The Rule of Five

Not only does a clean home bring peace and satisfaction to our family, but less time spent cleaning means more time to spend with those very satisfied people. I've condensed what I've learned from numerous articles and books into five steps that, when used on a regular basis, keeps method in the madness of staying ahead of the housework without giving up life in the process. And you do it all by fives.

1. Equipment by Five

Get a janitorial box that's convenient to carry from room to room; they're sold at WalMart or janitorial supply stores. In it you'll need five items: a timer, a multipurpose cleaner that does both glass and other surfaces, rags or paper towels, disposable dusting cloths, and disinfectant spray. On an ordinary day, these five things are all you need for any room in your house.

2. Five Rooms

Identify five rooms in need of daily cleaning. These are the rooms people see when they visit or that your family uses the most. My five rooms are the kitchen, living room, study, upstairs bathroom, and master bedroom. By working on these rooms every day, I never let them get so out of control that I lose sight of the furniture for days at a time.

3. Five-Minute Increments

Decide the amount of time each room needs by timing yourself and by rounding up to the nearest five-minute increment. My kitchen is assigned fifteen minutes, my master bedroom and living room each take ten minutes, and my bathroom and study only need five minutes each. Those times add up to forty-five minutes from start to finish.

In each room, I set my timer and start at the top. In the bathroom, I clean the mirror before I wipe the toothpaste off the countertop so I don't smear toothpaste all over my reflection. In the master bedroom, I do the bed first, then I can use it as a table for folding clothes. If I finish the basics in any room before the time is up, I tidy up a drawer, a cabinet, or some other corner that's in need of attention. On some days, rooms require a little extra attention. For instance, the bathroom sometimes needs a solid fifteen-minute block, so I need to adjust in order to get everything done.

4. Five Other Chores, Five Days a Week

Identify other jobs in your home that don't need daily attention, and assign them as your extra chores for the week. These may include cleaning the patio, mopping, vacuuming, watering plants, or doing yard work.

Notice that I don't have any kids' rooms on my schedule. That's because they are responsible for tidying their own rooms--ten minutes a day. I also assign them one other chore every day so they are doing their part just like me.

5. Five Things Before Bed

Clean the kitchen for fifteen minutes. Waking up to a clean kitchen gets your day off to a good start. After the kids are asleep, set the timer for fifteen minutes and do one final kitchen cleaning.

Start a load of laundry. Doing at least one load of laundry every day keeps us from running out of socks and underwear. Starting a load at night and following up in the morning is a great way to break up the workload so you're not waiting for cycles to end during the day. After starting the nightly load, make sure the load you finished that morning is folded and put away.

Check your calendar. We all know how embarrassing it is to miss an appointment or to forget about school picture day. Write important events on the calendar, and check it each night to stay ahead of the game. This gives you the opportunity to plan how and when you'll clean, whether you can do it all at once or whether you need to work it in around other obligations.

Choose your clothes for the next day. It takes about three minutes to decide what you're going to wear, but having your outfit set out allows you to get up and get dressed a whole lot faster. Instead of bumbling around and ending up with red pants and an orange sweatshirt with ice cream down the front, you'll be ready to face the day right from the start. We all know how crazy mornings are, so cut down on the craziness by planning ahead.

Reward yourself. Though keeping a clean home often seems monotonous and thankless, it is the engine that keeps things running. You deserve to feel good about your efforts, but sometimes a clean home isn't reward enough by itself. Reward yourself by taking some time just for you. Maybe your reward is a bubble bath; maybe it's a cup of hot cocoa. Maybe it's eating a piece (or two) of your favorite candy or reading a few chapters in your current novel. Whatever your reward may be, take some time to relax and enjoy yourself.

With a little practice you can not only cut down the time you spend cleaning, but make your time more productive. There is no magic wand to do it all for you, but by breaking down your housekeeping responsibilities you can make it easier and stay ahead of the housework--by fives.

Josi Kilpack is the author of several LDS women's novels. Her latest, Sheep's Clothing, will be published by Deseret Book in June 2007. Josi is the mother of four and lives with her husband in Willard, Utah.

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