The Secret Behind Checklists

What is the secret behind checklists, how do you get everything done? How do you stay on top of your to-do list without getting overwhelmed from biting off more than you chew?

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Hey there, I’m Angela Brown, and this is Ask a House Cleaner. This is a show where you get to ask a house cleaning question, and I get to help you find an answer. You can find this and 400 other answered questions in this series on our YouTube channel.

How to Get Your Checklist Done

The Secret Behind Checklists, Tired House CleanerDid you ever have a checklist and then at the end of the day, you did not get everything done? So, you bumped everything to the next day, and then on that day, you did not get everything done because you had all of yesterday’s stuff and then all of today’s stuff and it kind of built up. Has that ever happened to you?

Today there’s a homeowner that called into the show and asked this question.

So, my question is actually about lists. I recently found your page and I thought that it would be pretty beneficial. I’m currently in about a 600 square foot, two-bedroom apartment with no carpets. It’s myself and my son here right now. And we are meeting my husband, who’s been gone for eight months, at his next duty station, and the home we got approved for is huge in comparison to here.

I don’t know how I’m going to find the time to clean the whole thing, and I thought about lists, but to be honest, I already have a hard time keeping where I am clean. And it’s got an extra bedroom. It’s got so much space in it, and I was wondering what your thoughts were on lists and what list you would make daily or weekly or monthly?”

You Need the Routine Behind the Checklist

The Secret Behind Checklists, Routine and ClockSo, you’re asking about checklists, and it’s not the checklist that you need, but the routine behind the checklist. You mentioned already that you’re having a difficult time keeping up with the housework that you have.

Now, I want to stop for just a second and I want to say, congratulations, you are a parent. And so being a parent requires lots of responsibility and lots of activities that take you away from things like housework. So, I applaud you for whatever it is you’re doing that has your priorities somewhere else.

A Lot of People Get Distracted and Don’t Clean

The Secret Behind Checklists, Woman Hugging Little BoyThat is the exact reason why a lot of people get distracted and are not great with house cleaning. It’s not because they hate house cleaning or that they don’t want to do it, or they don’t want to live in a clean house.

It’s that they have priorities that take them away from house cleaning. They are parents, they have jobs. They have schooling now for their kids. There’s a bunch of other stuff, and house cleaning just gets pushed to the back burner. 

So that said, it is easy to create a checklist and say, “I’m going to do all these things,” and then they don’t get done. But instead of a checklist you need to reframe the way that you’re thinking about that and think of it in terms of a routine.

We Have a Garbage Pickup Every Monday

The Secret Behind Checklists, Trash BinNow, I know in my house, we have a garbage pickup that comes every single Monday morning. No matter what, they come every Monday. And so, on Sunday nights, everyone in my house has to run through and bring their own trash to the garbage.

What that means you have to go get the trash is in your bathroom, bedroom and, office, and you have to bring it to the big bin before the bin gets pushed out on the street. And if the bin goes out to the street without your trash, one of two things happens.

Either you don’t get your garbage picked up that week, or you have to take it all the way out to the curb between now and Monday morning. It’s not that it’s on anyone’s to-do list. It’s that it’s part of a routine.

Everyone in the Household Gets to Participate

The Secret Behind Checklists, Girl Taking Linens Off BedNow, I love the fact that everyone in the household gets to participate, and I’m a firm believer that everyone in every household should participate in daily activities.

Why? Because everyone lives in that house. So, when you live in a house and you take ownership of that house and you are responsible for your own activities and your own daily chores, all of a sudden you value the house more.

I’ve heard so many parents that say, “Oh, I cleaned all the time, and no one appreciates me.” They don’t appreciate you because they are not participating, and if they participate now, they value the activities because they are part of it.

Have Everyone Participate in Their Own Chores

The Secret Behind Checklists, Woman and Little Boy Doing LaundrySo, in our home, we let everyone take off their own bedding and bring it to the wash. We let them empty their own trash and bring it to the garbage can.

So, if, if keeping up with the chores is difficult, I’m going to suggest that everyone in your house start participating in the activities. Then I’m going to suggest that it becomes a routine, not a checklist.

So, here’s what that would look like. You can do it on Tuesday or Friday or whatever day you choose. But on Saturday morning, everyone in the house takes all the bedding off of their beds. That’s the pillowcases, that’s the sheets, the linens, and they bring all of that to the washing machine.

Along with the towels, hand towels, face tells, washcloths that they used during the week. All of that stuff is going to be washed on Saturday. Every Saturday, no matter what.

Every Meal the Dishes Get Picked Up

The Secret Behind Checklists, Girl Loading DishwasherNow, after every meal, the dishes get picked up, and taken to the sink. In my house, we have a five-minute rule. It’s a hot dishes rule. The dishes are hot, and so after a meal, we’ve got five minutes to wash those dishes and get those in the dish drainer or the dishwasher after every single meal.

No dishes are allowed to sit in the kitchen sink for longer than five minutes because they’re hot. We got to act on them immediately, and because it’s a rule, everyone does it. And I will be clearing up the kitchen and there are other people jumping in, washing dishes, putting stuff away.

Everyone in the family knows what the routine is, and because there is a routine in place, it’s not on anyone’s checklist. It’s part of the way we do things because it’s the routine.

House Cleaners Need Checklists at Work

The Secret Behind Checklists, Happy House CleanerNow, when you have a professional house cleaner and they come to your house and they use a checklist, and I do recommend they use a checklist, but it is a checklist based on routine. It only works because your home is already with a date and a time on their schedule. So, they know that at a certain time, they’re coming back to your house every other week.

And because they’re coming back every other week, there’s a series of things they’re going to do in every single room. The checklist just keeps them on task. And so, it is a formality and it’s part of their inspection process, which is part of their routine.

I Recommend Making Your Own Checklist

The Secret Behind Checklists, Man Thinking While Writing in NotepadAnd so, if you’re going to use a checklist, and I recommend you make your own and that you put the date or the time or the day of the week that you’re going to do this activity. So, it might be every Friday night you wipe out the bathtubs. Every Friday night, no matter what. And it might be done before 6:00 PM.

As your week is progressing and you get to the point it’s 4:00 o’clock on Friday and you say, “Oh no, I’m out running grocery errands or whatever, but I gotta get home and get the bathtubs cleaned before 6:00 o’clock.”

It Eventually Becomes a Part of Your Routine

The Secret Behind Checklists, Woman Writing on NotepadIt just becomes part of your routine and then the stuff starts happening almost without you even paying attention. “Oh yes, it’s Friday night. I think I’ll wipe out the bathrooms. Oh yes, it’s Saturday morning. I think we’ll pull all the bedsheets off the beds.

It just becomes part of your lifestyle and it never becomes, “Oh, I’ve got all this house cleaning I have to do, and so when am I going to get that done and whatever?” But along with that, you can put other things on your calendar that can be pushed out into advance.

How I Remember to Clean My Weight Room

The Secret Behind Checklists, Woman Talking on PhoneNow, for example, I have a weight room in my house and all of the weight equipment does not need to be clean every day. It’s not a daily chore or a weekly chore. In fact, it’s not a bi-weekly chore.

It doesn’t collect a lot of dust and it can be done four times a year. It’s a deep cleaning just for that room. Why? It’s on the schedule. So, if you call and you try to book me on one of those days, wait for a second, in the back of my mind, that’s the day we’re doing the deep clean in the weight room.

And so, either I have to pay somebody to do that so that I can go free up myself to do another activity, or I have to work around that either the day before or the day after to get my weight room done. But I know that it’s the time of year that the room gets clean. And I don’t think about it at any other time of the year, not a priority.

Don’t Be Frustrated About Your Other Priorities

The Secret Behind Checklists, Woman Playing with Little BoySo, don’t be frustrated by the priorities because you’re a mom, you got lots of priorities, and I love that about you. But I just want to make sure that what you’re looking for is not necessarily a checklist but the routine behind the checklist that will move your home forward in the momentum and keep it a neat, clean, tidy place for your entire family.

000 Savvy Cleaner Spacer Bar 2020Resources

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