11 February 2009

Establishing housekeeping routines

Changing old habits and establishing new routines is one of the hardest things you'll do when you move from a consumerist mindset to a more frugal and homemade one. When I first changed from my old life, I knew I had to do a lot more for myself but for the life of me I couldn't find the motivation to get all those new chores done. After a period of trial and error, I stumbled onto a good routine that established a rhythm to my days and I have not looked back. I like doing my housekeeping now - it grounds me and remind me every day that all the work both Hanno and I do, helps create a home we love spending time in and a relationship that grows stronger each year. Those home tasks carried out each day remind me that a simple life is a journey, not a destination.

Establishing a housekeeping routine can be a daunting task but is made easier by small actions repeated regularly. I didn't know it then, but when I made myself do my daily chores a little bit at a time, before too long, I got into a rhythm that carried me through what I had to do. When I took up the broom and pegs as my tools of trade, I started with a little list of jobs I would do within a certain amount of time. For instance, I would get up, shower, write, feed the animals and chooks, make breakfast, make the bed, clean the kitchen and make bread all before my unofficial time limit of 9 am. By 12 o'clock I had to have swept the floor, cleaned the kitchen benches and stove, and any laundry that needed doing that day. Keeping a list of tasks within a flexible time frame helped and I was surprised that, in the space of about a month, I had established a routine for myself that felt comfortable and easy to work with; and it got my housekeeping done. That surprised me because I hadn't liked doing housework before then, I thought it was boring. When I had that rhythm, I started thinking about what I was doing, how my work connected me to my female ancestors and how it made my life better. When I made that connection, I started liking most of what I did, I began looking for new things to learn and I settled into my home. At last, I felt truly comfortable in my own home.

Now that I look back on it, I know that getting into the rhythm of doing a certain number of chores each day, and repeating those actions, changed my habits and established positive new ones. So I'd like to share with you five things to do every day to help a establish a routine. As you can see, they're five very common things that most of us would need to do each day. I hope you you will add another five things that are required in your own life. This second set of five things will be those things specific to you and your circumstances - whether you have children or not, work outside the home or not, and possibly would change according to where you live. For example, if you live in an apartment, your chores would be different to those you would need to do in a house with a garden and chooks.
  1. Make the bed/s. When the children are old enough, this should be one of the chores they learn so they contribute to the running of the home.
  2. Sweep the floor.
  3. Wash up or run the dishwasher.
  4. Organise and tidy one area a day. This might be the laundry, kids' rooms, the family room or your finances and mail.
  5. Know what you'll eat tomorrow.
And when you have your daily routine working for you, add one weekly activity: learn or teach one new skill every week. A new recipe, new pattern, new stitch, or work though something over the weeks - like building a compost heap, learning about vegetable gardening, experimenting with sourdough or other fermented foods, teaching your children simple, practical skills like how to sew on a button, tie their shoe laces, tell time or read the sky - during the day for changes in the weather and at night for interest.

Learning new skills is something we all need to do and you need to make time for it and put in the effort to do it. At almost 61 years of age, I still look for new discoveries, and I hope I never lose the interest in doing that. I believe that when we lose the will to learn, we stop flourishing.

I hope this way of establishing housekeeping routines works for you. It is said that new habits need about three weeks to set up and become part of you. I never timed my changes so I wonder if that is true. Hopefully in a few weeks time, some of you tell me that it is.



  1. One of the things I learned to do as a working wife and mother was, to always clean as i go and not let things get messier than they need to be. Such as cleaning off the table right after a meal, put away the leftovers, do dishes and wipe off the stove and counter tops and to keep the kitchen clutter free for easy cleanup. Also, wiping up the bathroom sink, and other surfaces right after taking a shower. Just a few extra minutes here and there really adds up to less mess and time spent cleaning. Carol

  2. Oh thank you so much for this post, it is very timely for me! I was just writing in my blog about how I do not know where to start in this sort of mindset and here you are writing just what I need! A big blessing wish to you for all of your ideas and inspiration!
    (I apparently like exclamation points...) :)

  3. Thank You for this post.
    I have been working on setting a routine, setting a pace.
    Makes the tasks at hand easier to accomplish.
    I use the Monday thru Saturday schedule with Sundays: Day of Rest or Day of Family.
    Works for me
    and Blessing to you

  4. Rhonda,

    Great Post!! I also like to keep a small list to do each day:) I am a creature of habit...I like to get started and have everything done at a certain time.

    I also know that I spend to much time thinking and probably not enough time doing:)

    I wish I could get up earlier but then I worry about getting my husband and children up to early? Do you an Hanno get up at the same time?

    If not how do you keep from waking him up? I am sure Marc wouldn't mind getting up earlier but then we would be more tired at night before our children....do see where I am coming from?

    I was one that didn't to like to do housekeeping until you said to slow down and do it right.... I will never forget that!! I use to hurry through my day and now I try to slow down and enjoy my housekeeping and I try to make things nice for my family!

    Thank you Rhonda!! Keep sharing your wisdom!!!!!

    Many Blessing,



  5. Very timely for me too. Thank you! I have a working routine but am also trying to fit new things into it, including learning a few new things, and have been wondering where to start. So timely!

  6. Hello everyone, thank you for sharing your thoughts here.


    Renee, Hanno and I never get up at the same time. I rise early, he rises when he feels like it, which is usually about 6am. Sometimes I wake him when I get up, mostly I don't. If he wakes, he listens to the radio or goes back to sleep. I'm pleased you you've slowed yourself down. Doing that, and doing everything properly, makes a real difference.

  7. Morning Rhonda
    At the begining of my visit to my daughters I found it quite hard not being in my routine. Not doing my daily 'chores', but I worked out what I could do in their homes and between us we have a new routine. It has made my visit even more enoyable knowing I am working along side them. It has really suprised me how much of my new simple living they have absorbed as it's only been a year since my 'enlightenmen' and I am only just begining really.
    Have a good day.

    Pippa x

  8. Great post Rhonda - apart from making the bed I also have mainly a routine pre-work, whereby I empty bins, set the laundry running or load and run the dishwasher and then head to work.

    In the evening when I return, I take out the dishes and store them (taking care to use items from the wash that I need right away rather than store the dishes and then get them out again to use, if you see what I mean). I will fold up a few clothes that have dried on the radiators as well but mostly in the evenings it's basic stuff and we leave the main items to Saturday and Sunday here and there.

  9. Ugg. Creating and actually *keeping* a routine is the toughest for me. I feel like I'm always struggling to keep up with everyday tasks as well as not-so-everyday ones and I'm missing out on downtime with my family. Def need to get more organized! It's difficult to know where to start.

  10. Forming good routines is so important. Whenever I get overwhelmed by everything that I wish I was doing, I always take it back to my daily routine and the small things I can do each day, it makes it more manageable.

  11. I dream of having a schedule that works for me. I seem to have a few things conspiring against it- my husband works irregular shifts and finds out the day before what he will be doing. He wants to change jobs so hopefully this will soon be a thing of the past.
    Also, my 12 year old has an ongoing health problem that we are dealing with- not serious, but unexpectedly I can have him home for a week, as this week. Third problem is I have too many things I want to do, so I tend to rush one to get to the other and as you say, when you speed through things its not very enjoyable.
    Add any kind of emotional or mental stress into the mix and I seem to lose a week or two to chaos, tiredness and frustration.
    Having said all that (and sorry for venting!), I do try to get the bedrooms tidied and the first lot of washing out before the kids leave for school, which is very do-able, unless my husband is sleeping late from shiftwork.
    I try to get up at 6:30 every morning. I used to worry about waking everyone, now I just do it anyway. I'm used to moving quietly with the shiftworker sleeping and if they wake, they must be ready to get up. Its worth it for getting those few tasks done before 8:30.

  12. Dear Rhonda Jean

    Just to let you know that someone from Malaysia reads your posts everyday. You are such an inspiration.

  13. Hi Rhonda,

    I've been lurking for a little while and reading lots of your posts, so I thought it was time I posted a comment!

    You're so right that getting into the rhythm of a routine makes chores so much more bearable - almost enjoyable! With two little ones, and a third on the way, I'm finding that my routine is what keeps me sane, and keeps me from getting overwhelmed. I have certain chores that I do in the mornings (preferably by 10 am), chores for the afternoon, and chores for the evening. I like breaking things up like this, because then I'm not doing too much all at once, and it leaves lots of breaks in between for doing fun things with the kids. For cleaning, I have certain rooms assigned to each day of the week, so I'm only spending 30-40 minutes/day doing actual cleaning. I do 1-2 loads of laundry each day so that it never piles up. As long as I keep up with my routine, my home runs smoothly, and I am a happier, calmer mom. :) The beauty of a routine is that it removes so much stress. I know that all of my chores have an assigned time or day, and that it will all get done in due time. I also think it's good for the children to get used to the rhythm, and to be able to work alongside me, and eventually be able to do some of the chores on their own.

    I even like to work crafting time into my schedule (I do this in the evenings after the kids go to bed), otherwise I know I would never do it. Even if I only sew for 30 minutes or so in the evening, it all adds up.

    Thanks for a great blog, and a great post.

    Take care,
    (Nova Scotia, Canada)

  14. was brought up to believe that housework was demeaning to women. I was supposed to be part of the generation of women that broke free from the day to day drudgery of cleaning and cooking.

    Luckily I quickly realised that it was silly to think like that and what it meant to live was to spend your time working for the wellbeing of your family. However I do find it hard to prioritise housework over 'more interesting things'.

    You have written "...how my work connected me to my female ancestors..." and "...At last, I felt truly comfortable in my own home."
    and I thank you for it. It has really flicked a switch in my mind.


  15. Thanks so much for this post its great. I have just returned to work and am finding fitting everything in a little tricky.

    I always am inspired by what you write.

  16. I am a casual teacher, so I don't know from day to day what my day will be. I have to be flexible. I do my basic chores every day, working or not, to keep the place liveable. If I am working, my aim is to keep the place tidy, if not totally clean.
    Once a week, if I have a free day I "hire myself" to do the house cleaning. I figure if I was hiring a cleaner I would only have them for a set time, so I set the alarm for 3 or 4 hours and get cracking, with something good on the radio, or some music. Once the alarm goes off, I stop. I can get a heap of stuff done in three hours. Any jobs that don't get done, get done next time, simple as that. I find that a set time frame keeps me focussed, and is much less daunting that having a never ending list of stuff to do.
    Also never underestimate the value in teaching and expecting your children to clean up after themselves!

  17. Great post Rhonda, thank you! I couldn't imagine life without my morning routine. I currently work full-time but I have a rule of not leaving the house to go to work until it's tidy, and for me that only takes 10 minutes every morning to:

    - Make the bed
    - Get rid of any obvious cat hair / dust with the hand-held vacuum
    - wipe down bathroom benches and hang up bathmat
    - Fix up any stray cushions or shoes

    I always clean-as-I-go so my morning cleanups are very fast, and the evening cleanups are just a matter of cleaning up the kitchen after dinner and washing up.

    If we've used the loungeroom to watch movies for example I'll put all the cushions back and tidy the coffee table before we go to bed. Same deal with the dining table or any other area in the house. My rule is...


    I find it works extremely well for me. All these little day-to-day bits of cleaning really add up and I only ever spend an hour on a Friday giving the house a good overall clean and then deep-cleaning one room.

  18. Hi Rhonda Jean, I know you used to be a nursing sister, so I was wondering if you had any tips for household routines for someone who works days, evenings, and nights? I have a hard time keeping up with things when I'm always home at different times - sometimes I come home in the afternoon very tired, but get to eat dinner with my husband, other times I have to sleep during the day and still other times I get a long leisurely morning with plenty of time to do laundry so the neighbor downstairs doesn't complain about the spin cycle... The problem is that there is no pattern in the shifts, so one week I might have all day shifts but the next I will have 4 evening shifts and the next again 2 nights. It really throws a wrench into the routines.

  19. Thank you for the encouragement and practical tips, Rhonda! As a wife who works outside the home, it's been difficult for me to get into a routine of keeping our home homely. Your post encouraged me to make more of a daily effort.
    Your new skills bit is so true. I am learning how to knit this year. Slow going because of the other things life throws my way, but learning nonetheless!
    Thank you.

  20. wonderful post. I tried the Flylady bandwagon about 4 times, but found her intense. However, as with all things in life, I took what was helpful and left the rest. Certainly having a morning routine helps and it makes the whole day run smoother if I can begin the day with a tidyish house.

    I love your words about feeling the connection to your female ancestors. That is such an important feeling, especially in our 21st century culture where 'housework' or 'housewife' is often something muttered behind the hand when surrounded by 'career people'.

    But I love getting into the sense that housework is my craft, it is my gift to my family, my way of being a good custodian of the earth, it is an outward expression of my love.

    It doesn't always work; there are days I can't bear to lift a finger, but it certainly cheers me to visit here and read this post.

    Thank you so much!

  21. Rhonda,

    I really liked your comment "I believe when we lose the will to learn we stop flourishing" that you made in this post. I tell my children that we all need to learn something new EVERY day. My Dad used to say this to me and it is true!

    The bread in your pic looks absolutely scrumptious!


  22. I find it impossible to set and stick to routines, so thanks Rhonda for the food for thought :-) I'll certainly be having another go at it!



  23. One thing that helps my family is that I have one set day for doing the laundry (Monday). My family knows that they need to have their sheets off the beds on Monday morning and they know they will have all their clean clothes in their closets that evening. This way they can plan their week. If my teenager wants to wear her green shirt on Friday that is fine, she knows not to wear it on Wednesday.

  24. Hi Rhonda, I especially wanted to say that I love the pretty picture you posted of yourself on the sidebar. I, too, had missed seeing you each day when I stopped by. You look beautiful in blue.
    I thought of you yesterday as I was sewing 40 heart-shaped beanbags for the preschool valentine party. It was repetitive, but I thought that it was important for the children to receive a homemade gift instead of an imported plastic toy from the store.
    It made me happy to be making a simple, fun and frugal gift for the children. We can have a game of beanbag toss into buckets at the party, then they can take them home to have later.
    Now, I must clean up the pinto beans strewn across the dining room before I begin my daily routine. I try to have things straight and organized and the washing machine humming each day by 9am. Have a wonderful day, Kimberly Ann

  25. Hi Rhonda, I tried your five things to do everyday this morning. I like it better than the routine I've been using, it was to hurry up and get it done. This is much more flexible and I can sneek some knitting and fun in and still have my work done and done right. Alot less frustration and anxiety. Thanks alot, DonnaJ.

  26. So very nice.
    I really like your blog.
    That bread you made looks so yummy!
    Would you mind sharing the recipe?
    Thank you!

  27. what a great post. thank you!

    a friend sent me to read this. i really need that sort of advice at the moment. i guess she knows me well! :-)

  28. I love this post. I always read, but don't comment too much because you have so many comments. On my blog, I have been trying to share some of my homekeeping chores and my schedule. I have been following flylady.net so that is where I get a lot of my schedule. I love yours. It is so simple. I just absolutely love your blog.

  29. i couldn't agree more, it takes a lot of focus to change how we do things. especially to try to change from a consumption pattern to a self reliance pattern. Some kind of schedule with the ability to be flexible seems to be working for our family. thanks for the post.

  30. You're right - you really have to build yourself a routine, then things get done without it being an 'issue'.

    I'm trying to do one 'extra' thing each day, through Feb. It's my way of spring cleaning and getting back on top of things. Yesterday the fridge, today the oven and tomorrow all those hard to reach ignored cobwebs. This place is gonna gleam by March 1st!

  31. I guess I am just the opposite. After years and years of needing to have routines, I am thankful now to have none to adhere to on the many days I am not working. I play, sew, do crafts, walk and read and when the clothes pile up, I stick them in the machine...I clean sporadically and yet, my home is a cozy warm place to live. I have a small space with no extras so it is easy to maintain. I bake and cook when the urge strikes me.

  32. I love you blog!!! i have spent all day here just reading and learning! i am a married SAHM of 5 and i need all the help i can get! thank you so much for sharing your wisdom!

  33. This post is very inspiring - well they are always inspiring. You are one of my favorite blogs.


  34. I stopped working in April 2008 to be a full time mom but had full time help with the housework.Come December 2008 when the help was on holiday and I had to do my own housework I bonded so much with my home.It has become a sort of meditation for me to even do my washing.(The help never came back).I am enjoying being a home maker so much.I also have a little business on the side which I could spend more time on and less time in my home but have chosen not to do that as the income I get now gets us through ok.Reading your posts just makes me want to come there.I get such a sense of peace and calm.I am going to start my vegetable garden tomorrow and thank you so much for the inspiration.


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