Okay, this section is pretty slim! Many people recommend FlyLady. I've tried her a couple of times but needed a FlyLady for Dummies ;-) Fortunately sometime between when I last tried her and now (2006) she improved her flood of emails and I find it very easy to figure out what it is she's telling me to do that day and which emails I can just delete unread. What I like about it is that she tells me what to do each day. :-) While I could spend 15 minutes a day on an area of my own choosing, with so many areas that could be attended to, it can feel like it's not progressing towards a goal. FlyLady has a goal! Like Beth below, I don't concentrate on the sink or wear shoes. I just do it in a way that works for me.
Su Penn: Baskets in each room
A practical tip that saved our relationship back pre-kids but when my partner and I were sharing a house with a friend who is Chaos Personified was to put a basket for each family member in the corner of the living room. Anything that was in my way, I could just toss into the person's basket. This made it easy for me to clean up the common space for my own comfort, without making me responsible for dealing with their stuff. And our agreement was that if the baskets got too full to put more stuff in, I could give 48 hour notice to have it cleaned out, or I could bag the stuff up and trash it (I wouldn't do that with kids; and I never had to do it with the grown- ups, either, though I did have to give 48 warnings once or twice). It seems like a simple thing but it was a breakthrough for us that made a big difference.
Beth M. (freepsgal): Flylady Lite
As I read a few more notes about this topic, I realized that maybe there is an all or nothing thought here. For example, Flylady has been a successful program for me, BUT ... I don't do it exactly as she suggests. I modified her ideas to suit my lifestyle. I found her book much more helpful than her website or her email list. I do not wear shoes all day and I do not focus on a shiny sink. But the few changes I have made were very helpful. Here are some of the things I do:
Laundry - I aim for one load per day whether it is clothes or linens. I don't care if the clothes sit in the washer for a while before going to the dryer, or in the dryer for a while before being pulled out. Just knowing it is only ONE load to think about each day is easy for me to handle.
Cleaning zones - I divided my house into zones like she suggested, but instead of focusing on one zone per week, I do one zone per day. Every room in my house is getting touched every week. I spend about 30 minutes cleaning one room each day, usually with my children's help because they truly enjoy helping. I don't have to worry about the other rooms too much because I know I'll get to them during the week. Now, we also do room rescues where we take about 5 minutes to pick up stuff but it's not a big deal. (It also helps that my youngest is 8 now, so we don't have as many toys spread around as we did 4 years ago.)
Meal plans - We worked as a family to put together a 4-week meal plan. We aren't slaves to it, meaning we can change the menu anytime we feel like it, but for the most part, we like knowing in advance what we're having for dinner. It's cool to look on the schedule, see BBQ chicken and know all I need to do is run to the store for chicken. There's no thought involved, which for me was the most difficult part of preparing meals.
We did try the routines for making beds and clearing dirty clothes out of the rooms each morning, but that didn't last too long. We did it long enough to see if we could make it a habit but it's just not us so we stopped doing it. I do make my bed occasionally. I love my bedding and how my room looks when it's all neat and tidy. We also like clearing the kitchen before we go to bed so the dishwasher can run at night. I like waking up in the mornings and coming into a clean kitchen so I can head straight for my coffee pot. But, if we are too tired, we just push the dishes back and know we'll get to them the next day.
I'm definitely not a cleaning expert like the Flylady, but I no longer hate housework. I do exactly what needs to be done each day but it doesn't consume my thoughts. Well .. it is consuming me today, I must confess. *lol* I decided to move furniture around yesterday so everything is out of whack and I need to straighten it all out. But it's not like I do this every day. :)
I thought wanting a clean house was right and normal and justifiable and commendable, and the fact that I hadn't figured out how to do it meant I was some kind of slacker who had no skill to be that organized.
One thing that helped me was realizing there are huge parts of the world where people don't need "clean" (by American standards) houses. There are houses with dirt floors. How ridiculous to even think of cleaning up every speck of dirt! There are houses with the cooking area outside which keeps the food spills out where nature can take care of them.
We've created that need for sparkling clean. (And the need for cleaning tools and chemicals. And the need to have space to store them.) Encouraged by manufacturers who want us to feel clean is necessary so we'll buy their products! ;-) It's a choice to have a clean house, not a necessity.
And who says a house is for looking nice? Why can't it be a workshop for our interests? In some places in some times houses were for keeping out of the elements and away from things that eat you. We've chosen to make houses more.
People used houses to store their stuff, like their farm animals. In some times in some places people slept with their animals. The rest of the time they lived outdoors.
How much time and emotional investment goes into maintaining and protecting the things we have?
For some people it can be a way of nurturing ourselves by taking care of our environment. For others it can be becoming a slave to Stuff. We can be the unpaid 24 hour caretaker of Things.
I don't want to have a dirt floor just so I don't have to worry about spills ;-) There's certainly downsides to dirt floors -- the cats bring up earthworms from the basement every once in a while and once I noticed mushrooms in the gap between the cement floor and the fieldstone foundation! But seeing vinyl and carpeted and wooden floors as a choice puts things in a different perspective anyway.
It's freeing to realize that what we do is a choice. We can clean because we want to, not because we have to.
Since having both kids at home all the time there seems to be a never ending stream of laundry either waiting to be done, waiting to go in the dryer, waiting to be folded, waiting to be put away ..... Plus more and more housework, which I cannot possibly keep up with.
Rethink why you do things the way you do them. Break rules!
Encourage kids to go without socks ;-) (Baby powder helps stinky shoes.)
Have a separate laundry hamper for each person and one for towels and sheets so the laundry is already sorted.
Don't separate whites and coloreds. (Integration is a good thing ;-) Does it really make a difference with kids' play clothes?
Don't fold, except for good stuff that needs to be presentable. Get larger dressers and just toss t-shirts in one drawer, sweat pants in another, underwear in another, socks (if you can't wean them off them ;-) in another -- and make sure they're all the same color and style. Or perhaps different styles for each kid.
Minimize the clothes they have access to so there can never be that many things to wash. How many shirts and pants does one kid need? In many parts of the world one pair of pants is it. (Which is not a recommendation to get rid of kids' favorite clothes! A mom's need for a neat home shouldn't be at the expense of kids' happiness.)
Teach the kids how to run the washer and dryer.
Have kids (and adults if you can persuade them!) dress and undress in the laundry room. Then get rid of dressers in the bedrooms and you can have utility shelves with baskets for each person's clothes and a rack for hangable things in the laundry room.
And my personal favorite: Get a husband who does laundry. :-)
If there is a way to make cleaning the toilet fun please let me know! :-)
What I do is while I'm waiting that minute for the water to heat up for my shower I grab the spray bottle of cleaner and a paper towel and clean one small portion of the bathroom, like just the spot between the seat and the tank, or the spot on the floor to the right of or left of or behind the toilet, or just the rim, or just the track for the shower doors or whatever else is a bit dirty. Or sometimes just putting things away so that tomorrow I can spot clean.
I also wipe down a small portion of the shower afterwards with Soft Scrub, let it dry and wipe it off later. (I have one of those shower hose attachments to make rinsing lots easier.) (The waiting part probably wouldn't work if there are lots of people in the house using the shower so I'd just skip the drying and just wipe.)
The bathroom is never entirely clean but it also never gets to the state where I'd suggest drop in guests might prefer to use the washroom at the gas station down the street. ;-)
Admittedly that doesn't take care of the inside of the toilet, but it makes it less onerous if it's not the toilet and everything else too. So the only other toilet tips I have is to get one of those tablets you drop in the tank (2000 Flushes I think they're called) and get one of those toilet brushes that stores in the container that flips closed when you stand the brush up in it so you never have to deal with the drippy disgusting thing.