Do you look in horror at the toppling piles of dishes stacked in the kitchen sink at the end of the day? Or regularly run out of clean clothes so you need to do seven loads of washing back-to-back just to catch up? Or suddenly realise that the house is buried in deep dust and nothing but a 24-hour deep clean session will put it to rights. Or maybe you or the kids have been struck by illness with little sleep so you haven’t done the housework and you’ve totally run out food.
If this sounds familiar then don’t worry. This article explains why developing routines is a great way to ensure that you, your family and home run like a well-oiled machine at all times, even in the midst of chaos!
What are routines?
Routines are things that you do regularly – daily, weekly, monthly or even less often.
Unlike habits, routines aren’t necessarily something that you do automatically from the start, like brushing your teeth once a day or turning the TV off when you’ve finished watching it, like we were taught as children.
Routines are things that you usually have to teach and train yourself to do. It may take some repetition before these particular activities become so second nature that you do them without realising and you may have to set yourself an alert or reminder on your phone (or a post-it note on the fridge) until they sink in.
You may do them at set times but once embedded into the flow of your day, you start to do them as automatically as habitual things like brushing your teeth.
Why do routines help make things easier?
- How many times have you reached for clean clothes for the children only to find that all their clothes are still dirty in the laundry basket?
- Do you regularly open the fridge door to find all the milk or eggs are gone and there’s nothing for dinner?
- Do you come home from work at the end of the day and realise that you’ve still left out the breakfast bowls and there’s cereal all over the kitchen counter?
- Do you end up running late in the morning because you’ve forgotten to make the packed lunches the night before?
- If your mother-in-law called to say she’s popping over in ten minutes, would you frantically try to clean and tidy the house before she realises that there’s stale biscuits squashed into the sofa?
If you get established routines in place for all the main activities you need to do, and the things that you need to remember, then it avoids the last minute panic and general running around like a headless chicken.
Setting up routines at home means things are done before they need to be done, you can anticipate problems and deal with them.
You can do things on a regular basis to maintain your home, 10 or 20 minutes here or there, rather than hours to keep your home running smoothly. And, if for any reason something happens to disrupt your routine, such as illness (or a fun day out on a whim) then it’s no big deal because you are generally on top of everything that needs to be done and one break in the routine is not going to cause catastrophe.
Examples of routines that can help make your life simpler and your home easier to manage
Dishes – once you’ve eaten your meal or snack, get into the habit of washing the dishes, glasses and cutlery then and there. It will take 5-10 minutes instead of piling it all up in the sink throughout the day for you to do in the evening. There are plenty of things that you can do in the evening instead of washing up! If you have a dishwasher then perhaps do what I do – load it all up during the day after every meal, switch it on to run during the night and unload it first thing in the morning.
Tidy up – tidy up the house throughout the day. Don’t let the toys build up on the floor. After the kids have played with them and before they move onto something else, make sure all the toys are put away. Straighten the cushions. Grab a laundry basket before every meal time and walk around the house. Put everything in it that doesn’t belong in each particular room and return the items to where they should go.
Clean up after snacks and mealtimes – wipe down the surfaces during your cooking, clean the table after you’ve eaten, sweep or hoover under the table after each mealtime. Five minutes spent like this can save you hours later on.
Housework – I prefer to do housework little and often, instead of a single long deep clean session. I’ve worked out how many rooms are in my home, what needs to be cleaned in each of them and how often and I’ve made a rota to ensure each bit is cleaned as often as is necessary – daily, weekly, monthly, 6-monthly etc. I tackle a little bit each day, maybe 20 minutes or so. This means that my home never really gets the chance to become dirty. I’m not overwhelmed at the prospect of a day’s housework just to cut through the dust and grime. Visitors can arrive unannounced and I’m not embarrassed by how dirty my home is and, if I miss a day because I didn’t have time, wasn’t well enough or just had something more exciting to do, it wouldn’t matter because the general level of cleanliness is good enough. Click here to read my post on 5 ways to make housework quicker and easier.
Teach your children how to do chores – your kids can do many chores to help you around the home and save you time as long as they’re appropriate for their age, and you’re willing to relinquish some control! Let them sort and fold their own clean clothes and put them away in the drawers. The folding might not be as perfect as yours but they’ve got to start somewhere and it’s a life skill that will empower them for the future. Search online for ideas for age-appropriate chores and you’ll be surprised at what your children can actually do. Make it fun for them and be persistent so it becomes a regular routine for them too.
Wipe down the bathroom – Get into the habit of wiping down the bathroom surfaces whenever you walk past the bathroom. That way it will always be presentable, without smears of toothpaste, soap and worse, should a guest arrive by surprise.
Meal planning and grocery shopping – Every weekend I do a plan of the meals that our family will need for that coming week. I look at who’s going to be around for which meals, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and any snacks. Then I do my online grocery shop for the food to be delivered to my door every Monday. I’ve set an alert on my phone to remind me every Sunday evening to place the order in case I forget. This way my fridge and cupboards never run completely empty, I can calculate how much milk, bread and other stuff I need for the week and I don’t have to dream up nutritious, exciting meals that suit all the family when I have no ingredients and only ten minutes to get it on the table. At the end of the day when I’ve been on the go and making decisions all day, I really don’t feel like cooking and would rather reach for the takeaway menu or frozen chicken nuggets. Nothing wrong with nuggets but perhaps not seven days a week! For more information on meal planning and meal prep made simple, click here to read my blog post.
Laundry – work out how often you need to do a load of laundry and get into a routine of doing this as regularly as your household requires. I tend to put a wash on every couple of days and I always make sure that the basket of clean clothes is folded, ironed if I have to, and put away before I go to bed that night. This way everyone has a fresh supply of clean clothes, the dirty laundry doesn’t build up and I’m not faced with an early morning frantic rummage through masses of clean, but unsorted clothes looking for the missing white sock with cats on it for my daughter before she goes to school.
Ironing – the ironing gets done once a week. I keep a separate laundry basket for clean clothes that need to be ironed and do this every weekend.
Develop an evening routine – get into the routine of laying out clothes the night before so it saves time in the morning. I also make sure that school bags are packed, lunches are prepped and any forms or permission slips are filled out. I’ve written a whole blog post on how to set up an evening routine. You can check it out here.
Make your bed – my children make their beds every morning. It took a while to get them into the routine of doing so and I can’t recall how many times I said ‘put the four corners of your duvet to the four corners of your bed’ but the persistence paid off and they do it every day. I always make my bed and it’s surprising what a difference it can make to your room if your bed, at least, is neat and tidy.
Routines will save you time and keep your home running smoothly
These are just some of the routines that work for my family and home, but there are plenty of others. Routines can keep your home running smoothly without it being too time-consuming or hard work. It will just be a case of maintenance rather than full on battle.
Your time will be freed up to spend doing things you want to do, rather than what you have to do and you’ll feel much more on top of things even if you’ve had a bad day.
Be persistent with yourself and your family in developing the routines and they’ll eventually become second nature so you do them without thinking and you can use the time and mental space it’s created to do other things.
Want to dig deeper to see how you can save yourself time and stress?
Of course, following some of the routines above is so much easier when you have minimalised and decluttered your home. If you want to learn more about how Minimalism can help you, please check out some of my other posts using the links below: