353: A Stress-Reducing Year-Round Schedule for House Cleaning and Maintenance for a Small Household
A tidy sanctuary creates mental space to find calm more readily. Upon walking into my home, Le Papillon, knowing and then witnessing that it has been cleaned, tidied and unnecessary items have been removed, whether that be emptying the recycling basket in the boot & basket room (aka mudroom), countertops are cleared of extraneous items, and the flowers are fresh, I breathe some of the deepest breaths I ever take during my days. Distractions to the mind come into our lives in a variety of ways (I share and discuss 11 forms of distraction here), and one such way is clutter of items in our homes, items without a home, too many items, dusty, dirty, disorganized spaces, counters, windows, fabrics, floors, etc. No doubt, I am not sharing anything you don't already know. But how do we tend to our homes and still have time and energy to live the lives we want to live? I will admit to being nearly totally in alignment with Simone Beauvoir's train of thinking shared in her book The Second Sex when it comes to house cleaning, “Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.” And if there was a magic wand to wave whenever the house needed its regular clean and tidy, I would wave it without hesitation regularly and often. I recognize that some may find calm in the practice of cleaning, and that is fine; however, what would you do if your house was perpetually clean? Think of all the time and energy you would have remaining to do something constructive, explore a curiosity, read a book, rest your eyes after a long, grueling, yet productive week, spend more time with those you love, spend more time in your own company getting to know yourself better, take a longer walk with the pups, snuggle with your cat who is seeking your company after having been at the office all day. I share the possibilities of what we might choose to do with more time, regular time consistently available, to point out that while cleaning and caring for our homes is a necessity, there are many different approaches to doing so well to gain the benefits of such a space that is our sanctuary. Apart from hiring a regular cleaning service which I have done in the past and may do again in the future, even if they come every other week, or weekly, we still can care for our homes thoughtfully as well as simply in order to enjoy all of the time we find ourselves in our abode. And regarding the choice to focus on a small household, this can be viewed in two ways: whether small in square footage or living with only a couple of inhabitants (our furry companions count as family here on TSLL). So whether you live on your own as I do, with dogs or cats or entirely in your own company, with your partner, or are an empty-nester, living in a small household liberates us in multiple ways, and thankfully, requires less to clean and care for, giving us more time and energy to do so well. One of the chapters in my second book, Living The Simply Luxurious Life: Making Your Everydays Extraordinary and Discovering Your Best Self, goes in to great detail about “Living Small”, chapter 13, and one such reason is the reality that the smaller the space we call home, the less we have to clean. However, just because we may live, choosing to or not, in a small home doesn't mean the home can't be luxurious. In decoration, in organization, in consideration for everything, we can live luxuriously in a small home, and the beauty is, we have an advantage, we have less to clean, less to furnish, less to organize, now we just have to figure out how to do so wisely and with great savvy. Back in 2011 I shared a brief post detailing what to clean and how often throughout the year in our homes, pairing with the post a free printable PDF of this cleaning schedule, but it was brief and that was more than 10 years ago, so with the prompting from a TSLL reader recently who shares her home with her husband and pets, sans children (similar to myself, sans the husband), I wanted to update and share with you how to clean and maintain your home throughout the year so that when Spring does roll around you don't feel overwhelmed by the 'spring cleaning' fever that often arises. And I completely get it. It feels good to freshen up the entire house, but I don't have the time and energy to do so all in one swoop once a year. Rather, what makes sense to me is a steady, smart approach both in how and what I clean and maintain to avoid large repair bills due to lack of attention. Let's take a look at the list, and I will provide again, but this time the updated version, the free printable PDF schedule at the end of today's post/episode. 1.Begin with a home and its contents that you actually use and need In other words, this is a one off, not a regular practice, but something to keep in the back of your mind after you tend to it when considering bringing in new items to the home. Ask yourself the following question: “The stuff you own has to help you create the life you want. And if it doesn’t, why is it in your home?” –Peter Walsh As I look around my own home, small in square footage but large to the eye with its high ceilings and multiple south-facing windows letting in oodles of light, I will tend to this question room by room throughout the year. Honestly, nothing is on a schedule now when it comes to this permanent editing as I have edited quite a bit over the past four years with my move to my home and with the construction over the past three years. For example, my kitchen cupboards and drawers received a thorough edit during the kitchen remodel when everything was removed and stored in my guest bedroom. Nothing says, reduce and eliminate the unnecessary when you have no more floor space in your guest bedroom to put anything. Do I really need that [insert item that I have never used, not once, ever]? Below is a list of space, collections and items to seriously look at and judiciously edit: Your bookshelves/library — Keep only the books that yep, brought you joy, but also that are sound reference books, collector items, and books you want to have on hand for any reason - to share, to recall a particular detail, but don't keep books just to have more books. They bring more weight, take up more space, collect dust and reflect you inaccurately should anyone scan your book collection. Your linen closet(s) — bedding, dining, bathroom, cleaning rags, entertaining, blankets, etc. Kitchen cupboards and drawers — as you go through this process, especially in the kitchen, keep a notepad with you, listing any items you know you need more of because one or two is not enough as they tend to be in the dishwasher or utilized when you need to use them again, or any item you simply need. Be stringent with yourself about letting go of items that just take up space, don't do an effective job and need to be let go. It will make finding what you need when you need it far easier and make cooking in the kitchen more enjoyable. Any drawer or cupboard where you store anything — in other words, know what is in your cupboards and don't use them to store things you never use. It is okay to have an empty cupboard. Say that again, and don't be tempted by the need to fill it. Clothing and coat closets —The seasonal wardrobe assessment is a great idea and goes more quickly each time as you get to know and love what you have in your closet. The coat (and I should probably add the outerwear accoutrement drawers/bins/shelves) closet will need to be cleaned and edited less frequently, but make sure you know what you have, have what you need and donate the rest. Épicerie/Pantry —Listen to/Read episode #109 — the 34 Must-Have Items for Your Home Épicerie, then read this post - 9 Ways to Organize Your Kitchen, Improve Your Health and Help Out the Planet Tea/Coffee Cupboard —In episode #7 of Season 3 of The Simply Luxurious Kitchen cooking show I share in the video a peek into my tea cupboard and how I organize it. Candle Cupboard/Closet — The suggested idea of designating an entire closet/cupboard to candles was the Petit Plaisir of episode #280. Assess what candles you have, what candles have never been used and why, donating those you will never use, and making a plan to shop and welcome in the ones you love when/if they go on sale, otherwise purchasing when it best fits your budget and often purchasing more than one to stock up. Bathroom drawers/cupboards/medicine cabinets — In your primary bathroom and any guest or powder rooms, be diligent and toss whatever is not used, has expired, etc.. As well, make a note of what you always need, what you are out of, would like to add to your toiletries to enhance your daily skincare and body care rituals and routines. Your furniture (chairs, rugs, tables, beds, dressers, desks, mirrors, shelves, lamps, etc. - large and small) — let yourself dream and be very honest with yourself. Where do you feel most at peace, comfortable, cozy, relaxed, productive, etc.. Based on what the function of the room is, do you feel what you desire to have created with your furnishings? Admittedly, once you have your list of what you need but don't have yet, it may take time. Have the patience because once you know how you want to live and feel in your home, the waiting is easier until you find and/or save up for what you know will fit perfectly in that particular space. Be a bit ruthless in letting go of items that don't serve a helpful or comfortable purpose and vow yourself to not just purchase filler items - an ill-made side table. Get creative with what you have to hold space until you have the ability to welcome into your home what you have on your list. Explore more specific décor posts here for customizing your home. Now that you have clarity that you either have what you need, or know what you need and have let go of the rest, you have let go of some stress, alleviated some unwanted burdens on your ability to relax when you arrive home and are ready to more swiftly and intentionally clean your home regularly without it becoming overwhelming, and maybe even a bit enjoyable. ☺️ 2. Daily simple habits that reduce the amount of weekly and monthly cleaning When we are at the point of burn-out even the simplest task of picking up after ourselves can be taxing. I can remember more nights than I want to admit while I was both teaching and blogging that I was too tired to entirely pick up the kitchen after cooking dinner before I went to bed. I literally needed more energy and going to bed was a necessity over cleaning the kitchen. Don't worry, I would without fail, clean the kitchen in the morning, but that was a task that didn't help to begin the day well. Stepping into a clean kitchen, a clean home each morning is a wonderful way to start the day and I knew that, but I did not have the energy to make it my regular practice on certain days of the work week. All of this built up to show me that I needed to make a change, so I share all of that with you to acknowledge, you may have an extremely busy schedule, so much so you cannot tend to these tasks listed below each day, but when you do make the necessary breathing room in your life to tend to these habits daily, it has a beautiful ripple effect of reducing stress, increasing clarity and giving you the ability to make better, more constructive decisions so that you never find yourself in such a schedule again. Okay, so what are the daily habits? In order of the day's events: Clear the bedside table(s) of anything such as water glasses, opened books (close and restack neatly), etc., so it is neatly organized when you return to bed in the evening. Make the bed Empty the dishwasher (if you ran it at night) Clear the table after breakfast (and after any meal), placing dishes in the dishwasher, not just in the sink. Run the dishwasher when full, or nearly full but on an eco-saver wash. Wipe the kitchen countertops after each use of the kitchen. Empty the trash when it is full. Empty any recycling bins when they are full to their exterior destination for pick-up on their scheduled day. Upon receiving/picking up the mail, immediately recycle any flyers/mailers/magazines you don't intend to read/use; open all letters and recycle the envelope and any contents you don't need. Place all mail you need to address in a designated basket or holder in the main room where you look at your mail. I do this in my Boot & Basket room and have a basket on the wall that is used for just this case (tour the room here). When it is time to pay bills or tend to business, I take the basket into the office. Place your keys in the same spot every time you walk over the threshold of your home from outside. Have hooks on the wall as necessary and/or enough hangers or bins in the coat closet/mudroom for your outerwear, dog leashes, scarves, umbrellas. Immediately deposit the items in their designated spot when you return home. Have a designated basket/bin for your reusable grocery totes, preferably near the kitchen and/or near the door you exit when you head to the market/grocery so that you don't forget them or lose them. Fold up blankets in the living room, snug, reading nook upon leaving the space. Resituate/Plump the pillows on any chair or sofa you sat in upon leaving the room. Clean as you cook: in between steps, not just after the meal is completely done. Return tea trays or food trays back to the kitchen once you have finished relaxing. Don't leave it to be picked up later. Vacuum as necessary throughout the week. I have a Dyson wireless stick vacuum which makes it super simple to grab, swoop across the floor and pick up any dirt or dust the pups may have brought in from a walk, pick up crumbs from the dinner I just made and with ease place the vacuum back in the closet. Once I purchased this vacuum (2019) I have come to enjoy cleaning a bit more because there is no tedious cord, no bending over, light-weight and dare I say, it almost feels magical how easy it is to tidy up. This keeps the house clean throughout the week and lets us live our lives as well. Here is a link to the one I have. A note about what you receive with the investment of purchasing Dyson vacuum cleaners as it was a step up for me price-wise and I pondered it for a while: The customer service is spectacular, swift, knowledgeable and helpful for any question I have had to learn the basics. Also, with a two year warranty on the product, it wasn't until four years later that my battery needed to be replaced, and it was easy to do with their customer service. Free shipping and a warranty on the battery. Simple video tutorials for how to replace and install once it arrived. The customer service has sold me as a lifelong client as their products are high quality, high functioning and help available when I need it at any time. If you work from home, tidy up your desk top/office at the end of each workday, prepared for a clean slate the next day. Make sure to have a presentable garbage bin (small) in your office. I use one from The Citizenry, and while my style isn't no longer available, they still make many small baskets that are perfect for a waste basket. 10 Ways to Make Your Office Desk Space Efficient and Inspiring 3. Choose one day during the week, an afternoon or morning (early or late), that you can designate 1-2 hours to clean Now, again, I am not someone who enjoys cleaning, and when I used to write this task in my planner, I sighed a bit because I would have rather been doing something else, prior to retiring from teaching, it would have been just having more time to relax at my home, now it is time to create, to explore, to be with my pups without a vacuum or a cleaning rag/mop in my hand. However, #3 on this list is a be a misnomer because you don't have to do all of the same cleaning tasks each day of the week, rather you are going to alternate a few. Let me explain. It was an aha moment for me the first time I hired a cleaning service to regularly clean my house: they came every other week. And I thought to myself, how can I possibly wait two weeks to have my house cleaned? After all, for years I had attentively cleaned my house each Friday after work, no matter what I was up to later the evening or how long my week had been. Well, what I discovered was that if you clean it well every other week AND tend to the daily habits shared above, your house will be just fine, and you will be less stressed and have more free time. What to do each week (every other week tasks designated as such): Vacuum everything - the floors, hardwoods, carpets, rugs, upholstered furniture, pillows, window trims, etc. Clean the stovetop (aka the hob). Get some good dish soap and water, some stainless steel cleaner if necessary (I use EZBrite as it is environmentally friendly) Wipe down the fronts of the dishwasher, refrigerator (use EZBrite for these as well if they are stainless steel), cupboard fronts, and around the handles as they tend to get the most dirty from being touched frequently. Every other week: Wipe down doors, near the handles to remove prints, etc. Every other week: Dust (I used to do this each week. It is unnecessary.) Every other week: Mop all floors. I used to do this each week, but no longer do. If it was a particularly dirty week, I will mop, but so long as I vacuum regularly, remove my shoes and wash the paws of my pups when we return from a dust-filled/mud-filled walk, the floors stay presentable until the following week. Welcome fresh flowers into the house - between 1-3 small bouquets placed in the living room, bedroom, dining room, foyer or office, I either pick them up at Trader Joe's or source them from my own garden during the warmer months, sometimes picking one up at the farmer's market. Clean/wash bed linens. Air dry the sheets to ensure they last longer, especially linen sheets - NEVER put them in the machine dryer as it is too harsh of heat. Wash any regularly used towels - bathroom and kitchen. Clean bathrooms that receive regular use, this can be done every other week depending upon how heavily the bathroom is used. For bathrooms used occasionally, monthly is fine. Clean mirrors and windows/glass doors, removing fingerprints as necessary. Go through the refrigerator, assessing prior to heading out for your weekly grocery outing. Wash your dog/cat food dishes. If you have a microwave (I do not), clean inside and the front window/door. Clean switch plates for regularly touched light switches. 4. Quarterly/every 3 months/Seasonally Many of the items on this list will come from tasks shared in #3 that don't need to be done as often depending upon how you live, or need to be done more frequently that are listed below in #5. Thoroughly clean all trash canisters/recycling bins Dust lamps, shelves, any place that can collect dust that you can't reach easily, or isn't seen or used regularly. Dust computer screens - this may be done more frequently, but at least every three months. Launder all blankets used in the living room or in snugs/reading nooks. Clean/dust/wipe down items in trays and vignettes on top of console tables, dressers, coffee tables, etc.. Store seasonal décor in a clearly labeled box or bin and place where it doesn't distract and is out of the way (garage, attic, storage space). 5. Twice a Year, during a day or couple of days that you have energy, so ideally after a day you have been able to rest One time of year I tend to many annual or semi-annual tasks is during the week between the years, that final week of the year when I am able to have time to myself and just rest, then be energized to tidy up which always feels good upon going into a new year. Here's the list: Clean all windows – inside & out. Flip the mattress *Clean and reorganize the pantry, this happens at least once a year, sometimes twice. As I become more clear about what I need and organized to refill when I run out as it happens, I have found tending to this once a year is enough. Thoroughly clean the refrigerator - remove the drawers, the lining on any side shelves, and clean, clean, clean. If you have been assessing your fridge's contents each week, this won't be a difficult task and should only take about 30 minutes. Clean oven thoroughly Launder pillows - I cover my pillows with liners (aka pillow protectors) and then place the pillowcase over the top of those. This helps to protect the pillow itself. *Wipe baseboards and moldings - this can also be done once a year depending upon the work you have had done in your home, how often you leave your windows open, etc.. Clean the kitchen range hood. Clean the filter in your dishwasher. Clean any bird feeders (this can be done more often if you have an active bird café). Clean under and around any furniture that isn't regularly vacuumed or moved. Clean the garage thoroughly, editing as you go. Have the sprinkler system (if you use one), turned on in the spring and winterized in the fall. Cover/Remove vent covers - for winterizing and then come spring remove and store. Exterior hoses, watering cans, non-frost proof pots in the garden - drain all water and store. Replace the water filter in your refrigerator or other water dispensing device (filter dependent). Clean gutters - this may need to be done only yearly depending upon the amount of debris that potentially can fall into your gutters. I tend to do this in the spring and the fall.