Handling Housework

Simple strategies for busy families

My grandmother was a lovely Christian woman, but housekeeping was not her forte. One hilarious story involved my mother as a child, tripping on dirty clothes piled on the stairs and landing at the feet of the neighborhood gossip who had stopped in for a visit. Of course Grandma was mortified. Perhaps that incident inspired my mother to find efficient ways to clean her own home years later.

Mother wasn’t a homeschooler—no one had heard of homeschooling when I was a child—but she did operate a piano studio, teaching as many as forty students each week in our home. This meant that she had only a few hours early in the day for household chores.

So how did she keep the house looking great with limited time? Here are her secrets.

Determine that every object you own must have a home. Seldom was there an item that Mother couldn’t find because everything my parents owned had a home—a place to return to when they finished using it. They developed that habit of consistently putting things away. Limiting their possessions not only made cleaning easier but it allowed them to use the money they saved for traveling.

Develop a consistent schedule. Mother never had to scramble if someone dropped by to visit—her house was always tidy. She knew that maintaining a clean, orderly home takes less time than cleaning a dirty one, so she established daily and weekly schedules.

Every morning after cleaning up the kitchen she did basic prep for that night’s dinner. Remember, this was before slow cookers and microwaves. Next she spent time studying her Bible and going through her prayer list. Then she began that day’s housework.

On Mondays, like many other women, Mother did laundry. Tuesdays were for ironing and sorting music for her students. Wednesdays were for paying bills and bookkeeping for my father’s businesses; she also wrote the menus for the following week, writing the weekly grocery list as she referred to the ads that came in that day’s newspaper. Thursday morning she enjoyed attending a Bible study at church. Friday she didn’t teach piano, so it was grocery shopping in the morning and weekly cleaning in the afternoon. After teaching students on Saturday morning, she finishing the cleaning she hadn’t completed on Friday.

Clean like a professional. As Mother moved from room to room, she worked from high to low. Seldom was there anything out of place, but if she found a wanderer, it was returned to its rightful home. Sheets were changed, countertops and furniture tops were cleared and dusted, and bathrooms cleaned with supplies she kept in each room. She chose not to display many knickknacks so dusting was a quick job.

Before vacuuming she dusted the baseboards, brushing dust out onto the carpet so the corners were always clean. Nothing was stored on the floor, so vacuuming was easy. When finished, she moved on to the next room.

Mother didn’t realize it, but she had adopted the same strategy the staff at the White House employ—working clockwise from room to room so no room is neglected and every room receives regular attention.

It takes self-discipline to homeschool our children. It also takes self-discipline to keep up with our housework. Work out a schedule that makes sense for your family, enlist help from your children so they will know how to care for their own homes in the future, and enjoy the freedom of living in a peaceful, well-kept home.

Marcia Washburn

Marcia K. Washburn homeschooled five sons for nineteen years and lived to tell about it. Request your free copy of her Mommy Tips: Strategies for Survival from marcia@marciawashburn.com. Visit her website at MarciaWashburn.com.

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