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By: Dr. Afiniki Akanet, author of Life Without Coffee (Choosing Happiness Over Stress)
Posted on: Jan 25, 2019

Five Tips to Establish a Plan for Managing Household Chores

With such busy schedules, household chores are never the most exciting option. Even the few who actually enjoy cleaning responsibilities sometimes struggle to find time to clean. As families grow, cleaning can be more difficult, but is also more important. I have worked as a medical doctor for years and never used a commercial cleaning service in my home. I have come close and even booked one - who did not show up! - but we have always managed to keep our home clean-ish despite having two small children and being both practising professionals. There is nothing wrong with getting a service to manage chores if you can afford one, but here are some tips for those who prefer to handle daily household chores themselves:

Decide how important a clean home is to you and your family

Not everyone cares to live in a spotless house. As a doctor who often visits people at home, I have seen some very untidy houses. I often hear people complain about having very different standards of cleanliness from their partners. Even married couples will need to have the conversation about how tidy they want their houses to be in order to keep things running smoothly. Sometimes people are influenced by their background/upbringing, but can be encouraged to improve their standards when living with a tidier person. This might involve some compromise because of other important priorities, but you can start by deciding what the cleanliness standard is for your house.

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Decide how often household chores need to be completed

Once you decide how clean you want your house to (usually) be, you can figure out how often chores need to be done to stay on top things. Some people only clean their bathrooms once a month to maintain their own standard, while others have to surface clean daily to be comfortable. Be realistic in planning this aspect, because it will get stressful if you never have time to complete chores as regularly as you planned. This might mean 10 minutes of cleaning before work, or 30 minutes before bed every other day. For example, we ensure that loading and emptying the dishwasher occurs regularly in my house in order to keep the kitchen clean. It takes 15 minutes to load it up with dirty dishes every evening after dinner. Some chores should not be left to pile up for too long, to avoid the types of messes that make you want to move!

Decide who will be responsible for each chore

Some families have charts to ensure everyone does chores or that jobs get rotated. You may or may not need one, but it is useful to have an understanding of who will do what. As the story goes, if Everyone keeps thinking it is Anybody’s job, then Nobody will do it! Young children sometimes need rules and routines to get them to help with cleaning, but most older children and adults should take responsibility on their own. We do not have a named person to empty the small bins in my house because the adults do it whenever we can, but Dad usually handles the garbage outside. If you live alone, decide what jobs you can do and what jobs (if any) you need to get regular help for, such as gardening or scrubbing floors.

Decide when chores will be completed

As busy as we all are, time management is key. Routine always helps. If you really feel that you cannot spare even 30 minutes a week to clean, this might be a good opportunity to re-evaluate a professional cleaning service. Keeping a tidy home is helpful for your mental and physical health, especially if you live with children. Get good quality products (and equipment), get everyone involved (if you can) and make it fun. I sometimes listen to music or comedy while cleaning. Like any new habit, it will be difficult at first, but soon household chores will become part of your daily routine.

Develop a backup plan to accommodate busy schedules

As with all good plans, there must be a plan B. There will be weeks or months when we are doubly busy or mentally strained, and cannot bear to clean. Most people will still do the surface cleaning, or clean up after themselves daily, but will struggle to find time for a thorough cleaning and maintenance duties. I remember facing this when I decided to do a few months of full-time medical work - this was when we called the cleaning service. My house would have looked okay to most people, but I knew it was way below our chosen standard, and I was not prepared to settle for less. I eventually had to take a day off to sort it out and get back to trying to keep on top of it until my schedule improved. Weekends are often busy for us too, but I will gladly clear out my weekend diary and get the house sorted if we ever came to a breakdown in this area again, because a clean and organised house helps me to function better in other areas of life.

A clean and organised home can help you function better in other areas of your life. Managing household chores all boils down to planning and being intentional, even in this small area, so that we can be more productive and happy everyday.