How to Keep An Interest-Led Learning Home & a Clean House at the Same Time

by ChristinaPilkington on April 18, 2012 · 31 comments

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In homes where there is more of a school at home approach there might be a set schedule where schoolwork takes place, usually in the mornings, and then a specific time each day when all the household chores are done.

In an interest-led learning environment, that gets a little tricky.

You want to be available for opportunities as they come and not be tied down to a strict schedule. You also want to be there for your kids when they need you to answer questions, play with them or help them on projects.

But you also want to maintain some sense of order in your home and not let chaos rein either.

So, today I’m going to share 5 tips for cleaning your house using an interest-led learning approach.

I guess you can call in Interest-Led Cleaning!

Now, I want to be really clear that these are things that work really well for me. They might not be things that will work for you.

Everyone’s circumstances are different, too. I have a small,  725 square foot house, I don’t have small children anymore- my kids are old enough that they pitch in and help straighten when I ask them to most of the time, and my tolerance for how clean or straighten things are might be different.

I’ve also read lots and lots of organization and time management books and haven’t been able to take most of their advice because they just don’t work for me.  I’m just not wired that way.

I like some order and I like plan some things, but I’ve had to find the system that works well for me.

So, read these tips, try them out if you find any interesting, and then only keep those things that work well for you. 

Don’t Create a Set Cleaning Schedule

I don’t have a set curriculum for my kids that we follow each day, so I won’t set up a cleaning schedule for myself either. Why? Life happens and I usually never get around to doing everything on my cleaning “to do” list.  Then I get discouraged and down on myself for not completing my list or cleaning goals I set at the beginning of the week.

Also, if I had a set day for when things were supposed to get cleaned – Monday is Dusting, Tuesday is Mopping and Wednesday is Bathroom Cleaning, what happens if the day turns upside down and I wasn’t able to get to the cleaning? Do I now feel like I have to catch up and do two days work the next day? Or do I skip it all together and just do it the next week?

Instead I ……..

Use the What Annoys Me the Most Approach

This is actually the opposite of what you do with your kids. When you’re an interest-led learner, you start each day or week thinking about doing what excites and interests you. You plan projects around the things you’d like to learn about and go to new places you find interesting.

What I do each day is look around the house and decide what things bother me the most. Is it the sticky kitchen floor? Is it the bathroom? Or does it really need to be straightened or something organized?

If I could only get one thing cleaned or organized today, what would it be? That’s the thing I try to do that day.  I’ve learned that if I do one thing to improve the house each day or at least close to each day, it really does add up to a pretty orderly.

                                           Decide what matters to you most

I’ve decided that it can take twenty hours a week for me to clean my house or it can take three. There’s really no end to the amount of time you can spend cleaning and organizing your house. I think you could clean for eight hours every day and still have it not be perfect….especially if you have kids in the house.

So, since your house will never be perfect no matter how much time you spend on it, you can let go of that ideal and focus on reality.

Reality is….what do you need done in your house every week in order to feel peaceful? What will it take for you to feel that your house has some order and cleanliness to it?

I’ve come up with a list of what that looks like for me. Here’s my list for the minimum amount done each week in my house for me to feel at peace.  Your list might look different than mine.  (I’m not including laundry, food planning, shopping, and cooking, or dishes here).

–          Beds made most days

–          Kitchen floor swept every day

–          Bathroom cleaned every week

–          Rest of all floors swept once a week

–          Living room rug vacuumed once a week

–          Living Room dusted once a week

–          Most day things fairly straightened

 And that’s it. Of course there’s other things that I try to get done too, like cleaning out the refrigerator, mopping the kitchen floor, vacuuming and dusting upstairs, dusting the fans….you get the picture.

But the tasks I mentioned above are usually the things I try to work on first every week, unless something else annoys me more that day.  The thing that annoys me most always wins out over everything else.

Decide on amount of time you want to spend on cleaning

When you have your list of the bare minimum you’d like to accomplish each week, estimate how long each task will take you. Then think about, if you had a perfect week, how much time would you like to spend cleaning each week?

I know. Most of you will say zero hours. I’m right there with you.

But think about how much time you can spend cleaning and still do the other things that are really important to you like spending a good amount of time with your family, researching fun activities and trips, working on your own projects and other responsibilities.

This is a tricky thing to do, too. Just come up with a number and shoot for it the first week. Then evaluate how things went at the end of the week.

I’ve found for myself that 3 hours a week works best for me. It gives me enough time to get my minimum work done to not feel icky about the house and enough extra time to do little bit of extra cleaning or organizing, too. Again, that’s not including dishes, laundry, or anything to do with food. (I’ll talk about what I do with that in the next few posts).

By setting an amount of time I want to clean each week, I also know when to quit. At the end of those three hours, if I see something that I think needs to be cleaned, I tell myself that it can wait until next week.  I’ve determined that anything over that three hours cuts into more important priorities. It lets me let go of other things that I think “need” to be done and not feel guilty about it.

But, how do I decide when to do those three hours of cleaning?  I…… 

Use a Stop Watch

My stop watch has become my best friend.  I use it to keep track of how many hours I’ve cleaned each week. I aim for three hours a week, but I don’t beat myself up if I don’t get it done, either. (Or at least most weeks I don’t get down on myself about it. I’ve still got a bit of growing to do in this area J)

This might seem a bit much to some of you, but when I tell myself that I’ll clean for 3 hours a week instead of saying I’ll complete a list of tasks, I have a clear idea of when I’ll be done with my work.

Instead of having a task list, I can ask myself, “I have 30 minutes that I can work on something, what do I feel like working on the most right now?”

In those three hours, I have a lot of flexibility of what I want to clean that day and how much time I’ll do it.

I also work in my cleaning around everything else we’re doing that day. If I have a 15 minute pocket of time, I’ll clean like mad for those 15 minutes.  If the kids are really into playing a game together or have a friend over in the backyard, it’s like a game to see how much I can get done of my three hours for the week.

If one day I get two straight hours of cleaning in, I know that I can take off a few days and not feel bad or guilty or lazy about it.

In the next few posts, I share how I create a routine for doing household tasks like laundry and grocery shopping each week while still being flexible and open to other fun opportunities that come up.

Photo Credit: go_greener_oz

How do you create a lifestyle of learning and still have time to take care of basic household responsibilities?


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