Thursday, May 29, 2014

Monthly Cleaning Checklist: A Recap

Back in mid-March, I introduced y'all to my monthly chore checklist.

It is a list of 20 household chores and my goal was to complete the entire checklist in a month and then start over again the next month.  I tried to break down the chores into tasks that would take 20-30 minutes each so that I could easily complete one per day, giving myself a few days off during the month.  Now having completed my checklist the first time around (and working on round two), I thought I would share what I have learned.

First of all, let me gush a bit about how much I love the checklist.  Like, luuuurve it.  I am a total list-maker.  I make these huge to-do lists with dozens of tasks on them -- way more than could possibly be accomplished in a day, a week or sometimes even a month.  Then I spend a lot of time feeling guilty that I am not getting everything done that is on my list.  So, what I love about this list is that the intention is to only do ONE chore a day; there is no expectation that I need to get more than that ONE thing done.  Once that ONE chore is completed, I can relax knowing that I accomplished my goal for that day.  And if you know me, you know that "relax" is not something I do often.

A second thing I love about my checklist is that it motivated me to tackle a bunch of projects that I had been dreaming of, but putting off, for a long time -- like organizing under the kitchen sink and sanitizing my dishwasher.  (Of course, once I actually completed the latter task, my dreams turned to nightmares -- I still cannot get some of those images out of my mind!)

Now onto what I learned, including some tips for your own checklist.

1.  Some of these chores did NOT take 20 minutes.  Some of them did, and some of them took over an hour.  It took me 6-weeks to get through my checklist the first go-around.  Now, I am on the second round of the checklist and thankfully the chores that took me an hour the first time, are only taking the expected 20 minutes the second time.  That is the beauty of organizing; once you put some time and effort into getting a space efficiently organized, it is much easier and faster to maintain from that point on.  Which leads me to lesson number two...

2.  Organization requires maintenance.  There is no point in spending time organizing a space only to let it slowly revert back to a state of chaos.  Whether we like it or not, even after a space is organized, we must continue to come back to that same space in order to maintain the work we have done.  My favorite tasks on my list were spaces that I had already organized and just needed some maintenance: J&A's bedrooms (here and here), the garage and our car are a few examples.  Because I had already spent time thoroughly cleaning out and organizing these spaces, doing the monthly chore was easy and rewarding.  However, if I don't keep up with maintaining these spaces, they will soon become just another mess that I need to start back at square one.

3.  It's okay to only do part of the task.  For example, one of the chores on my list is to clean smudges off walls, molding and doors.  Honestly, I thought it would take me about a half-hour to walk around the house and quickly wipe off the dirt-marks.  But the thing about smudges is once you start looking for them, you see them everywhere (especially if you have kids or pets).  After an hour, I had only made it through our entryway and powder room. To continue to stay with that task until I had de-smudged my entire house would have taken me weeks and I would have gotten discouraged and tossed my entire checklist in the garbage.  Instead, I decided the entryway and powder room was enough and crossed the task off my list even thought it wasn't officially "complete".

4.  Set a timer to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed.  Using the example of the smudges again, I have decided that for all future months I am going to set a timer for 30-minutes.  When the timer buzzes, I am done, no matter how much (or how little) I actually got done.  Cross it off and move onto the next item, knowing that next month the task will come back around and I will have the opportunity to pick up where I left off.

5.  Give yourself grace.  Yes, it was/is my goal to complete this list every month. But even now that I am on round two and the tasks are going much faster, the truth is, life is busy and in addition to this list I have a dozen other to-do lists that are requiring my attention.  So, realistically, I am hoping my checklist gets completed every-other month.  I figure that doing these chores six times a year is far better than the zero times per year I was doing them before I started the list.

Anyone else out there doing a monthly checklist?  What have you learned?  Any tips or tricks to share?