February 22, 2021

A Manageable, Realistic Cleaning Routine for Any Schedule

Tired, busy, overwhelmed? If you’re tired of trying to figure out how to keep your home clean while living a busy and full life, I have a tried and true method that works in just about any life situation. The Clean Mama Routine is for anyone and any schedule – really!

pictured: Homekeeping Planner | Daily Planner Notepad | Mini Notebook (aqua)

Skeptical? Not sure if the Routine could work for you? Last week I received this email from a new follower, just one week in to the Clean Mama Routine:

I’ve used your system for just a week and – excuse the hyperbole – this feels life-changing! I’m a business owner, and would typically spend the better part of Saturdays cleaning and doing laundry. This past weekend, I had a REAL (normal) weekend! I had TIME. I got to relax, take long walks in the snow with my dogs, bake a cake, and even take on declutter projects that have been bothering me for months.

In the past, all that got done was a ‘weekend reset’ – just get the house back to ‘zero’ for the week. Rinse and repeat the following week. Nothing more ever got done (without a long weekend) because that was all the time and energy I had for the house. Now I can envision not only more time to relax and have fun, but I can see actually taking on home projects that might make life *better*.

Taking on those daily tasks seems do-able knowing the reward is getting my Saturdays back (plus a consistently clean house). It’s so simple, and it’s brilliant. I’m beyond grateful!

– Michelle

If you haven’t tried my cleaning routine – I always say that anyone can do it with any schedule. I am guessing you might be skeptical – I’d love for you to give it a try and see how it can change your home and life. I created the routine years ago but perfected it in the busiest season of our lives – I was working full-time (with travel), pregnant with our 3rd baby, and running Clean Mama.  I promise you – with a little commitment and a little time every day, weekends do not have to be devoted to cleaning.

I created my cleaning routine years ago out of necessity. I was sick of cleaning all weekend long and living with the crazy during the week. Once I started using a simple routine I realized that just a little bit every day was helping me keep things clean most of the time. Then came three kids, different work schedules, traveling for my job, running a business…..and guess what?  It still worked.

Keep reading through this post – I share a quick synopsis of the Clean Mama Routine and share tips and tricks for implementing it with different schedules at the end of the post.

Put aside any misconceptions you have with cleaning.  The Clean Mama Routine is different. There are 4 components to the Clean Mama Routine – but don’t start with everything at once. The dirt will still be there when you’re ready to implement the Routine to the fullest – start with the DAILY TASKS. These are things you’re probably already doing – you can even just start with one a day for a week. Add a second task the 2nd week and keep going until you feel like you have a good grasp of the Dailies.

DAILY TASKS

These five tasks are essential to the Clean Mama Routine and the secret to getting started with your clean home; make the beds, check the floors, wipe the counters, tackle clutter, and do a load of laundry.

WEEKLY CLEANING TASKS

These tasks should only take 10-15 minutes once you get in the swing of the routine. On Monday we clean the bathrooms, Tuesday we dust, Wednesday we vacuum, Thursday we wash the floors, Friday we do anything we didn’t get to and on Saturday we tackle sheets + towels.

ROTATING TASKS

After you’ve successfully implemented the Daily + Weekly Tasks, it’s time to learn the Rotating Tasks!  You know those deep cleaning tasks that are hard to fit in? The Clean Mama Routine incorporates those simply. We incorporate these deep cleaning tasks into our Catch-All Day on Fridays or with a day of the week that it makes sense with. The Rotating Tasks are fully available in the Homekeeping Planner and the subscription to Homekeeping Society.

MONTHLY FOCUS

After you feel good about incorporating the Daily Tasks, Weekly Tasks, and Rotating Tasks into your schedule and life, it’s time to learn about the Monthly Focus. There is one focus for every month with the intention that you’ll organize your entire home throughout the year in a slow and steady approach. The Monthly Focus is mentioned on the blog but only fully available in the Homekeeping Planner and the subscription to Homekeeping Society.

Ready to give it a try? Start with these 3 free printables – you’ll find them at the top of the Free Printables page you’ll find the Calendar of the Month, a how-to guide and tips and tricks for incorporating the Clean Mama Routine.

find these and all my free printables here

Every home and every family has its own set of challenges and hurdles to work through.  Let’s be honest, if you can choose between sitting down and reading a book or folding a basket of laundry, you’re going to read the book, right?

I can speak with experience as someone that has done the Routine through every schedule – as a work outside the home mom, a work at home mom, a stay at home mom, with babies, littles, and now, a kid at every school grade level (elementary, middle, and high school) there are always going to be challenges. Every situation brings new challenges – if you are home with your kids all day or at work until 6pm, this post isn’t about what is or isn’t difficult, it’s about figuring out strategies to make it work for you and your family.  The goal? A clean home most of the time in the least amount of time. 

Need a re-frame? It helps me to think about the privilege it is to keep a home clean and tidy. I GET to to do that.

WORKING OUTSIDE THE HOME
If you work outside the home and get home late or leave early (or both!) and are exhausted and have no energy to put a cleaning routine into place, my best suggestion is to start with 5-10 minutes before you leave for work and 5-10 minutes when you get home. Start with the daily tasks and work on completing them every day. If the daily tasks are overwhelming, just start with one – one load of laundry from start to put away, pick up clutter, check floors, or wipe counters. Add one every week and before you know it you’ll have built a little routine into your schedule. Once you feel like you’ve got a good handle on daily tasks, start adding the weekly cleaning tasks – Monday is bathrooms day, Tuesday is Dusting Day, etc. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and do what you can in that amount of time and forget the rest. Keep going and before long you’ll have added this step to your routine as well. If you feel like you can add more time, and get more accomplished, increase your time to 15-20 minutes.

Here’s the secret: If you keep up with the routine (even if it’s half-way done every week), by keeping up with it consistently you’ll be making progress and after a couple months (or less) you’ll not only have a routine but you’ll have a clean home most of the time.

IRREGULAR WORK HOURS/SCHEDULE
An irregular schedule is difficult for so many reasons. Some irregular schedules are overnight shifts, 3 days on and 3 days off or it might even be that you work 12 hour shifts. My best advice? A cleaning routine can be accomplished, but give yourself grace while you’re trying to figure out what works best for you. You might need to double up tasks and tackle two or three on your days off so you don’t have to do much on the days that you are at work. For instance, if you work on Thursdays but have Wednesday off,  do Wednesday’s task (vacuum) and Thursday’s task (wash floors) on the same day. Some weeks might be weeks where all you do are the basic daily cleaning tasks (make beds, one load of laundry, wipe counters, clutter, and check floors). Some weeks you’ll be able to conquer the world and get everything done. Take it all in stride and remember that something is always better than nothing.

BABIES + YOUNG KIDS/EXHAUSTION
Clean up as you go. Be intentional through the day – it’s always easier to tidy up as you go rather than try to clean everything up at the end of the day. This can be applied to kids picking up one thing before starting another or in other areas of the home too. When the kids were little we reset the area we were playing in multiple times a day. This helped them learn to clean up as you go and it made it so much easier to clean up a little instead of a lot. Kids like to be involved in cleaning – show them and let them help you. The same principle can be applied to the entire home: as you are preparing dinner, be putting the prep dishes in the dishwasher, instead of leaving toiletries on the bathroom counters as you’re getting ready for the day, put them away as you’re getting ready.

  1. Be consistent. If you decide that it’s helpful to do a quick clean up before rest time or nap time every day, take the 5-10 minutes that it takes to do that little clean up. Being consistent helps to build habits and it helps to make it easier to clean up when you’re doing it regularly.
  2. When the house is clean…get out! This is something that I did when our two older kids were little. We’d do a quick clean up before lunch and naps and head out to the park for a picnic lunch and playtime. This did all of us good – fresh air and sunshine and a walk for me. In inclement weather we’d head to the library or I’d take the stroller to the mall to walk around. Then it was back home for naps and a little quiet time for me. If you are working outside of the home, you can do this after dinner too!
  3. Write it down. If you feel like you get to the end of the day and you didn’t get anything accomplished, start checking things off a list. I use my Homekeeping Planner and love being able to reference it all year long.
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s trite and overstated but really, it’s so true. So what if you have to order pizza because everything went south. Didn’t do the laundry every day this week? No big deal! This is why I built Fridays as a Catch-All Day into my routine. A grace day built into a routine that has room for LIFE. It’s refreshingly simple – just use the next day to start over, or the next week – there’s always room for the unexpected.

LIMITED MOBILITY/ILLNESS
There are times in your life when your cleaning routine is the last thing you’re concerned about. I’ve experienced a handful of instances where I couldn’t pull it together to keep up with my routine or I was told by a doctor not to lift or do any exerting (torn ankle tendon and three c-sections). I understand that feeling of hopelessness because you know what should be done but you just can’t do it. Each of those instances was 6-8 weeks and through them I learned how to manage the musts and let go of the rest. My mother-in-law also had an autoimmune disease that kept her from the simplest housework tasks and I feel for you if you are suffering from a disease or disability and are looking for some practical tips to fit a routine into your schedule. Here are just a couple suggestions (I could do a whole blog post):

  1. Ask for help – family members, friends, hire help if you can.
  2. Don’t do things that lay you up for the next day – pace yourself so you don’t regret the time spent cleaning.
  3. Split tasks up – if you have 3 bathrooms and you want to clean them yourself, clean one one week on Monday, the next one the following week, and so on.
  4. Use tools that are easy to use – choose tools that feel good in your hands and that you will want to use.
  5. Go slow and keep things as simple as you can. Add more when you’re able to but don’t overdo it!

I hope you try my routine and find a sense of calm just knowing that you don’t have to think about what to clean and when to clean it.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO DO:

SOMETHING. Just do one thing. And then do something else. And a little more. Put a couple wins together and you’re on your way to success. The main thing that you need to focus on is that a perfectly clean house is not what you’re after. In fact, it’s not really attainable and sustainable. Remember that people live here, you share life together, and you make and clean up messes together. Embrace the mess, live life, and have a system in place to keep it clean most of the time.

The most effective part of the Clean Mama Routine is that you will not feel overwhelmed by the routine. You’ll feel like it’s helping you get your home to a manageable place where just about any real-life circumstance can be thrown at you and you can still get the bathrooms clean. Every day of the week has a task, and if you don’t get to that task, guess what? You SKIP it and move on to the next day. No guilt, no making it up, just move on. How can you just move on without cleaning the bathrooms or dusting or vacuuming? Because every single Friday is a day to catch up on any uncompleted tasks. If you don’t get to the task on Friday because the week was crazy or Friday you were working out of town or something else came up, you table the task until its day appears on the calendar the following week.

For a perfectionist, this is a really difficult concept to embrace. Most weeks I don’t get to everything on my list. This can feel defeating unless you have a plan and expect that not everything will get done. Accept it, set goals, and don’t worry about the completion of that list. Simply do your best and do what you can – it’s that easy. How can you just move on without cleaning or dusting or vacuuming? Because every single Friday is a day to catch up on any uncompleted tasks. If you don’t get to the task on Friday because the week was crazy or Friday you were working out of town or something else came up, you table the task until its day appears on the calendar the following week.

Check out the links below – I share daily reminders on social media – follow what works for you:

Start Here page – this page will help you get started!
Read my latest book –  Clean Mama’s Guide to a Peaceful Home
Follow Clean Mama on Instagram

If you are struggling to integrate a cleaning routine in your schedule, check out my new kit – Clean Mama’s Guide to a Flexible Routine.  It’s a fresh approach to implementing the Clean Mama Routine, complete with tweaks and suggestions for making it work!

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Cleaning, Favorites