Well, after 31 days of this, I just may know something about it!
Far more important than the content of the checklist for cleaning is the structure you build for yourself for doing it.
Seriously. You are the crucible.
#1 Know thyself. You are the most important thing in this process. First and foremost you need to know how you change. How do you "do" success? Think back to a past success. How did you bring it about?
#2. Give up perfectionism. If you suffer from this, please, let go. No one was perfect but Jesus--and He didn't do housework (as far as we know).
#3. Give up all or nothing thinking. This is my constant battle. You are not a failure because something didn't get done: but neither are you Mrs. All-That when you do get it done. Oh, it's OK to celebrate when you get it done just as it is OK to feel sad and reflect on how to do better when it doesn't go the way you wanted it too--but please do not get on that spiral staircase of thinking it's "all done" and you "deserve" a day off 'cause you're so awesome. You are awesome. The work still needs doing. I'm not even going to talk about going down the spiral staircase. That trip isn't fun either and it certainly doesn't put you in a place where you feel like doing housework, of all things!
Here's my staircase. My daughter's things wait for her to take them upstairs. The walls and risers wait for me to need re-paint them.
#4 Accountability. How are you going to stick to it? Change takes tremendous effort: some days more than others. This 31 day series was the perfect way for me to do this. Perhaps you might be able to call a friend every day. Would posting on facebook work for you?
Even with the Blog, I missed two days completely and on several I didn't do all the items on my small list. Those aren't the days that matter, though. It's the next day when you face the mess and start over. What helps you then? What brings you to the next day? The day that really matters? (By the way, you all taught me that. Thank you.)
#5 What has worked before? Now, I'm talking about cleaning. Have you followed Flylady in the past? Are there parts of her routine which worked for you? Can you implement those bits? Myself, I found the "hot spot fire drill" to be crucial to my success. I expanded the idea to include my whole main floor: it started out as a timed fifteen minute pick up and put away. I don't set the timer anymore: but it is the thing which has the biggest bang for my buck. It's magic.
#6 Start small--or big--whatever works best for you. Doing one thing (even if it was washing the dishes four times a day) would not have been enough for me to feel like I was making any progress. I needed to do that and other things as well. On the other hand, don't schedule two hours of cleaning a day--not at first! What's reasonable, for you?
#7 Evaluate not only how much time or how many tasks you will do each day, but sit down and figure out which tasks will mean the most to you. Seriously. What nags you most? What, left undone, makes you start talking nasty to yourself? If you're lucky and escaped self-esteem issues related to housework, then what tasks will make your house run more smoothly? When I started, it was dishes and laundry.
#8 Add cleaning tasks as it feels necessary and comfortable. For example, I have vacuuming down once a week on my list. I would actually be happier doing it every other day or so. I haven't committed to it yet, but I might. And don't worry about it making sense. You can add "mop kitchen floor once a week" before you have mastered "sweep kitchen floor everyday." You can even decline to make up a list of "regular cleaning chores" and instead pick one or two or three things you want to do in addition to your "must haves." It's totally up to you. You have my permission, should you need it, to rock your housework whatever way you want.
#9 Reflect and evaluate your progress. Add or subtract--not just what you're doing, but your expectations. For example, in June of 2009, I made it my goal to wake up to a clean kitchen counter every morning. I tried that for a week. It was too lofty a goal. I hadn't even developed the habit of doing my dishes directly after supper yet, so the work involved in trying to achieve this was beyond me. (In order to be able to do the supper dishes, I have to do the dishes before supper, too. And in order for that task to be manageable, I need to do them after breakfast. So, that's where we are now. If I do the dishes after breakfast I know that the day will run smoothly. I still wake up to a counter full of dirty dishes. I'll change that when I'm ready to give up a piece of my down time to take care of them.)
Remember to adjust for busy seasons. And hardest of all, realize it's OK: you can't do it all.
#10. Learn it, do it, teach it.
As it stands, my morning routine consists of the following:
Make my bed and pick up the master bedroom.
Wipe down the mirror, counter and sink in the upstairs bathroom.
Wipe the toilet. (The bit where the seat connects to the bowl is always bad.)
Walk around the main floor and pick things up and put them away. Put the dishes in the kitchen.
Go into the downstairs bathroom and wipe down the fixtures.
Gather the laundry and head to the basement to sort and start a load. Transfer if necessary. Fold, if there's anything still in the dryer.
Do the dishes, before breakfast or after, but certainly before lunch!
Do my weekly tasks.
And today, because I did want to end this series all caught-up--so far, I've done everything but the weekly tasks!
Boom da da boom.
I am so, so grateful to you all for following along with me and cheering me on--and reassuring me when I needed it. I appreciate it so much. Thanks to the Nester, too, for putting forth the idea. I wouldn't have done such a crazy thing, otherwise!
So, to sum up, build a strong foundation. Get some good scaffolding. Watch, listen and learn. Get 'er done. It'll be great.