Seven steps to creating or revising your household routines schedule

One of the reasons my family needs to redo our household routines schedule is because who we were in June 2011 is not who we are in July 2011. Our son has started preschool and, as benign as that might seem, it has completely changed our lives. The biggest revision is that now there are parts of our day subjected to a schedule we didn’t design.

The last time anyone in our house had to commute somewhere on a regular basis was 2004. For the past six years we have followed a daily schedule, but it has been one completely of our making. Being subjected to an external schedule isn’t an inconvenience or frustrating, it’s just different. Obviously, we chose for our son to attend preschool, so it’s a change we eagerly approved. We simply didn’t realize how much it would transform the way we get things done around the house.

When creating a new household routines schedule or revising one you’ve used for years (like we are), follow these seven steps:

  1. Make a list of all the things that need to get done on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Use four columns (daily, every other day, weekly, monthly) and also identify when during the day these tasks need to be completed. For example: Daily — Assemble son’s lunch while making dinner. Weekly — Mow yard in early morning or evening when it’s not blistering hot.
  2. Keep your list of regular chores to the bare minimum. You and your housemates do not have superpowers. There is a difference between things that have to get done and things you want to get done. Cross any item off your list that isn’t essential. The would-be-nice-to-do items are more appropriate for your daily action items, not your regular routine chart.
  3. Once the list is created, decide who in the house will be responsible for each chore. If you live alone, you can probably skip this step. Assign responsibilities fairly.
  4. Using a spreadsheet or calendar, enter all of the activities that need to be completed into the appropriate time slot. (Feel welcome to download this Excel Chore Chart: Hourly template.) You may find that an hour-by-hour schedule doesn’t work best for you, so consider using a less-rigid format if it better meets your needs. (Or download this Excel Chore Chart: Blocks of Time template.)
  5. Younger family members may need additional guidance. Make a to-do list (or seven daily to-do lists, if necessary), laminate it at your local FedEx Kinkos, and put it in a place your little one can access. A washable dry erase marker can be used to check off tasks as they are completed. (Melissa and Doug also makes a nice Responsibility Chart that uses magnets.) Really little family members who can’t yet read can benefit from image chore cards displayed on a wall or magnetically to the front of the refrigerator. (Etsy has some adorable ones. Search for “chore cards.”)
  6. Practice the new routines. Research has found it takes close to three months for actions to become habits. You’ll have to make a concerted effort for 90 days for these new routines to become second nature.
  7. Adapt as necessary. Life is full of surprises and conditions in your home are constantly changing. Evaluate and revamp your regular routines when they stop meeting your needs.

7 Comments for “Seven steps to creating or revising your household routines schedule”

  1. posted by Anita on

    Wow, so organized! This sounds very efficient indeed.

    I’ve tried to make up a mental chore chart, but at our house the chore frequency tends to be “as needed”. How often do we take out the trash? Whenever the bag is full or starts to get smelly (whichever comes first). How often do we do laundry? Whenever we have enough for 3 full loads (whites, colours, delicates). How often do we vacuum? Whenever a cat fur tumbleweed is spotted.

    Sure, most of these things tend to happen at relatively regular intervals, but our lives and daily activities vary enough that a daily schedule would be unworkable, as it would likely have to be changed every week. So instead our house functions responsively, as things come up: laundry hamper is full? Figure out who can make time for laundry in the next 3 days and make a mental note of it. The tub needs cleaning? Whoever has 10 minutes to spare before their shower cleans it. I have an afternoon/evening off with nothing to do? I’ll go around the house and do whatever chores need doing.

    It probably won’t work for everyone, especially not families with children’s schedules to manage, but it seems to keep our house clean and our schedules flexible to pursue our interests.

  2. posted by Sue G. on

    >> There is a difference between things that have to get done and things you want to get done.

    Amen. I know this, but I don’t DO this. This phrase will become my mantra as I begin to sort myself out. Thanks for the list, Erin!

  3. posted by Waileia on

    I spotted this great schedule as I was surfing the net. I mixed and edited the list and days to match my needs then saved it to my desktop. I check in daily and pick my chores.

    When my twin boys started preschool this summer, I realized I needed to structure my chores to I could have some free time for myself.


  4. posted by Mletta on

    Thanks for the Excel files.

    Your last bit about adapting is critical. We find that between unanticipated work demands and family stuff we can’t plan for (a parent or friend has a true emergency requiring our assistance, etc.), we have had to learn to be very flexible. Plus, we have had to learn to accept that sometimes we will not get everything done, or done as we would like it, when we like it.

    Learning to live with what you can do, versus what’s on any list, no matter how valid is central. Especially as demands on our time/energy/resources increase and our physical energy decreases either temporarily or permanently.

    Things get done as they get done and sometimes our lists really are filled with stuff that is not a priority (one woman’s needs to be done NOW chore is not always getting the same ranking from her spouse/partner).

    But we do find that we can’t function personally or professionally without some form of list/priorities as we face each day/week/month. And ironically, when we are flexible, we usually get far more on the list done!

    We approach our lists as guidelines, not set in stone (as so many people we know do and who, frankly, drive us a bit crazy with their inflexibility as it affects our interactions). Our motto: People first, including our clients and family and friends. A clean house or garage is not nearly as important as being present for those we care about on an as needed basis.

  5. posted by Michelle W. on

    Anyone else ever use You put in your chores, the people who need to do them, and how often and how hard they are, and it generates and emails printable schedules to you when you want them. I haven’t used it in a while, but this post and my house is making me rethink that!

  6. posted by ClutteredMama on

    Awesome!! My husband & I were just discussing how we need to create a daily chore routine to free up our weekends for more relaxing family activities. These templates should really help!

  7. posted by Jacki on

    to me, the great thing about having a day assigned to most chores is that they get done before they’re an emergency. That is, I can control when I do them, rather than the other way around. Also, you know when you’re finished. If you see a pile at the washing machine you can walk on by, knowing that tomorrow is laundry day, not today. You can go watch some tv or read your book. 🙂

    Plus, you’ll never have to wait until there is a huge gross cat-fur ball to remind you to vacuum. You would have done it yesterday before your coffee guest noticed it.

    thanks for the reminder to update.

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