Friday, May 25, 2012

I Don't Know How She Does It!*

{*"it" clearly being "blatantly blog while the floors are so grubby"}

I have been asked a couple of times about my daily and weekly routines by people who are kind enough to assume I have it "all together". (Stop laughing Mr A, maintain the illusion...) 

Now I could list my day to day doings here and hope you don't fall asleep by the second paragraph (or break in while we're at swimming and steal our six year old tv) but I thought instead I would explain how I developed our routine, as that would probably be more helpful. 

I'm not, however, going to pretend it's foolproof. I still struggle with getting everything done, but I'm the kind of person who prefers to struggle within a defined framework. ;)

Let's jump in, shall we?


First up, work out what you're working with.  

If you have a high intensity baby that only naps 20 minutes a day, or you work all but three hours a week, then that's the grand sum of the time you've got. No point starting in on a housework schedule that doesn't fit your life. If all you can manage is wiping the counters daily and vacuuming once a week, then no point stressing about the window tracks! Do what you can, forget the rest until your situation changes. 

So work out what hours (or minutes!) you have available. You also need to work out what times you have set arrangements, like swimming at ten and dinner at six. Then you know your limitations and can work within them. 

I am lucky to be a stay at home mum so I have a fair whack of time to play with. Here's how I do it:

We wake in the morning, and then have about two hours before we need to be out the door. Because of organised out-of-home activities (like playschool and swimming) and the unorganised disorganised unscheduled activities like painting and gardening that we do at home, we are busy for the rest of the morning until we eat lunch (usually with Mr A) at 12:30. 

Then the girls nap for two hours from 1pm until about 3pm, and dinner prep starts at 5:30pm, we eat at 6pm, and then it's dinner clean up, bath and bed for the girls. I knock off at about 8pm, because I flat out refuse to do housework at night. 

To keep track, I draw all the information on a military-inspired timeline, like this:

{Just to make it perfectly clear: this is just an example. I DON'T actually wake up at 4am. Ever. EVER!}

So that gives me two hours in the morning, two hours kid-free in the afternoon, then about two and a half hours after nap time: six and a half hours total. Because I'm not a masochist, I don't use all these for housework! I read somewhere that housework should take about 15 minutes per household member per day, and I think this is about right, if you count housework-done-with-small-children-underfoot as taking twice the time, and a new puppy as three people. 


Next step - work out what jobs you need done, starting with the necessities and working down to the less-than-vital. These will fall into weekly and daily tasks. Here are a couple of my examples:

  • Shower
  • Dress children
  • Laundry
  • Feed chickens
  • Make bread

  • Grocery shop
  • Clean bathrooms
  • Change sheets
Some of these daily tasks fall into obvious locations on your schedule. Write them in first. 

Then fit the rest of your daily jobs in the gaps.

Make sure to fit in the other things that are important to you, too!

Now to the weekly jobs. 

I write the days of the week in a row, then write the set activities we have to attend underneath them (like play group or science time.) This gives me an idea of how busy we are on any given day. 

Now, some of your "to do list" chores will have obvious days they need to be done, like putting the bins out on a Wednesday. Write these chores in next. 

Others tasks can be done any time. Some will take a lot of time and energy, some will be quick and easy. Pick times during your week where your time and energy matches the task. Don't expect to find the motivation to deep clean the kitchen when you're rushed or exhausted! This will take a bit of thought and probably some trial and error, but eventually you will find a workable fit of jobs to days. 

For example, I pay the bills on Friday, a day when we are quite busy and sitting still for 15 minutes is very welcome. I grocery shop on Mondays when I have only one child in tow, and I change the sheets on a Thursday when I have the time to do a extra load of washing. 

Because my days are all very similar I can schedule in a set time on my daily time line for weekly tasks, but if you have variable days you can obviously use any suitable time you have. 

I write all this info out on a whiteboard that lives near our kitchen. Having in in a central location, where I see it all day, keeps me on track.

It looks a bit like this:

I haven't included everything on my list in this example. Not even close! I change and add to the list regularly - I'm always having earth shattering realisations that I haven't cleaned the skirting boards in a year and a half, and I should probably stick that on the list too...

I also include the children's activities on my real board, as well as any craft or lessons I want to get done with the girls that week. It's my brain. In erasable marker. (Did I mention hanging it out of the way of small kids? Do.)  

You will also notice I included a "monthly tasks" line on Fridays. That's for things like washing the dog or the windows, sweeping the back path and other stuff that isn't weekly but does warrant doing occasionally. I keep that list in a notebook and tick them off as I go.

One nice thing about having designated days for specific tasks is that if I notice the bathroom is a bit grubby on a non-bathroom-cleaning day, I give myself leave to ignore the grime, knowing it will get cleaned soon enough. Because if I cleaned the bathroom today, then the sheets wouldn't get done, starting a horrendous domino effect of undone chores... egads! 

So that's how I organise my week. 

I'd love to hear how everyone else runs theirs, I'm still new at this game and I'm sure there are a multitude of different ways to skin this same cat. So please, share away!


  1. WOW What great suggestions in there. I think I need to put stuff on paper too. First job, schedule in time to put stuff on paper!

    Actually I'm getting the impression from a couple of blogs this week (and a friend I know) that I need to get up a bit earlier too.

    1. Getting up early works really well, as long you get to bed on time at night!

      If you find yourself faffing around for hours before bed time, wasting the time you do have, (I do this!) then getting up early and using that time at the other end of the day can be a good solution.

      Maybe give it a try for a week nd see how you go?

  2. Very organised! I am very similar, I have a list for everything. I organise my jobs in my phone though, under "reminders" and set them to repeat at the intervals they need doing, then I can pull up my list for that day or my phone beeps at me when I need to do something. I thought I was the only OCD person who has reminders for which days to change the sheets! But it totally works.

    1. See, I had mine on my iPad, but then I would get distracted by the shiny interwebz. It wasn't working for me at all! The retro white board is much safer.

  3. I will admit I giggled and snorted at the paying bills on Fridays... I do that too :D Let me guess it's every second Friday after Defence appreciation day?

    I don't have a 'schedual' per say I do keep a mental tally of lists of jobs that I should do when I can be arsed to do them. My house is always 'visitor ready'. I'm a bit of a neat freak.

    But with baby going to playgroup, creche and daycare as of next week it might be something to look into.

    She's also in that transitional from 2 naps to one nap phase.

    I always keep on meaning to meal plan too but I'm useless at this as well... I usually change mind about a gazillion times

    1. Yep! Every second Friday before Mr A can spend it on coffee!

      I used to be a neat freak. Then two kids and two dogs happened. Now I'm a "neat enough" freak.

    2. Oh, and meal planning? For the WIN! It saves so much money it's ridiculous. And even if you decided you'd prefer pie on Monday instead of the Saturday planned, you can just swap nights, but still have a balanced diet and minimal food wastage. Give it a try for a month and I bet you'll be a convert!

  4. Do you mind if I link this and post about it tonight on my blog? I just love it - and I love that the things my husband mocks about me (writing down a vague schedule, having monthly and yearly jobs etc) are actually done by someone else too:)

    1. Go for it!

      My husband mocks me too. But he does appreciate the end state :)

  5. I love this post and I love a good flowchart! What program did you do the flowchart in? I have a loose weekly list but I never seem to be able to stick to it. For example: I know my life is infinitely easier if I can just accomplish one load of laundry per day - washed, dried, folded and packed away. Sounds simple but I'm perpetually forgetting to do this. I think I need to get a groovy tattoo (perhaps in hebrew) on my arm saying: "One load of laundry per day". My baby is on two naps per day and my toddler is on one nap which means I never really have a time in the day when they're both out of action...though I know this will be changing soon. Since having my second child I have given up TV altogether in the evenings. It steals my precious time for blogging/project life/crafting. I watch ABC iview on the iPad when I'm in the kitchen cooking or cleaning, which makes menial tasks seem fun. I cook most of our meals from scratch which is incredibly time-intensive and usually plan the meals a week in advance but have become a bit slack in recent times, only planning a day in advance. After reading this post I am inspired to make a new weekly schedule and stick it on my wall. Thanks Mrs A for sharing.

    1. My flowchart program? Ahem.... Paint. Yep. It's under utilized ;)

      Love the tatt idea!

      Getting the kids to nap together was the biggest positive step I took for my sanity and free time. It took lots of "sneaking the toddler's nap 5 minutes earlier" and "keeping the baby up for 5 more minutes" but I eventually made it! And it's bliss :)

      I love evening tv, it's Mr A and my snuggle time. And Dr Who is my new favourite!. But everything else I watch is on too late - I record it and watch it the next night instead.

  6. Wow that's awesome! I like the idea of setting it up on a board, I've tried apps but also get distracted.....
    I'm trying to get on top of getting up earlier ATM but seem to be going backwards and sleeping in more!

    1. You know, in the military sleep is a vital part of battle preparation... Don't beat yourself up too much, you probably need the rest!

  7. Love the planning/ schedule at the moment hubby does the floors on Tuesdays so I'll do the bathroom. Mondays is a catch up day Wed he does the shopping and I'd like to make that a baking day and Thursdays. Fridays we go to our fruit & veg market and our favourite butchers then stop in at my best friends for a cup of tea and chat. But with the hours I work I need to be flexible and try not to be too hard on myself if I miss something. It's hard though. Jodiex

    1. So glad you guys are a good team at home, it makes such a difference!

  8. See, I'm at the point of wanting someone with a shiny whiteboard to make time to do MY housework. But whatever works for you. ;)

  9. I believe the whiteboard says 20:00 No Freaking Chores :D

    1. It does indeed! Sometime I need to be told firmly ;)

  10. Now this is the most realist I have seen all over the organising sites :-D

  11. Fabulous!! I run our family like a business, i.e. it's my job to keep all the laundry, cleaning up to date, daily school runs & runs, so i just find time to get it all done. I much preferred life at home with 4 babies, now i'm at home alone, with school bells ruling my world. I tell anyone at home with little ones, to enjoy it, soon enough you are at the mercy of sports schedules & homework assignments. Blink & then they've all grown up & left home. We're in the middle right now, cruising along better yet, with my soldier home for 2 whole months!! Mind you, i prefer to do the housework myself, he prefers to do all the cooking, yahoo, match made in heaven.
    Just tossed some bread to the chickens, they love me. I actually love my fresh start to the day hanging out in their coop & de-pooing the nesting boxes, puts a nice spin onto the day. Love Posie

    1. I count my home as my business too! I'm a professional, just a poorly paid one ;)

  12. And here I am still flying by the seat of my rather large pants...11 years into the mothering and home duties game....

    1. Well, whatever you're doing, it's obviously working, your kids are thriving!

  13. if i went by the 15 minutes per person of cleaning per day i'd be doing 2 hours a day....aahhhhhhhhhhhhh

    1. So, do you do 2 hours? Or less? Or more?!

      I want to know if my quote was accurate!

  14. I like this. Very sensible without being scary. I have my daily and weekly lists on an iphone app Wunderlist. I like it because I can consult my cleaning list while also wasting time on twitter. Multi-tasker!

    I get the Fly Lady emails. They're full of slightly crazed testimonials from women about their cleaning regimes. I find deleting them unread almost makes me feel like I've actually got up and cleaned something. Very satisfying. And comforting to know that I might have a slightly untidy house but at least I'm not sending maniacal emails to strangers about 'rubba scrubbers'.

    1. I signed up for flylady while I was overseas. I used to sit in my armoured bunker and read them, chuckling, then order my geeks to vacuume the server room again. MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

      But I don't get them at home. Too creepy.