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Do you have a routine? Actually, you should probably have several:
- A cleaning routine (of course)
- A morning routine
- An evening routine
- Maybe even a skincare routine
I’m sure there are others, but I think I’ve got the important ones covered for now. And you’re on your own when it comes to skincare. Like a lot of other things, skincare has become so complicated lately. You used to wash your face, put on a moisturizer, and you were good. Now you’ve got serums, and sunscreens, primers, this acid and that acid. I honestly think they try to make you confused so you spend more.
Anyway, off the subject. Let’s talk about the routines that you should have in place for keeping your home. And guess what? Even if you think you don’t have routines, you do. You just don’t realize it.
Before we get started, let’s talk about what a routine is and why they’re so important.
I don’t know why, but every time I hear the word “routine’ I think of a dance routine. My girls both took dancing lessons, but neither of them lasted long, so I have no idea why that is. Still, let’s look at a dance routine:
- Someone plans it out, with certain steps to do and when to do them
- You (the dancer) learn the steps and how to do them
- You practice over and over until you can do it in your sleep
- And then, like Kevin Bacon, you can do it for the rest of your life
What do you do each morning when you get up? Is it the same every day? Or maybe it’s different on the weekends? That’s your morning routine. It can set your day off on a positive note, or a not so good one.
Each morning I do “morning pages” from The Artist’s Way. I check my phone, quickly, just for anything urgent, take my medications, then check the weather, the news, and my email. After that, empty the dishwasher and have breakfast. (Theoretically, after that I’m supposed to be doing yoga.)
The morning pages help me clear my head and emptying the dishwasher gets it and me ready for the day.
I have two evening routines:
- After dinner I load the dishwasher (everybody loads their own plates all day, but this would be serving pieces and pans), hand wash anything that needs it, clean the counters, stove, and table, and empty the garbage. I’m trying to add sweep the floor to that, but I think I’m better off doing that earlier in the day.
- My other evening routine is probably like yours: brush my teeth, wash my face, and put my pajamas on.
The One About Cleaning
Of course, the biggest routine that you need to develop is your cleaning routine. And it can be the hardest. Sometimes it takes a long time to figure out what works for you.
As a new wife, I didn’t have a clue. But things were OK in our tiny apartment with just the two of us. Add in a fixer upper, a new baby, and a dog, and things got out of control really fast. By the time our third child had arrived, we were living in a nicer home, but I was working now and then to help ends meet. And the house was a disaster.
One day I found a book that really made sense to me, and helped me a great deal. It was called “Sidetracked Home Executives” by sisters Pam Young and Peggy Jones. Flylady based her system on that book, and I’ve tried her methods too.
These days I use my own system, based on what I’ve learned from those systems and just life itself. I still use parts of the card file system but for the most part but I have modernized it a bit. I have most of it memorized (like Kevin Bacon and Footloose), but I am working on a system in Trello to duplicate the cards and add some instructional video. I’ll be sharing that with you soon!
Why Routine is Important
Having a routine is very important. In fact, the more routines you can add to your life, the smoother your life will be.
Here are just a few examples:
- Meal planning: Taco Tuesday, pizza on Friday, and a roast every Sunday
- A “uniform” for most of your days. That isn’t as dismal as it sounds. For me, since I’m retired, my uniform is usually jeans and either some sort of knit shirt. Tees in the summer, long sleeved in the fall. Add a sweater in the winter, or a scarf or jewelry, and it’s not so plain.
- Weekly chores: I deep clean our bathrooms on Sundays because my husband works that night and garbage day is Monday.
Routine is important because it puts your mind on autopilot after a while and things just get done. Did you ever find yourself driving somewhere you weren’t intending to go, because you weren’t paying attention? Maybe you were headed to the mall or Target, but because work is the same general direction, you found yourself driving there.
At my worst, when things were just falling apart around me, and I was working 50 hours a week and raising three kids, I picked up the older two one night after work and headed home. At some point I heard a small voice from the back seat: “mom, aren’t you going to pick up Caitlin?”. Whoops! Luckily school, day care, and our house were all within a couple of blocks of each other.
So How Do You Create a Routine?
Now there is the magic question. Or maybe the answer is more magical. Who knows? We could use some magic, right?
The first step in creating a routine is deciding what it’s for or what it’s about. If everything in your life is out of order, I think the first step might be to create a habit of picking up the clutter. (When you string two or more habits together, you’ve got a routine. And the best way to make a habit stick is to piggy back it with a habit you already have in place.)
So let’s talk clutter (not trash, clutter). It’s hard to distinguish between what you should be doing and what others should be, so I’m just going to cover generalities. If you want to delegate some of this, by all means, do.
My first step would be an after dinner pick up. Let’s say the kitchen is clean and you’re enjoying a last cup of coffee (tea for me). After you put your cup in the dishwasher, take about ten minutes to walk around the house and see what’s out of place. Pick things up as you go and put them back.
Have you ever seen a dishwasher with a light in it?
Now maybe in your home that would take longer than ten minutes. Maybe some of the things that you pick up don’t have a place to go, so that makes it hard to put them away. You might want to start a list here. Your planner is a good place, or maybe you have a household planner.
If there’s too much to do, pick one spot and do that. Now every night, after coffee, you pick up that one spot. After a while, there won’t be much to pick up, so you can add another area to it. See how this works? Soon you’ve got a routine!
But Wait, There’s More!
You know that one little after dinner routine isn’t going to get you where you want to go. Of course not. What will get you there is a series of habits and routines built up slowly over time. We get so anxious for our homes to be the clean and cozy haven we envision that we try to do too much too soon.
You have to be patient. (I am the queen of impatient. If I can do it, so can you.)
Once you get into the habit of picking up the clutter and putting it where it belongs (or assigning it to someone else), you can add in other routines.
I have daily routines, weekly ones, and seasonal ones. There might be a few monthly ones in there, but if there are, I can’t think of them at the moment. And the best part is, none of them take very long.
Part of my daily routine includes just doing a quick swipe of the bathroom. I’m in and out all day, so at some point, I’ll spray the sink down and the toilet (especially under the seat), and put some cleaner in the toilet bowl. Wipe out the sink with a paper towel, then wipe the toilet and swish the cleaner around. I may or may not clean all of the toilet; just what needs it. I wash my hands, dry them and replace the towel with a new one, and I’m done.
A little inspiration for us.
Now imagine how easy it will be to deep clean the bathroom. Just minutes and I’m done!
Maybe my idea of picking up clutter isn’t really applicable to your home. It doesn’t matter. Good for you for keeping the clutter away!
The idea in a nutshell is this: find something that needs doing on a regular basis that isn’t getting done now. Break it into smaller pieces if you need to, then find a habit that you can tie it to:
- Brush your teeth; wipe out the sink.
- Go through the mail; put dates on the calendar (bills, invitations), recycle the junk, add anything important to your planner.
- Clean up the kitchen at night; take out the trash.
- Eat breakfast; unload the dishwasher.
This is a really big subject. I have a whole blog about it!
In the coming weeks, I’ll be outlining my whole cleaning routine as well as setting up a simple course for you, if you’re interested.
In the meantime, one step at a time.