One of the things the Fella and I did when the pandemic struck was start to look at our finances. We realized that a recession was coming and me being an old Millennial and the Fella being a young Gen-Xer we were impacted greatly by the last one. We weren’t together at the time, but we’ve commiserated on challenges that came with losing our respective jobs. We’ve watched our peers struggle to rebound from coming of age in a period of high unemployment.
We realized that we needed to start taking steps to lessen the foot print that our bills make on our lives. We started looking for places to cut spending so that we can aggressively pay off our debt and increase our savings. One of the first things we cut was our cleaning service. I know, how first world of me.
Admittedly, I have always felt a little on the guilty side about contracting out my “adulting” to someone else. It never sat well with me having someone cleaning up after me. With the Fella and I trying to push for greater self sufficiency in our urban homestead, farming out household chores seemed hypocritical and counter productive. AND expensive.
Part of the issue is the fact that my weekends are usually spent getting ready for work the next week. I have grading, planning, and administrative duties that always need doing on Saturday and Sunday. I also have projects for the garden, the infrastructure of our little urban homestead, and animal chores that get done on the weekends. The chicken coop isn’t going to clean itself after all. The weekend cleaning sprees that the Fella and I had attempted before the cleaning service didn’t work and left us overwhelmed with things that hadn’t gotten done.
When I was in Montessori training, the school that hosted us had their classrooms divided into zones for “care of the environment” which is critical part of Montessori philosophy. “Care of the environment” starts with littlest primary student tidying up after their classmates, because it is part of everyone’s job to keep the place where we live, work and learn clean. My students, being older, took on chores like cleaning the bathroom. The older you get, the more complex the task becomes. To aid my students, I created task cards that laid out the expectations for both daily and deep cleaning chores. This is when I had a brilliant idea. I would Montessori my own house.
It might sound ridiculous to people on the outside, but it looks something like this. We went through the house and codified what deep cleaning chores would be required on a weekly basis to really clean our spaces clean. We also looked at what daily maintenance would be required to keep those spaces clean until the next deep cleaning. We broke each set of deep cleaning chores into actionable chunks that two people could perform in thirty minutes once a week on a specific day. We then did the same to the maintenance chores, making them into sets that would take two to five minutes. The kitchen takes a bit longer because we don’t have a dishwasher (for the moment.) For example:
*Clean out and wipe down the sink
*Wipe down counter tops
*Sweep and mop floor
Weekly Deep Clean (Monday):
*Clean out fridge and remove dead food
*Scour sink and wipe down windowsill
*Wipe down counter tops and stove
*Wipe down fridge front
I typed out all of the chores onto area task cards, which I laminated and posted in the area that needs cleaning. My goal is to keep them up until the point that they become well established habits, because I know my brain. My brain starts out with great intentions and then I start slacking off after a while. They say it takes two weeks to develop good habits. That must be a more typical brain, because mine is more like fourteen weeks than fourteen days. The card serves as a reminder: don’t forget you need to do this, your house and your health will thank you.
We are on week four and as I predicted, I started to lose steam when I started working again after summer vacation. HOWEVER, the cards are working because I look at them and say,”oh yes, that needs doing; better wash those dishes.”
There have been other benefits to this newfound emphasis on adulting; I can choose the cleaners I use on my house. The cleaning service used whatever they had or were issued. Now that I’m in charge, I can go back to my eco-friendly cleaners. I also find that when you are invested in your space, you know by living there, you are a more thorough cleaner. When you are a cleaning person for a cleaning service, you need to power through the house as fast as you can so that you can move on to the next one. I get that. It’s a job for them; for me it’s my home and my environment.
This is by no means a condemnation of people who outsource these chores. It’s just that I realized after a few months that it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t happy with myself for doing it or not doing it as it were. I am finding a degree of peace and control in the simple act of cleaning my own toilet and with the current state of the world, you take peace and control where ever you can find it.