Sunday, January 27, 2008


WARNING: this is a post about housekeeping.

In my defense, I am only slightly embarrassed to tell you that I would be utterly fascinated to read a similar post on someone else's blog, although that may not be sufficient reason to inflict this on others. Suffice it to say that keeping a house has not come naturally to me, but it has been, like Mr. Collins' compliments to Lady Catherine, a subject of much study. While I much prefer a tidy and clean house, it has taken me years of book-learning and practice to get to the point where my house is tolerable most of the time.

You have been warned. Please, look away if you can't stomach this sort of thing.

So here are my routines for maintaining a (mostly) clean and tidy house. Devotees of Flylady will discern her influence. I've also been influenced by Cheryl Mendelson, but I don't even aspire to anything approaching her level of excellence.

When I get up in the morning, the boys are still in bed, and Joe has been up for a while. This can be almost completely relied upon, unless I've really slept in. So after I:

1.make my bed,

I go downstairs and:

2. empty the washer

of the laundry I put in during my after-dinner tidying up. My washer has a timer, so the wash gets washed in the morning even though I load it in the evening.

The washer is in the kitchen, so I:

3. empty the dish drain

and put the clean dinner dishes away before I leave. I find that I am much more likely to actually wash dishes during the day if there's a place to put the clean ones. I also put the kettle on for a cup of tea (green, with caffeine).

I carry the wet laundry out to the living room, where I encounter a rack full of dry laundry from yesterday, so I:

4. fold yesterday's laundry

before I can start to:

5. hang today's laundry on wooden racks to dry.

Before you start thinking I'm some kind of eco-genius, I must confess that my motivation for air-drying our laundry is economical rather than ecological. We have a dryer, and I use it, but I really try not to very much. This is part of why laundry must be done every day, which is fine because I actually enjoy laundry.

That's the morning routine. After that, I sit down and knit or read, or do yoga until the boys wake up and come downstairs. They are both expected to:

1. get dressed

2. make their beds, and

3. put their clean and folded laundry away.

This happens more or less well, depending on the day. I find that Big One has internalized most of this routine, and will often do the first two without reminders. Little One struggles with this, but I have noticed that if I remind him and then turn away as if I have not the slightest doubt in the world that he will get these things done, he mostly does. We do have days when these jobs require seemingly endless reminding (ahem, nagging) and we even have days when I just do their jobs for them. Some days, it isn't worth a battle.

Then we have breakfast, tidy up a bit, and settle in to a morning of doing school at the dining room table. Then lunch, and then we are sometimes out and about in the afternoon, sometimes we have company, sometimes we go to a park. Sometime during the afternoon, I will be compelled to:

6: make some kind of dinner plan.

This can be anything from panicking at 6 p.m. and making eggs and toast, to making a soup starting at 3, to knowing ahead of time exactly what we're having and thawing the necessary ingredients and fussing for several hours in the kitchen. This remains the most challenging part of the routine for me.

After dinner, Joe washes the dishes, and we tidy up. I wipe off the dining room table, put in a load of laundry and set the timer, and remind/encourage/bug the children to tidy up any toys they've left in public areas of the house.

That's mostly it. Oh, one more thing. Each week day, I have one extra job in one area of the house. However, it must be noted that while the daily routine is pretty firm and I notice that things start to slide south pretty quickly after even a day or two of neglect, the weekly routine can be neglected for almost any number of days. The big role that the weekly routines play in my life are so that I don't panic and try to do everything all in one day, then get discouraged when things start to look messy and dirty again.

Here they are:

Monday: tidy the boys' rooms and vacuum upstairs
Tuesday: vacuum downstairs
Wednesday: clean the bathrooms
Thursday: vacuum downstairs
Friday: clean the kitchen

So this means that if I notice that the bathrooms need some attention on a Tuesday, I can ignore it and go back to whatever I was doing, because it's not the day to clean the bathrooms. This doesn't necessarily mean I actually clean the bathrooms on Wednesday, but it means that the anxiety that develops over a messy bathroom is contained and tamed and doesn't overwhelm me. This is absolutely essential.

When I was working, I did something very similar, except I had to get up earlier, and there was no sitting peacefully knitting in the mornings while the boys slept. I did most of these things, but I did them more quickly and they were crammed in before school and after school.

Which brings us to the names we use on the blog. When I was working and trying to maintain some semblance of order in the house, I crammed these very minimal routines in before and after school. I went through a very dark period in which I felt that all I did at home was tidy up, vacuum, fold laundry, wash dishes, on and on, in an endless cycle. I felt like a housekeeping robot, and I gave my droid alter-ego a name: LC DX

LC is my model number, and also the initials of my real life name. If you pronounce it quickly, it sounds like Elsie. DX, or deluxe, is my trim line, and let me tell you, I am not the fanciest model available.

When we started this blog, Joe needed a name too, and there were friends of my grandparents whose names were Elsie and Joe, so those names went together for me in a deep, childhood sort of way. I also thought Joe was a good all-around sort of guy name. The kids are Big and Little because, well, one is big and one is little.

So there you have it. The story of our names.


Amy said...

Laughed out loud at LC DX. This is good stuff. Wonder how much of it is making its way into the larger project? But please keep it coming. I am an avid, if too often silent, reader and appreciator. Even housekeeping routines are compelling if presented with a keen intelligence and wry humor.

elsie deluxe said...

Well, if there were any work getting done on the larger project, I could tell you. Must get it together, though, so I have something for the group in April.

Amy, I'm *delighted* that you're enjoying the blog. Thanks for being so supportive of all my writing attempts....

Granna Judy said...

That's funny -- as I read this, I too thought this was good stuff and that you should be working on a Larger Project. I'm glad to see it's not just parental pride, since Amy feels that way too.

Anonymous said...

Elsie, I am jealous of you for 2 reasons:

1) You apparently have a home large enough that you can do housework and not wake up your kids. Our house is 650 square feet!

2) You have a washer/dryer inside your house. Ours is in the basement, which is only accessible via the steep, outside stairs. Not too convenient in the rain or snow, plus opening and closing the door would wake the kids (see #1).

But like you, I am inspired by Cheryl Mendelson, as well as FlyLady, and what I think of as the Ma Ingalls way to plan (the task of the day). Also some more esoteric stuff like The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker.

Also: very nice Mr. Collins reference :)