One Step at a Time

This year we’re running with the mantra One Step at a Time. We’re tackling tons of little tasks and making small changes that will hopefully add up to help us reach our big goals for the year. Taking it one step at a time keeps us from getting overwhelmed, and we’ve been getting a ton done as a result. We’re working on a bunch of steps simultaneously all the time, but we wait until we’re done until we share it with you.

Step 10

As can be seen from the general themes of the rest of our One Step posts, one of our biggest big goals for the year is to get our house clean and organized. Because it’s never all clean and organized. We’ve got two little tornadoes afoot, too much stuff, too much space (we bought the house with the goal of 5 kids in mind) and not enough free time. Or…not enough free time we’re willing to spend cleaning (if we’re being honest).

During the week, I take care of most of the has to be done everyday stuff like sweeping, cleaning up Jonas’s constant messes, and laundry. Everyone helps with dishes and picking up. The weekends are usually when we tackle bigger cleaning projects, like deep cleaning a whole room or hanging shelves.

But this system means that the stuff that only needs to be done every once and awhile never gets done. So the tenth One Step is to do an every once and awhile task ONCE A DAY. I’m doing this every day, Jake is doing it on all weekend days and some weekdays (he’s been getting home late), and Eliza’s doing it sort of (we’ve set up something slightly different for her). We’ve been doing this for a month, and the general state of cleanliness has improved drastically (you can see the floor in every room!).

Some examples of once a day tasks:


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Cleaning off our butcher block island (it’s always filled with papers and things that need a home) | Dropping off bags and bags of things for donation | Hardcore kitchen mopping | Cleaning out the microwave (heat lemon juice + water in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds to 1 minute and the steam makes the crud wipes right off!) | Treasures from under the couch cushions | Polishing all of the wood in the entryway | Cleaning and organizing the Lego table | Organizing and dusting the kid book shelf | Eliza’s whole room is clean after doing lots of little tasks!

Here’s why this is working: it motivates us to do stuff we really really don’t want to do. Who wants to clean out the microwave or oven? Who wants to seriously scrub the toilet? Who wants to organize piles and piles of papers? Not fun, all.

But what we’ve found is that doing a little task motivates us to keep on going. I cleaned out the microwave and ended up deep cleaning the whole kitchen. I found homes for all of the weird things under the couch cushions, vacuumed them, and ended up vacuuming all of the baseboards and corner cobwebs on the first floor as well as all of our stairs. I cleaned off the Lego table and then ended up vacuuming under it, moving the boxes of stuff that needed to be moved away from it, and cleaning the window behind it. Then Jake came home, liked how nice it looked, and was motivated to move the computers and servers that were piled next to the table to the third floor where they belong.

I’m starting to realize that just starting is the hard part. Once we get started and see how little time little tasks take, we realize we do have time to keep on going. But there’s not a lot of pressure. If I start a little task and feel done after the little task, then I’m done. I get my gold star or check for the day. But more often than not, more happens.

Eliza’s been doing it a little differently… because when you’re six, a little task that could take five minutes ends up taking 2 hours. No joke. Motivation is necessary. So for her, we’ve been working with a have to do/ get to do system. If she does a thing that she has to do, like clean her room, sweep the stairs, play with Jonas while I’m cooking, or empty the things she can reach from the dishwasher, then she gets to do fun things, like doing an art project, playing outside, watching a movie, reading a book with me, or getting to go somewhere cool. As I’m writing this, actually, she’s cleaning her room so that we can go see Brave. This is teaching her responsibility in such an awesome way (and making things much easier on me, as she’s much more cooperative when chore time rolls around).

We’ve tried so many cleaning systems, but this is the first one that’s really worked for us. Splitting up specific chores doesn’t work for the little things like this. Neither does making a big list of the things that need to be done and crossing them off as we get to them. That’s overwhelming. This way, no one’s nagging at anyone or haggling over who does what. We’re not spending more time planning on how things are going to get done than doing them.

And it is feeling GOOD!

How do you find time to get to the “once in awhile” cleaning things?


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