When I first quit my job to stay home with my babies, I really wanted to do a great job as a homemaker. My biggest challenge was that my mindset had gotten a little messed up. After several years of working, I had gotten into the habit of thinking that "home" time was "relax" time. You know, kick back and unwind and watch T.V. It took me awhile to figure out that, like any job, homemaking took some effort and some pride. But where to start?? I had my hands full with the little ones and was overwhelmed at keeping house AND keeping everyone fed.
One day, in a rabid search for organizational inspiration at the Container Store, I stumbled across Bonnie's Household Organizer. Coincidentally, my sister Katherine referenced this book yesterday. (It is a recurring theme of our phone conversations.) In it, Bonnie gives some guidelines for a simple daily maintenance rountine that I've adapted to my own family's needs over the years. When life starts getting out of control, I often find that I've forgotten to put it into practice and I have to pull out my dog-eared book for a refresher. Minimum Maintenance (along with a general weekly schedule) helps get my family back on track and gives me hope that I just might make it.
Minimum Maintenance in a nutshell is this: acknowledging that every day a minimum amount of effort will go into that day to make it work.
Minimum Maintenance is not a thorough cleaning process. It is a morning run-through of the house, that gives you a successful start to your day, whatever happens.
Here is what Bonnie says:
1. Spend 5 minutes per room, picking up and straightening. NO MORE THAN 5 MINUTES! (Except the kitchen, which gets 15). When your friendly timer goes off, you move on. Oh, good!
2. Don't start cleaning too deeply during your morning run-through. Save that for later. Oh, now we're talkin!
3. Don't let the needs of others control your life. (ex. telephone calls, Regis and Kelly etc.)
4. Make the dinner decision early. (By 10:00) Deciding early give you more choices, even if you are deciding to eat out. It gives you control. Try an easy monthly menu plan.
5. Start from the outside in. Clean off the top of the counter before you attack a drawer.
6. Categorize items as you go: start grouping stuff as you pick up. Don't get bogged down in specific, precise categories, just simple groups so that when you begin to really organize, half the job is already done.
7. Learn to pick up before the mess becomes monstrous. We often don't pick up a little piece of paper because the rest of the house is so messy. For today, just pick up the stuff you took out and used TODAY.
8. Make the picking-up process a habit. At first it will take great effort, but soon it will become a second nature. Clean as you go. Having paper towels or pop-up wipes handy in each bathroom makes it easier to do a quick swab o' the deck.
So even if my closets are a disaster (and some of them are!) picking up and straightening the areas we live in gives me a euphoric feeling of success. Knowing that I HAVE to move on after 5 minutes in each room helps keep me from getting bogged down in my quagmire of despair.
Sometimes it has worked better for me to do 5 minutes per room in the evening, rather than in the morning. I like to wake up to a neat house, and getting the kids to pitch in to for quick pick up gives them an excuse to stay up 5 more minutes. As if they needed it.
Next week, I will post how I've done my general weekly schedule. I actually seldom use it anymore, because the needs of my family have changed. But for at least 20 years it has been my lifesaver, the thing that brought me back from the ledge of insanity many times.
I encourage you to get out your timer and get rockin with Minimum Maintenance today. I would be willing to bet my last dollar that you will feel incredibly sexy and powerful when you can see your countertops once again! Hey, there's nothing like a little bit of success to give a big boost to your self esteem. And we can all use some of that!