Keep Your House Clean Without Marathon Sessions

keep your house clean

My mother kept a spotless house. Things were always clean, dusted and picked up.

My mother taught me to keep house this way as well.

My mother was a stay-at-home mom.

I am not.

Who Has Time?

When I first started to live on my own, I wondered who had time to keep up with a house? My first solo apartment was tidy enough, and the bathroom and kitchen clean. Well, clean-ish.

As I moved several times (from a one bedroom to a two bedroom, from the two-bedroom to a two-bedroom with a loft, from there to a condo, and from the condo to a house), the living spaces continued to expand. And I couldn’t keep up with even making them look clean-ish.

So I sought out help. And I landed on Flylady.

Why I Don’t Fly

I used the Flylady system for about five years. Flylady’s system is to break the house into zones, comprised of the following:

  • Zone 1: Entrance/Dining Room
  • Zone 2: Kitchen
  • Zone 3: Main bath and one other room
  • Zone 4: Main bedroom
  • Zone 5: Living room

The theory is that by moving through these zones and doing the cleaning chores on a rotating basis for 15 minutes a day, you will keep your house clean.

As a theory, it’s a good one. In practice? not so much for me.

This system worked fine when I lived in the condo. But when we moved into the house, I couldn’t adapt it successfully. We had more than doubled our square footage and the number of living areas.

Some Fly-adherents told me I wasn’t trying hard enough. But that’s not the answer. You can’t clean 14 rooms that are used regularly with that zone list in 15 minutes a day. Even if you skip tasks and come back to them the next time the zone rolls around, there are still many tasks that won’t get covered for months. And sorry, I’m not going to give up cleaning the powder room because it’s competing with six other areas for Zone 3.

I ended up having to do marathon sessions on the weekends.

Who wants to give up a weekend for cleaning?

My Zones

Zone cleaning makes sense to me. I learned while in the condo that by doing a little each day, and rotating through the house, I never had to do a marathon session of cleaning. But I had to have a way to adapt it to the bigger house.

I decided to make my own zones and my own tasks, and work through them.

The main differences between my version and Flylady’s is that I control what areas get put in the zones. Week 3 doesn’t end up being the majority of the house. The second difference is that I don’t do every task every month.

There are tasks that only need to be done twice a year, in my mind. Cleaning windows falls into that category. As does flipping mattresses and changing out seasonal bedding. Some rooms need cleaning more often than others; my guest/craft room needs to be cleaned once a year unless we have guests, where my dining room needs attention every few months, and my kitchen every month. Some tasks need to be done at different frequencies depending on the type of room: dust doesn’t collect on the baseboards of the game room the way it does in the bathrooms.

Enter the Chore Grid.

The Chore Grid

Being a programmer, I decided to make this easy on myself. I wrote an Excel spreadsheet with some complex programming to help me generate a chore grid.

I put in my rooms, put them into zones, and then decide which chores go with each room with what frequency. Then it puts together a schedule, which I can then manipulate so that no month is too heavy in work.

This year, at the request of a friend, I also ported that chore grid over to Google Sheets. Same functionality, but a less restrictive platform.

I’ve been using the chore grid for five years now, and I no longer stress at housecleaning. I also no longer have marathon cleaning sessions.

It’s made keeping up with the house a non-thinking sort of thing. I see it in my list, I do it, knowing it won’t take me long.

Do you want to check out the chore grid? It’s for sale in my shop