Thursday, June 4, 2009

Organized Spontaneity

My mom is amazing. She keeps her house so clean, thanks to the specific tasks she has scheduled for every weekday.

I'd love for my house to look like hers, but I'll be honest with you--that level of organization is just stressful to me. What happens when something comes up and I miss a day? Do I have to reschedule everything, or just skip the task altogether, or double up the next day?

So I don't even try to be as organized as she is when it comes to keeping a clean house. And I'll be honest with you--my house has never been, and may never be, nearly as clean as hers.

But I've realized a couple of things in the last couple of years:
  • I'm happier with a clean house, and if I don't have some sort of plan, it doesn't get done. And that's just plain gross.
  • I like to cook, but if I don't go to the grocery store with a plan and a list, I spend too much money, don't buy the things we really need, and end up stumped on what to make for dinner.
So I have my own methods of organizing my cleaning and meal planning--methods that let me stay sorta kinda caught up, while allowing me to keep my spontaneous side alive. Here's how I do it.

I've broken up the basic cleaning in my house into five categories:
  1. Clean tile floors (vacuum/mop)
  2. Dust
  3. Vacuum carpets
  4. Clean bathrooms
  5. Clean kitchen (inside of microwave, outside of appliances, sink, etc.)
On days when I have the time and motivation to clean, I do one of those tasks. I don't do them in a regular order. I end up cleaning the tile more often than anything else (because my kids make so many messes,) and cleaning the kitchen less often than anything else (since I already do light cleaning when I do dishes.)

But in general I try to get most of my cleaning done every 1 1/2 to 2 weeks. It's not as often as I "should," but it's often enough to keep us from living in squalor. And if I get behind, I'm only a week or so away from being caught up.

Now, I recognize that if you are the type to keep your house really clean, every 1 1/2 to 2 weeks probably sounds dreadful. (And you'd really be horrified when I let it go longer than that.) But it works well enough, and when my kids are a little bigger, hopefully I'll get things done more often.

I have a meal plan, but I don't assign meals to specific days. I sit down and pick several main dishes (usually five or six) that I want to make, and I type the titles into a Word document. When a recipe is online (as most of mine are), I link to it in the document so I can easily get to it. Then I use the recipes I've chosen, and my refrigerator shopping list, to make a typed list, organized by category. Here's a portion of my current meal plan/shopping list:


When I'm at the store I usually remember some other things we need, and there are items I nearly always buy but don't always have on the list, like fresh fruit. I don't do coupons, and I don't use the print ads. That would save us money, but I've tried it, and the time it took just wasn't worth it to me.

By the way, I don't do much planning when it comes to side dishes, unless I've found a recipe that just looks great. I usually just keep a variety of the basics around--veggies, salad, bread, etc.

Over the course of a couple of weeks or so, on a night I plan to cook, I open the meal plan document, decide which recipe I want to use, and make it. I only make a big meal every two or three days; we eat leftovers and simpler meals (such as bean and cheese burritos) on most of the other days. In between major shopping trips, I make grocery store runs with shorter, handwritten lists.

There you have it--my organized spontaneity. It's not perfect, but it's a pretty good fit for imperfect me.


Strange Mamma said...

This is something I've been really wanting to do as well. I love the whole idea of the flylady thing but haven't gotten around to starting it and don't know if I can be tied down to checking the website all the time (don't know why, I check all kinds of other websites several times daily). And especially the meal planning. DH has a lot more work on his plate with this job so I'm taking over the finances as well. Let me tell you, that has suddenly made me much more aware of how much we spend on food in this house.

Kara said...

I had such a good cleaning system, like your mom's, when I just had Abby (and her glorious 3 hour daily nap!). These days, my house is such a mess, and I really can't stand it. I am really hoping it gets easier as kids get older! (although, I suppose I could be spending the time I'm on blogs cleaning... nah ;-)

Crazy Mo said...

Beth, I hate to burst your bubble, but that is organized. It really is. You have a plan and you execute it. That, my friend, is organized. And it makes me ashamed. I don't even have kids and I'm completely disorganized. *sigh*

Monica said...

That's pretty much what I do as far as the meal planning. In fact, I have my grocery list set up almost the exact same way- same categories even! The cleaning thing I'm not so good at. I do the regular stuff like clean the bathrooms, sweep the floors, etc, but not on a consistent basis or schedule. Luckily I have all summer to figure it out!

Call Me Cate said...

I tend to clean the entire house all at once every couple of weeks with basic pick-up in-between. I wait until a time when I have the house to myself (I'll admit - it tends to be on a day I'm "working" from home) and go nuts. I have a master cleaning list saved as a Word doc and cross it off as I go.

I'm horrible about meal planning but especially during the summer the plan is just "grill something, have a side". I buy and freeze meat depending on what's on sale and sides are usually fresh produce (or frozen veggies). Unless there's a special occasion, I don't usually plan beyond that.

I think you're pretty organized. I don't really like being scheduled either but once I decide to do it, I'm quite methodical.

Unknown said...

That sounds pretty organized to me. And your shopping list is done categorically? I might have to try that lol.

Dan & Hillary said...

You've inspired me to be better prepared with grocery shopping. Even after 6+ years of marriage, I still find myself saying, "what's for dinner?" after spending $100 at the grocery store!

As for the coupons, most coupons I find in the Sunday paper are for dog food or air freshners. There are none for fresh fruit and veggies!

Dani said...

That sounds pretty good to me! My cleaning is pretty similar to yours, and I always wish I could do more but at the same time don't want to. :) When it comes to cooking, my husband has been doing that more and more- whenever I have a good idea, I do it, but that's not as often- maybe once or twice a week. I'm so glad he likes to cook!

Our Scoop said...

Sounds like a great plan! I just recently (about 3 months ago) started doing ad matching at Walmart. The super Walmart is actually the closest store to me and I just use all the other stores ads and get all the sale prices at one place. It is AWESOME and I save tons of money. I've never been a fan of coupons but this is even better than coupons. I make a good list from all the store ads and plan meals around those. Thanks to you and introducing me to the crockpot lady - that's almost the way I cook every day :0)

Deanna said...

I really liked this post - thanks!

2cats said...

I use the ads for my grocery shopping, but with only 2 of us in the house it is easy to do. Plus, I only have 2 local stores to chose from. One is 6 miles away, the other is 22 miles. Guess which one I go to the most?
As far as cleaning goes...I clean closets twice a year. I am brutal. If I have not worn it the season that is ending, it goes out. If it has not been used in the last 6 months, out it goes. I keep the spare bedroom ready for company, but I must admit that in haste I have on occasion thrown things in there and slammed the door.
The old adage: Out of sight, out of mind ...often helps.
I dust as I see dust. Living on a dirt road that is very often.
Husband does dishes and most cooking.
Yea me!

Unknown said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I need to work on that being more assertive thing. You're right...don't want to be rude but assertive would be nice lol.

Sarah said...

Beth, your system is pretty similar to mine! I don't do a grocery list in Word, but I love the category idea. That would save me some time at the grocery store. I tackle the problem areas of the house as they arise. And if I don't get to them right away, I don't stress because I will get to them another day. Sounds like you're got a completely organized plan, even if it is somewhat spontaneous.

C. Beth said...

Strange Mamma--I've wondered if the Fly Lady is on Twitter--okay, I checked, and she is-- I may do it that way. I tried Flylady years ago but it didn't work well--I was working from home and couldn't just take all those breaks. Now it might work for me. And, yes, isn't it amazing how much we can spend on food?

Kara--I know my house could definitely stay more clean if I didn't blog! :) But the blogs really are important for us SAHMs!!

Mo--NO, I REFUSE to admit I'm organized! ;) Just kidding--it's a whole lot more organized than I was pre-kids! So there's hope for you that you can be more organized...if you want to!

Monica--It's great to see you! :) Love your new blog!

Cate--It's interesting; cleaning the whole house at once is an intimidating idea to me, but that's how I like to do laundry--which many peole find crazy. Grill something, have a side--sounds like a great summer plan! We don't even have a grill. :(

Kris--The category grocery list is so great!

Hillary--I still go through times where I don't have anything left to make--it's a frustrating feeling! I hope you're able to tackle meal planning! :)

Dani--Ha--I love the way you put that! "I always wish I could do more but at the same time don't want to." EXACTLY! :)

Our Scoop--My mom does the ad matching thing at Wal-Mart too! That sounds like a good idea.

Deanna--You're welcome! I'm glad you liked it! :)

2cats--Wow, a hubby who does dishes? Fantastic! I do most of the cooking (like to do it) and dishes (really DON'T like) but since I stay at home & hubby works full time I consider it part of my job.... Sigh. Good for you for being such a good declutterer!

Kris--I'm definitely not the most assertive person out there! But it has been nice to get better at it than I used to be. :)

Sarah--The category thing DEFINITELY helps at the grocery store!!

Scriptor Senex said...

I like the meal planning idea. I've always been a bit slap-dash but yours sounds like a plan I could use.
Hope Zoodle's feeling OK now.

Anonymous said...

You may not consider it perfect, but I consider ANY plan by a mommy of two very small children, wonderful! When you children are grown and gone, then you can worry about keeping a perfect house -- and you'll be amazed at how soon that time comes. So, don't sweat the small stuff now. :)

Janice said...

House cleaning -ugh- But I'm glad to know your schedule for doing it is a lot like mine (makes me feel less guilty for not doing the "daily cleaning" routine that your mom has in place) Now your grocery & meal planning routine- wow! Great ideas!