Tidying Up with Marie Kondo has sparked so much joy for us and maybe a little stress for all our busy husbands as we pile up, sort, and purge. Sister spirit to Marie Kondo, Sarah, a former special education teacher turned stay-at-home mama to 14-month-old LJ and blogger at simplifythechaos.com brings you her tips for making a home with more margin. Her husband, Justin, is a third-year resident physician and they have been married 5 ½ years, all of which have taken place in the medical journey.
“I have learned that the key to feeling like I can reasonably stay on top of things is to create as much margin as possible in my life.”
One thing that has stuck out to me along the way is that while Justin and I both firmly believe in shared work, that doesn’t mean everything always gets split exactly 50/50. Between long hours spent studying in med school, traveling for rotations, and now the unpredictable (and often draining) hours of residency, Justin isn’t always able to take on a ton of additional tasks at home. One thing he has consistently done is our trash/recycling; he collects it each week and makes sure it’s taken to the curb for pick-up. He also does what he can to stay on top of the “outside” tasks (planting/tending our garden, raking leaves, shoveling snow, etc) as often as his schedule allows. At some points, he has been able to contribute much more at home. At other times, it’s a blessing that he can even do that much to help. This season of life in training has meant that often, the bulk of the work at home falls on me. To be honest, it can easily feel overwhelming to keep up with everything in the home as well as care for a very active toddler (and our two dogs!)
I have learned that the key to feeling like I can reasonably stay on top of things is to create as much margin as possible in my life. And one of the biggest ways I do this is to streamline my cleaning process. My system is very simple: I have assigned one cleaning task to each weekday and spend a maximum of 15-20 minutes cleaning. This system has worked absolute wonders for me! To give you an idea of just what this looks like, I’ve outlined my weekly routine and even included how long it takes me to complete each one.
Streamlined Cleaning Process
Monday: Dust every surface.
I could get away with dusting less, but with two dogs in our house, I like knowing dog hair and other dust isn’t collecting on surfaces so I start my week off with this task. I use this dusting mitt to quickly wipe down all surfaces. Then I just throw the mitt in the laundry basket when I’m done. Super easy and it only takes me about 11 minutes to get my entire house done.
Tuesday: Clean the bathrooms.
Bathrooms are honestly my least favorite thing to clean so I choose a few products that make the task as simple and enjoyable as possible. I use this window cloth and a spray bottle with water to clean all mirrors. I’m a huge fan of the Better Life cleaning brand so I use their all-purpose cleaner and kitchen and bath scrubber to wipe down all the various surfaces. I keep all my bathroom cleaning essentials in a large bucket so I can carry it to whichever bathroom I’m cleaning and have exactly what I need. Simple as that! We have 2.5 bathrooms but I only clean the guest bathroom if it’s been used by guests. It only takes me about 16 minutes to clean all three bathrooms (and only 11 without the guest bath).
Wednesday: Clean the kitchen area.
This is definitely not a deep clean; I’m just giving the space a surface level cleaning to maintain order. I wipe down the stovetop and all counters (again with the same cleaner I love) and spray down and clean out the sink and microwave. We have a combined kitchen/dining room, and the table is often a dump zone for mail and other random things, so I clear this off as well. It takes about 4 minutes to quick clean the kitchen and roughly 5 minutes to clear off the table and put things away.
This one varies the most from week to week because it depends how much time I have and how the floors look. We have two dogs and once we had a baby crawling around, our standards for how clean the floors should be got much higher. We recently got a Roomba and it has been a game changer with helping me keep up with dog hair. Even with that, I still spend time each week on the floors. Sometimes I will take our wet mop across the first floor but I often don’t have time for that extra step so I will just vacuum all the floors. It takes me 14 minutes to vacuum the first floor and about 9 minutes to vacuum the stairs and second floor.
Friday: Flex day to catch up on a missed day.
Here’s where extra margin comes in because, without fail, life happens. One day LJ might be feeling sick or we might have a lot going on outside the home. Maybe I only had time to clean one bathroom earlier in the week or only vacuumed one level of the house. Each week is different but by building in this flex day, I keep from feeling guilty or overextending myself earlier in the week by knowing I can catch up on Friday. If all the cleaning got done earlier in the week, Friday becomes a day to throw in a load of laundry or clean something a little deeper or just relax!
Stay flexible. Some days I can’t get to my task. Other days I have extra time and can double up on tasks. Sometimes I can clean during LJ’s naptime. Other times he’s in his high chair eating a snack while I wipe down the kitchen. I honestly don’t stress out about an exact system. I just do what I can and I know things will eventually get done.
Time yourself! Once I timed myself, I was shocked by how little time each task took. It helps shift my mentality and motivate me to start a task – I dislike cleaning bathrooms but if I know it’s only going to take 3 minutes to get the half bath done, the work seems so much easier. I even started timing other random tasks (only 2 minutes and 33 seconds to unload the dishwasher!) – it just seems so much more manageable to know what I can accomplish in less than 15 minutes.
Tag team what you can. On nights when Justin is home for LJ’s bedtime, one of us puts LJ down for the night while the other one picks up his toy room (which is also our TV room). Once he’s asleep, we can relax and watch TV in a tidy room. Or we’ll try to tag team dinner: if I cook, Justin will often do the dishes. Maybe he can’t get to them until later or even the next morning before work, but they get done. These small gestures of shared work mean a lot!
Stick to one task. Unless I truly have a lot of time on a particular day, I do not stress about more than the one task. There are days when my bathrooms are sparkling but my table is still covered in random stuff. If I can get to more than one thing in one day, great! But if I can’t, I refuse to feel bad about it. We live in this house. It looks lived in, like it’s supposed to. I know I am doing what I can and I’ll get to the rest another day.
Store like items together. I store all my cleaning supplies in one closet, so I don’t have to ever wonder where something is. In addition, keeping my bathroom cleaning supplies all together in one bucket allows me to easily carry it to the bathrooms and know I have everything I need. Keeps things simple and organized!
Store things where they are used. This simple idea reduced clutter and keeps my house feeling organized. I keep little boxes of matches in a few key drawers near the candles I like to burn. I keep diapers and wipes in the playroom as well as LJ’s nursery because those are the two locations he spends the most time in. Storing things where I use them is not only convenient but also makes it easier to put things away because I don’t have to take things all over the house.. When visual clutter is limited, it makes a huge difference in the way my house feels even if it’s not squeaky clean.
Maybe it sounds overly simplified, but honestly, spending a little bit of time cleaning each day has changed SO much in my life. I feel like I’ve accomplished something each day, even if it was only 3 minutes of cleaning the half bath. If someone pops by without warning, maybe my kitchen is a mess but at least the bathrooms are clean! My house rarely feels like a complete disaster because at least one portion of it was addressed that day. I want my home to be a haven for our family and that doesn’t happen if it looks like a tornado came through or surfaces are sticky so a little each day goes a long way towards keeping it clean and calm. When Justin is home in the evenings, we can actually relax a little as a family instead of tidy up or feel stressed by a messy home. Justin and I both agree it has made a huge difference in our home!
Featured Image Photo Credit: Pea Pod Photography Studio