Simple, Really? The Housekeeping Diaries

Monday, Jan 17th, 2011 by

After I posted last week’s column, I was so glad to discover I’m not alone in feeling a bit … well, let’s say “deficient” in the realm of housekeeping. It felt good to come out of the (broom) closet!



I told you I had been researching a few different housekeeping systems, and I’ll share those with you now, along with some of my favorite tips from readers: 


  • FlyLady: OK. How did I make it this long without hearing of this woman? Or this system? Or whatever it is? FlyLady seems to have its roots in a housekeeping system made popular in the late 1970s by two sisters who used colored index cards to gain control of their housework. The FlyLady aims to help people declutter their homes and set up routines with directions, encouragement and humor through a number of free emails you receive each day. She’s really big on getting you to shine your sink each night before you go to bed. (The goal seems to be that to shine your sink, it has to be free of dirty dishes. Plus you get a nice sense of accomplishment. Or so I suppose. I signed up for FlyLady last week and have yet to shine my sink.)
  • Simple Mom: The tagline for this blog is “Life hacks for home managers,” and several times a week I stop by here for some inspiration, or just to look at the pretty photos. A recent post was called “Establish Routines for a Simple Home.” It detailed how starting your morning right – such as making your bed, throwing in a load of laundry in while the coffee brews – and then ending the evening with a routine, too – such as tidying the kitchen, folding laundry – can keep your home running more smoothly. I like this idea because it aims to keep on top of some pretty easy chores that can make you immediately feel better about your house.
  • Ten-Minute House Clean: I’ve seen a number of references to the power of 10 minutes. The details vary, but basically you’re supposed to set a timer for 10 minutes and attack a room or a problem area. Kris Pinkerton, one of our “Go West Moms You Should Know,” writes area or rooms on slips of paper, puts them in a hat, and then picks a slip out whenever she has a spare 10 minutes. I love this idea because it seems so manageable.
  • Go West readers Maureen and Julie both recommended assigning days to a specific room, so on Mondays you tackle bedrooms, Tuesdays the bathrooms, Wednesdays the living room, etc. You do what you can on that day for that room, and if you don’t get to everything, well .. there is always next week! I really like this one because it breaks the housework into manageable chunks. However, it breaks the housework into daily chunks – not much time off! Julie also involves her kids in daily chores such as vacuuming and loading the dishwasher, and says that getting their hall area more organized for coats, shoes, bags, etc. has helped a lot.
  • Go West reader Edith says she decided to prioritize: She worries more about germs and stains and less about dust and fingerprints. She and her three children (almost 8 years old) tackle family chores together on Tuesdays and Fridays, using lists the kids help devise. Edith lets her children to the kid-friendly chores, she focuses on trouble spots, and they celebrate at the end with ice cream. I really like that Edith involves her children so much in the process, and I think perhaps I could “deep clean” every day if there was a pint of premium ice cream or box of Girl Scout cookies waiting for me.
  • Go West reader Becki says she uses a notecard system where each day Monday through Thursday has a notecard, and each notecard has about five chores on it that need done that day. She says both she and her husband work off the notecard, and their 3-year-old son helps, too. In the evenings, she goes through the house and puts away the toys, finishes up the laundry and picks up in general. Twice a year, she and her husband do a “room to room” clean where bedskirts are washed, curtains are cleaned, etc.  I think she has more faith in me than I do myself, but urges me to start making habits, take my time and that everything will fall into place. I suspect Becki might have gone through “FlyLady” training, and I want her to adopt me.


So there you have it. Lots of great options and all of them make me feel much more optimistic that I can really do this! Maybe! Somewhat!


I promised in my last column that I would choose one strategy and move forward with it, but this has actually been such a fun undertaking – and obviously resonated with so many of you – that I’ve decided I’ll try each of these “housekeeping systems” for a month and then write about how it turns out. About once a month, in place of my normal Monday “Simple, Really?” column, I’ll substitute something I’ll call the “Housekeeping Diaries.”


If you’d like to join me on this quest, please do so! Just use the comments section to let us know which strategy you’re going to try this month. And then make sure to keep us updated .. either in the comments section of the next post, or even better, a guest column!


As for me, I was tempted to start with the system that I knew would probably be the most challenging … the somewhat menacing-sounding, but actually encouraging and affirming FlyLady. (One of her main goals is to help people suffering from CHAOS – “Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.” Ha!) However, when I opened my first daily digest from her, I just found it overwhelming. Even though the system urges you to take “babysteps” and not beat yourself up if you don’t get to everything, I just quickly signed out of that email account.


I’m definitely going to try FlyLady down the line, but I’m a bit taxed for time right now.


So instead I’m going to jump in with the system where I’ll designate a day to clean particular rooms — using weekdays for everyday cleaning and reserving weekends to tackle bigger projects, like cleaning a closet or the pantry. I’m also going to try to establish a personal morning routine (make my bed, unload the dishwasher) and an evening routine (hang up my clothes and get the kitchen nice and tidy for morning.) Check back here in about a month to see how I do, and good luck to all of you embarking on your own housekeeping challenge!


Tara Burghart is the editor and founder of Go West Young Mom. Most Mondays she writes a column called “Simple, Really?” examining why simplifying her life seems to be a complex undertaking. After learning of the importance the FlyLady puts on having a clean kitchen sink, she suspects her own mother might have had some FlyLady training.

5 thoughts on “Simple, Really? The Housekeeping Diaries

  1. Angela

    I started with Fly Lady until I realized I was spending way more time than I was comfortable with endlessly shining my sink… For now, I'm just keeping up with my News Year's resolution – never go to sleep with a dish in the sink. It achieves the same goal, but seems less goofy to me! When it comes to housekeeping, it is all about psyching yourself into it, so it's important to find a system you click with ideologically. I am attracted to the notecard system. Maybe I'll start slowly expanding my chore repertoire. Good tips, all around!

  2. Natalie

    I like the idea of breaking up rooms into days. Maybe if I do this then I will actually start tackling rooms that no one houseguest goes in! (like mine …)

  3. Maureen

    You can do it, Tara! A month is a great amount of time for any plan. You may find that doing a different plan each month may be the best idea ever. Good luck. 🙂

  4. Tara Burghart

    Ha, Edith! You caught me. I was so proud of getting my system in place that I neglected to really work out the details of my system – what rooms when. In my defense, my daughter and I have terrible colds and I'm going on little sleep. But I have been working on cleaning and decluttering the dining and living rooms today, so that counts as Tuesday, and my kitchen was very clean when I went to bed last night. Hanging up the clothes is a habit I still have to start! Baby steps …

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