Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"brain box"

Many of you have been curious about the "brain boxes" that Jill and I made last week, so I'm posting my notes from last week's organizing class, as well as some photos of my box that might clear up some of your questions.

*Move toward housecleaning by mood to housecleaning by method. In other words, don't perform cleaning tasks when you feel like it. You might never feel like doing certain chores, or you might never feel like cleaning at all! When you have a method to keeping your home clean and organized, all needed tasks get done eventually.

The beauty of this idea is that once you have done whatever jobs you need to do each day, you don't have to think about cleaning anymore. You are free to do something else that you enjoy more.

That right there was the clincher for me. Normally I don't allow myself to do something that I want to do unless all my other work is done -- but all my other work is never done! With this method, I don't have to worry that I haven't changed the beds yet or that the fridge needs to be cleaned out, because I know I will get to it -- soon -- on its appointed day. This is so liberating to me.

Now, if I have accomplished all of the cards I have assigned myself for any given day (and I don't have to drive the kids somewhere, etc.), I will be free to do something for me, just because! Sewing, reading, knitting, learning Illustrator, writing notes, organizing my studio... all pleasing possibilities!

Here's the schematic:

Get a 3x5 index card box and some dividers. (Colorful, striped index cards are optional, but they make me happy.)

Label the tabs on your dividers as follows:

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

*Order should be restored daily.
*Cleaning should be done weekly.
*Scrubbing should be done monthly or even less often.

Divide your household tasks among things that should be done daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonally. Make one card for each task and file accordingly.

Evaluate your schedule, and pace yourself. Don't assign yourself many jobs to do on a day that is busy with non-negotiable items such as kids' lessons and activities or work schedules. Alternate tasks and plan according to daily rhythms.

Some of my daily tasks include:

make beds
tidy family room
tidy bathrooms
plan dinner

some examples of weekly tasks:

Monday: laundry, grocery shopping
Tuesday: file bills/paperwork
Wednesday: dust
Thursday: vacuum, mop, bathrooms
Saturday: supervise kids' chores, purge fridge, finish up Sunday lesson

My monthly chores include:

change furnace filters
pay bills
vacuum furniture
clean stove hood
clean grout
prepare Conference activities/baskets (March & September)

and some of my seasonal tasks:

clean baseboards
clean out pantry
clean oven
flip mattresses

Obviously, this would be different for everyone. The idea is to figure out a schedule that works for you. I have a feeling that this is going to be a work in progress, and things may get shifted around. That's okay.

Some general notes on housecleaning:

-Housecleaning is not about keeping a house clean, it's about creating a little bit of heaven on earth.

-The Spirit loves to reside in a place of order and cleanliness.

-When we have an orderly home, we are all much more pleasant.

-Let your children duplicate your motions as much as they are willing and able.

-Quality is important with cleaning tools -- don't buy them at the grocery store. Check places like Home Depot or janitorial supply stores. Don't keep what doesn't work.

-Microfiber cloths drastically reduce the need for cleansers. Get as many things in microfiber as possible. (She had an awesome-looking mop with a microfiber head that I'd like to get my hands on.)

-White vinegar is the best thing to clean off hard water deposits. Use it to clean your shower heads, run it through an empty dishwasher or washing machine to clean.

-Use Old English lemon oil to get hard water spots off of a glass shower door. (I bought some, I'll let you know how it works.)

-Simple Green is the best kitchen de-greaser. (I have looked at Target, Walmart, and Harmon's and haven't been able to find it!)

-Scrubbing is not as good as soaking.

-A grout scrub brush is useful for all sorts of crevices and corners.

-You can buy handy disposable adhesive remover wipes at a medical supply store.

-Homemade Windex recipe:

1 t. ammonia
4 drops dish soap
1/4 c. rubbing alcohol
1 drop green food coloring (to distinguish it from water or other cleaners)
Put all in a spray bottle and fill with water. Also good for carpet stains.

-Biz will take out anything organic in the wash.

Marie has a website that has lots of useful information:

I'm excited about my new method! But I have to keep reminding myself that having the box all set up is not going to keep my home clean and organized. I have to actually do what I wrote on the cards every day...

**Edited to add:

- You are supposed to take out all the cards that you will work on for the day, then put them back in the appropriate spots once you complete the tasks. (For instance, if I work on a monthly task, I will file it under the March tab once completed for February.)

At first I thought I didn't need to take out the cards. I just looked at them to see what I needed to do. But then I found it was all too easy to just not do them. Today I took them all out and I am finding it is satisfying to complete a task and then file the card. Whatever works, I guess.

- Jill also suggested that it might be satisfying to date the cards each time we accomplish a task.

- If you don't get to a job as planned -- not because you didn't feel like doing it, but because you got sick or something unexpected came up -- skip that task and tackle it the next day, week, or month as regularly scheduled.


Amy said...

Thank you for sharing this with us! I have been curious about this system since you first hinted at it.

P.S. The man taking photos was creepy! What is that about?

Natasha said...

I love using vinegar to clean.

We finally fired our maids around Christmas (they were doing a poor job plus the IVF has left us financially strapped) and our house has never been cleaner!

When I was home full time when Luci was younger, I didn't have a beautiful system like yours but I did divide up the weekly tasks, such as Monday for laundry,Tuesday for dusting, etc. It really helped because if I always hated to dust, at least I knew I did it Tuesday morning and that was it for the week.

I love this idea of organizing the monthly and seasonal tasks too. My brain spins thinking of the possibilities-- water filter, air filter...

Kim and I are still trying to find a system to get it done now that we are doing it ourselves. Unfortunately we have to do most of it on the weekends-- I get the kids off the bus at 4 and then we have homework and sports/activities. I would not dust at 9 pm no matter what my box told me I was due for! But I do want to organize our monthly and seasonal tasks like this. Your system is so pretty and actually makes cleaning look inviting! Thanks for the details.

Jill said...

I'm so glad you took the plunge and wrote this post because I was feeling rather daunted by it. I may have to copy and paste at a later date so I'll have it in my records...with your permission of course.

I've been using my box this week and loving it. Today I did laundry, vacuumed and baked bread then read my book all afternoon because I could!

Marla said...

Love the organized box.

Try Home Depot for Simple Green. You can get it in either a spray, or concentrate. Smells nice!

.:kerrie:. said...

I'm a long-time lurker, and love that you posted the details of this system!

Do you do anything special with the cards each time you do a task (like write the date, or check something off), or are they just for reference?

Also, while I don't have kids myself, I could see adding another tab for each child in the family to have daily chores to do, and then weekly also. Growing up every Saturday morning was "Bathroom Patrol," and each of my siblings and I had a specific task to do (why was I always stuck with the toilets?!!!). Just a thought!

Thanks for posting!

Marie said...

Wow. Organized, and prettily too. I could use with one of those brain boxes.

Kelly said...

3 (almost -- the 3rd is in progress) moves in 18 months have really turned my house into one of disorder. And I have so been craving some order. Thanks for posting the details on this. You guys did it in such a visually pleasing way (not a surprise coming from you!), that it looks so inviting, too. I think I am definitely going to give this a try!

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing!

simple green...found in the "car" sections of target & walmart! I know, wierd but that's where you'll find it:)

Barb said...

My sister-in-law was going to do this I remember a long time ago, but I guess we don't discuss housekeeping much because I have no idea of whether she implemented this method! I agree that the best part would be liberating yourself from the 'undone' work that day to move on to other things.

Amy said...

Thanks for posting this! I've come up with a plan similar to this on my own and I love it! My house is always clean and usually pretty tidy. It's made such a difference in my day. I love being "done" with my work in the morning (or very early afternoon) and having the rest of the day in front of me. It's really quite life changing. I think I may have to do the card file, though. I want a reason to use the striped cards!

Diane said...

I first tried this method 25 years ago when I read it in the "Sidetracked Home Executives" It worked great...too bad I gave it up.

Simple Green is available at Home Depot in gallon bottles. That last about a year. I use it for much of my cleaning and as a degreaser and luandry additive. THey also have microfiber mops and mop heads.

Don Aslett is also another great source for cleaning supplies.(Sorry so long)

Diane said...

That dang broken finger is still hurting my typing skills.... that would be laundry...

patsy said...

wow- this is really something amazing here!

it all sounds so overwhelming to start but really freeing in the end. Thank you so much for posting this. I'm thinking about running off to the store today & working on it.

I wanted to let you know- a week or so ago my husband was on the computer, turned to me & said- "I miss Michelle being in Paris."
My whole family ejoyed your fall
in paris. He is wondering if you miss it.. me too... and hailey.. and chloe...?

Michelle said...

As desparately as my home needs this - I was actually thinking it would be a great tool for me at work. Not necessarily with cleaning, but having set days to balance the books, pay bills, focus on marketing, etc. Thanks for sharing!

shannon said...

Thank you for posting this! I'm hoping to start my own brain box this weekend...
I would love to incorporate this whole cleaning idea into one of our Relief Society miniclasses or whatever they're calling it now...I'm so confused--

I feel very motivated to get going on this...

Miranda said...

Yesss! I've been waiting for this post. Heaven! I have a similar system set up right now in my "Take Back Household Chores" campaign. (I like to give things I do campaign names). The biggest problem with my current system is that it is NOT IN AN AWESOME FILE BOX. I love microfiber too. I used Simple Green all the time for a job I had in the past...I don't know if I can handle the scent anymore. :)

Amy said...

Thank you so much for posting these details. And that first quote hit me so strongly. I DO clean when in the "mood" and it ends up not making for a very "haven" of a home. THANKS!

Susan said...

Love it! And, it's sooooo stylish!

rebekah said...

I wonder if I could do this? I wonder if I should do this? I wonder if could do this? Pressure, stress.


I don't live in a 'real' house, you know?


I could not agree more with the statement that the Spirit loves to reside in a place of order and cleanliness. I think that's one reason why the temple has such an amazing power, as well as any other building or property that the Church owns. Everything is always in order, with things just where they belong. 'A place for everything, and everything in its place'.

Lauralee said...

thanks for the infor..
I dont' know if you already found it, but simple green is usually at lowe's or home depot.
Thanks for sharing all this.. I love it!

Emily said...

Thanks so much for posting it. I love concrete ideas. It makes a big difference when I can "see" how it works. I've decided with a couple of kids you can get away with doing things when your in the mood, but that plan (or lack of plan) is not working with 5 kiddos! Thanks for sharing. Oh, and I'd love to hear if the Old English worked on the shower door.

Mandi said...

thanks for posting this great idea. One question: where did you find your colored tabs? I found the striped cards easily at Staples, but no luck on the tabs. . .

Mandi said...

I was wondering where you found the cute, colored tabs? I found the lined index cards, but no luck on the colored tabs. . . Thanks for posting this fabulous idea!

Mandi said...

p.s. a good way to clean your crusty microwave without scrubbing is to heat a bowl of water for a few minutes and then let it steam. When you open the door, all those crusties will just wipe away easily.

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