How to Make a Cleaning Schedule: A Tutorial for Spoonies

The Eternal Struggle

Cleaning. Dusting, scrubbing, putting stuff away. It’s gotta be done, because entropy exists. Your living space will always be in the process of falling into disorder. Dust will always be settling. You can learn to like it, but few of us do. And hey, a clean space is less stressful and all.

So, I go looking for resources on How to Clean, because everything I do must be researched and planned so that I can do it most efficiently and most perfectly, so that no one can complain that I didn’t do not only my best, but the best.

(If you’ve noticed that that’s a great recipe for getting overwhelmed and never getting around to actually doing the thing at all, great! Hopefully you notice when you do that in your own life, too.)

Now what I have in mind is a chart. A table with what to clean, in what order, maybe on which days of the week, maybe in priority order! Numbers and graphs and logic! And I want someone to have put it together for me, to have already done the research, because I don’t trust myself on this subject. I’ve always been told I do it wrong, or not enough.

So I go where the normal and visually oriented people go. Pinterest! And yes indeed, I can fill a board with over 70 Cleaning Schedules and Charts in less than ten minutes! Awesome, now I just have to collate them and–

Wait. These pins… they’re not making me overwhelmed, they’re making me sad.

They shouldn’t though, right? Because they’re made by normal people and I want to be normal, at least in my cleaning habits. You’re never too poor (or mentally ill) to scrub a floor, as Terry Pratchett says and says. So I need to just do whatever they say and I’ll be normal and happy.

Well, their normal isn’t my normal and their happy isn’t my happy. It doesn’t have to be. 

Normality Vs Me

For example: statistically, the Pinterest demographic contains 80% of US, internet-connected moms, and 40% of dads. But my demographic, the millennial ill, we’re often childfree. And we have perfectly good reasons for it, so we don’t need to feel bad about that. In terms of cleaning schedules, that means anything that says “kids rooms”, “playroom”, or anything about more than a couple of loads of laundry a week just gets crossed right out.

How about the expectation that your home has to be “sparkling” to be acceptable by guests? Let’s go back to the old standby: Treat yourself like you would your friend. Love yourself as you would your neighbor. So, you go to your friend’s house, and there’s a smudge on the counter, a fingerprint on a mirror, some grunge in a crevice. Did you recoil, reject them forever, never want to enter their house again? Of course not, because you love them, you accept that they can’t always be cleaning, and you know what “superficial” means. So no, you don’t have to be in a constant state of Deep Cleaning. 

Besides, who’s coming over? Right now (this post was written on May 1, 2020, during Social Distancing) no one should be. At the best of times, we all know how great it is to stay home alone anyway.

How about the actual layout of our houses? We just don’t have 3,000 square foot ramblers in a suburban neighborhood. We have apartments, other people’s basements, tiny homes. I personally don’t have a “living room”, “dining room” or “kitchen.” I have a large room which is half taken up by band equipment, in which I am most graciously allowed to have a fridge, a cabinet, a couch, a table, and a counter. How does a Weekly Cleaning Chart account for that?

And here’s the really hard truth: A lot of us are spoonies. We have health problems. We don’t have energy. That’s not our fault. Learning new methods to live with our limitations is one of the most important things we can do for our mental and physical health; putting a new coping mechanism into play can give you just as much pride as any amount of “doing what other people can do”.

Ok Then What Do I Do

So we’ve gotten past the reasons why my board of cleaning schedules is completely useless. What do I do instead?

You know what I’m going to say. I’m going to change it to work for me.

What I need:

  • My pinboard of charts
  • Pen and paper
  • Not a lot of energy

What I’m going to do is make a list of every cleaning item that applies to me. I open each pin, write down every item that can be used in my house, in my situation, and then I delete the pin. It’s just satisfying to see it whoosh off into the ether. It takes some pressure off. 

The next step is to assign an energy level to each item. You can do this a couple of ways. My method is to estimate how long each task will take, because I tend to gauge my energy as “I have about half an hour left and then I will sleep, whether I want to or not.” Maybe you like to gauge your energy level on a scale of 1 to 5, or by how many spoons a task will take. Whatever works for you. 

And this is why you don’t want to make this list on a day when you’re feeling your chipper best. At your best, you will underestimate how much energy each task takes. You’ll say oh, sweeping the hall couldn’t possibly take more than a spoon and a half! It’s washing the dishes, Michael, how long could it take, ten minutes? And then you get there on a bad day and find out no, when you don’t have energy, when you’re at a 1.75, wiping down the counter is actually a 2.3.

How Not to Be Overwhelmed by Your Own List

Now that you have your list, using it is super simple. Way easier than using a premade chart that says it’s Monday, so you have to clean the bathroom today, and if you don’t then you can’t do it til next Monday and the mess will build up and everything will be bad.

With your list, all you have to do is notice when you have a moment, and look at your energy level or the time in which you can complete something. You have five minutes while your frozen veggies microwave? Pick something that takes five minutes. You have half an hour? You can pick one 30-minute item, or you can pick two 10-minute items, five 5-minute items, etc. Don’t use the whole 30 minutes if you pick multiple items, because you have to have time to switch between them.

Then, next to the item on the list, write down the date. This way, you can cycle through things based on when you last did them. Your first time, you can pick based on what “needs to be done most”, or you can take the decision-making pressure off and just roll a die or use some other random method. Whatever gets you moving. You’ll get them all done eventually.

Put the list somewhere you’ll see it during those “whenever” moments, like on the fridge or on your desk (where you make sure not to put anything on top of it, or it will be gone forever). Using a whiteboard can be nice, because after you do a task twice, you can wipe off the first date and write the new one without your list getting messy. But if you find yourself procrastinating because you “need to go buy a whiteboard”, sit down with the paper and make the ugliest list possible, just to get it done.

Extra Bonus Secret

A lot of times you’ll find that if you do one item, you suddenly have the energy to do another, and another. Ride that wave! Use the energy when you have it, because you know you can’t trust it to be there when you want it.

Do you have a method like this? What would be on your list? Let’s talk in the comments!

If you need extra help making your list or getting started, talk to me!

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