The Miracle of Lists
By Jen Rouse
The Short Years
So here’s the plan: I made a list of everything that needs to be done in the house on a daily basis to keep it looking picked up and tidy. And I made another list of everything that needs to be done on a weekly basis. And another one for monthly. I tried to keep it realistic. For instance, vacuum out the car–it only made the cut to be on the monthly list, even though it could probably use it more often than that. Other things didn’t make the list at all: Declutter hall closet? Wash curtains? Scrub under the sink? I may (or may not) get around to those things at some point. But they aren’t on the list.
I put the checklists in clear plastic page protectors. They live in the kitchen. Whenever I do an item on the list, I use a dry-erase marker to check it off. In theory, at the end of the day everything on the list is done and our house is liveable. Same with the weekly and monthly lists. And you know what? I’m actually sticking with it. And the house is starting to show it.Here’s why I think it’s working this time around, when I’ve never been good at keeping the house clean before:
It’s a reminder. Those little unchecked boxes are there, every day, challenging me and taunting me. Checking them off is a tangible thing I get to do when I’ve done another task–and seeing them all checked at the end of the day makes me happy.
It’s simple. There’s no pressure to get everything done on a certain day or at a certain arbitrary time. Just as long as it’s getting done. We don’t get everything on the list done every day–but usually most of it. And what we don’t get today, we do get tomorrow. Nothing is being left undone for weeks and weeks on end.
I’m not the boss–the list is. Before, I pretty much took command of deciding what had to be done and who had to do it. Eric and the kids would help, but I was director of housework, doling out chores to everyone else in the family. I don’t like telling people what to do, and nobody likes to be nagged into doing things, but often that’s what happens. With the list, everyone (those who can read, that is) can tell at a glance what still needs to be done around the house. This weekend, Eric took a look at the weekly list, saw what hadn’t been done yet, and grabbed a feather duster, because he could tell by glancing at the list that the dusting still needed to be done. It was beautiful. Likewise, the girls take charge of certain chores (picking up the living room, making their beds, putting away laundry) and they know it’s just part of the household routine–not some special punishment Mom is inflicting on them because I like to be mean. Or because company’s coming.
We’ve only been doing the list for a week or two, but so far it’s been fabulous. It’s more work–actually DOING these chores all the time is a reminder to me of just how much I was ignoring before–but I am seeing results. And they’re making me happy.
Long live the list.