One of the things we have to start thinking about as we dig out from under our piles and get ourselves into gear is our daily maintenance. At some point in your decluttering, probably in the first five minutes, you’ll stop and say, “I never want to go through this again!”
The key to avoiding that fate is your minimum maintenance list. It’s easy to go gung-ho on your 5/5 and your daily list when you have the time and energy. But sometimes, the daily list and the 5/5 are just too much. Maybe you’re sick, maybe you’re injured, maybe you’re burned out, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your plans and methods. But you still have to do something every day to keep from sliding back into that “home as landfill” mode.
You need to come up with a list of chores so easy that you would definitely do them every day, but that has enough on it to make a difference if you had to limit yourself to that list for days or even weeks (such as after having a baby.)
When you’re coming up with your list, figure out what is the minimum you can tolerate as far as mess. Obviously, you need to make sure that your home wouldn’t be a health hazard, but since you’re reading this, I know that you don’t want your home to be a health hazard. We each have certain things we cannot live with. I feel edgy if there is dirty laundry piled all over the floor, and if my kitchen is dirty. Therefore, my minimum maintenance list includes laundry and the kitchen.
You can include things on your minimum maintenance list that don’t necessarily keep the house clean, but that give your spirits a lift. For example, you can have a perfectly “clean” house while having an unmade bed. An unmade bed isn’t dirty… it just looks messy. Therefore, you don’t have to have it on your minimum list if you don’t want to… BUT, an unmade bed gives an immediate boost to the room. The room looks cleaner and more organized. It’s more pleasant to get into bed at night. What you can do in minimum maintenance mode is put away the fancy bed spread and make your bed casual with comforters you can easily straighten, even while you’re in the bed. That way, after you get out, you can smooth it and you’re done.
You don’t have to do everything on your minimum maintenance list every day, but you should try to hit everything at least once every two days.
Your list can include two components: cleaning and tidying. The cleaning is essential. You shouldn’t neglect any of the minimum cleaning for more than one day or you’ll find yourself living in fear of the health department. The tidying… well, that can go for two days, but shouldn’t go for more because then it’ll get overwhelming to catch up when things are back to normal.
An essential minimum maintenance cleaning list is:
Dishes washed at least once a day. This is essential. Plan to do this at your highest-energy time of day. They do NOT have to be towel-dried and put away on this plan… it is acceptable to use them out of the drainer for a few days if you need to. (If you have a dishwasher, the dishes do need to be unloaded and put away daily.)
Counters, stove, and fridge door handle sprayed and wiped. Use paper towels or cloth diapers, whichever is easier.
Spills on the floor sprayed and wiped up.
Toilet sprayed and wiped (use toilet paper)
Bathroom Sink wiped out, counter wiped up
Rinse out tub, spray and wipe every couple of days (buildup is a pain)
Wash, dry, and put away a load of laundry
Vacuum (if you have pets, kids, and/or allergies, this is a cleaning chore, if not, this is a tidying chore.) For minimum, just vacuum the room you spend the most time in.
This looks like a lot, but it can be shortened to this: lightly clean kitchen, lightly clean bathroom, do a load of laundry, and vacuum. You can coast on this indefinitely, but not really be company-ready.
Minimum Maintenance Tidy:
Make the beds
Throw away junk mail
Put away dishes from the dish drainer
Of course, add more as you wish… the key is to work within your temporarily limited capabilities. Try to fit in one day a week of deeper cleaning. Grab a few extra minutes to declutter something. But if you are ill, injured, or running from morning until night, this list should help you get through the worst of it.