How I gave up my cleaning lady and still keep a {mostly} clean home in 30 minutes a day

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for over a year — ever since last spring when I finally said goodbye to our cleaning lady. But I wanted to be sure that this would actually work — before I started claiming success.

For most of my married life, we have had a cleaning lady. (That’s my un-kosher-on-a-budget confession of the week.)

There were times when she came once a week, and other times, when she came every other week — all depending on our finances.

I had always considered it an investment in Shalom Bayit.  With three young kids, two full-time careers, and, let’s just call it, differing standards of “clean”, hiring a professional seemed like a wise investment.

But in 2017, a lot changed with our finances. First, even before we moved back to Israel, my income took a nose dive. Amazon significantly changed its relationship with affiliates, cutting my monthly income in half. Second, our health insurance premiums skyrocketed (again) — going up another almost $400 per month to $2,000 in January, 2017. And third, our children’s tuition bills were going up as well, with one child about to enter high school, a second one starting middle school, and an across-the-board tuition hike at their school.

Frankie and I looked at our budget a hundred different ways, but there was no magic wand. We had to cut our spending. Stat.

We made a lot of changes, but primary among them was saying goodbye to our cleaner. She had been coming, at the point, once a week, charging us $85 per time. Hello, $340 – $425 savings a month.

I took about five seconds to revel in the savings “high”, and then quickly realized: Uh oh, how are we gonna keep this house clean?

I employed a number of different strategies, including “training” my kids how to properly clean a kitchen and bathroom (i.e. to their Type A mother’s standards – yeah, I’m a Tiger Mom about one thing: Clean toilets!).

More importantly, however, I made a schedule for myself.

I’ve read about cleaning schedules for years, including from “gurus” like the Fly Lady. But I could never quite make these schedules work for me. I’d be all gung-ho for a month, and then I’d get overwhelmed, fall behind, and give up entirely. And that was with having a weekly or biweekly cleaner.

So, how did I make a schedule work for me this time?

Low expectations! 😉

Kidding! Kind of.

I actually realized that with previous schedules, I had been trying to do too much — or rather, put too much into that schedule. So last year, I started out modestly by identifying the “bare minimum” chores that have to get done in order to ensure that our home was “passably” clean.

Rather than trying to do the whole house in one day (IMPOSSIBLE! I still don’t know how our cleaner managed it!), I further broke those tasks down into rooms / zones. My goal is to spend no more than 30-45 minutes (ideally less!) cleaning each day.

My current schedule is as follows:

Sunday:  Basement 

Monday: Guest Bedroom / Office

Tuesday: Master Bedroom and Bathroom

Wednesday: Living Room / Dining Room

Thursday: Kitchen

Monday and Wednesday are my quickest days — I have the chores down to an art-form and can usually finish in 20 or 25 minutes, unless I try to do a deep clean task. Tuesday takes a bit longer most weeks, but that’s because our very small bedroom always needs to be tidied quite a bit before I can start cleaning. And I usually end up using my cleaning time to fold a few loads of laundry as well. Thursday is my longest day, but I love having a sparkling clean kitchen by Thursday night, so that when I cook for Shabbat on Friday, it’s faster and more pleasant.

I turned these daily “chores” into a sequential list of tasks, detailing exactly what I needed to do in each room.

You can get a copy of the checklist I made for myself HERE! I will send you both a PDF and a word document, so you can tweak the list for your own home, if you want.

I like to print out my lists and laminate them (this is my laminator). Then I keep all the lists together in a binder and use a Vis-a-Vis marker to check off each box as I complete the task. (I love crossing stuff off a list!)

You will notice that I never assign cleaning chores to Friday. I find it stressful enough trying to work and prepare for Shabbat. Especially in the winter, when the day is so short, there just isn’t enough time.

You will also notice that there are several rooms NOT on my cleaning list: Namely, my kids’ bedrooms, their bathroom, and our guest bathroom. Guess who’s doing those? Yup, the kids!

Remember when I taught my kids how to clean up the kitchen after dinner each night? As it turns out, one of my three children is a really good cleaner. The other two, a bit less so. I think that’s more about how much they care about cleaning than how their ability to clean.

To be totally frank: I’ve had to really adjust my expectations in order for this to work. If their room is basically picked up and there isn’t an inch layer of dust on the window sills, it’s good enough. Two of mine mostly meet this standard, while the other exceeds it (in fact, his room is usually cleaner and definitely tidier than mine!).

I will admit that every couple of months, I deep clean their bathroom (just for my own peace of mind), but the weekly cleaning is entirely up to them. They have a chore rotation of the two bathrooms — two weeks on, one week off — and they are each responsible for their own bedroom. These Friday jobs are their main weekly chore, other than putting away their own laundry, so I’m definitely not expecting too much from them.

What I Prefer about Cleaning My Own House

For about 20 months now, I’ve managed to keep my house (mostly) clean using the system above. In fact, even though I was originally only aiming for “passably” clean when I set out to do this, I have found that my house is even cleaner now than with our previous cleaning lady (and she was good!). I guess that’s the Type A in me.

I also like that I control the products that are used in my home. Our past cleaners didn’t always bring their own products, but when they did, I often found that they were harsher and left a stronger odor than the ones I use. Since I get to choose what I use all the time now, I can make my own — or shop the sales (yup, I do that in Israel, too!).

And of course, I love the savings. Living in Israel means our expenses are higher in some areas (eg. housing, taxes, and cars) and lower in others (eg. tuition and health insurance). But our income is a bit less this year and so our need to live on a pretty  tight budget persists.

Plus, this year, we have gone out of our way to say “yes” to as many experiences and activities as we could for our children, in an effort to help ease their transition to living in a new country. But that has meant saying “no” to a few basics that we were used to in America.

Maintaining a (mostly) clean house by ourselves has definitely helped us free up some money for those weekly horseback riding lessons and Saturday night bowling sessions.

3 Ways to Make (and Keep) Your Home Show Ready

Do you have a cleaning person? Could you manage without him or her?

If you clean your home yourself, what tips and tricks can you share with the rest of us?



  1. It’s awesome that your kids are involved in this process!

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