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That was the case for me, anyway. I wouldn’t realize that I was overdue to deep clean my bathtub until I was sinking into a bubble bath — surrounded by a grimy bath ring. I thought I vacuumed regularly, but I’d be stretching on my yoga mat and come eye-to-eye with a stray dust bunny. I kept inadvertently falling behind on my chores, resulting in a dirty/clean cycle that I could never seem to break.
There had to be a better way. It is perhaps unsurprising that my solution was inspired by one of my earliest role models in housekeeping, Laura Ingalls Wilder. In “Little House in the Big Woods,” Wilder relates a typical weekly schedule: “Wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday, mend on Wednesday, churn on Thursday, and clean on Friday, bake on Saturday, rest on Sunday.”
Given that I’m not a 19th-century homesteader, much of Wilder’s list doesn’t make sense for me. But I loved the idea of knowing exactly what I’m meant to do on a given day, and tackling a lot of work in quick, easy increments. Enter: my Notes app chore list.
What I love about this approach is the flexibility it affords while ensuring I cover my bases. It took me a few weeks to really nail down the list, since new tasks kept occurring to me. When I keep up with it, I’m able to keep my house perpetually tidy without spending more than 30 minutes a day on housekeeping. The best part is, I don’t even have to think about it — I just check my list and see what needs doing.
I set my lists up on my phone’s Notes app because it’s easy for me to edit, check off, and reschedule items as needed. At the end of the week, I simply uncheck everything to start all over again.
For a more analog approach, using a whiteboard, a laminated piece of paper, or writing out a list at the start of every week could also work well. I handle most of my housekeeping on my own, but a shared list is also a great way to divide and conquer throughout the week.
Everyone’s needs are different. For example, I live in an apartment, so I don’t have to consider adding yard work to my rotation. To build out my list, I jotted down recurring tasks as they occurred to me. As I worked my way through the list, I adjusted my cadence as needed (for example, realizing that I could do a task less frequently, or figuring out what days were most convenient to load up with a little more housework).
I like to organize my tasks by the days of the week: I vacuum Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, scrub the kitchen sink on Tuesdays, and so on. It’s easy for me to stick to this cadence because I only give myself a few tasks to do each day, so I’m never overwhelmed. Another approach could be to tackle your house room-by-room: on Mondays and Wednesdays, you focus on the kitchen, Tuesdays and Fridays are for cleaning the bathroom, and so forth.
For my list, I prioritize the tasks that aren’t obvious. I don’t need a reminder for every task — for example, I’ll immediately know when the trash can is full, or when the sink is stacked with dishes. Instead, I make note of the sneakier to-dos, like dusting or cleaning the bathtub, that are easy to forget until neglecting them results in visible dirt. Here are some tasks you might tackle a couple times throughout the week:
Besides these daily “maintenance” tasks, I also make time for the more rigorous cleaning that really keeps things sparkling. These chores require more elbow grease and a little more time. I try to disperse them throughout the week, but it’s also not uncommon for me to spend an hour on the weekends knocking them all out in one sitting. (I have a small apartment, so this approach is easier for me than it might be for some.)
Monthly / Infrequent Tasks
Lastly, I set time aside every month — usually the first weekend — to handle the bigger tasks. These are the tasks that are, frankly, too annoying to do too often, but are also necessary to keeping my house clean. Seasonal tasks, like cleaning my AC filter in the summer, usually fall under this section of my list.
The wonderful thing about this list is how adaptable it is. If I’m too tired to do a task one day, I simply drag-and-drop it for later in the week, ensuring I don’t forget it while allowing me to relax. List-making is a little more work to set up initially, but it allows me to easily keep my space clean and organized with minimal time and effort. These days, I feel a sense of comfort and control of my surroundings — and I’m rarely surprised by stray dust bunnies.