So I’ve mentioned a few times my quest this year to just have a better handle on housework. I know with 5 kids home all the time, it’s not going to be perfect. I just want the feeling of drowning to go away.
Throughout this process of focusing my attention to housekeeping, I’m realizing there is an “art” side to it, and a “craft” side to it. The Hidden Art of Homemaking is a beautiful book by Edith Schaeffer. It talks about how to be intentional in creating beauty in your home and within the context of home. I’m so inspired by this side of homemaking. It’s not about scrubbing toilets. It’s about arranging flowers and leaving love notes for your kids, and bringing out your fine linens and putting a small vase on a tray when bringing it out to a homeless man asking for a meal on your porch. It’s about crafting an atmosphere, a space that reflects the beauty and grace of God. If you are a homemaker, you must read this book. It will make you see your job so differently.
But like painting, acting, photography, writing and knitting for that matter, there is a craft side to the art. There’s a way to do it right, and do it well. The craft is the structure on which the art is built.
I’ve also mentioned that I am not naturally tidy. I don’t like crumbs and sticky stuff, and usually address that first. But piles of junk? That’s pretty common with me. I lack in the structure side of homemaking. Many of my friends pointed me in the direction of “Fly Lady.” It doesn’t cost anything, it’s just a cleaning schedule that you can do to rotate all the jobs in your house. Over the course of a month, everything gets clean.
If you go to the website, you can sign up for email accountability, and to be honest, the website is a bit confusing. I could start at the baby steps, but I just felt that was more for someone who wasn’t in the habit of cleaning at all. I was cleaning all the time but felt like I was spinning my wheels and not going anywhere. I didn’t need to get in the habit of cleaning, I needed a plan, or direction for my cleaning.
I spent about 2 evenings just exploring the site. There were things I liked: the cleaning zones. I liked that you focus on deep cleaning areas of your house every week. I also liked the morning and evening routines. It sounded very doable.
There were things that didn’t fit us perfectly, and really no system will fit 2 households perfectly. For instance, she suggest that you do one load of laundry a day to stay on top of it.
Haha. That’s cute.
If I did one load of laundry a day, we’d get behind in a hurry. Also, the zones only address 1 bathroom and we have 2. It names a living room as a zone, but leaves out family room and finished basement. The other complaint I’ve read is that it doesn’t give jobs for various people in the family jobs. I like her explanation of that. She says that if you want something clean, you need to take initiative, and not just stare at it wishing someone else would do it. I like that. Knut does many chores, but most of them take place outside the house. He does do dishes and scrubs things down from time to time, which is nice. But he’s not home all day to keep it clean. I am. I live in the mess, and I need to take a hold of it.
The other issue I had with the system is that we’re not just a family that can tidy up the house, and go to work/school, and come back to a clean house. My house is very lived in. People are always here. Messes are continually being made. Keeping a house this lived in clean requires constant cleaning, not just a few times a day. The system definitely needed tweaking for a large family that’s always home. The bones of the system are good. It just needed some customization for us.
As I was 1 week into her baby steps, one of my friends posted about an app that coordinated with Fly Lady. It’s called Home Routine by Wunderbear. It does cost $5, but in comparison with how much it helps me, I’d say it’s worth it. I went ahead and got it. I’m so in love with this app. I was able to delete jobs that just don’t apply to our house, such as “wipe down bench” since we don’t have a bench. I was able to add jobs, so that I could check off vacuuming each living area, or sinks in both bathrooms. I was able to custom make the Fly Lady system for my house, and the specific needs of my house.
As far as spreading out the duties, it’s pretty simple. After every meal the kids and I do chores. I would just look at the list on the phone, and hand out duties, taking the bulk for myself. It’s just nice to have a plan that I don’t have to think about. When one of my kids says “what’s my chore?” I don’t have to look around the house and see what needs to get done. I just look and see what’s next on the list. That doesn’t mean I don’t look around and change it when necessary, it just means that when my brain is overloaded, I have something to base jobs on without much thought.
I have noticed that the first month was hardest because there was some jobs listed that had quite a built up of junk to go through. I started back in December, and I’m now on my 3rd month going through the house zones. It’s so much faster now. The frequency of the rotation has actually made the build up less, and the jobs faster. I’m liking that. I did fall off the bandwagon for about a week, the but I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t push me back that far. I had already over a month of foundation of keeping things clean that it took me no more than half a day to get myself back on track.
The app (which was created with the Fly Lady system in mind, but is not endorsed by Fly Lady that I know of) has morning chores, evening chores, a list of things to be done for the zone of that week, as well as a weekly list. It also has a timer built into the app. For instance, I customized the morning chores to look like this:
(It’s not done in any particular order.)
-Start washing machine
-15 minutes in focus zone
-5 minutes putting out hot spot.
In all honesty, sometimes I don’t get through this list until about 3pm. But it has been getting done, and that’s the point.
On a side note, I hate putting devotions on my to do list, most especially next to taking vitamins. It feels like it’s lowering, or lessening it’s importance. It’s just that I’m easily distracted, and have a whole army in this house that is working hard to keep me distracted (or at least it feels that way) and this list helps me keep priority things that are important to me. It’s not perfect, but it has been beneficial for actually getting me in the Word. So it stays.
So when I have a 15 minute opening where the kids are occupied, I pull open my zone list for that week, start the timer, and complete as many things on that list as I can until the alarm sounds. It’s a pretty fantastic alarm too, akin to Dave Ramsey’s “We’re debt free!” vibe. You can set alerts to do certain tasks at certain times (for those of us who are easily distracted). I can then set the timer for 5 minutes and work on the kitchen counter where clutter piles up high nearly hourly.
I think what I like about it is the jobs are so bite sized. The scale on which I have to clean may be big, but if I just stick with the 15 minute clean ups and 5 minutes putting out the “hotspot” an incredible amount actually gets done. I can actually do them without feeling like a failure. For someone like me who needs to feel like something is done well, and can never accomplish “clean kitchen” I can handle “wipe down kitchen chairs.”
Right now I’m doing the bulk of the “weekly chores” on Saturday. This works out logically with homeschooling, but has been difficult with my neck and chronic pain. So many of the chores I have for that day I simply cannot do back to back. I have relied on the kids a lot on this day, and we work on this list as a team effort, when none of us have to do any school related work. So far I’ve only been able to do half the weekly list every Saturday, and the other half on a different Saturday. However, it’s so much better than what I was doing before.
I love that I can just set up the plan in my app, and I don’t have to write out a to do list every day. Scraps of paper left everywhere in my house is now a think of the past, and I don’t spend any time writing out the list every morning like I used to. I used to spend 15-20 minutes every morning (or sometimes the night before) writing out a to do list. That time is now spent actually cleaning, using a pre-set to do list.
Things I wish were different:
-I wish I could somehow get meal planning coordinated with this to do list. That’s just another big area that I have to juggle. So far my meal planning still takes place in a 3 ring binder. I’ve added “make bread” on my weekly/Saturday list, but I’d love to have more space to move around involving food in this app.
-There is no reminders to de-clutter or get rid of stuff on the app as there is on the Fly Lady website. I’d love to be decluttering spaces more on a daily basis. Of course, I could add this into each zone, but I’m not sure I need to declutter that often? Maybe I should be, but I’m not right now.
-I wish there was another category for afternoon chores. In our house, I have learned that in order to stay on top of the mess we do a quick clean up after each meal. It’s short…less than 30 minutes. (I get mine done in about 15 minutes, but the kids work a bit slower than me. Actually if their attitude is just right they have the ability to drag out the 15 minute chore to 2 hours even somedays. They’re talented like that. They have learned that they don’t like doing that much anymore, though.) The app only has morning and evening chore lists, as I imagine most families are not at home around lunchtime. It would really be nice if I could add a list for afternoons. Right now I just sort of ad lib for our afternoon chores, and have the kids pick up their school books, and we just tidy up the kitchen and fold one load of laundry.
I find myself cleaning up little messes a lot quicker, because I just do it once I’m on a roll cleaning. The biggest thing I like about this system is it gets me started. Looking around at a messy house, and knowing that you can’t conquer it but you should get up and try to anyway is incredibly depressing. But putting small goals in front of me, I start, and often don’t stop because it feels so good to make a beautiful space.
I still have to look at it as making a space beautiful, rather than “cleaning it.” The artist in me relies heavily on that inspiration side of “cleaning.”
So that is my unbiased, unpaid review of both Fly Lady and the Home Routines app. I think that both those 2 resources work incredibly well together. I’m loving it, and I’m allowed to slip up from time to time without falling down in failure. The kids and I are in much better habits, and although our house is not by any stretch a picture of cleanliness, the stress of the mess is much, much lower. I don’t feel so panicky- out of control about my housework anymore. Well…at least not as often.