The Homemaker’s Weekly Schedule

It’s been a tradition among housewives to keep a general work schedule for the home. Chances are good that you’ve read about the classic housekeeping schedule that went like this:

Monday-washing (laundry)

Tuesday-ironing

Wednesday-mending

Thursday-marketing/churning/brewing

Friday-cleaning

Saturday-baking

Sunday-rest

It’s incredible to think of how many women used that same basic housework schedule for centuries, even into the last few decades.  Rumor has it the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock on a Monday and after consulting Ye Olde Housework Charte, the women did the laundry. What a relief they didn’t arrive on a Tuesday. They’d have had to spend the day ironing their stinky clothes before grocery shopping on Thursday. It wouldn’t have made a good impression on the new neighbors.

As much as I enjoy history and incorporating long-ago traditions into my modern life, even I don’t hesitate to admit that this schedule is woefully out of date. I can wash a week’s worth of family laundry, hang it all on the outdoor clothesline, fold, and put it away, all within half a day. And I’d be hard-pressed (haha!) to spend more than 30 minutes a month ironing, much less one day a week.

Like any system, a housework schedule has to work for the individual housewife to be useful at all. No system works for everybody. So, inspired by 400+ years of well-scheduled housewives, I came up with my own weekly plan. Of course I have to do some cooking and cleaning every day, but I try to give extra emphasis to one category per day. These are my 5 weekly categories:

Kitchen-batch cooking, baking, and occasional jobs like yogurt, kombucha, etc.

Cleaning-re-organizing, deep-cleaning, decluttering

Office/Errand-paperwork, bills, filing, grocery shopping, library, post office, etc.

Soap-making inventory, packaging, managing online stuff (my tiny business, which gives me my “pin money”)

Free/Flex-visits, outings, home projects, overflow work

I originally assigned one category every day, like the traditional schedule. I gave that up by the second week, when I was invited to go on a shopping “date” with someone the same day I’d scheduled for cleaning. Having a variable schedule works well for me: it gives structure to my week without forcing me to be rigid about it. At the beginning of each week I have a basic idea of how I plan to schedule my week, but I can change it on short notice. On days when I have an appointment scheduled, I try to pile on the rest of my errands for the week while I’m out, or I may reschedule my cleaning day if I learn company will be visiting.

And there will always be those times, like every September (ahem), when I abandon my schedule entirely because every day is either a kitchen day as I finish harvesting my garden or a flex day as we finish up projects and fit in fun stuff during the last few summer-ish weeks. It’s easy to resume the schedule when things slow down a bit, even mid-week. By that time, I’m always glad to be back on a steadier rhythm.

Do you have a weekly housekeeping plan? How do you manage your schedule?

 

First Things First, a 1928 Schedule

A Housewife Writes focuses on several recurring themes common to women everywhere.  One of them is managing time. It’s interesting to read about different approaches, because what works for one doesn’t help another one.  So from time to time, we’ll present different women’s strategies.

You’d never think that women a hundred years ago would have a problem fitting everything into their day. Really, how hard could it have been?  They didn’t have to find time to update social media, manage digital coupons, schlep children to sporting practices, or watch a single tv show.  But they did struggle, which shows that even without modern distractions, this housewifery thing isn’t all cupcakes and rainbows.

One woman in 1928 wrote about her struggle to establish a well-rounded routine. As a new housewife, she tried to be a perfect housekeeper, cleaning all day, every day, obsessed with mopping her floors and polishing the stove. “Clean corners are the earmarks of a good housekeeper” was her favorite motto. But she could never “do it all” and eventually, after the birth of her third child, found herself worn out and discouraged. “Somehow I woke to the realization that one woman can’t do everything there is to be done in her home.”

Priorities

This is when Mrs. 1928 hired a maid and nanny and all was once again well in her world, right?  I’m afraid not. She decided to prioritize what was most important to her. “Clean babies must come before clean windows” she wrote and chose to focus on people instead of things, and essential things over optional things. Because we can’t fit in everything, we have to narrow down our list of essentials until they reach a point that they are manageable.  This isn’t always easy and sometimes it takes a strong mind to move something from the essential list to the optional one, but as she put it, “there’s always a way out.”

Incidentally, every profession includes prioritizing.  It’s just that when our work is our home, it’s always there.  We can’t close the shop, pull the shades, and walk away without a thought after a long day.  Our work is in the same rooms where we sleep, eat, and relax. And sometimes our work seeks us out at odd hours, toddling into our bedrooms and waking us up in the middle of the night.

Her Simple Schedule

Mrs. 1928 came up with a way to simplify and improve her schedule:

  • She scheduled one big task daily, like washing or baking.  Focusing on one goal meant that she could be more efficient by not constantly changing directions.
  • She scheduled daily rest periods.
  • She maintained three lists, one of daily work involving the children, one of daily housework, and one for weekly tasks.

 She noted that by planning out her week, she was able to accomplish all the different jobs she needed to do within the week. Not only did she find time for all the essentials, but also for rest, and extras, like reading and letter-writing.

“And best of all–it worked!”