Housework is overwhelming on a good day. Everyday, if you’re anything like me, a laundry Mount Everest looms on a spare couch or bed; the dishes balance at precarious angles next to the sink and your kids draw pictures in the layer of dust on the coffee tables. It’s bad enough trying to stay on top of the dishes and laundry. Somewhere in the middle of a day chasing after children, you have to find time to mop the floor or sweep up hardened rice from three days ago.


I’ve tried for the past year to find a system that works. It’s taken many months to work out what to do on what day and when. I had finally had it oiled about a month before my second daughter came into the world. Then it took a long time before I could even try to develop some sort of rhythm again. Now I can finally say that the way I’ve structured my daily routine allows for a slot to do housework right at the beginning of the day before my kids have accumulated fights and after the have had a good night’s sleep and have full tummies from breakfast. This seems to be the time when they are in the best mood and most likely to be able to entertain themselves for at least ten minutes on their own. You need to figure out the best time for you. It might not be first thing in the morning!!!


When I first started cleaning the house, I used to wake up and stare at the mess and then attempt to tackle something. I never had an end goal but rather just tried to do something every day. What often happened was I would feel overwhelmed, eventually start and then, while I was putting something back in its place in another room, become distracted and start on something in that room. The result? No tidy rooms. Ever. And by the time it was time to mop, dust had accumulated on a surface so I needed to dust first. The mopping didn’t happen. For a month.


I had to find a system. In How I Conquer Housework, I spoke about how I set certain chores for certain days. I would tidy the house and put things back in their proper space on a Monday, dust on another day, vacuum on another day and so forth, until I had worked my way through the house. It seldom happened this way but the list made me feel better and the house at least was kind of clean. Sometimes I worked on a bi-weekly cycle. Because the next week always came around really fast!


Then I came across Diane in Denmark! You guys, I have no words! This woman changed my life and the way I do housework! I started with her 31 Baby Steps and began to watch some of her other videos.


She cleans in zones. So I tailored zone cleaning for myself.


In essence, you clean one zone a day. You take whatever you need to clean that room into the room before you start and you don’t leave the room to put anything away. Once you walk into the rest of the house, all the other tasks shout at you and you can become distracted.


Each day, straight after breakfast, I start on my zone for the day. The girls potter around me, sometimes following me and sometimes playing in their rooms or with each other.


My Zones

Monday – Girls’ Rooms

Tuesday – Our Bedroom

Wednesday – Study, Landing and Stairs

Thursday – Dust and Wipe in Bathrooms and Dust and Wipe Downstairs

(My husband helps out and does the deep cleaning in the bathrooms and vacuums and mops downstairs on a Thursday night).


So, for me, I need my long duster to dust the cornices, my short feather duster to do the furniture, a damp cloth to wipe surfaces and the vacuum cleaner.

I first dust the cornices, curtain rails and windows. I then take the feather duster and dust furniture, surfaces, picture frames and cushions. After I’ve done that, I get my rag and, as Diane advises, fold my damp rag into four. That way, I don’t need to make copious trips back and forth to the bathroom to clean the rag. I keep turning it to a new side when I dust a new surface. Genius!


She suggests using a timer and working for not much longer than 15 minutes. Because you know the clock is ticking, I would imagine you work faster. With little ones, it’s a little harder because I often stop to change a nappy, open a bucket of toys, remove the baby from the toddler’s puzzle and so forth. I do, however, keep an eye on the clock because my little one does need a sleep around 8 am.  I must admit I haven’t persisted with the timer method. Maybe I should give it a go…?


If anything needs to be taken out the room such as recycling, children’s toys, clean washing or a dirty cup, I place it near the door to return to its place when I’ve finished cleaning the room.


All this to say, I have found this method to be the most rewarding. My housework is done before 8:30 am. I have the rest of the day to do bits and pieces in between like fold washing on the floor while my girls play or hang up the washing while they’re on the jungle gym. I also have time to be with them and don’t feel like I should be doing housework. I can give them my undivided attention. Cleaning this way has also meant that I’ve managed to sort or do some of those things on the long procrastination list! (Diane suggests starting no matter how mammoth the task, setting the timer for 15 minutes and getting just 15 minutes of “work” done. You’ll be surprised how much you achieve in 15 minutes and it will be easier to tackle another day!)

My house has been cleaned regularly for almost a month now (yes, this feels like a huge achievement!) and I don’t feel like I’ve been cleaning all day!


Zone cleaning has been a game changer!


Photo Credit: Bich Tran

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