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?