I am not a tidy person.
That may be the understatement of the year.
But I do value a clean space. It helps me keep my mind clear. It helps me stick to my goals (like writing every day or cooking healthy meals for my family). Most of all, a clean space makes me feel like I am killing it at life.
Where I started
My mom spent most of my growing up years trying to teach me how to have a clean space. She was a naturally tidy person. I think that’s a real thing. I think there are people that can just maintain their living spaces. Then there’s me, who flies around doing all the things and making a gigantic mess for three days, and then looks around and wonders what kind of crazy tornado hit her house. And then it takes like a whole week to get the house back to normal. Unless I have my husband do it, then it only takes three hours. He’s another one of those that’s gifted at cleaning.
I spent the first four years of my marriage feeling like a total failure. Like I couldn’t keep the house clean because something was fundamentally wrong with me. But you know what I’ve learned? Nothing was wrong with me. Something was wrong with the way I was doing things.
I tried all the systems. Daily cleaning checklists. Rewards. The low point was a “command center” wall in my kitchen where I hung three charts: Things to do daily, things to do weekly, and things to do seasonally. I was supposed to do them according to the schedule and check them off when I did. Because that, I assumed, is what a good housewife would do. And it worked! Until it didn’t. I failed so hard. And every time I saw those neat little charts with their empty boxes, I beat myself up.
Now, it’s worth mentioning that those charts work for some people. Some personalities. They probably work for those that are naturally good at cleaning. And maybe they sound like a good fit for you. If that’s the case, click on the link below to find some free printable checklists for your home! But if that’s something you’ve tried and didn’t stick to, or something that doesn’t resonate with you, keep reading. My method just might help.
Pick ONE task from your daily cleaning checklist
Finally I had had enough. I looked at that daily task list and asked myself what one thing would make the most difference in my life. What was driving me crazy?
Easy. Load, run, and unload the dishwasher daily.
Identify the problem
So why wasn’t it happening? What was getting in the way? My husband and I both hated unloading the dishwasher. Our kitchen is a lovely long skinny thing with tons of cupboard space, and navigating that space with the dishwasher open was a hassle. Add in two small children (one of them a baby that always wanted to crawl on top of the open door), and it was a nightmare we didn’t want to deal with.
Find a solution, try it, and tweek as you go
So I concluded that if I was going to get the dishwasher loaded and run every day, I really just needed to work on finding time in my daily routine to unload the dishwasher. I thought through my day and the things that I knew would happen every day with very few exceptions. Breakfast, heading out the door for a morning outing, lunch time, nap time, husband coming home from work, etc.
I tried a few different places in my day, and landed on lunch time. I don’t ever eat lunch until my children are down for naps, so I unloaded while they ate. No children underfoot, and time that I rarely used productively anyway. I made a few other small changes, like getting rid of dishes we didn’t use and moving some around so that the things we used most often could be put away within arms reach of the dishwasher.
Guess what. It worked. Almost every day I unload the dishwasher while my girls eat lunch. That leaves us with an empty dishwasher to load every night (which I didn’t even have to think about, because we were already doing that – when our dishwasher was empty anyway). It runs while we sleep, I unload during lunch, and the cycle continues.
Now I don’t have to think about when to unload the dishwasher. I just do it. It’s a habit. It’s part of my routine. It doesn’t feel like an awful chore anymore. And my dishes don’t pile up for days. I don’t resort to using paper products for meals because there aren’t clean dishes. I don’t walk into my kitchen and feel like screaming anymore. One little change really can change your life. And unloading the dishwasher really can become the ultimate act of self care.
Certainly there are other things that I need to do every day to keep my house clean. As I established this habit, I worked on those when I could. But running the dishwasher made a huge difference in the feel of my home. And now that I’ve established one daily cleaning habit, I know I have a system that will help me put more in place. Maybe in a year I’ll have enough habits that I’ll be ready to call it a daily cleaning routine!
Now it’s your turn!
So, what does this mean for you?
Stop feeling guilty about all the things you’re not doing. It’s not your fault. There is nothing wrong with you. You just need a new system. A system that works for YOU. I’ve created a downloadable PDF that walks you through 6 steps that will help you establish your daily cleaning habits. It will likely only take you 10 minutes or less to work through, but it could change your life. It changed mine!
Click the link below to get your printable:
Next I’ll tackle the laundry.