About 18 months ago, I created a housework list. Rom and I shared and alternated the tasks. We quickly got into a routine and didn’t need the lists anymore. But then we started backsliding. It is time to reinstate those lists!
Most people would say we keep a clean and tidy house. That is mainly because we don’t invite anyone over unless we’ve done a good cleaning! Our daily routine helps us keep up with the housework, though.
When I visit other people’s homes (especially on the spur of the moment), one behavior always stops me in my tracks. I have friends who have simply never developed the habit of putting things away. There are mild instances, like hanging a jacket on the stair post, and (to my mind) significant examples, like leaving empty chip bags on the couch. For days.
If there is one thing you can say about me – I put stuff away! Just for fun, I took a mental walk through my day and noted all the things I have to pick up and put away.
I get up when it’s still dark and the first thing I do is collect the toys that the cats have strewn everywhere in the night. They also drag socks and tea towels around if they find any! After feeding the cats and putting the cat food away, I put away yesterday’s dishes from the drying rack. Then I get ready and head out to the gym.
When I get back, I put away my gym clothes, or hang up swimming gear and towels. It’s warmer by the time I go to work, so I often switch jackets, as well as shoes. I plug in my headphones to recharge and put my car keys with my work keys so I’ll remember both!
I take the cat litter out and wash up before breakfast.
Then I make coffee, make lunch for work, make and eat breakfast, clean up, and put all the food items away.
As I get ready for work, I use all kinds of toiletries which are then stashed away again (moisturizers, hair gel, toothpaste, etc.)
Then off to work!
When I get home from work, there is so much unpacking, it’s like I’ve returned from a journey: jacket, scarf, gloves, and shoes; backpack and lunch bag; water bottle and travel coffee mug; lunch and snack containers; library books coming and going.
I feed the cats and sometimes fill the bird feeder and store the big bags of food away again.
I sort and deal with the mail, usually just bulk mail – flyers, coupons, charity pleas and banking confirmations that duplicate online versions. I shred anything with my name or address on it. File the occasion item. Recycle the rest. I read free papers I pick up at work (like our local weekly entertainment listings), leave them out for Rom to browse, and eventually recycle them, too.
I change my clothes so my work outfits are not exposed to cat fur! Put away my earrings, watch, and other jewellery. (Perk of office job: getting to wear jewellery again!)
I make a cuppa tea and start making dinner. Between the start and end of the meal, I’ve used and put away the tea fixings, the recipe, the ingredients, the prep bowls and equipment, and the leftovers. Washed the pots and pans and put them away too. Took out the recyclable containers, the compost and the garbage. Swept the floor and put away the broom and dustpan.
Over the course of the evening, I read and put away books and magazines, eat snacks and put away snack containers. Eventually I fold up the TV blanket, return the many remote controls to their basket, the landline handset back to its cradle, and my cell phone to its charging spot.
Before bedtime I do a visual check to ensure there is no food left around that the cats could get into, and no clothing items (like gloves or socks) they could chew. Because they would.
Then another round of personal care items – moisturizer, toothbrush, Waterpik, etc.
In the course of this very ordinary day I have used and put away at least 50 items and that’s not even counting things I use at work!
I was thinking about the things we don’t use any more, or rarely: maps, stamps, coins, photos, phone book.
We have such a quiet little household: no children and their mountains of gear; no dogs with their toys and leashes and coats and brushes; no medications or health equipment; no boats or bikes or skis; nothing waiting to be sold on Kijiji. I haven’t done any crafts for years. Rom has his guitars and his big collection of Magic cards (which must be endlessly sorted, catalogued and valued).
Of course, there is another category of things to put away – less than daily – sometimes weekly or just occasionally. Without doing an entire household inventory, here’s a list I came up with:
- Wine, beer, cider
- Camera, tripod
- New purchases
- Packaging from new things
- Packaging from things used up
- Reusable shopping bags (return to the car!)
- Receipts, manuals and warranties
- Documents e.g. insurance policy
- Cards and gifts received
- Gifts purchased to give later
- Gift wrapping and packing supplies
- Items to be returned (refunds, exchanges, return to owner)
- Items to be repaired
- Mending supplies (needle and thread, glue)
- Items missing pieces
- Items to donate (clothes, etc.)
- Sports items (skates and helmet, snorkel and mask)
- Baking supplies & equipment
- Less common kitchen gear like waffle maker or spiralizer
- Ziploc-type bags to reuse
- Vacuum cleaner
- Laundry supplies
- Laundry hampers, sorting baskets
- Clean clothes
- Cleaning supplies
- Gardening supplies
- Lawn mower
- Watering hose
- Pressure washer
- Snow shovels, salt
- Deck furniture
- Bird feeders
- Summer/Winter tires
- Christmas and seasonal decorations
- Hardware (picture hangers, light bulbs, etc.)
- Tools (drill, pliers, etc.)
- Keys (shed, etc.)
- Records (LPs)
- Board games
- Candles, matches
- Table cloths, place mats
- Spare/portable tables & chairs
- The remains of a tree that fell in a hurricane! (logs were quickly snapped up for firewood, still dealing with small branches)
Now we’re at about 100 kinds of items to find homes for and take care of.
I am more convinced than ever that putting things away is the crux of housework. It can be tedious to always pause and return things to their place. But it means I see them, I remember I have them, I don’t re-purchase things I already have, items last longer, it’s safer, and it’s much easier to clean when surfaces are clear. As a bonus, no one notices if your house is immaculately clean, as long as it’s reasonably tidy!
There’s a lot to be said for right-sizing the number of things you own so you won’t have to spend all your time caring for the stuff!
I have one caveat. I don’t believe in packing away “works in progress.” If your child is making a magnificent fortress, if you’re quilting, if you have a game of Monopoly that goes on for days – it is entirely no fun if you put the whole thing away and bring it out (or start over) the next day. Sometimes you need some momentum. That just doesn’t apply to the chip bags in the couch cushions 😊
Do you tidy throughout the day? What stuff do you have to put away that I haven’t listed?