Happy Herbivore Blog

April 29, 2013

Minimalist Monday: Minimizing Household Chores (So They Don't Consume a Weekend)

For most of my adult life (read: since I moved out of my parent's house), I've found myself doing a weekend-long household cleaning every couple of months. 



Work, school, life — I was busy! I tried to keep my place tidy and I'd do little cleanings like wiping down the kitchen counter, but I couldn't clean — really clean — my home that often. It was a lot of work and took a great deal of time to vacuum, scrub the tub, mop the floors and clean all the nooks and crannies.

I mean, it was hard enough to find time to wash dishes, do laundry, go grocery shopping (the "essential" chores) — and in those three instances, I usually only "found time" when I was down to my last sock, last clean spoon or the fridge was completely empty.

And if I'm going to be totally honest, I usually only found time to do my big cleanings (vacuum, scrubbing, etc.) when my parents or other company were coming to visit. Or if I was having a party or friends over...

As I've gotten older, I've come to realize I feel my best and am the least stressed when I'm in a clean, zen environment. (This is one of the reasons I became a minimalist!)

Especially now that I also work from home. I find I can't fully concentrate on writing a blog post or working on a cookbook when I've got dirty dishes calling me from the kitchen and piles of laundry overflowing on the closet floor. Or I'm just in a messy, stressful environment. I need to be tidy to function. (I often joke that my apartment in college was never as clean as it was during finals.)

Anyway, my first "a ha" moment occurred about 2 years ago when I gave my kitchen a makeover and removed the "clutter" from my kitchen counters and kitchen table.

There are more pictures in the original post, but here is an example of one counter:  

Before:



After:



It was amazing what a difference it made in my life to have everything tucked away and the surfaces clear.

From there I moved on to bathroom and eventually got around to organizing my closets, kitchen cabinets & pantry.

The organization and "putting stuff away" really made my environment better but while it was "tidy" and therefore not as stressful, these tricks weren't making it any cleaner.

I was still finding myself saying to Scott, "Okay, we really need to clean this weekend because we have guests coming" and then part of our Saturday or Sunday was chewed up by dusting, mopping, scrubbing the tub, washing the floors, and so forth.

Afterwards we'd marvel about how good a clean house felt — how zen it was... why can't it always be like this?!

I knew there wasn't really an easy way to skirt household chores — it's one of those things that is inevitable... I mean, is there a way to live without causing dust?!

Still, after our last big cleaning, I wondered if there was a way I could make it last longer.... I wondered if there was a way I could "minimize" those big cleaning weekends.

My cramped schedule didn't become less cramped, but I eventually found some workarounds that helped keep my household chores in check. It required me to clean for about 5-10 minutes every day, but my, how it was worth it.

For example, every night before bed I run our dishwasher (if it's full — if not, it waits another day) and every morning I put the clean dishes away while waiting on my tea to steep. Collectively, this takes less than 10 minutes but it makes a huge difference.

Similarly, cooking once a week with the meal plans also helps cut down on the dirty pots and pans during the work week.

I can't begin to put into words how much I love waking up and not having dirty dishes in my sink or that when it's time to cook — I can just cook. I don't need to clean pots and pans first or scrub dishes so we have something to eat dinner on. My tools are ready for me.

Second, I do laundry two nights per week. No exceptions. One night is colored clothes, the other night is linens and whites. I fold the clothes/linens while I watch TV (I've paired my laundry nights with nights my shows are on). This way, I never have to waste a Saturday or Sunday doing load after load after load because I've exhausted my entire closest. It's become such a habit now that it doesn't even bother me to do laundry more frequently.

I have other "quick" chores on the other days. For example, I wipe down all of our surfaces (i.e., table, kitchen counter, bathroom counter) after dinner but before bed one night a week. It takes 8 minutes, or less. Other nights I dust, vacuum and mop.

Since Scott & I tend to go out on Saturday and stay in on Friday, I do my bathroom chores on Friday night. Not the most exciting Friday night, I admit, but at least that way it won't hang over me on the weekend. When we had two bathrooms, I alternated between them week to week. One week, I'd clean the one bathroom, the next week I'd clean the other bathroom. Now we only have one and a half baths, so I can do both at the same time.

My minimalist cleaning schedule looks like this:

S: Whites and linens (laundry)
M: Wipe surfaces
T: Vacuum
W: Mop
Th: Colored clothes (laundry)
F: Clean the bathrooms
S: Dust

It took some diligence at first, but now I'm into the habit and it doesn't take me that long. The result is our house stays very clean — that good clean feeling we both loved. A guest could call saying they'll be here tomorrow, and I won't feel like I need to clean my house or prepare for their arrival outside of blowing up the air mattress for them. 

I also try to slip in little bouts of cleaning when I can. For example, I often clean my shower when I'm in it — especially if I'm taking a longer shower because I'm, say, shaving my legs. I can let the cleaner soak into the tile while I shave, then rinse it off after I'm done. It only adds a few more minutes. 

To be entirely transparent, I must confess that this minimalist cleaning schedule doesn't take care of everything. Scott and I will still need to do some big "spring cleanings" at least twice a year, such as vacuuming under the couch, washing the windows, dusting ceiling fans, and cleaning out all our cabinets — but overall, we'll never waste a weekend day doing a big "maintenance" cleaning again. Breaking it down into little segments and doing it every week (and every day) keeps the workload even less.

Now that's the best kind of minimalist!

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