Intentional vs. reactive housework

"An increasing number of households do housework without any system, schedule, or routine, more or less reacting to each situation as it arises. This makes things harder, not easier. With systematic housekeeping, most of the time you live comfortably: supplies are not exhausted; dirt and laundry do not overaccumulate; plans and resources for at-home occupations and entertainments are in place.  
"In nonsystematic housekeeping, chores are tended to only when the resources are exhausted: when there are not clean clothes or linens and there is school in the morning and stale beds tonight; when it is the dinner hour and the cabinet is bare; when dirt and disorder are beyond tolerating.  
"When you keep house like this, domestic frustrations and discomfort begin to be felt long before you reach the point where you decide to do something about them. But when this point is reached, often the troubles cannot immediately be remedied because, without rational schedules, nothing ensures that time or resources will then be available to tend to the house. . . . And, worst of all, the only time you get to experience anything like a well-kept house is immediately after the emergency response measures are taken. The rest of the time—most of the time—you live badly." 
—Cheryl Mendelson, Home Comforts (paragraphs added)

I've been meandering my way through Home Comforts again. I read and loved it several years ago, but this time I'm reading it with the idea that I'll go slowly and integrate some of its advice as I go along. The passage above really struck me as I read last night. I've been slowly drifting toward a more reactive form of housekeeping, and I love how it's laid out so clearly for me here why reactive housekeeping tends to feel more frustrating.

In honor of this passage, here's my new daily and weekly schedule. I find that I have to revamp my chore lists every few months to match our constantly changing schedules and lives.

Make beds
Clear kitchen counters
Pick up
Sweep and vacuum as needed
Fake-clean bathrooms and change hand towels
Preschool with Pip

Monday: Clean upstairs and change beds
Tuesday: Errands
Wednesday: Clean downstairs
Thursday: Grocery shopping
Friday: Odd jobs (deep cleaning, baking, projects)
Saturday: Outside chores

We'll see how that settles in!


  1. Love your schedule.
    I so agree with the book.. I spent lots of my married life, living to do a hugh cleaning on my day off work.. Totally exhausted at end of day, and it did not last because it was not a routine that I kept up.. wow.......... It is so much easier to------------- clean before it gets to the "needy" part.lol
    I now, live by a scheduled routine.. Some times, I have something come up and life changes, so I have to change the daily things.. No problem... I really need to redo my daily/weekly routine.. As I have been slacking some..lol
    Have a great day.. thanks for sharing.. [will help get me in gear]
    The book sounds good.. Is it an old book??

  2. I agree, it is so much easier if you have things planned and stick to the plan! The book was first published in 1999, so not too old. It's quite a tome but I love it.

  3. I so enjoy intentional cleaning over reactive. We needed a shakeup to our old system, so I tried a new one. The new one was an incredible failure, so we are returning gratefully to our old system that gives us greater peace. I'm trying not to count the experiment as a loss because it did give us a bit of a shakeup. :) Happy homemaking to you!

  4. I’m going to need you to come over lol. We got a new cat a couple days ago, and my other cat Alex is still getting used to it. Yesterday, the knocking things off of counters and shelves was extremely for realz. It’s a mess. He also spilled water into my underwear drawer. That was the only thing I had time to attend to this morning. New cat is just as content as can be under the bed. Comes out for biological matters.

    1. Cats are best buds now. But I have the most epic, amazing picture of my gray cat hissing right into the camera the day we brought the second one home. Oy, these are times I wish I could still blog.