Cleaning Calendars – An Opinion Piece

by | May 3, 2021 | Organizing | 38 comments

First, I have to start this post with a confession.  I had the best of intentions when it came to setting “deep cleaning” as the theme for April.  I envisioned taking everything off of the kitchen counters, dismantling the stove, and giving everything a thorough scrub before playing with the accessories.  I imagined finally cleaning the things that are typically neglected like blinds and high shelves.  I did do some deep cleaning, but the month has come and gone and I’ve been too occupied with other things to do as much as I planned. I realized the idea of a monthly blog theme is great, but it’s not always going to work out in reality unless I want to be owned by it.

So, I was asked a few months ago by a blog reader if I had a cleaning calendar I could share.  If I had one, I would’ve been happy to share it, but I have never worked off of a cleaning calendar, schedule, or chart.  I have always cleaned when things needed to be cleaned.  Any kind of routine settles in around other daily and weekly activities and ebbs and flows with the seasons. But, that question did get me thinking…  Should I have a cleaning calendar?  Have I been falling woefully short in this area?  

Despite having a relatively clean and tidy house, I felt like maybe I wasn’t doing enough or doing it properly and a cleaning calendar was the reason.

And then the thought occurred to me…  I have been successfully cleaning and caring for my own home, from a 1 bedroom studio to a three-story suburban house, since I was 18-years-old and I’ve never once had a schedule, calendar, routine sheet, or chart to follow.  And I feel okay about that.

living room | feels like home book | miss mustard seed

sectional sofa | woven jute rug | wall color | hardwood floors

I firmly believe that the things in your home, including your home, should serve you.  And, while I think a cleaning calendar can be a great tool, it can also make you feel like a slave to your home.  So can a theme publicly shared and announced about a particular month being “deep cleaning month,” apparently!

A calendar can feel like an obligation, a commitment, and when you have to skip a day or shuffle things around, it’s easy to feel like a failure in some respect.

On my Instagram Stories a couple of weeks ago, I took this very unscientific and completely unfair poll…

cleaning poll | miss mustard seed

Even though the options were extremes, the vast majority of people admitted they want their home just clean enough to not kill anyone.  While I would’ve clicked the “clean freak” option, I was pleasantly surprised to see I was in the minority.  (And I found it amusing.)  Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so particular about things being tidy and clean.  I do enjoy cleaning in some respects – it’s good “thinking time” for me, it often gets me working on other projects, and I just love the smell of fresh laundry, vacuum lines in the carpet, clean and crisp sheets, and a gleaming stove.  But, I can also get frustrated if things aren’t up to my standards.

suburban kitchen | painted cabinets | miss mustard seed

Admittedly, those standards are a bit arbitrary.  Some messes I can live with and some I can’t.  I’m very picky about cleaning some things while lax about cleaning others!  Aren’t we humans such interesting, baffling creatures?

Anyway, as I’m eyeing a dust bunny gracefully swaying under the cabinet in our foyer, I think the “as long as my home doesn’t kill anyone” crowd has it right.  To me, a clean home is a comfortable home.  Neatness and beauty are calming and inspiring to me.  Places that are too untidy are distracting.  And there are plenty of benefits to having a clean home – it’s easier to find things, it smells nice.  But, it’s easy to put a clean home on a pedestal and give it more importance than it actually deserves.  I don’t think anyone, not even Martha Stewart herself, wants “she kept a very clean house” as an epitaph.  When the house is messy on a Saturday morning, it feels very important.  In the big picture of life, we see that it’s not a worthy pursuit.  It’s a good thing, but it’s not the most important thing or even a very important thing at all.  And when I stack it against going on a walk with Jeff on an unusually warm spring day, taking a sketching class with Calvin, or making a cyanometer, cleaning is losing out more often.

iris hantverk brushes | miss mustard seed

iris hantverk brushes

So, use a cleaning chart if it works for you!  If it keeps you on track and helps your house run smoother, use it!  But, if you feel like a slave to it, if you feel inadequate because you find the chart to be another unrealistic expectation in your life, if it’s not really helpful or pulls your focus away from more important and rewarding endeavors, then don’t pin them on Pinterest or tuck them in your planner or stick them on your fridge.

Just clean when you need to clean.  And I’ll do the same.

38 Comments

  1. Beverlee Lyons

    I make a list every couple of days, but if I don’t get it done, I am okay with it. Crossing off things makes me happy. I like it straight and I don’t like dirty, but I don’t beat myself up if I don’t get it done right away. Dirty kitchen sinks and unmade beds bother me. You do a great job at keeping things pretty close to perfect. I am an admirer. Sometimes you are the motivator for me to just ‘do it’.

    Reply
  2. Robin Bentley

    When I was first married and then 3 little boys happened, I cleaned every saturday after working all week. My sister, Cindi, used to say “don’t clean, it’ll still be there when you get back, go live a little”. Those words are coming back to haunt me. The boys are grown and have families of their own now and I wish I had those days back to spend with them and not clean the house. Nobody cares about my house and how clean or dirty it was. Who would remember 25, 28 or 31 years ago.
    Never kept a calendar. I could tell when it was dirty.

    Reply
  3. jean

    Martha Stewart has the ultimate cleaning (and HOUSEHOLD) calendar. What need is ther fora nything more?!

    Reply
  4. Linda Parsons

    I have had a cleaning schedule for years. I am not a cleaning freak but I find that a schedule keeps me focused. I don’t waste half the day deciding what to do but know that on this day I clean this room so I can just get to it and be finished. It is not set in concrete–if something fun comes along I let the schedule go for that day.

    Reply
  5. Alice Richardson

    I was an only child to older parents and when I would want my mom to play with me she would so often say, “run along and play, I need to get this done” I can’t remember her ever playing with me. It seemed to me at the time that cleaning and cooking were paramount to her and I was often lonely. She was a loving mother and kept a perfect house and cooked healthy and delicious meals but as a child I just wanted her time and attention. I think that people should come first and cleaning later. I think the Mary and Martha story of the Bible perfectly illustrates the importance of being present with the people you love. Your home is beautiful and you seem to strike a good balance that works with your family and for your peace of mind.

    Reply
    • Bev G

      I do admire your mom. She did exactly as her generation thought was right. I imagine she had regrets later on in life. My mom was of her generation and I repeated the same pattern. Now my heart aches to have time back with my boys that I spent “getting things done.”

      Reply
  6. Franki

    I enjoy cleaning but will prioritize it only when company is coming. If something more fun comes up, I choose the “more fun” option.
    I keep the house neat and clean to the eye of most everyone but me. I have a husband and two boys and a cat so trying to have an immaculate house is simply frustrating. They certainly don’t see the dirt. Nor do they care. If they did, they’d clean it themselves. (That’ll never happen!) And if someone drops in, I doubt they’ll see it either. I say “clean enough” is perfect and is different for everyone.

    Reply
  7. Sonja

    I’d love to be a clean freak but I’m not. Pre-Covid, if I felt I needed a push, I’d invite a bunch of people over for dinner and clean like a maniac before they got to my place. Now, the dust bunnies are admittedly collecting in the corners and the baseboards could use a cleaning. Oh for the days when peer pressure caused me to clean my house.

    Reply
  8. Karen K from Buffalo

    I remember my late Mother’s schedule of Monday laundry, Tuesday Ironing, Wednesday cleaning the floors, Thursday grocery shopping, Friday dusting, & Saturday wiping the floors again. How boring!! I don’t want to feel like I’m tied to a cleaning ritual the rest of my life! Right now I know I need to dust the furniture & the floors, but there are other things to do right now. I’ll get to it sooner or later, but not right this minute!!

    Reply
  9. Babs

    When I lived in Connecticut as a young mom I was acquainted with a woman who would get up every day at 5 am and clean her house while her family slept. I was so impressed with her and her industriousness and wondered why couldn’t I be more like that. I actually got a little down on myself because I didn’t do what she was doing. It took me quite a while before I realized that I would never be like her and that was fine. I like a clean and tidy house but I also like to paint and swim so something had to give. The painting and swimming wins out many days. The housework will always wait for you.

    Reply
  10. Marie

    I LOVE this post! Bravo. I’m glad you didn’t make me feel inadequate or guilty for not using a cleaning calendar. I respect your common sense, allowing for differing opinions and your ability to put it eloquently in words. I’m not a neat freak but I’m not a slob either. I try to live a stress free life and feel like it keeps me young.

    Reply
  11. Jamie

    Love this post! As a person who usually has surplus plants and project supplies on all visible surfaces, I used to succumb to the spring cleaning pressure every year and usually put a lot of elbow grease into it for a few weeks only to rediscover the futility and guilt spiral of it all. This year I’m considering moving for the first time in 14 years, and have begun repairs and deep purging in earnest. My place looks like my closets exploded and my bedroom has become a catchall for anything I need to get out of the way. But somehow it already feels lighter, and because of the emotional rollercoaster of purging, I’ve been able to completely forgive myself for not keeping up with the spring cleaning crowd. It feels great – such an unnecessary burden that’s been lifted! It’s wonderful to see a post reaffirming that some of us just aren’t tidy all the time and that’s fine.

    Reply
  12. Bea

    My Mother had a cleaning schedule also. Monday, laundry. Tuesday, ironing. Wednesday, dusting the floors, furniture and vacuuming. Thursday, grocery shopping. Friday was her day to sew our clothes. I don’t have a cleaning schedule, thank goodness. I keep a daily list of things I hope to accomplish but if I don’t get it all done it goes on the next day’s list.

    Reply
  13. Missy

    I have never opted for a cleaning schedule but kept a fairly tidy house. Now at 67 I find that I can let my clean standards slide a bit and it’s ok. I can see when things get out of hand and will get some serious cleaning done. I do make a 4 day list prior to having houseguests (remember those?) and I get everything cleaned and ready for their visit, including prepping some make ahead meals. The list usually gets all switched around no matter how I pre plan it so I am sure a schedule would never have worked for me.

    Reply
  14. Sue

    Oh Marian, the fact that you planned a theme month and it didn’t happen just makes me like you even more! Thanks for showing that it’s okay to switch gears when something doesn’t happen according to plan. .

    Reply
  15. Jo

    I soooo needed this post. I would have clicked the Clean Freak option. I was sitting here working on “readjusting” my schedule to completely deep clean our house in two weeks. Today was my scheduled start day, but the weather is absolutely beautiful. My husband and I enjoyed our coffee on the patio, which is turning into a patio day. I do enjoy checking off completed tasks and I will get back into checking off each room, but it is very important to remember to enjoy awesome moments when they come up and ditch the schedule.

    Reply
  16. Taria

    We are empty nesters now but when everyone went off to work and school all week I cleaned Friday morning and Monday morning. I was a SAHM. Nice to have a clean house for everyone to be home in all weekend and then clean for me while home every week day. That said, I wasn’t a clean freak. A little this side of the ‘it won’t kill you folks’ ,but not much. If a project caught my interest (in the yard or sewing room) cleaning might wait and dinner could be sandwiches. We all lived and my mom gave me cleaning tips when she visited. lol I miss her and those suggestions though.

    Reply
  17. JoAnn

    This post and the comments were so interesting! When our kids were growing up , my husband and I were in a three table couples Bridge club. Our family still uses the expression “Bridge Club Clean”!

    Reply
  18. Rhonda

    Life is WAY too short to fret about cleaning house. The older I get, the more it doesn’t bother me. I’m definitely a “company cleaner”, but I don’t pressure myself to follow any regular schedule. I always tell myself, no worries, it will still be there tomorrow…enjoy today!

    Reply
  19. Addie

    My mothers motto always sticks in my head: “My home is clean enough to be healthy in and messy enough to be happy in.” After all nobody wants to live in sterile hospital environment. Or a museum.
    It’s a funny thing that I am more picky about what is unseen than what is seen. Drawers and closets have to be organized and spotless. I like knowing where to find something and knowing it will be there when I need it. NO!!! calendars for me.
    I just go around and make my rounds to deep clean areas. I hate clutter….it has to go!!! It wears you down.

    Reply
    • Cherie Bautista

      My grandmother had a plaque on her kitchen wall that said my house is clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy. I love that saying to this day and it’s now my motto for a happy life.

      Reply
      • DiAnn

        My mom had one of those too! I wish I had that old wooden plaque now. They are words to live by, for sure.

        Reply
  20. Sharon Pires

    Clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy.

    Reply
  21. Mayanna

    I use a Bullet Journal to remind me of events and things to do. I jot down cleaning in it for about a week in advance, though nothing is set in stone. It is very satisfying to mark things off each day. But, if something else comes up, a cleaning task can always be pushed to another day.

    Reply
  22. Chris

    I am a clean freak but as a mother of 5 it was necessary. My kids are all adults now and they all remember Saturday morning chores. Everyone had a daily job and a Saturday job that had to be done by noon. It was a struggle to get those jobs done with sports, friends and sleeping late but I do think it made us all feel like a team when the house was cleaned on a Saturday night. OK the truth is kids don’t clean like I do and that was ok. I had the luxury of staying home and being able to really clean while everyone was gone. I see my kids who have full time jobs and kids of their own and know that they have to have a different standard more in the no one dies range, and that is fine too!

    Reply
  23. Jen C

    I agree with you 100%. I have seen so many cleaning schedules and different times I have thought about trying one but I didn’t want to become a slave to a schedule. My husband and I are retired and I clean when I can. The only time I feel the urgency to get cleaning done is before the holidays otherwise I do it when we don’t have anything planned. I love a clean house too. When the dusting, floors, bathrooms, etc are all finished it is a great feeling. Pet peeve: mail and paper clutter. Ugh. I have worked on different solutions that work for awhile but I can’t seem to get a certain someone in this household to get on board. I’m not giving up. Thanks again for this post.

    Reply
  24. Kari

    Your heart and honesty help me balance my love of home and family. I find peace in a clean and organized home, and love in being with and nurturing my loved ones. People first, the place they live and call home second. Thank you for this post.

    Reply
  25. Margo

    We hosted Easter dinner this year and after so much time cooped up inside I decided I would do spring cleaning for when company came. I ended up with back and neck pain for five weeks, ice packs, heating pads and a neck brace.
    Now I just can’t get motivated to do a darn thing. I’m depressed that I’m so physically out of shape and overweight and resent the fact that I have to rely on my husband so much. He is exceptional and will do anything but after 50 years, he’s become the neat freak and just wont sit still.

    Reply
    • Diane Smith

      Margo, I can relate! Try a short walk in the morning. Make a list, and do a few things every day. Whatever doesn’t get done on the list…goes on tomorrow’s list!

      Reply
  26. Connie

    I am clean and do the usual weekly cleaning. Deep cleaning when the spirit moves me ! But it all gets done..

    That said, I am much more OCD about neatness! Just hard for me to relax if things are out of place or piled.

    Friends would say “oh your house is so clean” . No, look closely. There is dust but it is tidy.

    Reply
  27. Linda

    I really enjoyed this post. I am retired and live with my husband in a smallish Cape. I have never had a cleaning schedule although I struggle with perfectionism. Perhaps that is why, not wanting to be locked in. My husband, however, is not at all concerned with neatness and makes it obvious at all times. An obstacle to my perfectionistic desires. Oh, well, still gives me an excuse for a small mess.

    Reply
  28. Maggie

    Your remark, “just clean when you need to clean,” reminds me of a boss years ago. It was a professional environment, mental health (I was the the IT director) but one lady kept pestering our top guy to establish a dress code. Because we were all professionals, he was reluctant to do so. He didn’t see anyone dressing inappropriately, but still the lady persisted. Finally, after she kept pressing, he sent out an official policy on dress. “Dress like you’ve got good sense.”

    Reply
  29. Rita

    I have seen some cleaning calendars, and I could never stick to them. I like to keep things tidy, but there are days when it just doesn’t get done. I had a coworker who husband was OCD. The kids couldn’t have their toys out and everything had to be spotless. That made for miserable times.

    Reply
  30. Cathy R

    If there’s dust on the mantle, it means you had something better to do.

    Reply
  31. mary m

    I am clean enough to be healthy. Remember the saying woman’s work is never done. There is always something to do and it can wait for another day. My mother in her later years said she regretted not playing with us more often and she had a maid! Go figure……… Everyone has a different lifestyle and has to find their own way. My in-laws were cleaner than clean and I always felt uncomfortable in their home because they were so fussy.

    Reply
  32. Christy Kullman

    LOL! When I saw the title of this blog, I wondered what kind of calendar you have that needs to be cleaned???Obviously, I’m not one that uses a calendar or schedule, but most of our deep cleaning happens during the winter months when it’s dreary outside.

    Reply
  33. Debbie

    My mother in law took great pride in getting up at 4:45 a.m. every morning and cleaning the whole house before people got up. Everything got cleaned, every day. It made her happy. I loved her clean house! I’ve learned over the years to let things go more and as long as things look neat and the sink is clean, I’m ok. My 2 dogs are allowed on the furniture and the bed. We are all happy and I wish I had known better when my daughters were young. I would have spent more time with them and less time cleaning house on the weekends. You know they say youth is wasted on the young.

    Reply
  34. Karen

    Years ago when my boys were younger (and oh so busy with school, sports and other activities) I was lamenting to my dear mother-in-law about my messy house and what little time I had to clean it. I remember her telling me, ‘Cleaning the house while children are growing is like shoveling snow while it’s still snowing’.

    I will never forget her wise words and am glad for the time I spent with my boys instead of worrying about cleaning the house :).

    Reply

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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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