Flexible Daily Routines: Laundry, Dishes & Straightening

by ChristinaPilkington on April 21, 2012 · 11 comments

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In my last post I shared about how I set up my cleaning system for my house that complements our lifestyle of learning.

I think even more important than my cleaning system are the few flexible routines I’ve developed that help keep my house from becoming chaotic and me not feeling frustrated and a slave to housework either.

For the most part, I don’t like having a life built around routine. I’ve always enjoyed and received a lot of energy from living spontaneously and taking advantage of opportunities that come my way without worrying about how it will affect a pre-set schedule.

But, I’ve found that for me, if I have a few flexible routines, a routine helps me keep those tasks I don’t enjoy that much automatic and something I don’t have to think about that much.

  • I doubt any of you will be able to follow these routines exactly or even want to. Routines are highly individualized. But I’m hoping that reading my thought process behind the routines and how I’ve developed them might help you develop some key routines that might make your life run more smoothly and leave more room for those things take give your life passion and purpose.


I do almost all my laundry on one day.  I think I’m probably really different that way. Most people I know try to do a few loads every day or two.  But for me, getting it done all in one day (either on Sunday or Monday), puts the job on automatic. I don’t have to think about it, and I don’t have to worry if it’s piling up and that we won’t have any clean clothes to wear.

Here are some specifics to my routine:

-          I quickly strip the sheets and pillowcases and gather the bathroom towels and throw them in the washing machine sometime Sunday afternoon.

-          We usually watch a movie or an episode of a series we’re watching on Sunday evenings together. I sort all the rest of the laundry while we’re doing this. This way it goes quickly and I don’t even have to think about it. Then I throw the first load in that evening and place the sheets and towels in the dryer. 

-          Since the sheets are already off our beds, it kind of forces me to put on new ones before we go to bed whether I’m in the mood to do it or not!

-          On Monday morning, first thing I put in a new load in the wash. Then throughout the rest of the day, I fold clothes as they are done when I have a few minutes, and put in new clothes until everything is folded and put away. I try to ask help from the kids with doing this.  Between Sunday and Monday I usually do about five loads

-          On Thursday or Friday morning, I usually thrown in one load of the kids’ clothes since they dirty more of their clothes during the week and might not have enough to last them through the rest of the week if I don’t do an extra load.

Dishes/Kitchen Clean Up

If we’re at home I have two times a day that I do dishes.  We’ve developed a habit since the kids were 6 months old of reading together during lunch. It started because the kids were not and still are not the best eaters. If I read to them, they’d stay in their seats a little longer and eat a little more.

Now they’re so used to me reading to them while they eat, that they will get upset if I don’t!

So after reading together, and sometimes doing some science experiments or playing a game, the kids usually go off and watch a DVD or play together, and then it’s my turn to eat lunch while I work on writing for about an hour. Then I wash all our dishes (we don’t have a dishwasher), including the breakfast dishes and wipe the table.

Of course, if we’re out than I’ll do breakfast dishes either when we come home or with the dinner dishes.

After dinner if we’re home, I clear the table and wipe it down, wipe down the stove and counters quickly, wash the dishes, sweep the kitchen floor, and put the dishes away.  This is usually a nice time when Steve can play with the kids and they get time alone with him. And some nights Steve will do the dishes for me, which is always nice J

Of course, things aren’t always this perfect. It might be a gorgeous night and right after dinner we want to take a bike ride. Since we usually eat dinner around 6:30 or 7:00, it’s late when we come home from the ride, and I might be tired and not feel like cleaning up. It’s more fun to read a few chapters at night together as a family, so I happily skip cleaning the kitchen.  

But waking up to a fairly clean kitchen is always best for getting me in the mood to start a fun project or working on something first thing in the morning.  


I have to be very honest here.  This area is not my strength at all.

If I had a choice to straighten or clean the bathroom, I’d choose cleaning the bathroom every time.

Weird, huh?

But when I’m having a good week, here are some things that help me take care of straightening quickly so I have more time for the things I’d really like to do.

-          Asking the kids to help for 10-15 minutes at a certain time each day, usually just before I start making dinner. This can be hard when you don’t have a set schedule and every day is different. But if the three of us work together on a consistent basis every day, I’m always amazed at what a difference it makes.

-          Using the 5-10 minute stopwatch method. Sometimes when the house starts to get bad, I feel a little overwhelmed. Just cleaning in one room for awhile tends to bore me, too. So I clean like mad in one room for five minutes and then rotate to another room. If I only have twenty minutes, than I can make a little dent in all the rooms downstairs and immediately feel better about the house. Or I keep doing that until all the rooms are done.

Next Wednesday, I’ll share how I set up some flexible routines for my meal planning, shopping and preparation.


Photo Credit: seanmfreese

If anyone has some really great suggestions for keeping your house fairly straightened without it eating up a lot of your time each day, I’d really love to hear them!


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  • JD

    I just thought of another. Do you usually wear your shoes in the house all day? Because making it a habit to take them off could reduce floor cleaning. Now me, being of German and Hawaiian heritage I cannot fathom why anyone would want to wear shoes all day in their home. I lie on the couch, sit at my computer with my legs curled under me, I sit and lie on the carpet. I keep wondering if those always shoe wearers just always sit on chairs and couches with their feet on the floor.

  • JD

    This might sound crazy to you or everyone else, but did you consider doing away with sheets? I always found stripping the bed and putting new sheets on to be such a pain. So got a couple of nice blanket and pillow sets that have nice print that essentially look like sheets. The only difference is that all I need to do is throw one in the washer and a new, clean one on my bed. I kinda hated sheets anyway because I sleep weirdly so they’d be like one big wad of blanket when I woke up in the morning.

    Let you kids clean the bathroom with soap or just something that foams. I’m sure they’d find that fun…but that might potentially just make more of a mess so maybe not;).

    • christinapilkington

      It’s a good idea about the sheets, but I have bad allergies from dust mites on mattresses, so I have to sleep with a mattress protector. It gets a bit scratchy, so I like having a sheet. The sheets aren’t actually that bad to change. It’s the stove that I dread!

  • http://www.sattvicfamily.net/ Elizabeth

    I STILL haven’t printed my lists yet Chris lol!

    • christinapilkington

      Somehow I don’t think you’ll ever get around to it :)

  • http://momto3feistykids.com/ Steph

    I think I’ll give the stopwatch idea a try. Thanks! :)

    • christinapilkington

      I hope it helps some. It helps me think of cleaning more like a game which makes it go by faster.

  • http://creatingtreasures.blogspot.com/ Tereza Crump

    When my fist daughter was a baby I heard of Flylady, but could not for the life of me stick with her plan. Like you, I hate STRICT routines. I like to tell my homeschooling friends that the only routines we have at my house are meal times and bed times, and by that I mean that they happen every day. Everything else goes with the flow.

    However, there were a couple of things that I incorporated in my life, from Flylady, and those things are: leaving my kitchen clean at the end of the day, and working on 15-20 minutes increments MOST of the time.

    Unlike you, I prefer to straighten than clean. I hate to dust. My mother had a lot of doodads when I was growing up and I had to dust them. As a grown up I always hated doodads. I am a minimalist… no froo froo decorating my house. What I have are useful items. :) I have a hard time dusting and cleaning, but I loooove a clean house. i could easily be OCD but I have learned that with children and life one got to let go and let God. There are so much to enjoy. Why be so finicky with details??.

    My DH is my hero. He helps me clean house. He dusts the high ceilings, the cobwebs, the fans. He mops my floors when he isn’t working so hard. And sometimes, as a family, we tackle a major cleaning spree for a couple hours on the weekend. Sometimes, he plays with the kids and I clean a couple of bathrooms. :( Ugh!!

    As for my tip on straightening the house… we do it constantly… Before we go somewhere, we pick up the house. Before bedtimes, we pick up the house. Basically, it’s just putting books in the baskets I have in the living room. Toys in their bins. Shoes in the closet. Turn computers off and organize the office where they are at. It’s quick…about 5-10 minutes and it’s done. It helps to train the children. At first, I would get very frustrated because the kids wouldn’t pick up the way I wanted. Duh! I never told them what I expected them to do!! Once we went over what went where for a few times, now it’s automatic.

    The more we do it, the easier it gets. of course, there are days, that we go to bed and the house is a mayhem. But we don’t sweat, tomorrow is another day. We begin again. :)

    Now, here is a question for you: I have been labeled undisciplined in the past because of my lack of routine. What do you think of that and how do you counter that type of thinking? I used to be so envious of people that had a rigid schedule and was disciplined about doing things at the same time and same way every day. I am no longer envious. I know there are certain things that I like pretty much the same every time. But I like to do a lot of impromptu in my every day life.

    For example, I know that a menu for meals would help me keep things going smoothly in my house. But I would be sooooo bored if I didn’t have the opportunity to come up with meals at the last minute, or get in the kitchen and create recipes out of nothing. Cooking is one of my creative outlets. Menu planning would kill my joy. :)

    PS we went fishing today!! The children had a ball. We caught over 15 fishes all together! Pictures coming soon. :)

    • christinapilkington

      I think I need to try your tip on doing more of 5-10 minutes pick-ups throughout the day. Maybe I dread it so much because we only start to do it when it gets a little out of hand and then it takes awhile. Or maybe there can be a room we pick up in the morning, afternoon and right before bed. But it gets hard sometimes when every day is different. But if every day were basically the same, I’d go out of my mind, too!

      As far as being labled undisciplined because of not having routines, I wouldn’t think that at all. Maybe because I’m the same way, but if you can honestly say that for the most part your house is not chaotic, that your kids are learning new and fun things each day, and that you’re keeping up with other responsibilities, than it shouldn’t matter at all how it gets done. Sometimes I get secretly jealous that I’m not more of a scheduled person. Sometimes I think my life would be less stressful. But I’ve tried that several times before, and I really felt depressed and trapped.

      You need to follow your own patterns. It’s just how we let our own kids follow their patterns, but at the same time we try to teach them to follow through on important responsibilities.

      It’s funny that you mentioned meal planning. I’m writing a whole post about it that will go up tomorrow. I’m opposite of you here, too. I always make up a meal plan each week. Cooking is not one of the area where I’m most creative. I’d like to grow in this area, but for now it helps me to have stress free days when I wake up knowing what I’m going to make for dinner and that I already have everything I need to make it.

      That’s so awesome about the fishing! We haven’t gone fishing that much with the kids. They’ve caught maybe two fish so far, but it’s something we’d like to do more of in the future.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kacagle Karen Terry Cagle

    More great ideas. Keilee and I have been using the 15 minute stop watch and it is amazing what we can get done. Seriously my house has been neater this week than in a long time!

    • christinapilkington

      Yea! I love it when I can share something that works for me and it helps someone else, too :)

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