Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Updating Household Systems

I put up my cleaning schedule a couple of weeks ago. Have I been following it? Not exactly, but that's OK. I sat down with myself the other day and realized that I have different levels of housekeeping intensity at different seasons in the year, and that THIS IS OKAY. Late spring is always busy for instance. So is September and December. It's OK to maintain during these seasons.

That cleaning schedule was for Level Two, let's say. I should be doing it when I'm not really busy with other things.

When I do my decluttering sessions, I'll call that Level Three. I do this about 2 times a year. Someday I won't have to declutter much, or at least, that's the plan -- I'll just be able to do spring and fall cleaning and rearrange things.

Level One, I decided, was maintenance. So I thought through what I actually do when I am maintaining -- you know, when I am not just letting things slide, but I'm not actually making a lot of progress either. Then I tried to systemize it -- the goal is to wake up every morning and know that at least I am going to do X.

Cooking and Laundry

I always keep up more or less with cooking and laundry, basically because I have no choice. I don't keep a whole lot of extra clothes for the kids and if a week went by without cycling through the laundry someone would be asking for something. It's the same with meals -- there is an automated reminder system.

So for those I don't have to invent a plan, just make the ones I have work better. I try to do lots of laundry on Monday including sheets and blankets. Usually I am caught up by Tuesday or Wednesday and then just throw in a load every day or two until the next Monday.

Meal Planning

Meal planning works OK the way it is. My main challenge would be to present better quality meals but that's something I'm not going to focus on with all my attention until this summer. Right now we have a sort of routine:

  • Monday -- Mexican food (tacos, burritos, chipotle salad etc).
  • Tuesday -- Oriental (some kind of stir fry, rice)
  • Wednesday -- Italian (pasta and accessories)
  • Thursday -- usually breakfast for dinner -- pancakes and sausages, something like that.
  • Friday -- fish or tuna casserole or something like that, potatoes.
  • Saturday -- hamburgers and hot dogs, or something grilled
  • Sunday -- homemade pizza
This allows me to build my menu around staples (rice; potatoes; pasta;etc) which we always have available, plus whatever happens to be in the fridge and freezer (fresh food and meat).

There are variations -- sometimes I bake or roast the main course or we have something in the crockpot. A lot depends on how busy the day will be -- if there's a lot going on we have something simpler. And it also depends on how recently we have been to the store. We are blessed with an extra freezer and a walk in pantry so we usually have enough food to survive even if we haven't been able to make it to the grocery store for a while (we shop in town which is 60 miles away).

For the rest of the housework I divided up Level One Maintenance into daily focus:

Level One Maintenance

Daily -- tidy and straighten -- SO MUCH easier now that everything has a proper place and there isn't so much stuff.

  • Monday -- Vacuum, laundry
  • Tuesday -- clean bathrooms, dust and wipe furniture
  • Wednesday -- mop the floor, catch up on phone calls and mail
  • Thursday -- Vacuum, trash collection
  • Friday -- clean bathrooms, dust and wipe furniture
  • Saturday -- go through papers or do yardwork

My big goal with all this work I have been doing recently is to simplify. I know this doesn't sound very simple. ... all these strategies. Indeed, that has been one problem with my efforts to put my life in order in the past -- you start juggling mental plates and there are too many.

On the other hand, if you have doable, accessible routines, you don't have to spend so much effort deciding what to do next, or scrambling to catch up on something that has gotten neglected for too long.

When I first streamlined our menus, I was pregnant with Paddy, a complicated pregnancy, and I needed to be able to NOT think about what was for dinner every day. It was hard at first, but now it runs pretty well.

My goal with the rest of it -- my fitness, the household management, and ultimately homeschooling or other things -- is not to have to spend the increasingly limited higher brain function on thinking through things that can be automated. Okay -- once or twice a year I have to sit down, as I did last week, and update the systems so they work for the changing needs of the family. But the rest of the time, I really want to have precedents in place so I can spend mental energy on other things.

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