always made me feel hectic and fed into my obsession with planning instead of doing. I could sit down and happily spend a whole work week creating a detailed room by room list of what needs doing sorted by how often it needs doing then create a big binder of a calendar of what gets done each and every day (see above re: feast & famine).... Yeah I know I'm edging on mental illness but what keeps me functioning is finding a functional way to see things simply.

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Everyday Cleaning System

Post by dh47 » Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:23 pm

I've been lurking for some time and have followed this conversation with interest. Finally I thought I'd weigh in. There's an iPod app called HomeRoutine that may be exactly what you're looking for. I'm not affiliated with it in any way. But I've used it off and on for probably a couple years now. It allows you very easily to set up a system of cleaning for every day of the week. The work for you comes in setting it up, because you have to decide how to divide up your house into focus zones for cleaning purposes. You may wind up having to tweak for a while until you get it right. So your breakdown might be, for example:

Monday: Kitchen
Tuesday: Upstairs bathroom
Wednesday: Living room and hallway

And so on. On each day you'll spend 15 minutes (or whatever) in your focus zone, and once the 15 minutes is up (the app has a timer), you're done. By the end of the week you'll have spent some time in each focus zone. By the end of the second week things will be looking pretty good.

In addition to the focus zones you can create a separate list of tasks that simply have to be done every day--washing the dishes, for example.

The beauty of this is that, once you've got your schedule set up, you don't have to think about it anymore. And if you follow your schedule you really will have a clean house after a short time. And you can happiliy stop after your 15 minutes of focused activity because you know that you're on the road to having everything under control. It's very freeing.

That said, I don't always use it. But I do always have it in mind. When I feel like I want to get the house up to snuff again, I hop back on the program for a few weeks. (Also, some of the habits I made using the app have stuck with me: Wednesday and Sunday are now always laundry days because of this thing.)

Anyway, I hope this helps.

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Post by annafirtree » Wed Feb 06, 2013 8:29 am

I've tried Flylady, I've tried setting a very simple weekly area-schedule, and I've tried more elaborate planning systems. None of them have worked for me. Either they require remembering too many rules or habits, they require keeping track of it, or at the very least they require sticking to a schedule. None of that has ever worked for me. My life is, for the most part, a series of un-timed, unpredictable events. People ask me when we usually eat dinner, and I think "Umm.. between 5 and 7... unless it gets pushed back to 8." The rest of my day is like that too, and I have at least three days of the week where recurring activities don't leave me with the energy to, say, clean a room that hasn't been cleaned in a week.

I wanted an Everyday System like the No-S diet. One simple rule that I can apply for the rest of my life. That's what I'm aiming for with this rule.

And the rule can be as flexible as I need it to be. It doesn't matter when I eat dinner; it only matters that I clean up afterward. If I eat at a friend's house, I can help them clean up after, since I'm sure we will have added to the mess. If my kids trash the living room 15 minutes after the breakfast clean-up, that's ok; it can stay that way until the lunch clean-up. If my 4yo boy has an accident during the night, then changing his sheets & giving him a bath can be part of the after-breakfast cleanup. If I noticed yesterday that the shelf where I keep mail and other office stuff has started to overflow with papers, then I can work that into the next available cleaning. Other parts of the house can be worked on, bit by bit, during cleaning times if and when I have the energy. The important part is that the main areas where I spend all my time (and where any guests are going to be, if they come over) are never farther away from being clean than the next meal. That is enough to keep me sane.

Also, I feel that the rule really gets at the heart of the problem. The No-S diet goes straight to the point by saying, "You eat too much. Eat less." Well, the reason my house is messy is because I don't clean it. It's not because I don't have some special product, it's not because I don't know what needs to be cleaned or how to clean it. It's because I don't do it, or I don't do it as often as I should. So the remedy is straightforward; clean up. And clean up after every meal, to make sure I do it often enough.

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Post by wosnes » Wed Feb 06, 2013 3:03 pm

I clean one room per day (and not necessarily consecutive days) and then start over. What I do depends on what needs to be done most. Nothing is ever all clean at once, but it's pretty much always decent. It works for me.

What I try to do daily is pick up and keep things tidy.
"That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do. Not that the nature of the thing itself has changed but our power to do it is increased." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"You are what you eat -- so don't be Fast, Easy, Cheap or Fake."

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Post by annafirtree » Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:27 pm


So far it is going well. My biggest challenge is deciding when a meal is done and cleanup needs to start. Not everyone in the family eats at the same rate, so (especially for breakfast and lunch), the people who eat the fastest usually wander off and start doing something else while others are still eating. My 2yo and 4yo in particular... when they eat, it isn't a sharp "eating/done eating" thing. It's more like the second half of a Bell curve... they eat, and then get distracted and stop, and then come back and eat a bit more, and then get distracted for longer and gradually peter out. I find that I usually have to pick a cut-off point and say, "Ok, you don't get to eat any more, we're going to clean-up now." And anyone who has wandered off and started something else (including myself!) has to come back and clean. If it reaches the point where no one is at the table eating, then I have to tell myself that the meal is over, and either start cleaning or admit I failed this time around.

The hardest part is making myself get started cleaning. Once I get going a bit, I usually love seeing things get clean, and I can keep going. Forcing myself to start cleaning is hard the same way that forcing myself not to snack or eat sweets when I started the No-S diet was.

But... the results so far are a great improvement. Even when I do a mediocre job of cleaning, doing a mediocre job of cleaning three times a day is producing much better results than not-nearly-enough-cleaning. And at least some of the time, I find that once I get started cleaning, I will go beyond just the bare minimum. For instance, last night I had to wipe a blueberry stain off the carpet, and I found myself scrubbing all the main trackways on the carpet to get out the dirt stains that had been bothering me.

There was still one time when a neighbor came over and I didn't want them to come in and see the state of the house (the kids had dumped a bunch of blankets and toys and jackets and shoes everywhere and it wasn't mealtime yet.) But, for the most part, it stays clean enough that I feel like I can stay sane. I hope to soon have time to re-organize the rec room and the kids' bedrooms so that keeping them clean can be part of our regular 'after meal' pickup.

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Post by albol » Sun Jun 09, 2013 1:40 pm

Hi, interesting to see this topic.

I'd like to share my take on this. My circumstances are vastly different to yours, but as a student who lives in student accommodation I've always been one of the sorts of people who could never keep anything tidy. So, for the past week or so I've decided to impose a rule of:

"Just a bit tidier"

In other words my room has to be just a little bit tidier than it was the previous day. Why not tidy it up once and for all? Well, if I did that it may be pristine for 24 hours, but pretty soon it would be back in the same sorry state it had found itself in just before. And while it may take a few weeks before everything is back in order it has the two positive major benefit also offered by the NO-S system for eating:

1) Offering gradual improvement that can actually be stuck to
2) Forming a habit of keeping the place clean and tidy without causing too much of an effort.

I just hope I can keep it up and become a tidier more organised person so that this can spill over to other aspects of my life.

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Post by MerryKat » Mon Jun 10, 2013 12:18 pm

Mmm, I am very interested in all the different ideas.

I love FlyLady but as pointed out by someone else it fuels my scheduling and procrastinating skills - I would far rather create fancy schedules than actually clean - and there in lies the problem.

One thing I have taken from FlyLady and try to follow (not always successfully) is put it away when you are done.

I am trying to just make sure I do a little (of wherever is worst) every day & Try and clear the kitchen daily as we are done.

Will have to think further on this to find a consise plan which works with out causing further procrastination!
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Post by bonnieUK » Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:41 pm

I was just thinking I could do with an everyday system for cleaning and then came across this.

I've tried FlyLady too, but I used it for cleaning in the same way I used "Getting Things Done" for work, i.e. I created elaborate plans, schedules and lists but never seemed to get to the "doing" part :D

At the moment, I'm thinking of doing what Wosnes said earlier in this thread, just cleaning a room every day based on what needs doing most, plus a daily pick up of the kitchen and living room (and I need to add, check laundry baskets daily otherwise I forget until we've run out of clothes :D).

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Post by oolala53 » Sat Oct 26, 2013 4:16 pm

I wish we could get this going! I actually receive the Flylady newsletter every day but don't read it. If I gave one-tenth the attention to cleaning/organizing I do to eating issues, things would be a lot better! It's just always been easier to me NOT to eat, than it is to actually DO something productive. I can NOT EAT while sitting on the couch for long periods of time...

On some days, I do well by setting my timer for 15 minutes at a time and moving from room to room. I think if I could work up to even two 15-minute sessions a night after work, that would be great. But I've never gotten over feeling burdened when I'm doing it. Funny, when I have someone over and gab with them while I do dishes, it's not a problem at all.
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