Securing a Reasonably Clean House: More on Zones

Begin with the introduction to the Reasonably Clean series to get the foundation and the linked table of contents for the series!

So, here’s the question: Is it better to have a big cleaning day or to clean a little bit every day?

My point of reference for answering this question is laundry. With laundry, too, you can have a big laundry day or do a little every day (though once your family gets large enough, it’s more like every day is a big laundry day). I did the big laundry day for years, mostly because I detested laundry. I wanted to get it all out of the way at once and not think about it for the rest of the week.

The problem was that it actually never happened that way.

I’d get most of the loads done in one day, but I’d never get them all put away in one day. And then there’d always be some load during the week that had to be done. So, the way the reality worked out, I still had laundry hanging over my head all week, but I held my ground, firmly resisting the pile-guilt by insisting that it would have to wait for Laundry Day. And so often it became more and more backlogged, until I’d have to have a Nothing But Putting Away Laundry Day.

Then we put the house on the market. Baskets and piles of clothes hanging around constantly was no longer an option. So I made myself move to a load-a-day plan, because clearly the weekly day was not working for me. I haven’t gone back to the one-day-a-week plan.

It can work, as long as your total number of loads can be done in one day, but it means you have to be remembering and doing it all day, to get the clothes cycled through. And it means a lot of time folding and putting away in one day. If that works for you, then by all means go with it. I don’t think one should chuck a system that’s working.

However, I found that in doing a little bit every day, “doing laundry” became much less of a dreaded task. It takes 2 minutes in the morning to start a load, 1 minute to change loads, and 10-15 minutes to get it all put away real quick. No marathon sessions, no mounds of laundry (dirty piles in hampers or clean piles in baskets), and no dread. I don’t like laundry, but now I merely shrug, instead of waking up sighing, breathing deeply, and saying, “Ugh. Laundry Day.”

I believe it’s the same way with housework. It never gets too bad, it never takes too long, if you just do some every day. 30 minutes every day is easier to fit in, even around interruptions, than 2 hours straight.

Remember that with Leila’s zone plan, your 20-30 minutes of cleaning includes putting things away, and is only dusting and vacuuming or mopping without moving anything. Again, it’s a small, bite-sized amount that can just be tackled quickly and relatively painlessly, whereas 1-2 solid hours of such tasks is dreary. And, for me, simply doesn’t work well, because I easily talk myself out of at least half of what I should do, and life happens and can derail a whole day. If the derailed day is Laundry Day, then there’s a big problem. If the derailed day is Cleaning Day, it can get bad.

When I have assigned large tasks one to a day, I have inevitably gotten behind and way off track in no time. Laundry doesn’t get done all in one day, so it trickles into other days, so that day’s tasks get pushed back, and the ball of chaos begins to roll. On top of that, if I have mentally reserved Monday as Laundry Day, then I feel resentful if I have to do laundry on other days. If Thursday is my cleaning day, then Tuesday when the house is a wreck, I will pick up a book and haughtily tell the house, “I will see to you on Thursday.” If I do a little bit every day, then I get more things to check off quickly, and I have mentally accepted that it is the day’s tasks. I have much, much less resentment toward my housework on a “little bit every day” plan.

Each individual’s mileage may vary, especially someone who doesn’t have the personal issues and hangups I do.

I’d love to continue the conversation in the comments, though!

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