Thursday, March 22, 2012

Housecleaning in zones...

The kitchen is the heart of the home!
It is Thursday and I am in the middle of my series on housekeeping. It might seem strange to talk about housekeeping on a food blog, but it is relevant. A lot of people tell me that if they cook from scratch their house does or has fallen apart and some people are loathe to even try because their houses are already falling apart. The first in this series is why and how to create a laundry schedule HERE, the second is bathroom cleaning schedules HERE, today is zone cleaning, next Thursday is purging to reduce the number of things to care for and the following one will be all about managing dishes. When I started writing this, I realized it was too much for a single post, so it will carry over into tomorrow and I will help you get it all sorted out into an action plan then. Since today is all about zone cleaning, let me explain just what this means.

You need to divide and conquer. There is no way you can get it all done in a single day. Period. If you are a victim of working too hard but not too organized, you know of what I speak. Let's say you know that you need to dig out the family room. Unfolded laundry, toys, books, puzzles, game pieces being lost and all so thick you need a pack mule and priest to navigate it and you dive right in. You might get it clean before you go to bed, but the dishes aren't done, tomorrows dinner is not prepped, the dinning room table needs washing and the floor needs sleeping and you didn't know the kids did not have any clean underwear in all the laundry so you are off to wash another load. It is overwhelming. You are like Sisyphus and rolling the rock up hill every day, so you can do it again the next day and you didn't even want to do it in the first place! You need a schedule that divides your house into zones so you know what needs to be done today and everything else you can ignore but because what you ignore is planned, you know you either just did it or will do it soon so it is not a disaster yet. Plus digging out takes way more time than staying on top of it. Don't start your day doing yesterday's to do list. You'll just be depressed.

Here is how to start:

Divide your house into sections. If you are an internet junkie, you might like to follow Flylady's schedule. There was a two year period when I did about ten years ago. Consider signing up for free housecleaning alerts HERE. Before you ask, I never did dry my sink because that crossed the line into OCD. But to help you plan you zones, here is how I did mine. You should have four zones because there are four weeks to the month. Make a list of the chores from each zone and whether they are daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal. here are my zones:

  • Zone 1: Dining room and school room
  • Zone 2: Entry and Kitchen
  • Zone 3: Living room and downstairs bathroom
  • Zone 4: Upstairs hallway and bath, bedrooms

An example of the zone one chores:


  • Sweep
  • Wash table
  • Shake runner
  • Tidy bookshelves


  • Vacuum
  • Dust
  • Tidy shelves
  • Clean out key basket (a catch all for mail, keys, and phone cords)


  • Wash baseboards
  • Dust light over dining room table
Seasonal (this is my freaky start to the school year deep, deep clean the kids dread)
  • Wash curtains
  • Wash windows
  • Wash picture frame glass

You should also create a list of 5 minute chores (things that need to get done but can be completed in less than five minutes), a list of "hot spots" or places where your family tends to pile stuff, and the things that should get done daily.

5 Min Chores

  • Sorting mail
  • Emptying the kitchen compost
  • Taking out the garbage (each kid gets a bathroom or the kitchen and it all goes as once)
  • Cleaning the key basket out

Hot Spot Examples (just pick them up once day, when you are passing them)

  • Hubby's dresser
  • The dresser in the dining room
  • The farm cupboard

Daily Chores
This is a complicated list, trying to decide what you should do on a daily basis can be difficult. I divide mine by the time of day:

Waking chores: grooming, bed making (each little kid has an older kid who is assigned to help her), I unload the dishwasher and put away hand washed dishes and make the coffee first thing in the morning

Meal chores: Cook meal, wash dishes (and dry and put away), load dishwasher, wash table, sweep only if really messy (but always after supper), make sure the little kids have faces washed (kids are assigned chores), tidy entry

After school chores: tidy the school room, tidy the living room (where the little girls play during school hours), and make sure the entry is clear ( I stand at the front door and tidy what I can see from there, this makes my house seem cleaner than it is)

If you think you do not have enough time to do this, you are wrong. It really only takes a few minutes. Take out eight sheets of paper. You will label each with one category from the list below:

  • Zone One
  • Zone Two
  • Zone Three
  • Zone Four
  • Daily Chores
  • Hot Spots
  • 5 Min Chores
  • People available to do chores (this is anyone over four and able bodied)

Then take your Zone lists and fold into thirds vertically. You will label each section as follows:

  • Daily (make sure you put anything from your daily list here and things from each zone, daily list on your regularly daily list)
  • Weekly
  • Monthly
  • Seasonal

Don't worry if you have forgotten something, this is a plan in progress!  Start filling out your sheets. You can always come back and add something. If you decide that something is put on the monthly list that you really be done seasonally, move it. Be rational about each list and try not to be either too lazy or set up a standard that is impossible to live up to.

Now tomorrow, we will jump in by assigning chores to people and to specific times to get them done.  I also have a post from a year ago that is not well written but shows a day in the life of a homeschooling mama with then kids, it is HEREWhile you are here, I have a fun little giveaway. I am just saying thanks for folks for stopping by. No rafflecopter, no games, no hoops, no sign-ups, no sponsor. Just leave a comment HERE and tell me your are interested. The prize is a $25 gift certificate to Tropical Traditions and both of my books. Enter as often as you like!

Linking up to Pennywise Platter and Simple Lives!


  1. Wow. This is super impressive. Housecleaning is definitely one of my weaknesses so I have a lot to learn. I'm moving to a new place in a month so I will try to start implementing new routines then, since it seems silly to start now while trying to pack everything up. Looking forward to your next post!

  2. Thanks for the FB love!

    1. It was so worth it! You have such a great site!

  3. I do this, but only when things are already a mess. I figure if I can clean a room at a time, even if the next room gets the leavings of the first thrown into it, then I'm making progress.

    Incidentally, this method bugs the crap out of Britt. Rightfully so perhaps.

    1. I already told your wife we could sit down and work all this out. I have been thinking of putting this all together in a little booklet with some forms because of the emails I have been getting. Maybe your wife would be a tester?

    2. Katrina3/24/2012

      I would be a tester!

    3. Katerina, we'll see if more people might be interested and then I will keep you in mind!

  4. Thanks for the post, there is so much useful information here. I might try this in the future. For now I like following the Motivated Moms chore charts. I like that I don't have to think about it, I just do what is on the check list. But I don't like how random it feels. Of course, I think it would help if I actually bought a printer cartridge and started using the lists again.

    I have been reading the Martha Stewart Homekeeping Handbook (wedding gift). I figure if this is going to be my profession I had better start learning how to do it!!

    1. Holly, I had never heard of this before before! It looks like a really good program and that it works out all the details for you. I can see how it would seem a little haphazard because you did not set out the organization. I will have to check it out a bit more. Wow, thanks for the heads up!

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