For some readers, maybe those who grew up with a strict chore chart, the idea of creating a chore schedule may be obvious. You may wonder why I need to write this post.
For others, this may come as a revelation. I know that I didn’t realize until a few months ago that creating a neat little system for my chores would help me keep my apartment clean.
I tended to just do the chores when things got too messy for me to put up with anymore. This didn’t work all that well because 1. My apartment wasn’t super clean and 2. By the time I did the chore in question, it might have grown so large that it would take quite a lot of time to complete. This meant that next time, I’d dread the chore even more and put it off even longer.
So I created a system.
Why create a chore calendar?
It may seem childish to create such a schedule for when you do each chore, but in reality, it’s a small bit of organization and planning that really, really helped me keep my apartment clean. We schedule out the rest of our days—meals, errands, hanging out with friends—so why not schedule chores?
My old cleaning system wasn’t working. Too often, when the time came for a chore to be done—say, the dishes—I’d be tied up with something else that needed to be completed, or I’d be in one of those ruts where I won’t clean, even if I can.
By the time I had some free time or was able to clean again, the chore had grown much past its previous manageable size. The dishes covered every kitchen surface. Doing them would take forever.
Now that I know which chores I have to do each day, the size of the task stays manageable and the apartment stays pretty clean. I can plan ahead so that I have time to complete each thing when I’m supposed to, and I never have to marathon clean.
What does my chore schedule look like?
Before we get into what to consider when creating your chore calendar, I want to give a brief rundown of my current chore schedule to get you thinking about what to include and with what frequency to do each thing.
My chore schedule set up has some chores done based on the day of the week and others completed after a certain number of days.
Chores based on week day:
Mondays: wash the bedding, vacuum the living room
Wednesdays: do the laundry, vacuum the bedroom, do 15 minutes of digital decluttering, chose one “weird thing” to clean (windowsills, the microwave, dusting the fans, running donations to Goodwill, etc.)
Fridays: clean the bathroom, vacuum the living room, check the fridge for old food
Every day: tidy for 5 minutes
Chores completed based on days since last done:
Every other day: do the dishes (my boyfriend and I alternate who does the dishes each time, so we each do them every 4 days)
Every 6 days: water the plants
Every 4 days: replace all towels in the apartment with clean ones
How to Create Your Own Chore Schedule
Chore schedules aren’t one-size-fits-all. Nothing is one-size-fits-all. I can’t create your schedule for you, but I can give you some suggestions to consider while you create your own.
What is your preferred chore size?
The more time you have between each repetition of the chore, the larger the chore will be. For some, taking half an hour to complete a chore is fine, while others may want to work for no more than ten minutes at a time.
Do big chores overwhelm you? Are you often busy throughout the week and may need to do most of your chores over the weekend?
I know that for myself, big chores overwhelm me and I’m much more likely to do something that is small and not daunting. When I add a new chore to the schedule, I keep this in mind and err on the side of scheduling chores too often, rather than farther apart.
What are your standards?
We each have our own standards for how clean our homes need to be for us to live in them. I know a few people who would probably think my apartment is pretty gross. On the other hand, during a routine safety check in college, I was once told that I had the cleanest room they’d seen all day.
It’s up to you to determine how often you need to clean for things to be “clean.” Are you okay with vacuuming twice a month? Twice a week?
Consider how often you currently do each chore. Maybe in an ideal world, you’d vacuum twice a week, but if your current track record is once every 4 months or so (no judgement), twice a week might not be maintainable.
Based on how often you currently clean and how often you’d like to clean, work your way up over a period of a few months. As with all my advice, start small.
Do a little every day
Even if the primary chores on your schedule are large and spread out pretty far apart, doing just a few minutes of cleaning each day can make a big difference in the long run.
When I originally set up my chore calendar, I had planned to do 20 minutes of cleaning every day. I quickly found that this wasn’t sustainable with my current schedule, and instead of doing just a few minutes of cleaning, I wasn’t doing anything at all.
After a couple of months of this, I realized that my options weren’t 20 minutes or 0 minutes. I could pick something smaller until I found something that worked for me. So I added 5 minutes of daily cleaning to my schedule, and I actually manage to do this most days.
If you’re aiming to do something small every single day and still struggling, make it smaller. Work to build the habit before you try to perfect it. Try just one minute of cleaning each day. If that’s too much, just put away 5 items. Something is always better than nothing.
Small actions taken consistently make a huge difference. They are much more important than large but rare giant leaps. Building up a habit of frequently moving just a bit toward your goal will help you get there and stay there much more easily that marathon cleaning once every 6 months.
Let it evolve
I’ve mentioned this before when I talk about things like routines. So often, we want to create a routine that sounds theoretically perfect and then stick with that routine for the rest of forever. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.
As you create your schedule, you will overestimate and underestimate how frequently things should be done. You’ll probably overestimate how much time you have to do them, or underestimate how long they take to do. You may be surprised by how quickly things get dirty again after you’ve cleaned them.
The seasons of your life will change, your schedule will change, your priorities will change, the people you live with will change. All of these things can impact your chore schedule.
Don’t try to hang on to something that isn’t working. If you’re always too busy to do your Tuesday chores, move them to another day.
There’s no shame in updating your schedule so that it better fits your life. In fact, it’s strongly encouraged.
Nobody’s house is going to look Ikea-showroom-clean-and-perfect. Your house will always look lived in because you live there. Your aim is not perfection, your aim is a space that makes you feel happy and relaxed and finding a strategy for keeping it there that doesn’t drive you crazy.
It’s also okay if your chores don’t get your house 100% clean right off the bat. Depending on your starting point, 5 minutes of daily cleaning won’t get you to a squeaky clean house in a couple of days. It may take weeks or months. That’s okay.
Your aim is not perfection. It’s progress. As long as you’re moving forward, aiming for consistency, and making adjustments as you see the need to, your house will get cleaner. Something is better than nothing.
Even if the schedule that you created is so simple you already have it memorized, I strongly recommend creating a system for tracking it. Tracking your progress helps you to maintain motivation and refine your system so that it is as efficient as it can be, helping you make faster progress.
I use two different systems for tracking my chores.
For any chores that are shared with my boyfriend (primarily doing the dishes), I list our “dish days” on the whiteboard calendar near the kitchen. This makes it easy to know when the dishes will be done and whose responsibility they are.
For the rest of my chores, I’ve been using Todoist to track them. Todoist has been working well for me lately because it’s easy to have tasks repeat at specific intervals. For instance, if I want a task to repeat every Monday, all I have to do is type “every Monday” into the task.
Todoist even has a neat little feature that lets you repeat a task a certain number of days after it was last completed. This is useful for some tasks, such as watering the plants. By typing “water the plants every! 6 days,” the task will repeat 6 days after it was last checked off. If I’m a day or two late watering the plants, the next iteration of the task won’t show up too early.