Mid-Century May Baby Step 4: Plan Your Housework

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A schedule is the best way to manage your housework.

Housework is, after all, a real job, and needs good management, or you’ll end up a workaholic housewife. If you want to plan your housework, you need to make a schedule, especially if you are caring for young children or an elderly parent.

Some housewives seem to get all of their work done without a written schedule. But if you talk to them, you’ll often find that they are keeping their schedules in their heads. When you are inexperienced or if you are scatterbrained (totally me!), a written schedule is totally the way to go!

I also HIGHLY recommend that you make a schedule for your kids and anyone else that you are taking care of. A schedule relieves uncertainty and anxiety. It helps kids know that they will be taken care of and their needs will be met. And for someone who is ill or bedridden, it relieves nervous tension, knowing that their needs are considered and that they are not disrupting the household.

The Vintage Way to Plan Your Housework

When you follow a schedule until it becomes second nature, you run your house (and it doesn’t run you!). And you should develop a plan that maximizes efficiency and reduces fatigue.

1. List all your daily, weekly, and seasonal activities

This is the most time-consuming step. It helps to ask yourself questions:

What do I need to do Each Day?

No-one can be dogmatic about cleaning, so you need to figure out your own daily tasks for your particular situation. But some basic daily tasks are:

  • Cooking and serving three meals a day for the family
  • Clearing and washing up after all three meals
  • Tidying and regular light cleaning of all rooms
  • Bathing and dressing small children
  • Feeding small children
  • Supervising exercise and fresh air for small children
  • Supervising older children
  • Special training for children
  • Recreation (and companionship) with children and as a family
  • Educating small children
  • Correspondence
  • Keeping accounts
  • Caring for skin, hair, nails, eyes, hands, feet, and teeth, and beauty routines
  • Caring for figure and exercise
  • Caring for clothes and mending
  • Caring for pets
  • Chauffeuring the family
  • Gardening
  • Sewing and other creative pursuits
  • Social activities
  • Reading and other mental activities
  • Spiritual pursuits
  • Sleep!

You’ll probably do some (DON’T try to do all!) of these things every day. Put any of them that you do regularly on your list. Don’t worry about it, unless you are doing it every day on a regular basis.

What do I need to do each week?

Common weekly activities include:

  • Thorough cleaning of rooms
  • Silver cleaning
  • Closet cleaning
  • Planning meals and marketing
  • Special baking
  • Washing
  • Ironing
  • Care of clothing by steaming, pressing, etc.
  • Taking clothes for dry cleaning and professional laundering
  • Shopping
  • Removal of superfluous hair, deep conditioning of skin and hair, manicures and pedicures, etc.
  • Shampooing children’s hair
  • Special lessons and school affairs for children
  • Medical and dental appointments
  • Charitable and social club work
  • Sports
  • Theatre and musical performances
  • Dancing
  • Entertaining and hostessing
  • Family excursions and outings

What Sort of Plan Fits the Family Routine Best?

Here is where you must consider different aspects of your family life. Maybe your husband works the graveyard shift. Or you have a new baby. Different things call for different schedules.

You also need to think about what is the logical order in which to do the housework. And you need to think about who can do what. Are you hiring help? Your children should definitely have chores appropriate to their ages and abilities. Have you planned a regular rest period to avoid fatigue? This is especially important when you have a new baby or are pregnant!

How Can I Work More efficiently?

It is best to find ways to reduce steps and combine tasks. Time yourself and find out how long your tasks actually take. Where can you create a system to save your time and energy? When you plan your housework, you can spend less time working as you create systems and become skilled at methods that save time and energy.

Another thing to look at is how you will handle interruptions to your plan. How will you deal with a sick child, an accident, or a dear old friend visiting unexpectedly? The best thing about a regular schedule that covers all those little things is that you can drop your usual tasks and deal with something more important. Then you can simply pick up your schedule the next day (or longer, if necessary) and your home won’t be out of control.

2. Provide Time for the Tasks to be done

Here is where knowing how to handle a job most efficiently and knowing how much time each job takes comes in handy!

When you plan your housework, first put in what must be done each day. Those are the little things that keep the home fires burning.

Next, in the remaining time, put in all of the weekly tasks. Don’t crowd them all into one day; spread them out so that no one day is totally overwhelmed with housework.

I find it best to make an hourly schedule, where I can put in all of my children’s schedules as well as mine on the same page. I also make a weekly schedule, where I note which jobs I do on which days. (And yes, I make days-of-the-week tea towels.)

3. Tweak Your Schedule

The key to putting together a schedule is to know that is is a tool, not a master. At some point, you’ll need to review, and possibly revises, your schedule. But, if you do it too soon, you’ll feel like the schedule is a failure. The real problem is that you haven’t given the schedule time to work, or become a habit.

It’s a good idea to give yourself three weeks if you’ve never tried a schedule before. Take the first week to follow the schedule for the first half of the day, until lunchtime or mid-afternoon. Then, the second week, practice following your schedule for the whole day. Finally, take the third week to follow the schedule the whole day, and make notes about where things need tweaking or could run more smoothly.

Once you and your children are used to being on a schedule, continue tweaking until the schedule is mostly perfect. There will always be difficult days, but when the schedule is working well, you’ll feel more carefree and spontaneous, because you won’t be stressed about falling behind on the housework when your kids want to have a picnic.

The Housewife Planning Center

Whether you are organizing your time or organizing your money and keeping accounts, you need a planning space to plan your housework.

It will help if your planning center has a place for charging cords — the modern equivalent of a corded phone. It should also have:

  • A writing surface (table, shelf, desk)
  • A comfortable chair (preferably a desk chair–it makes you feel more professional)
  • Drawer and shelf space
  • Pencils, pens, notepads, and a cash book (even if you keep accounts online, it’s a good idea to keep a printed hard copy for your records)
  • A place for bills and other incoming correspondence
  • Files for:
    • Household records, including tax records and vital records
    • Recipes and tutorials
    • Clippings

Most people use Pinterest for their clippings and recipes files, but I organize my vintage magaine collection in physical files. I love being able to turn pages, and I have been known to print things out just so I can put them in my clippings files! I use a binder system to keep it all organied.

I also keep vintage homemaking reference books here, including vintage housekeeping manuals and a couple of comprehensive vintage recipe books. (Being obsessed, I also have vintage dictionaries, encyclopedia sets, and almanacs, but those are in my homeschooling library, not my housewife planning library!)

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