Choosing a housework “system”: Organized Home

Organized Home by Cynthia Townley Ewer is a comprehensive, well organized reference site, with special sections dedicated to creating a Household Notebook, decluttering, organizing and seasonal tasks. It also offers some nicely designed Printable planner pages and a fab section called SHEs organized – with resources for people following the Sidetracked Home Executives system that was a precursor and inspiration to FlyLady.  I think the HomeRoutines app works really well with the SHE mindset as well!

Organized Home is the first place I came across the Four Box method of decluttering.  It’s a good reminder that you don’t need any special products to declutter.  (Don’t procrastinate thinking you need a set of special baskets to declutter into – a cardboard box from the grocery store will do just fine, and you can put it straight in the car to donate!)

Cynthia has also written a great book called Houseworks, which contains heaps of the wonderful advice on the website.

Extra credit routines help you do the hard jobs

I was thinking about how easy it is for me to make my routines too long, with too many tasks in them. There are things that absolutely have to be done in my morning routine – like changing the nappy on Mr Small and Stinky, breakfast dishes and so on. But then there are things that can slide more easily, like sweeping the floor post-breakfast etc, especially when I get tied up chasing Mr Small and Less Stinky around the house, and you just know he’s going to run through the swept  up piles of sweepings…

Everyone has something that seems like an insurmountable obstacle, even though it doesn’t really take that long, and those are the things that you want to build up a habit of doing.

But you don’t want to leave your regular routines incomplete while you do.  So I had an idea – split those jobs off into an extra credit routine. So I did, and I’m enjoying my completed star for my morning routine, and giving myself a funny encouraging message to do those extra important jobs as well.

It’s 2011! Achievable New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year!

To celebrate the New Year, HomeRoutines for iPhone and iPad are on special – Just 99c for 2 days only!

Don't do this

It’s very easy to write a list of New Year’s resolutions. It’s much harder to actually follow through with them past about 10:32am on January 1st.  The first step should be to write an achievable list in the first place.

The list I’ve written above…isn’t a sensible list.  (It caused my husband Tim to panic and very nervously ask me if “that list downstairs… is a real list”) Your goals need to be Manageable and Realistic – as well as all the other letters in the SMART Goals acronym

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to organize your house and live in the clean and tidy home you’ve always imagined, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, there’s no instant fix to do that overnight. But if you build up routines gradually, and declutter bit-by-bit, you will get there in the end.  I tell you what, it’s my (real) resolution too; I didn’t design an app for managing housework because cleaning comes naturally to me.  I am not “Born Organized” as they say.

Here’s what I’m doing: starting from the beginning and taking it slowly.

Ideas for building up your routines gently

  • Start small.  Create a morning routine that contains only 4 or 5 tasks that you already always do. Stick with that for a week and enjoy your gold stars.
  • Build up gently. Try another week where you add one task that you “should” do but don’t.  There’s always one that’s disproportionately hard to do: it might be sweeping the floor, folding the laundry, or unloading the dishwasher.  Add that one to your morning routine.
  • Add another task a little while later
  • When you’re mostly completing all the tasks in your morning routine, create an evening routine with the tasks you already do.
  • Build up from there.

If you’re feeling too overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, it can help to have an external guide to follow.  I suggest The Flylady’s baby steps, or following the Nest steps on

Some more good examples of routines

Choosing a Housework “System”: Home Ec 101

Home Ec 101 is a great, well-organised reference to how to cook, clean, wash and fix all the things around your place.

If you are looking for a concise schedule to follow, then the Weekly Chore Schedule is a great reference to print out and stick on your fridge.

Quote: is a site designed to teach real people, real skills, as they apply to real lives.

Few people have the resources to keep up with the glossy magazines and the reality of television is it isn’t.

Home-Ec 101 is an attempt to reach average people and teach them the domestic arts that make life a little less expensive, a little easier, and a little more enjoyable.

Check out:

Choosing a Housework System: Flylady

It seems like some people always have a clean and tidy house, and don’t seem to have any trouble doing so. I am not one of those people.  For the rest of us, it sometimes helps to find some advice and guidance on the steps and processes that can help that happen.  I have come across a few in my time – let’s put it this way, I have an extensive collection of name tags and hairnets control journals and productivity apps… and a pile of unmatched socks in my armchair.

As with any topic, the internet is full of experts, self-proclaimed and not.  In the end it comes down to finding an expert whose tone,  level of detail and level of bossiness resonates with you.  Sometimes you just want to be told what to do so you can get started, somewhere, even if that is with a sink full of hot water and bleach.  Sometimes you want to be told that you are capable and to get cracking, working on the room that needs it the most.  Both are fine – it’s up to you to pick and choose.

Quick clean bathroom - new handtowels

You might want to take hold of a system with both hands and follow it to the letter of the law, or you might want to just skim through and find the bits that work for you – cobble together a system, following the “good parts version” of anything you come across.  Review and revise as you go.

But don’t fiddle around with your “system” too much: get on with what you have to do, so you can find space to get on with what you want to do instead – as Merlin Mann said better than I ever could.

Over the next week or so I will be featuring some different “Systems” you might like.  I’ve included snippets of introductory text, because sometimes the choice is more about tone of voice than anything else, some useful links, and some ideas of how these housework systems and schedules work with the HomeRoutines app on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad.


FlyLady FlyLady encourages you to gradually build up positive habits and routines in “Baby Steps,” do your detailed cleaning in 15 minute chunks, and tackle your weekly cleaning in a one hour “Weekly Home Blessing

Her message is sent to members of her mailing list with numerous messages each day (on the day I’m writing this, 14 were sent out to subscribers), but a digest is available as “Flylady Lite.”   Most of the emails are selling her cleaning products these days.

FlyLady’s system is outlined in her book Sink Reflections, which is easier to read, refer back to, and get your head around than the sprawling website (and its associated  online radio showchat room and twitter feed)


This is FlyLady’s list that has grown by leaps and bounds due to her special way of weaving housecleaning tips with homespun humor and daily musings about life. She has a no-nonsense approach to getting your house and your life in order. She mixes housekeeping advice with insights about life and love and anything else that is on her mind. This list is whatever FlyLady decides it should be — it’s her list. She expects subscribers to decide if they get anything out of it or not. Those who do are invited to be part of the cyber family. Those who don’t are encouraged to unsubscribe. Only you can decide what is right for you. If you can’t figure that much out, don’t blame FlyLady!

Check out:

How it works with HomeRoutines:

Build up your routines in baby steps, and put your detailed cleaning into the Focus Zones. If you’ve got HomeRoutines set to 5 zones, switching each week of the month, it will automagically stay in sync with Flylady’s zone schedule; we’re considerate like that.

Routines and Calendars

Yesterday The Flylady’s Facebook page was all a-flutter because she announced a partnership with Cozi, an online calendar and organiser for families:

I was excited to see the news, because I’m a fan of both Flylady and Cozi, but it reminded me that it was a good time to write about how calendars and routines work best together!

When you’re trying to get organised, it is very tempting to start writing the things that you should do, or intend to do, on your calendar, with the idea that if it’s on the calendar, it will get done.

Life doesn’t often work like that, though, so you may simply end up with a very confusing calendar. and risk missing important events because they are lost amongst the details of your idealised plan for your week.

I just added a few recurring routines to my calendar in Cozi and just about gave myself a panic attack looking at it:

Busy calendar full of routines

I had to delete them really quickly and go have a nice cup of tea and a lie down.

That’s better – I can see more days on my calendar, and it now only shows my recurring events and the things I really need to make sure happen on time. I’m also safe from having my phone ping me with a calendar alarm too often. If you have less important tasks alerting you on your calendar, you risk ignoring an alarm thinking it’s to say “Put some washing on!,” when actually it’s telling you that you are due at the vet in 15 minutes and you need to lure the cat out from the back of the shed.

The HomeRoutines reminder chime can keep you on track, but you know it’s not a reminder for an event… it is its own thing.

David Allen wrote a book a few years ago called Getting Things Done, which has a cult status amongst many business productivity people. In his book, he wrote that there are two sorts of tasks:

Reminders of actions you need to take fall into two categories: those things that have to happen on a specific day or time, and those things that just need to get done as soon as possible. Your calendar handles the first kind of reminder.

Three things go on your calendar:

  • time specific actions;
  • day-specific actions;
  • and day-specific information

Time-specific actions are things that happen at a particular time of a particular day – appointments, in other words, or deadlines. For instance, a playdate for Tuesday afternoon, or a dentist appointment. This includes recurring events, like playgroup every Tuesday morning, because it only happens at that time.

Day-specific actions are tasks that have to be done on a certain day, but not at a certain time of that day. For instance, calling Mum on her birthday, or popping in to your friend’s workplace on Friday to pick up her house key so you can feed her cat while she’s away.

Day-specific information is the kind of details that are associated with an event. For instance, the address of the house you’re visiting for dinner, and a reminder to bring your world-famous apple pie.

If you have a task that you want to remember, and it’s a one-off task, then you can put it in your to-do list. If it’s something you need to do again and again, like washing the dishes, then it belongs in a routine!

Routines, events and one-off todo tasks are all important, so it’s great to have a way to keep them apart so they don’t get confused and muddled. Watch out for the temptation to put things that aren’t time- or date-specific on your calendar, and you’ll reduce the information overload in your life by a fraction – especially good at this time of year. My to-do list is long enough!

Unclutterer-style zone schedule – one zone per day of the week

Unclutter Your Life in One Week

I wrote a few months ago about the book Unclutter Your Life in One Week by Erin Rooney Doland.

Now the zone scheduling in the app has finally caught up, and you can now schedule your zone cleaning as Erin writes in the book; focusing on part of your house per day of the week.  Many of you have asked for this setup, and it seems extremely practical to me.

Zone settings

In your Zone Settings screen, choose to have 5 zones. If you’re super keen you  can have seven, and HomeRoutines will focus on a zone every day of the week.  Also choose to have the zone change automatically each day of the week.

Room arrangement

Drag and drop the rooms between the zones so you have a setup that suits your week.

Zone setup

Here’s how it looks on the All Zones screen when you’ve entered it all.

Cleaning house like in Unclutter Your Life in One Week

And here you go -HomeRoutines will tell you what Today’s focus is for the day of the week.

Are you using the new day-of-the-week zone focus?

HomeRoutines for iPad

HomeRoutines for iPad

HomeRoutines is now available for the iPad!

It includes a new interface design for the iPad, and all the great features of the iPhone version. We’ve worked hard to make this a great app for the iPad, and hope you enjoy it!

Take charge of your recurring home tasks with HomeRoutines, now on the iPad. Create routine checklists, then complete them on your chosen days of the week, with reminder notifications to keep you on track and a gold star for each completed task. Your checklists can automatically reset – start fresh each morning. HomeRoutines is totally customizable, easy to use, and friendly, not bossy.

Keep your email, calendar and to-do lists clutter free by keeping recurring housework chores in HomeRoutines, the only app designed from scratch to suit the real flow of your home.

Detailed cleaning lists are built in with the “Focus Zones” section – add rooms and tasks to suit your house, then do a little bit of extra housework every day and you’ll never have to spring clean again! Up to seven zones so you can switch focus each  day of the week. If you’re a “Flylady*” fan, you’ll love the option to switch zone each week of the month to stay in sync with her zone schedule.

Discover the power of speed cleaning with HomeRoutines’ built-in timer – set your timer to 10 or 15 minutes, set your mind to it and see how much gets done.

There’s even a built-in to-do list for simple one-off jobs, and a daily message option helps you plan the pattern of your weekdays.

HomeRoutines’ unique Accomplishments list is the “Tada!” to your todo. Review all the tasks you’ve completed today. You can even share your accomplishments via email.

Focus on a task list by rotating your iPad to portrait, or stay in landscape mode for an overview of your day.

Comprehensive online manual is available – and if you have any questions or feedback, email us at and we will respond quickly to help you out. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter.

(Notifications are not yet available until the pending iOS 4.2 update is released from Apple – should be any day now)

HomeRoutines 1.8 Update (Available now!)

This has turned into quite a major update with many much-requested features, and of course the update is free – we love making HomeRoutines better and better! Thank you all for the support and all your feedback. Remember you can update your review on the app store when you get an update too. 🙂

Routine Reminders

Routine reminder

We’ve had a lot of requests for this one, so here it is, and I don’t know how I lived without it!

Routine notification

Reminders only go off on the days the routine is shown, and you choose a time for each routine’s reminder. They use the local notification service on your phone, so you don’t need an internet connection to receive your reminders.

Routine reminder settings

More Zones

Crikey, it's 7 zones

You can now select to have 5, 6, or 7 zones, so if you want to spread out your current focus or sort your rooms in a different way, you have more options.

It also means you can use a zone for your garden, garden shed, garage or car.

Zones 6 & 7 won’t appear in the rotation if you’re switching zone per week of the month, but you can choose them manually at any time.

New Zone Scheduling Options

Now we have up to 7 zones we are free to put in another much-requested feature: scheduling a zone per day of the week.

Many of the housework systems out there have a focus per day of the week, so we’re stoked to get this feature in there to suit all the speed-cleaning, uncluttering, housework 101’ers, and everyone else who finds this the easiest way to keep a thin layer of tidy across the whole house all the time.  Of course, the original week-of-the-month schedule is still there for the “Flybaby” crew.

You can also choose when you want your zone stars to reset, once a week or once a month. This is a separate choice from the zone schedule because we thought you’d like to choose; we can see the benefits of all the available combinations, so we left it up to you.

Wide Keyboard

We’re supporting the horizontal orientation for the iPhone now for easier typing.

Horizontal keyboard

While we’re looking at the keyboard, we’ve also made the ‘Return’ key say Next when you’re typing in a list, to make it clearer that you can skip to the next item by tapping it.

More Space

You can put an unlimited amount of text in your tasks now with multi-line editing.

Detailed instructions for CORRECTLY making the bed

Improved daily message

Your daily message will now appear at the top of the home screen with today’s date – just touch the disclosure button to edit.  You can now enter as long a message as you wish, and add ‘returns’ in there if you want.  (If the daily message feature bugs you, delete the text in the default messages and they won’t be there to bother you any more 🙂

Daily message

The daily message screen is now always editable, so you don’t have to touch edit to start editing your messages.

Daily message screen

Cut and Paste Routine tasks

You’ve been able to copy rooms in your focus zones for ages, so it’s about time!  Now you can easily create similar routine lists for different days of the week without heaps of re-typing.

Action button

Just touch the action button (the one with the arrow on the right of the tool bar) and choose Copy Task List.

Then pop over to your other routine, touch edit, and hold on the Add New Task; touch Paste.  There it is.

Accomplishments Count on the Home Screen

12 tasks completed today!

The number of accomplishments today is right on the home screen so you can see how awesome you are at a single glance.

Backup with iTunes file sharing

You can now back up your data locally with iTunes file sharing (at the bottom of the Apps screen on iTunes)

File sharing on iTunes

You need the free iOS 4 upgrade to do this.

At present you can only back up using this method; restore requires the original wifi version. This is due to an issue with the app not restoring data from file sharing if it is currently running.   We will be making restore work via file sharing very soon.

iPad version coming really soon

The glorious iPad version of HomeRoutines has been submitted for review, and should be available for purchase very soon. The app will have a lower introductory price to make it easier for everyone who has been using the iPhone version on their iPad.

Enjoy the update – and don’t forget to update your reviews!