Navigating the Homefront

My Basic Laundry Routine: Sorting April 16, 2012

Filed under: Laundry,Organization — Christy @ 6:25 pm

Wherin as much as others have written much on the details of tending laundry, I thought it necessary to write an overview of my laundry routine as well.

First Step: Sort the laundry!

My current method

I have an in home washer and dryer, and my weekly chores are usually spread out through out the week. 

Who:  Whoever wears the clothes sorts them.  Even my two-year-old can take her clothes to the laundry room.

What:  Three to five narrow hampers.  Currently my categories are cold wash, hot wash (for towels), and warm wash( for clothes).  You may want to separate by colors, or keep the baby’s clothes separate. I also have a water tight bin that can be used for soaking.  These baskets came from Ikea.

When:  As soon as the clothes are taken off.

Where:   In this home, the laundry room is located in the middle of the house, between the bath and the bedrooms, so it’s easy for the family to duck in and drop of dirty clothes on the way from the shower. When I had a home with extra space in the hallway between the bedrooms and main bath, that was where the sorting station was located.  When one hamper was full, I simply grabbed it and took it to the garage, where our washer and dryer were located.

Why:  I know which loads of laundry need to be done at a glance.  When the hamper is full, that designates one load of laundry. No wasting time to sort.

When I was single

I only did laundry every two weeks using this method.

Who: The laundress.

What:  A sturdy bag with a comfortable handle, and multiple washing machines.

When: On laundry day.

Where: At the laundry facility.

Why:   The main concern was to get the clothes easily to and from the laundry.

What tricks have you learned for efficiently sorting laundry?


How I finally started to get my weekly chores done February 24, 2012

Filed under: Cleaning,Organization,Saving time — Christy @ 2:01 pm

New housekeeping routines are necessary with major changes like babies, moving, and new work schedules .  It usually takes a couple of weeks to get into the swing of things and begin accomplishing all the daily tasks consistently.  I’ve learned that it’s better for me to wait until I am comfortably completing all my daily tasks each day before I start adding weekly tasks to the new situation.  By weekly chores, I mean what most of us think of when we think of routine cleaning: scrub the bath tub, empty the leftovers from the fridge.  Anything you’d prefer to do more than monthly, but don’t really need to do every day.

Do all the chores on one day each week.

People who have strongly contrasting weeks and weekends often like this schedule.   When I was a public school teacher, I did all cleaning on Saturday.  This plan worked well and felt easy as long as I had the power to define my own schedule.

If I am cleaning the whole house at one time,  the most efficient method is to do each task for the entire house.  Start by decluttering the entire house, then work from the top down, and dry to wet  Dust the entire house, sweep the entire house, clean all the wet areas, then do the floors.   ( I learned this from Cheryl Mendelsson in her excellent book Home Comforts).

When a very hungry infant entered my life, I lost my ability to define my own schedule.  Whatever I had planned might be preempted by his needs.  I found that I made better progress by working a little bit each day.

“Around the Mulberry Bush”

I decided to try this classic homemaking method: assign each chore a specific day, and do it on that particular day.  I love this idea in theory.  It’s often recommended by more seasoned moms and homemakers.  My suspicion is that if you have children who are old enough to be scheduled and  help, it works well.  If you’d like to try it, check out Clean Mama.  She has a great starter schedule, and sends out some helpful “how to’s”

In my reality, I can’t necessarily get everything done on the day it was supposed to be done.  Worse, the same thing tends to get missed every week.   I end up with beautiful bathrooms and a filthy kitchen.

My Generalized Mulberry Bush

My current strategy looks like this: Day one, living room and play room; day two, bathrooms; day three, mopping; day four, kitchen; day five, bedrooms. Days six and seven, rest.

I have found that cleaning each room in its entirety before moving on the next is the most efficient method when cleaning with and around little people.  In dry rooms (bedrooms, play room)  I declutter, then clean the surfaces as quickly as possible.    In wet rooms, I may close the door while I quickly use all the chemicals then stow them out of reach.

Ideally the seven day cycle happens every week.  But, in reality, it works fine even if stretched over two or three weeks.    Sometimes I do day one cleaning on Monday, day two cleaning on Wednesday. When I had just given  birth to my second child in eighteen months, my weekly chores got done monthly.  It wasn’t ideal, but the situation was under control, unlike the year before when I couldn’t even figure out what to ask for when someone was available to help.  Believe me, knowing what you need to do and haven’t done is much less stressful than not even knowing what you haven’t done.

I have found that cleaning each room in its entirety before moving on the next is the most efficient method when cleaning with and around little people.  In dry rooms (bedrooms, play room)  I declutter, then clean the surfaces as quickly as possible.    In wet rooms, I may close the door while I quickly use all the chemicals then stow them out of reach.

Why did you choose your current scheduling strategy for weekly cleaning?


How to have a clean house every day January 15, 2012

Filed under: Cleaning,Organization — Christy @ 3:29 am

Only clean needs to be cleaned every day.

I have found that what needs to be cleaned every day depends on where my home is, who is living in it, and personal taste. In Florida, I worried about mold. In the Middle East, I worry about dust. I became a lot more concerned about the cleanliness of the floor when I realized that’s where my children were living.

Daily chores are the things that must be done at least every forty-eight hours to keep the house comfortable and safe. If it can wait longer than that, it needs to be a weekly chore. Right now, my daily chores include clutter control, cooking, washing dishes, wiping down the table and counters, watering the plants, dusting, sweeping. I also check the sinks, toilets and toilet paper supplies.

Daily tasks are the ones most critical to my family’s well being, so they have to be the priority. Until I’m at the point of getting everything that needs to be done daily accomplished, it’s better to let the other chores slide. For the first few weeks in our new home, any energy and time not needed for daily chores went toward organizing, shopping and other wise acclimating, not toward weekly or monthly cleaning. Once I was able to comfortably complete my daily cleaning, the house felt good, even though it wasn’t thoroughly clean.

Designate specific time to clean each day.

Although I’ve read many theories about when a homemaker should schedule her daily cleaning times, my personal experience is that it depends on what else is going on in my life. At the moment, I do the bulk of my cleaning before the kids get up, then work in the kitchen after lunch and before bed. I’ve done everything in the opposite order too, and that worked at the time.

I learned a few good tricks to find extra time when my children were infants. Now that they’re toddlers, I purposely have them help a little each day, but some chores such as mopping are still more efficient when they are not playing in the bucket!

Starting the machines first helps me use my time more efficiently, because I can go back switch clothes to the dryer or maybe put the dishes away during the same cleaning session. I’ve found it helpful to rank daily chores by importance. The most important things should be done first, because some days I won’t get to the bottom of the list.

When do you clean each day?  What do you do first?  Why?


Getting things done when you have an infant

Filed under: Laundry,Life with an infant,Organization,Saving time — Christy @ 3:21 am

1. When I was getting up multiple times in the night to nurse, I would change laundry loads after every feeding.  Then, in themorning, all the laundry was ready to put away, or at least my husband could dig through to get what he needed.  It was well worth the extra five minutes of lost sleep every three hours.

2. When my daughter was an infant, I learned that if I would feed the baby  thirty minutes before her natural time to get up in the morning, she would sleep about until when my toddler got up.  That gave me a couple of hours of no baby time to get things of all kinds done in the morning.

3.  Use my nursing time.  My son nursed twelve hours per day and longer at times.  I found that it was a great time to catch up on phone calls and planning.  It’s also when I could do  memory work or read a book.

Let’s help out some moms who are just getting started!  What other tricks  have you learned to get things done while you had an infant?


How to keep a house clean, step one: make a plan January 2, 2012

Filed under: Cleaning,Organization — Christy @ 3:40 am

The first jet-lagged night in our new home, I sat on the couch mentally reviewing every room and writing down the tasks that needed to be done in each room (and also what containers I wanted, but that’s another subject).   I labeled each task, daily, weekly or monthly, choosing the longest time interval that seemed bearable.  I would love to wash the finger prints off the windows every day, but that takes too much time, and frankly, no one would know the difference if I did.  However, we do notice if we have plates for supper.

Here’s my list for the play room:

sweep floors—daily

Put away clutter — daily

Dust shelves and tables–daily

Sweep under the sofa—weekly

Dust light fixtures—weekly

Wash windows– weekly

Wipe down the toys—monthly

This is my tweaked list. I didn’t realize that the lights needed to be dusted until I had been cleaning for a few weeks (We recently figured out that they double AC returns!), and it took me longer than I care to admit to give up on cleaning the windows every day.

 I don’t do my daily chores every day, or my monthly chores monthly.  It’s more like five days out of seven for the daily chores and the monthly chores happen about every six weeks.  I do make the weekly chores most of the time, but when I had a nursing baby, they were really more like bi-weekly chores.

The goal is to put a plan on paper that approximates reality.   Then, I know what I need to attempt, and I have limits that make me stop cleaning.  Otherwise, my perfectionism takes over, and I get cranky and ignore the kids, or shut down and don’t do anything for the house because I’m over whelmed.   I made this plan knowing I would change it.

I think it’s helpful to learn from others.  Would you share how often you do the needed tasks for one room in your home?  And, maybe more importantly, why at those time intervals?


How to Keep a House Clean

Filed under: Cleaning,Improving Quality of life,Organization,Saving time — Christy @ 3:00 am

There’s nothing worse than working hard all day and feeling that you have nothing to show for it at the end.  That’s how I felt when I looked around the house in the weeks after my son was born, and the problems only intensified as he grew and became mobile.  I received many assurances that someday he would be gone and then I’d miss the mess.   Ok, so maybe living in dirty home will sound attractive some day.    I still think I’ll feel guilty if that’s how my kids think it should be, and I know I felt guilty when their little hands got dirty from crawling across the floor I hadn’t cleaned for weeks.   One book I read stated that all mothers of new babies should have a maid.  It’s a lovely thought, isn’t it?  Thankfully, I had some friends who handed me books and URL’s and said, “You don’t have to do exactly what she says, but it might help some.”   Today, my son is still here, playing with his Duplos, and the floor is clean too.

The secret is developing and following a basic routine based on your living situation. Developing a routine is a task that has to be redone any time your life significantly changes. This is the method I used when we changed realities six months ago by moving from the rural US to the urban mide-East.  I think it’s a method that would work for any one.

Make a master plan.  Get comfortable daily routines.  Get comfortable with weekly routines.  Get comfortable with monthly routines.  Tweak as needed.

I’ve realized that, it’s more important that you work consistently than that you get the whole house looking good the first week. If you really are starting at the beginning, not just moving, or improving an already in place system, I would recommend that you start with the one room that bothers you most.  Add one room at time as you get the hang of maintaining the one.

What’s most important to make a routine workable for you?


Home for the Holidays November 30, 2011

Filed under: Family,Hospitality,Organization — Christy @ 3:52 am
Tags: , , ,

Thanksgiving has come and gone already!  This is our first Christmas to celebrate in our own home as a family, and our first Christmas abroad.  Home is where the holiday happens, and I’ve discovered that means over-time for the home maker.  My plan is to get decorations, cards, and gifts done in that order, by December 18, and spend that last week gathering and preparing food for our holiday celebrations.


I read an excellent article a couple of years ago, which I wish I could find again.  The author was a professional decorator who urged her readers to focus on three things: the wreath for the door, the tree, and a center piece for the table.  Our love of food is already larger than our table, so I’ve adapted the list: decorations for the door, the Christmas tree, and the nativity scene.  Those are all the decorations we’ll have, and I’ve found that they’re actually all we need to make the house feel festive.


I love cards because the serve as a connection with loved ones I won’t be able to see in person over the holiday, and they remind me of what the excitement is really all about. My habit is to alternate sending a card featuring pictures of the family accompanied by a mass letter one year, and to write personal notes on premade cards the next year.  Usually I pick up cards at the dollar store, but three is a very crafty age and postal services are rather nebulous here. So, I’m going to have the kids make something to serve as the picture and send the notes by e-mail.


I like to make a list with a few different headings.

Name, gift ideas, current favorites      Plan A item            Plan B item              Budget


Before I head out to the stores, or rather log into Amazon as it is this year, I fill in at least the name and budget for each person on our list.  As I start looking to see what I can find, I may fill in some plan B items that I know I can get later, if I can’t find the great gift I wanted, then keep searching for the ideal plan A gift.  Once December 18 rolls around, I give up, buy the plan B gift and get set to bake some cookies and enjoy the holiday.

What’s on your Christmas to do list?