Monday, 9 February 2009

The Daily Round (For the Modern Girl)

In many of my vintage household manuals a definite series of daily tasks is prescribed for the housewife to complete, this they call the daily round. For those not in the know, the daily round is a cross between a daily light cleaning and a general tidy up. In the books I own, dating from the 1860s to the mid 1950s, the tasks listed offer us an insight into the lives of the women of the time and also a glimpse of their social attitudes. By examining what what expected of them, in terms of daily cleanliness, we can see how those women viewed their homes, their families and their lives. Over the next week or so I'm going to do a few posts on how our forefathers(mothers!) cleaned their homes, or more importantly how they aspired to clean their homes, and also talk a little about the roles of servants during the latter part of the nineteenth and the early part of the twentieth century.
However, before I post on our domestic past, I thought I'd post on the domestic present and talk a little about my daily routine. Blimey, I hope this is of interest to you!
I see my daily round as a way of getting the house to the required level of comfort needed to sustain peaceable and healthful living. And, put in those terms it seems that the daily round is an important part of my day. However, the daily round does not involve big jobs; floor cleaning, ironing, changing bed linen, shopping or running errands; but a series of small tasks which you can generally whizz through. I have a family of four messy people, and include myself amongst the messies, but my daily round takes me no longer than 45 minutes to complete, and often as little as half an hour as the week goes on. Here's a truncated version of what I do.
Make beds, draw curtains, pick up stray clothes and stray toys, throw laundry down the stairs, straighten wet towels to dry, throw dirty towels down stairs, wipe over bathroom sink and counter, clean loo, open bedroom windows.
Wash breakfast dishes, wipe over kitchen counter and hob, straighten kitchen table of all comics, toys and books, recycle and put out rubbish, fluff up living room cushions and throws, wipe crumbs off coffee table, water plants, put laundry in wash, clean downstairs loo and look over towel and basin.
I like to get his stuff done before 10:30 am, so I can get other cleaning jobs done, prep a meal, bake, craft, blog (!) or even go out into town or see a friend. And, although the list seems pretty long reading, in practical terms it takes no time at all because I always do it in the spirit of my house-cleaning motto:
"do you want it done, or do you want it perfect?"
That is to say, my home cannot be perfectly clean unless I become a bit neurotic, and being neurotic is neither peaceful nor healthful so I always aim for "just good enough". I suppose I should now define what "just good enough is." I think the best way to do that is to imagine a friend has popped around unexpectedly. First, she needs to visit the loo. She doesn't want to eat her breakfast off your bathroom floor but she does want to pee in comfort and confidence! So, you need to provide her with a clean loo, clean basin, soap, a towel and loo paper. Now she asks for a coffee and keeps you company in the kitchen. She doesn't expect highly polished stainless steel or perfectly ordered cupboards, but hygienic work surfaces and clean cups to drink from, she doesn't expect your fridge to smell or her feet to stick to your kitchen floor. This friend, is now becoming a bit of a pain in the neck and promptly faints. You say she can lie down on your bed, she shouldn't expect lit candles and lavender striped linen sheets, but a made bed, clothes in the wardrobe and a dust free dressing table. Well, you get the picture, you can imagine yourself making the place comfortable for a friend, when really you're making your home comfortable for your family to live in.
I have a few hints for establishing a daily round, which I hope you'll find interesting, if in fact helpful. Here come the bullet points!
  • Just do it. Don't look at the mess just pick it up. I'm one of life's philosophers, in fact I do spend inordinate amount of time in deep, Pooh Bear-style thought. If you are like me and stand in the bathroom for twenty minutes contemplating what people's toilet habits say about their personalities, PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER and spend five minutes cleaning up.
  • Set your oven timer. Think about how many minutes you can bear cleaning, then minus that time by five minutes. Are you left with only five minutes on that oven timer? Well that's just fine, you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish if you don't do it perfectly and don't stop to navel-gaze. You may even want to set the timer for another five minutes.
  • Give yourself a little reward. A nice cup of tea and an hours blogging is always a good incentive for yours truly.
  • Abandon lists. Lists are great for big, must do jobs, like pay gas bill and pick up prescriptions. But it is not wise to list all the piddly jobs you do in a day, it's nice when all the tasks get ticked off and completed, but a slap in the chops when you've not accomplished hardly any, for whatever reason.
  • Establish the round as a routine. A routine of piddly jobs to get over and done with as soon as possible. The routine is good for you and good for your kids. They'll know that they can paint, go to the park, have a bit of mummy-kid time as soon as the round is done, as soon as the oven timer goes beep.
  • Little ones can come with you. Get them to wash a door. Put a towel that needs laundering under the door and give the little one a clean cloth and some bubbly water. Your door will not be clean, and your floor may be a bit wet, but your kids will be happy and entertained whilst you go like a whirlwind. Praise all door cleaning activity fulsomely.
  • Get stuff into perspective. Having grey grouting is not a stain on your character, just a stain on your grouting. Do what you can and when you can, simply to make your home more ordered, happy and hospitable.

Well, I started this post by saying that how own ancestors viewed their daily rounds said a lot about their social attitudes and how they viewed their home-lives. I wonder what my thoughts on my own particular round say about me? Answers on a post-card,, on second thoughts it's best to live in ignorance!

Anon, fellow huswives and happy homemaking!


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your 'daily round'. I do a similar thing, but it's not as routine as I'd like. Lol, with hubs off work my routine is totally out of the window!!

monix said...

When my children were small, I got them to keep their toys tidy by making it fun. I had lots of large plastic tubs and stuck pictures on them - animals, cars, lego, dolls' clothes etc; then before bedtime or going out I set a kitchen timer and had them race to put everything in the right box. That was one chore I less for me.

I'm a 'good enough' housekeeper, too. I'd much rather have time left for baking and sewing than have the shiniest tiles and taps in the neighbourhood.

Anonymous said...

I liked reading about how you do things...nice and organised without being hysterical! I agree with Sarah's comment about 'losing' the routine when hubby is home...I'm the same with my teens too. Mind you, it's better to potter about and have a relaxed home, chatting to loved ones than being a whirlwind of rubber gloves and bleach! :)

Zillah said...

Ah, the standing for twenty minutes and contemplating. Actually I'm not too bad on that one, but DH is a terror for it. In fact, he's allegedly doing the dishes right now, but it's suspiciously quiet . . .

My daily round is rather limited at the moment, with a one year old to help, but we do ourselves, the kitchen, the bathroom, the laundry and the bedrooms every morning. How much gets done depends on how happy the girls are playing or helping in the relevant space. Even if we're only dressed and brushed and the kitchen table is cleared of breakfast by lunchtime, I feel fairly on top of life!


Erin said...

I loved reading about your morning rounds. . . =) It made me realize that I can involve Nicholas a lot more in my morning routines than I have been! Thanks!!!

simplelife said...

Thanks for sharing. I love reading/hearing how others organise their time. I feel quite time poor, but realise from reading this that I probably waste too much time procrasting instead of just doing it and also expecting perfection. It's quite strange really because I'd never for a minute expect perfection from anyone else.

cheers Kate

Gumbo Lily said...

Thanks for sharing your daily round. I'm a "good enough" housekeeper too and it makes everyone more comfortable to live in a healthy, tidy home rather than a sterile home.

No navel gazing here, I prefer not to.

Gumbo Lily said...

One more comment:

Happy Belated Birthday! I hope it was just perfect.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
50sgal said...

Thanks for the info on the family planning books. Do you have the titles as I would be interested to get one on ebay if they have one going, thanks.

Islandsparrow said...

You make me laugh at your Pooh bear contemplations - I've been there!

I like to use the timer - I picked that up from the Fly Lady. I used to be the type that pulled a closet apart just because a few sweaters needed to be put away. I would spend an hour and be exhausted, discouraged, and still not done!

When my kids were little I assigned regular daily chores, a big Saturday chore and what I used to call the "5 Minute Pick-up". I'd set the timer say before lunch and supper and we'd race around trying to get as many things picked up in the time period that we could. They thought it was fun. Silly children :)

Left-Handed Housewife said...

I like the yardstick of the imaginary (and somewhat needy) friend coming over for a visit. That's what motivates me to clean the downstairs bathroom--what if someone not related to me actually needed to use it?

I do a lot of staring off into the distance, too. A timer might come in handy, just to knock me out of my daze.


Angela said...

When the kids were little, I felt it was important to spend time with them, when I could rather than going overboard with being houseproud. People matter more than things - and now they are grown, they talk about the things we did together, not how clean the kitchen was! My oven timers[plural] are wonderful - I use them all over the house - one is ticking by the pc now so that I don't get completely lost in blogland!
I am concerned about your Fainting Friend - does she visit often??
blessings- ang x

Jenny said...

Juts finished my daily round and I'm rewarding myself with a little blog reading. When my three were little they used to love to clean the kitchen walls, doors and the front of the fridge while I did everything else. They also loved to help with the washing up. A little person stood on a chair in front of the sink and I would reach over the top of them to wash the dishes while they did what they could, often getting the most fun out of a small plastic jug that needed constant washing and filling and emptying and washing and filling and emptying.... Lots of fun.

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Sarah
You're right. I'm used to working with kids, but not with the DH. He follows me around and asks me what I'm doing and why.Then he comes up with so many better things to do than housework, and I skive off and go to bookshops and pubs!

Hi Monix
That's such a great idea. I may try that. You seem to be quite organised, I'm not organised at all!

Hi Tina
The smell of my childhood is the smell of Domestos! My mum loves to bleach stuff. You're so right 'tis better to potter and chat than follow your loved ones around with a mop!

Hi Zillah
Perhaps your DH is composing sonnets or thinking about world peace whilst he does the washing up. You must ask him.

You should pat yourself on the back for getting as much done as you do.

Hi Erin
Thank you! I bought my youngest a cheap dustpan and brush from Wilkinsons, she had a lot of fun with that.

Hi Simplelife
I think women are often too hard on themselves. We also have a tendency to expect perfection in whatever we do, but it's unsustainable, well it is for me anyway! I'm a big procrastinator, I find stupid things to do when I should be doing importnat stuff...the psychologists call this "displacement activity". There's a lot of displacement activity going on in this house!

Hi Jody
I have a rich inner life. My sister says she wants to take a holiday in my brain, because it's nice in there and not like the real world. However, this tendencey to navel gaze means I have to make a real effort to focus on the job in hand. I must have been a complete bugger to work with. It's a good job I'm my own boss!

Hi 50sGal
I've found some titles for you and left a message on your blog!

Hi Island Sparrow
Oh, I've done the wardrobe thing too! What a nightmare, I'd make myself teary and desperate! I'm going to try the timer thing my with kids. I think it would work with them.

Hi Frances
I'm trying to learn to put my rich inner life to good use. When I'm cleaning I sometimes pretend I'm a housekeeper for a rich widower and two delightful children, and that my homemaking skills will bring order and comfort to their miderable existences. Yes, I'm completely mental.

Hi Angela
I do that for blogging too, and for knitting, or else I'd just spend all day enjoying myself and the children would starve! You're dead right, homes are for people to feel loved and comfortable in.

Most of my imaginary friends are terribly well behaved, it's just this one who's a pain in the bum.

Hi Jenny
Both of mine are still young enough to enjoy doing the washing up. They're go pretty heavily on the washing up liquid though, and then dolls get involved. My eldest girl loved to wash the sofa (it's leather)she would consider it to be her job. I miss my little helpers, actually.