We had a “discussion” recently about the current quality of home care, and as I’m hard at work packaging my new book Minimally Viable Housekeeping, (thus the discussion) so I thought I’d give you a quick introduction to housekeeping standard practices.
Standardisation is the process of developing and implementing an agreed standard, for example, the size of your chocolate bar, government regulation of emissions or your high school certificate.
The idea dates back to 1776 when Adam Smith (1729 – 1790) recognised the efficiency benefits of standardisation and specialisation. Focusing on pin makers, he saw you could make more pins (and money) if semi-skilled workers made parts of the pin than one skilled craftsman making the whole pin. That’s one person making the shafts, another the heads, and a third putting them together.
It’s the small picture focus that improves the efficiency of your overall big picture process; you leverage standard operations by standardising your conditions.
Let’s look at a hotel maid service as an example:
A hotel maid cleans anywhere between 15 – 30 rooms in an eight-hour shift (not counting breaks). That’s 15 – 30 minutes per room! To get it all done, they use a super efficient step-by-step process that guides them from the first operational task through to the last, ensuring that each room gets the same quality of clean.
While they appear to be designed for visitor comfort, hotel rooms are generally designed to ensure the maid’s efficiency is not impeded – the more rooms they can get through, the more rooms you can let and the more money you can make. For example, the furniture is laid out so the maid moves in a circle from the door, round the room back to the door. It’s is all the same height, with little clutter that needs to be moved for cleaning. They have all the tools and supplies right there in their cart when they need them.
The standard practice brings together the operations and conditions and adds in a schedule and quality standards (e.g., tightly fitted, smooth crease free sheets). It’s a bit like a cake recipe, detailing the order of activity, the tools required, and the time allowed for each step.
Bonus Benefits of Standardisation
I’ve already explained that housekeeping habits help you get the job done, and Standard Practices help you set clear cues to generate the activities you want, both for yourself and the people you share your home with.
If you have pets, you’ve probably noticed that you’ve set your cues so well that when you accidentally make on, your creatures are instantly in action waiting for the reward.
Housekeeping Standard Practices
The tasks that most benefit from standardisation are the physical ones.
Standard Housekeeping Operations
In general, the most efficient process moves from top down, dry to wet. And like the maid, it flows in a circuit – clockwise for right-handers and anti-clockwise for lefties.
In a household, you can expand the circuit to take in a larger collection of rooms so that you complete the same work package for each room before moving onto the next package. You might open all the curtains, then do all the dusting, then the vacuuming, then the mopping.
Standard Housekeeping Conditions
Bearing in mind your circuit, arrange your furniture and storage in a way that facilitates the room’s purpose. That might be a blanket box at the end of the bed, your coffee making supplies in the same place, or your treadmill in front of the TV.
Use tools, and equipment that suit the work package in the way that you do it. For example, with a lightweight cordless vacuum you empty between rooms, a clothes washer that chooses the water level according to the size of the load or a freezer that defrosts itself.
Standard Housekeeping Practices
To develop your final practices, you’ll need to experiment to discover the quickest way. You could use the focused analysis of a formal methodology like Six Sigma or Lean, or just Kaizen style adjustments in the same way you developed your process for making the perfect cup of coffee.
And then when you’re done, you can challenge yourself to increase efficiency, or buy a service to replace you.
Reevaluating Housekeeping Standard Practices
You probably have some standard practices, but you may have developed them in other homes and circumstances. It’s worth the effort to periodically reevaluate your practices.
Which sounds troublesome, but is really just actively thinking about what you’re doing while you’re doing it. Is it still working for you, or is your current kitchen back to front from the last one? And as you’re working it through, think about what you can do to fix the problems you’re identifying.
Are your housekeeping standard practices still working for you?