Housekeeping made easy

8:30 AM

One of the questions I get asked the most often is : "How do you manage your home without having a maid?"
A question I got asked from the moment we decided to do without one 2 years ago, and the blog post I wrote about it is still a very popular one.

People are even more amazed by my choice when they learn I also work from home and even hold art class out of my home, and have a cat and a dog to top it all.
You'd expect my home to be on the messy side, but it is bright, airy and quite tidy most of the time. So how is that even possible?

It's all in the planning and having a system into place peeps!

I said it before, but if you want to make it without a maid living in India, you really need to have a solid plan in place, and make sure everyone is on the same page in your household. Without those two ingredients you will struggle big time.

You also need to pick your battles and simplify your daily life. Today, I thought it would be fun to share what I do to make my life easier.
It's all in the little things, a few precious seconds saved here, a system in place to avoid confusion there...At the end of any given day, week or month, it all adds up to make for a big win

Schedule your laundry days

You don't have to be OCD and pulling a Sheldon Cooper to see how having days dedicated to certain chores in your week is a good idea. 
The one task we rarely move around in our home is laundry. For our family of 3, we run the most of our laundry on weekends. 
Between Saturday and Sunday we do about 90% of our weekly load and then we are D.O.N.E! 

This is something that in most household in India is fairly odd, the norm is to pull a load a day and live your life in a perpetual decor of drying laundry. 
But seriously, unless you live in a big joint family, this is not even remotely close to necessary, even with the kids school uniforms needing to be fresh and clean everyday. 
If you love having a life of endless wash cycles, by all mean, skip this paragraph and keep on with your routine, but if you are like most people I know, it's time to stop the insanity. 

I'm not big on clothes, and have a fairly minimalist wardrobe, but I made sure there is enough clothes on hand to carry me through a 2 weeks cycle of wearing, washing and ironing. My husband has more clothes than me, but only because he has to dress up to go to office, and I made sure that we have two sets of each school uniform, since there are 5 days of school and 4 sets of uniform, I only do one additional load during the week to keep up with the school needs. 
Our weekends see one batch of dark, one batch of light, one batch of bedsheets and one batch of mops and dusters. 

To pull it off, make sure you buy a washing machine that meets your family's need, for us a 6.5kg load capacity does the trick. 

Go minimalist on the bedsheets

One of the absolute BEST decision I ever made in my home life is to put an end to patterned/fancy bed sheet sets.
Raise your hand if you've been in mismatched pillow case and flat sheets hell, because we've all been there at least once in our life. 
These fancy printed sets look good at the store, but a few washes later and they look sad, gaudy and if the quality was bad enough, you either end up with holes in your pillow cases or your bed sheets, forcing you to make do with a lot of mismatched pieces. 


Save yourself, time space and money by picking all your bed sheet sets in one solid color, preferably in a brand where you can buy additional pillow cases separately and kiss the kingdom of missmatchedhood goodbye once and for all. 
In our home, bedsheets are white, and fitted (we still have a few loose bits from colored sets though). I picked white because, believe it or not, it's the easiest to maintain clean and crisp. We soak the pillow cases in a bucket of hot water with Vanish and then wash them along with the sheets in our front load machine at 90 degrees celsius. A set usually last us 2-3 years before something needs replacing with that system, and because we always by the same brand, if for any reason a pillow case were to become unusable, we can buy just those separately. 
We roll our fitted sheets and stack them in the wardrobe, and iron and fold the pillow cases that we keep all in one pile. 
Oh and the part where we sell money? A basic plain old solid color set will cost you a lot less than any of the branded printed sheets of equal quality. Our favourite can be found on Amazon, and I have been swearing by these for years : Trance Home Linen (it's an affiliate link), they offer fitted sheets sets in many solid colors in quality cotton, and you can buy extra pillow cases separately. Which comes in super handy for many reasons, especially if you like to sleep with two pillows stacked on top of one another like I do.

Don't skimp on storage boxes

If there is really one thing that really pays investing into for your home it's storage solutions. Sorting your stuff through type and use and putting everything in clearly identifiable boxes can double the space in your cabinets and wardrobes and save you TONS of time.

In the picture above, I organised all the art supplies I use during my art classes by type, there is one box for acrylic tubes, one for stickers, one for markers, one for watercolor, one for acrylic paint in jars, and one for tools like my heating gun, sponge and dotting tools. 
Since I conduct some of my classes outside of my home, having everything sorted out makes it that much quicker : if I decide to conduct a watercolor class, I simply grab the watercolor box, a few brushes and I'm good to go. Once the class is over, everything goes back in the box I took out, and back in my office it goes. 

I applied the same logic in my wardrobe, the almost never worn things and seasonal are stored in fabric zip boxes like this one. They come in different sizes, and will keep your clothes away from dust. Simply stack the clothes inside, and shove it on the top or bottom shelf in your wardrobe, small boxes can even be stacked saving you massive amount of space. 

If you have a problem area in your home, one of those hopeless corner where things pile up without rhyme or reason, go through it, sort everything by type, and see what can be stored elsewhere and how to organise what's left in boxes. 
Then either use boxes that have a transparent window to let you peak in to identify the content, or label the box so that you know what is in what at a glance.

This system can be used in any room, and any cabinet, oh and it pays to keep it pretty, so if you plan on organising a corner in your home, make sure the boxes all are the same type and color so that it stays visually appealing and incentivise you to keep it neat and tidy in the long run.

Don't burden yourself with stuff you don't need or use

The best way to end clutter in your home, is to make sure you don't have enough stuff to create a mess. 
Minimalism isn't about living in a boring home with no decorative items or personal belongings, it's all about only keeping what matters.

Once a year, usually before Diwali, we go through our storage areas, and purge all the things we haven't used in a while, or will no longer have a use for.
Marie Kondo made the whole "Sparking Joy" movement a trend, but even if you aren't the type to hold each and every individual items to see if they still spark joy in you, there is a lot of logic in her theory. 
We often hang out to certain things out of a sense of duty, or because we think that maybe, eventually, one day we might kind of use it again. 
The problem, is that all those things take a HUGE amount of dead space in your home. So kiss that ugly vase gifted by your 3rd degree aunt goodbye, and free that space for things that have a meaning to you (and that you will use). 

It also pays to train yourself to discard things that no longer work for you and your lifestyle as soon as possible. You don't need to hang dear to that old broken pair of shoes until the annual deep house cleaning, if it is broken, or you hate how your feet looks in them, by all mean, get rid of them...NOW

Do things in bulk

You can loose your mind if you try to do it all in one day, so if your day means going to the grocery store everyday, then deep clean something, then cook, then try to work on something on the computer, then paint, then do something else, chances are you will loose your cool right after grocery shopping, and slump in front of TV and then feel horrible about not completing that very long to-do list. 

Say hello to bulk tasking! If you have a lot of things to do in a week, see if you can't group those tasks by type and dedicate a day to them. 
I go to the grocery store and market once a week, buy everything I need for the week ahead and then if any emergency purchase needs to be done later, I either use Amazon Prime Now or call the local store to get it delivered. Because each time I step out to run those petty errands, I loose at least one hour of my time if not more. I usually club deep cleaning or complicated meal prep with grocery shopping day, that way all the household heavy load is done with in just a day, freeing other days for other tasks. 

On a day I dedicate to blogging, I do nothing but that, and plan a few posts and ideas, and edit a few pictures I took in advance. 
On days I decided I would paint, that's all I do, and I dedicate a whole different day to digitize and edit my designs before uploading them. 

The key to hassle free productivity is to have a system in place and stick to it.

Say yes to meal planning

In the same vein, I usually plan week day dinners ahead of time, so that I don't find myself saying something like "Oh crap what about dinner" at 6pm.
I usually have my meal ideas ready  a day before my grocery shopping day, and then list in hand I hit the store and buy the stuff I need for the week ahead. Vegetables last a few days in the fridge, meat can last a few weeks if not months in the freezer, and certain pantry items should always be on hand. 

I don't worry much about Lunch time because it's just me, so I either fix myself a big salad, or eat leftovers. Dinner is really the one meal that is cooked in my home, and I usually keep it simple. There is one soup day, one egg and veggies day, one meat and veggie day, one Swiss style dinner day and one pasta day, we do a "cheat day" which is either me making a bean salsa with Nachos or us ordering takeout. It's much easier to go with theme dinners if you are in a rush. 
I have a friend who has dedicated days to specific cuisines so that when she does her meal plan, she only needs to think of one recipe that fits the theme and roll with it. 

Another huge advantage of meal planning : it saves you money. Especially so if you then go and buy all your groceries in one trip. It's easier to stick to the list and reduce the impulse buys if you only go out to the supermarket once a week. 

Prioritise what matters

Nobody can do it all! The myth of the all achiever doing all the work and having family, wealth, fame and more as to DIE once and for all.

This is what lead people to "Burnout-ville", and women are even more pressurised than men to do it all in a day's work. 
You need to decide what is important to you, what you want to make more room for in your life, and then by all mean, delegate all the things that comes in the way of that goal.

For me, I want to spend time with family and friends, and have a creative career that allows me to achieve just that.
I hate housework, I hate chores and I hate complicating my life with complicated meals, incidentally, I also grew to hate babysitting a maid and arguing my breath out about how to best clean the floor or do the dishes. 
This is this paradox that led me to go maid free and find another system that worked for me. Said system has had us knowing we would get a dishwasher in the long run (which we have had for a little over a year) and it's the same set of decisions and priority making that is now responsible for me no longer wanting to conceive a life without my robot cleaner

How I do things might not work for you, but if for any reason in your life you feel you are tiring yourself out doing things you hate doing, sit down and think about it first. 
One of the thing I hear way too often is "I hate doing it, but what choice do I have?". Believe it or not, we can all make choices, and just resigning yourself to keep on doing something you hate doing blaming it on the lack of choice is...well...stupid. 

You may not have the money to get the gadgets to change things, or hire a person to do the job, at least not immediately. But that doesn't mean you can't find other options to ease your burden. Delegate tasks to family members, start by flat out refusing to be on errand duty every day of the week. Write a plan, put a system into place, one bit at a time and stick to it, you owe it to yourself, your dreams, aspiration and more importantly, your sanity.

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  1. Fantastic to say the least. I have seen youtube videos of American families with not one but three dogs, a few cats and an infant. Considering they are doing things all by themselves without much help, looking after few pets and an infant is a formidable task. But it seems to be built into their system somehow.

    I would say cooking takes away most of the time leaving little energy to do anything else. Thus the overdependece on maids. The key is to simplify the good habits. But we crave the carbohydrate kick which we are so used to. Anything else seems less fulfilling. With our generation it is bit difficult but the next generation may bring change in the food habits but I hope we don't turn towards something maggy to simplify our food habits. That the most popular alternative to simplify food in India.

    I am also in agreement with your idea of decluttering. In olden people hoarded because buying something was more expensive and it could be sold to junk dealer. There are old sorts of pens, bittons switches, plastic that was stored. We have few old furniture which do not clutter but lots of wood from previous construction work which we kept for future use. Meanwhile, they clutter the space waiting for some future use.

    1. We have a cook for that reason, while I mostly eat continental food that I cook myself, my husband can't do without dal-sabzi-roti in his tiffin, and that stuff is ridiculously time consuming to put together. Just chopping all the veggies into tiny bite size bits is a daunting task and then there are the roti that must be cooked fresh at every meal.

      Having the metabolism I have, cutting the grains out of my diet to a wide extent also makes preparing my own meals that much easier.
      But yes, in the West we grew up having to do it all without hired help easily available, so that shapes how we approach meals, cleaning and everything else.
      And in Switzerland your average family flat or apartment is around 1000 sq ft, so definitely not huge, the IKEA advantage was there though, something that India is just starting to experience now.
      But when you live compact, as most of Europe does, this means the approach to clutter, and storage at home is also going be affected.

  2. Anonymous8:00 PM

    Hey Cyn,
    I remember reading a post in the robot vaccum cleaner one year back. We too are planning to ho maid free so can u tell me if the robot cleaner is still as efficient? Is it worth investing in it?

    1. Yes it is DEFINITELY worth investing in one, we still use ours daily and it works great, the only thing that we stopped using is the wet mop mode, because a) we lost one of the mop pad (probably flew away in the wind while we were drying it and b) the seal around the air valve on the tank got a bit loose, meaning less air pressure pushes the water out of the tank and on the mop while the robot cleans.

      The mop mode is not really the most essential anyway, once the robot has completed the vacuum mode, the flat is clean enough that we just need 5 minutes to mop around the flat with a regular spinning mop.


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