Evaluate your household routines

The routine chart provided on pages 98 and 99 in Unclutter Your Life in One Week is almost identical to the routine chart my husband and I used in our house when I was writing the book. We call it our “Doland Duties” chart and it’s how we tackle the things that have to get done for our home to function smoothly.

We revamped our Doland Duties chart when our son entered our lives back in late August, and we had to rework it again when he became mobile (we’ve started calling him Mr. Motor Pants). Major life changes — moving, new job, marriage, baby — are a great time to revisit your routines to see if all of your chores are planned out so that you’re never feeling overwhelmed by the state of things in your home. And, if you don’t currently have a routine chart, I recommend setting one up so that you’re always comfortable with the state of your home.

The biggest changes we’ve made to our routine chart are how frequently we do laundry (now we’re doing one load each weekday), our eating schedule (we like to eat as a family, so food is on the table much earlier than it used to be), and our bedtime routine begins at 8:00 instead of 9:30. We still do a half an hour of cleanup around the house each night and dishes once a day, but now they include picking up our son’s toys and washing his bottles. I’m already looking forward to when there will be three of us participating in family chores.

Do you have a routine chart for household chores? Is everyone in the house taking responsibility for and completing their duties? Do you need to evaluate your routines to make sure they’re meeting the demands of your home and fit with your schedule? With the start of the new month, now might be a good time to make sure you have a functioning system in place.

25 Comments for “Evaluate your household routines”

  1. posted by Charley Forness on

    Thanks for sharing this. I bought your book but haven’t had a moment to crack it open yet. We have baby triplets and they are just starting to get mobile as well and it really is crazy all the time. I remarked sunday nite to my wife how another weekend went by and we didn’t get anything done around the house.

    We too seem to be doing a couple of loads of laundry a day. We seemingly run out of bibs every few hours as we’re starting to work the children into baby foods.

    I think that if I could set something up that was a regular schedule and devote a half hour a day to it, that’s manageable. Otherwise, I’ll just have to come to grips with the fact that my house will be a mess for a few years…or decades.

    – Charley

  2. posted by Matt at How To Get A Grip on

    I’ve just had a kid as well, and it’s a killer for getting things done quickly.

    Because I’m allergic to any unnecessary routine, we’ve adopted a chunk-down policy. Identify any task that can be performed in under ten minutes (we call it the “Eight Minute Rule”) and if you have a spare, er, eight minutes, then crack on and do it.

    So much around the house can be done in this time frame – loading the dish-washer, sticking in a pile of laundry, paying bills.

    That leaves a trail of small but important tasks completed each day, and the bigger ones can be pencilled in to be done when more time is needed.

    In addition, we pay somebody to come and take care of a lot of the bigger stuff twice a week. Best money I’ve ever spent!

  3. posted by Heather H. on

    Don’t look forward to there being three to help out too much! Just enjoy every second of little man every day…he’ll grow up and start helping you and you’ll wistfully look back at the time when he was barely crawling or when all he did was let you hold him all day long! :)

  4. posted by Julie on

    Do I have to BUY the BOOK to see the chart you’re talking about???? :((

  5. posted by Susmita on

    I generally get home by 6:30, and I’m trying to incorporate twenty minutes of yoga right after I get home. I do make a habit of hanging up my coat and putting my shoes, scarf, gloves, etc. away when I walk in the door, but before starting dinner or looking at the mail, I’m trying to change my clothes, roll out the yoga mat, and do a twenty-minute or so routine.

    I’ve also started getting into bed earlier, so lights are out between 10 and 10:30. I will say that cutting out TV on the weeknights does make the evenings feel longer. I figure if I feel like I need more time in my life, the first thing to cut is probably television!

  6. posted by Keetha on

    Our son is eight and his chores include emptying the garbage from all the containers in the house twice a week.

    My husband and I split the household cleaning duties; we split the house in half and swap halves each week. We do the cleaning on Wed. and Thursday nights. That way, it’s done and we have a nice clean house to enjoy during the weekend.

    I can’t say I particularly enjoy housecleaning yet there is something satisfying about doing phsycial work that produces a result right away. Plus, I love not having to do that Flight of the Bumblebee thing when someone calls unexpectedly and says they’re going to drop by in five minutes.

  7. posted by Mike on

    We HAD to make a chart. We were wasting too much time trying to figure out what needed done and when. Our chart distinguishes between the every-week chores (kitchen, bathrooms, laundry), the twice-a-month or monthly chores (wash cars, yard work, sort/scan bills) and the every-few-months or even annual chores (change AC filter, clean out closets, flip mattresses, do taxes). We have it printed out with an entire year of checkmarks. Each week, when all of that week’s checkmarks are covered, it’s Quittin’ Time and we can slack off without feeling like we’re leaving errands undone.

  8. Avatar of

    posted by Abeline on

    I vacillate over whether I should clean on a schedule, or as the opportunity arises. Neither works! :p If I clean on a schedule, there’s ALWAYS something unexpected that gets me off track, starting a chain reaction of things piling up. If I clean as needed, I wind up doing the chores I like all the time (laundry, vacuuming) and avoiding the ones I hate (mopping).

  9. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Julie — Or you could go to a library and check it out. Or, you could click on the link in the article and learn how to make one for yourself: http://unclutterer.com/2009/01.....fter-work/

  10. posted by Beth on

    I am working with a new philosophy… “Stick with the plan if I can, but be flexible if it makes more sense.” This seems to allow me to function with the least amount of stress… I have 3-year-old twins and they are finally getting to the point where they are OK with me doing something other than paying full attention to them. I like the idea of the 8-minute tasks.

  11. posted by Handy Man, Crafty Woman on

    I do 1 load of laundry per day; fold and put it away. Dishes get done every night. I also have the house broken up into 4 zones for cleaning. each zone takes bout 15 minutes, so I don’t feel like I’m CLEANING EVERYSINGLEDAY, which I hate. For the zone cleaning to go quickly, everything needs to be PICKED UP on a daily basis. and for everything to be picked up, there has to be a place for everything, and the house had to get decluttered.

    I feel like it all comes down to decluttering. Dishes, clothing, books, videos, toys, ANYTHING and EVERYTHING is easier to pick up if there is an easy place to store it. Cleaning and maintaining everything becomes way easier.

  12. posted by Jacque on

    Don’t forget that on the day when there are three of you participating in family chores, there will also be three of you very actively contributing to the clutter and messiness! :-)

  13. posted by James Fraleigh on

    I spread my most common apartment-cleaning chores across 14 days and loaded them into a Google Calendar as recurrent biweekly events. I made sure the chores were small enough to be accomplished in short order (e.g., “Vacuum bedroom floor,” “Bathroom surfaces”) as a disincentive to skipping, but should the demands of work or life intervene, doing two of them in a single day isn’t too big a problem.

    I print out a new calendar on the last day of the month and pin it to the kitchen wall. Each weekday at 5:00 pm, and each weekend day at 9:00 am, I tackle the day’s task. (The only other major chore, laundry, I do when the basket fills.) This keeps the place uncluttered and presentable enough for a pop-in or short-notice gathering, without the panicked last-minute cleaning tornado I used to have to conjure. Plus I get the satisfaction of crossing that task off the calendar.

  14. posted by Lilliane P on

    I do the same thing James does with the google calendar. It’s so easy. I’ve got four different color coded calendars in google, and I can all or a selected one or few at a time.

    Like others have said, I treat them as guides. If something comes up, I don’t flip out but just get it on the next go-around.

    I love getting the email every morning with my agenda for the day. Don’t have to worry about more than that today.

  15. posted by msue on

    @ James F – the imagery of a last-minute cleaning tornado reminded me of my organization method in younger years: I’d invite my mom for a weekend visit, then race around in a panic to get the place cleaned up. It usually worked, but with maybe 3 nanoseconds to spare!

    Fortunately, years of experience has led to a more effective approach: put things away after use, leave the place tidied when I go to work, organize specific chores to occur on a certain day of the week (i.e. Saturday = laundry), etc. We’ve also having one person holding the primary responsibility for a specific chore to work best for us.

    Most important strategy is to allow flexibility when life intervenes (unexpected emergencies from elderly parents, illness, etc.)

  16. posted by Jackie Pettus on

    Everyone in our household has an erratic schedule, so a “day of the week” chore chart doesn’t work. Instead, we use the family chore chart and chore calendar applications at Habitudes.info, my online family organizer. The chore chart allows us to “sign up” for specific daily/weekly tasks, and the chore calendar reminds us of less frequent household tasks, like changing the smoke alarm batteries, and the dates due. We keep printed copies of both the family chore chart and the chore calendar on the bulletin board as a reminders.

  17. posted by Jack on

    We have a 6 and 3 year old and an 8 month old. I work from home and the my wife is a stay at home mom, so its usually a load of dishes during the day and a round of scrubbing pots and pans sometime after the kids get to bed. Toy clutter is the worst in the kids room, but they have to clean up before dinner, otherwise things get taken away. My wife and I are still working on modeling good, organizational skills which seem to have disappeared after the birth of our first.

    BTW, I’d love to see an article about the uncluttering effects of breastfeeding versus bottle (formula feeding).

  18. posted by Christine on

    I’ve got a picture frame (glass-front) hanging above my (low) dresser in the bedroom with a printout of my routines in it. It’s BIG font with BIG checkboxes so that I can check things off as I do them with a dry erase marker.

    Morning: Weigh in, quick workout (5-10 minutes), get dressed, breakfast, teeth, meds, hair and makeup, clean litterbox and check water, dinner prep? (for slow cooker dinner days), quick pickup of apartment, loose the Roomba of War!

    After dinner: Put away leftovers, wash dishes, teeth, 15 minutes of cleaning, physical therapy, meds, bathroom wipe-down, lay out clothes for tomorrow

    What I love is that they run pretty much automatically for the first half. Some mornings I don’t finish waking up until I walk outside to throw the litter in the outside trash bin, or even until I’m standing in the kitchen figuring out if I have to get dinner started in the slow-cooker. The first three items of my nightly routine have also turned into clockwork – finish dinner, collect dishes, tupperware the leftovers, put stuff in the sink to soak, do dishes, wash hands, walk across the hall and brush my teeth.

    It probably took me 9 or 10 tries to get to routines that have a flow to them and actually work for my life – thank goodness I picked a picture frame with an easy-opening back!

    Whenever I have a major routines breakdown and stuff gets out of control, I reevaluate them. I’ve been putting off rejiggering them so they’re more tractable to the inevitable down/overslept/feeling ill days. I’m still figuring out what the priority system should be and if I can structure it so the 3 or 4 top-priority items go first (so I can get there and either continue or stop depending on how I’m feeling.)

    I definitely enjoy having my little mini-whiteboard for scrawling the big to-do item or two so it’s in front of my face, and it always feels good to put those big red checkmarks in the boxes.

    I’m planning on designing little routines for any kid or kids that I have down the road. The first one will obviously be very short, very easy, and have big pictures; I’m dreaming of having a 3-year-old who puts their pajamas in the laundry basket, gets dressed, and brushes their teeth in the morning, then changes into their pajamas, brushes their teeth, and brings me a book each night. I’ll probably have to supervise the tooth-brushing and help them pick out outfits, but that’s definitely OK.

  19. posted by malka on

    I love all your information. You are so helpful. Thank you, this one I like the best. Organization has to work with our own personal routine.

  20. posted by Lesley on

    Love the name “Mr. Motor Pants!” Ours is lovingly nicknamed “Grabby McStink.” :)

  21. posted by Rich at Life Compass on

    My wife and I have 5 kids ages 3-13. My wife had the great idea of creating a “chore chart” for each kid with daily and weekly tasks to do around the house. Some things are the same for everyone, like make your bed, brush your teeth. And then some things are specific to certain children. They take turns vacuuming certain rooms, dust baseboards, clean desks and dressers, etc. And then each child takes turns helping with cooking and clean-up. It’s all on their chore chart, so they know what to expect, and what to do, each day. It has worked well. Now she’s thinking about making a chore chart for me….

  22. posted by Ryan Dunlavey on

    If your child is walking, you can start him with simple chores right now, even at this early age – hand him papers to throw in the recycling bin or dirty clothes to put in the laundry hamper, and have him help put away toys when playtime is over. It may take a while for him to understand at first, but kids love to help, it promotes good behavior in the long run, and makes family chore time a lot more fun.

  23. posted by RosieW on

    I tried and tried to use various to-do lists online, and google calendar to keep my routines in, and offline “Control Journals” etc. I never could make it work because all the reminders and “overdue!!1!” notices made me feel guilty. Sucks. But it’s helped just repeating the routines myself – ie, doing the work! (after all it’s always a temptation to keep tweaking your system instead of doing the actual things you’re trying to get into your routine) Tim and I actually just released an iPhone app called HomeRoutines that I designed for managing repetitive household tasks – but not to make you feel bad if you didn’t do it yesterday, unlike some other apps which are all FAIL if you break the chain or whatever. I could do without being scolded by an app; I can see my floor needs mopping by myself thankyouverymuch.

  24. posted by Tami Sullivan on

    Wow, lots of info. I ‘ll have to start with small strps my office is a mess, but I am feeling better about doing it now! Thanks.

  25. posted by Cleaning and Chinese New Year on

    [...] tackle cleaning alone. If you live with other people, equally split up the tasks. If you live alone, call in a cleaning service every once in awhile to give yourself a [...]

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