Daily routines: What time of the day works best for you?

In my experience, routines are an essential component to an uncluttered life. Without a few minutes of dedicated work each day, housework and clutter quickly build up and create stress. Small steps each day keep everything under control and ultimately give you more free time to focus on the things that matter most to you.

Fifteen years ago, I was someone who let things fall apart during the week and then spent a good portion of my Saturdays cleaning up all the messes I had made during the week. This meant that every Saturday morning and some afternoons were wasted. I couldn’t meet friends for brunch or read a book or whatever relaxing task I would have rather been doing. When I traveled over a weekend, it meant that I returned home to a place as messed up as I had left it and then I would have two weeks’ worth of cleanup to do the next Saturday. It also meant I would never have people over during the week because dirty dishes would be on the kitchen counter, dirty clothes would be spilling out of my hamper, and so many other things would be in disarray. During the week, everything was not in its place.

After my initial uncluttering and organizing spree, I knew I had to change my ways and figure out new daily routines to keep my home and office organized. I won’t lie to you, it took a lot of practice, and there are times now when I’ll miss a day here and there. Overall, though, daily routines have made maintaining an organized life incredibly simple and I no longer carry stress about the state of my home. That feeling of calm is very important to me now, and I have no desire to abandon it.

Since we’ve talked a great deal on the site about creating routines (e.g. articles 1, 2, 3), I won’t go into too much detail in this post about that stage of the process. However, I do want to discuss when to do the actions on your routines list.

We all have different times of the day when we have energy to do chores and when we don’t. Our motivation levels change throughout the day, too. Knowing yourself and when you are most likely to get daily chores done is key to choosing when to do your routines.

  • Before work. I function my best in the morning, and only want to do relaxing stuff after the sun goes down. As a result, I have to do the majority of my housework in the morning before sitting down at my desk to work. The same is true for my husband, so we unload the dishwasher, put a load of laundry into the washer, and put away stray items from around the house before we start work. We do these chores in addition to bathing and getting ready, getting our son fed and ready for his day, and eating breakfast and cleaning up the kitchen afterward. It means we have early mornings, but it also means our evenings are relaxing and light on chores. (Since we both work from home, we put the laundry in the dryer around 10:00 a.m. and then fold it and put it away during our lunch break.)
  • Throughout the day. If you work from home, you can set up chores to take place for 10 minutes every couple hours to give you a break from work. This is much more difficult to do if you work in an office.
  • Immediately after work. If you’re not a morning person, I strongly recommend doing your daily routines right when you get home from work. This way, once you’re done with dinner, you can relax and focus on doing what matters to you. Plus, you’re more likely to have energy at 5:30 p.m. (or whenever you get home) than you are closer to when you go to bed.
  • After dinner. If everyone in your family comes home at different times, daily routines might have to be completed after dinner when everyone is in the house and can lend a hand. You’re more likely to avoid your routines because you’re tired, but if you have the motivation you can still get them done. My friend Julie reports that she will incorporate her daily chores into her nightly television watching. Instead of fast-forwarding through commercials with her DVR, she lets them play and races to get a chore done while the commercials play.

Try doing your daily routines at different times to determine which one works best for you. When do you have the most energy and motivation to do the little stuff you need to do every day, so you can spend the majority of your time doing what matters to you?

17 Comments for “Daily routines: What time of the day works best for you?”

  1. posted by gypsy packer on

    I like morning daylight for housecleaning, which means doing it early or on a day off. Wash is done while reading the papers, bath cleaning is an idle 15 minutes anytime, since it is a windowless room. Intervals of 15 minutes and coffee breaks in between, keep it painless.

  2. posted by ninakk on

    I have found that I can be fairly acitve even in the mornings these days. While the coffee machine is working I might empty the dish cupboard and countertop of dishes washed the previous evening or I might fold some laundry, also from the previous day. Otherwise I would just sit at the computer and the seven minutes of the coffee machine are really not too tough to handle – but have significant impact on the rest of the day.

    These days I value my weekends a lot, but remember times when I also spent hours catching up on cleaning, laundry etc; not good memories. My aim is to be done at lunch Saturday and then have free time until Monday morning apart from making the bed, cooking and washing the dishes used. Plans can change but I find it very helpful to have an ideal clearly in my mind.

  3. posted by Anna on

    Mornings generally work best for me to get things done. I’m not really a morning person, but I’m becoming more of one. Living in Africa, right on the hospital compound where my husband works, we have lots of visitors all day long.

    In the mornings (before 6:30 or 7:00) is when I can have the most uninterrupted time. My kids and I also do a few little things throughout the day and before bed.

  4. posted by Rick on

    I never considered myself a morning person before I started blogging. Now I’m up at 5am most days, and work for a good hour or so before getting ready for my ‘real’ job.

    I’ve also learned it’s best not to mess with my blog design during this time, however. I tend to break more than I fix…

  5. posted by Shirls on

    I find mornings best for most routines but for some reason I like the afternoon for ironing. But no time of the day is good for vacuuming. I hate doing it with a passion. I wish I had one of those robot things that wander round doing it.

  6. posted by Sabrina from Italy on

    What about… never? I hate waking up too early, but I have to be at the office at 8:30 so nothing gets done in the morning. I get home about 6:30 pm (if I don’t go to some language course or the gym) and sometimes I do some chores at that time but I can’t really manage to do it every day, I have so many other interests that I want to pursue.
    My time in the office feels like “wasted time” because I don’t do something I like, so I daydream of what I’ll do as soon as I’m home: work at my photos, read that book, catch up on the blogs I read, etc. Can’t really stand to wait until 9 pm (we have dinner around 8:30) to do what I like! So usually I do most cleanings on Saturdays, luckily the morning is usually enough since the apartment is just 65 sq meters…
    Any suggestion apart from changing job?

  7. posted by Henave on

    Mornings definitely. When I started staying home w/ my kids many years ago I found I missed the idea of the work day ending and felt like I was working 24/7,so I made my own workday and try to have an end to my day so I can let myself relax. With 2 kids in different schools and different schedules, I still have long days, but try hard to be done by 8 pm. I try and utilize all my bits of free time by doing putting laundry in at night so I can fold it at 6 AM while my younger son is getting ready for school, then it gets put away at 7:30 while my teenager is getting ready, random housework is done throughout the day as I can fit it in. The key to success for me is having a set list that I need to do that day (a different set of household tasks for each weekday) and then I will work them into my workday schedule. I wash 7 days a week and want to sleep in a bit on the weekends, so I will fold laundry at 11 or 12 at night while watching TV and put it away the next morning, so the work time has shifted on the weekends somewhat to allow for extra sleep!

  8. posted by rebecca @ altared spaces on

    It is very difficult for me to clean up. I like to move from one task to another leaving a slew of activities in my wake. I get up very early, but treasure that time to write. So, as you might imagine my house got very messy.

    Then, because I was going crazy living in the land of mayhem, I began to look for an alternative to large amounts of time dedicated to cleaning.

    In the amount of time it takes my tea water to boil, instead of sitting at my computer and then getting interrupted, I spiffed up my office. It was so wonderful to write in a super clean room that that became a practice. Every phone call became a chance to do some dishes while I talked. I found that if I filled all the in between spaces in my life with cleaning I only rarely felt I had to dedicate huge chunks of time to a deeper level of attention.

  9. posted by Alisha on

    My best time of day to do things changes every few days. Even though I get to work for 7:00, I’m not really a morning person. After work is spent running the roads for my home business (thankfully it’s only every other week). When I get home, I try to do as much as I can so that my weekends aren’t filled with cleaning and picking up, but I like to be finished by 9 or 9:30 so I can start winding down for bed. Then, there’s some days that I get home after working all day, and the last thing I want to do is housework. Sometimes I give in, but I at least try to do something, even if it’s picking up the laundry baskets that for whatever reason didn’t make it back to the spare bedroom.

    As far as dusting, vaccuumig and mopping, I’ve found that daytime is best when the blinds are open letting in the natural light. It also makes the house feel cleaner somehow! I’ll get up fairly early (around 8 or so) on a Saturday and start so I can be finished with everything (laundry included) by bath time. Then, Sundays are free to relax after church. And, if it all gets done on the weekend, there’s less to worry about during the week.

  10. posted by Paul on

    I’m not a morning person and also work quite late. Working from home, as does my partner. My routine for the last few months has been to take an hour in the middle of the day, twice a week, when our cleaner comes in – I’m lucky enough to be able to afford someone to come in to help clean. She is usually around for two hours at a time, and I take an hour of that and kind of go round the place in front of her, tidying things up and putting them away (she tends to work around stuff as she doesn’t necessarily know where things need to live and aside from anything else my partner is very messy and gets very annoyed if things are put somewhere unexpected) so that things end up put away in the right place and then Hilary cleans the place thoroughly once I’ve tidied. So far it seems to be working, and means that although it is an additional cost to have someone come in to clean for us, I don’t have to spend almost an entire day every weekend cleaning and tidying the place.

  11. posted by EngineerMom on

    My problem is I’m a SAHM with two small kids – one of whom is only 7 months old, naps very irregularly (this morning she took a 2-hour nap, yesterday it was 3 20-minute naps, etc), and is quite demanding when she is awake, compared to her brother at this age.

    I can get tasks started, but it is very difficult to work all the way through a single task without getting interrupted. Even something as short and sweet as unloading the dishwasher can take me several hours in between caring for the kids.

    My personal preference is to start a single task and work it to completion. When I lived alone, I would get up with enough time to shower, dress, wipe down the surfaces in the bathroom and clean the toilet, put away the dry dishes (no dishwasher in my first apartment), make myself breakfast and put those dishes in the sink, then go to work.

    Now, I get up with two hours before we have to leave the house, and we still barely make it out the door on time, between a potty-training 3-year-old and the baby.

    Some days I get the time to get all the way through my “daily” list – unload and load dishwasher, prep dinner, pick up living room, sweep dining room floor, wipe off table and counters, and put away hand wash stuff left in dishdrainer from previous night – before DH gets home.

    Other days, keeping the kids fed, alive, clean, and reasonably entertained is about as much as we get done!

  12. posted by Emily on

    I don’t know about “energy” but I’m certainly motivated to do a number of things after the kids go to bed but before I get too tired:

    1. do all dishes and clean up & sweep the kitchen/dining area for the morning. This is very important because I have two little ones who want to eat breakfast within 14 seconds of coming downstairs, and the younger one will eat crusty junk off the floor if I don’t sweep it up.

    2. make sure my dining table is wiped clean and ready to eat at. We have a small pile of books that is always in the middle of the table, but these need to stay there so we remember to read our Bibles and devotional at dinner, so they don’t count as “clutter”.

    3. write my to do list for the next day. I have a journal that I MUST write my tasks in or they vanish from my brain overnight and I don’t remember then until 3 or 4 in the afternoon (eg. thawing meat, or some other time sensitive thing).

    In the morning, I can go downstairs knowing that I will have room on the counter to set out the toaster over, my toddler won’t be eating petrified food bits, and we have space at the table to eat and read without having to clear stuff away first.

    It took me about 5 years of being a homemaker to figure out that this works for me.

  13. posted by MJ on

    This is interesting, and a good idea to mentally segment the time in terms of getting things done then doing thing you want to do. I will try that.

    It would be good to read anybody’s advice for dealing with these things during periods of illness. Especially depression. Not getting things done can make it worse but getting the energy to do anything is very hard. It’d be good to have a sort of step by step guide on how to approach it because when you are like that it can be overwhelming to try to plan what you need to do in your head.


  14. posted by katrina on

    I’m definitely not a morning person, so just after work is when I get most housework done. Or Sunday morning.

    Generally I try to combine chores and do two things at once. So loading the dishwasher is combined with cleaning off the kitchen benches. And loading the washing machine is combined with tidying the laundry. Hanging out the laundry to dry is combined with picking up a few stray items in the garden, etc.

    MJ – re illness and depression. I think it’s useful to have a two settings for chores. A ‘good day’ setting and a ‘not so good day’ setting, that are worked out on a ‘good day’.

    For example, if you have a dishwasher then on a ‘good day’ the aim would be to empty it in the morning and gradually filling it in the day and running it in the evening. On an ‘not so good day’ the aim would be to empty it in the morning (taking as long as you want) and gradually filling it over two days and running it in the the next evening. The aim being to get the dirty dishes off the benches, not to have the world’s cleanest house in 2.5 seconds.

    It’s about completing a standard you set for yourself that is achievable, not about setting an impossible standard.

  15. posted by Carson on

    My wife and I have four children under six, and she and I both work (I full time and she part time). We’ve just had to realize and accept that every cleaning item on our todo lists has the unwritten clause “to the extent that I can.” Sometimes “cleaning the kitchen” means really cleaning it—and other times it means holding a baby in one arm and putting clean dishes away with the other hand.

  16. posted by Kaye on

    The very best thing about this post is the underlying takeaway that a person CAN change habits after being a lifelong clutterer. Thank you for sharing your history with us, Erin.

  17. posted by MJ on

    Thanks for your response Katrina. I agree, I do have good days and can manage more on those days, so I need to bear that in mind.

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