A commenter suggested the HomeRoutines app and I am really loving it. It is available for the iPad, iPod Touch, and the iPhone for $4.99. The nice thing is that it is a Universal App -- so if you buy it for your iPhone, you can also use it on your iPad, and vice-versa, as long as they are on the same iTunes account. The first screenshot on the left is from the iPhone, but the other screenshots are from my iPad.
The concept is to do small, manageable tasks often instead of large, marathon cleaning sessions. There are morning and evening routines, plus weekly tasks and tasks in a different focus zone each week. These ideas will be familiar to anyone that ever tried FlyLady, but thankfully, this app does not constantly berate me to wear shoes or send me emails hawking feather dusters.
Though everything is fully customizable, the app came pre-loaded with sample routines to get me started. That was good, because I would have felt a little overwhelmed trying to come up with my routines completely from scratch. I ended up customizing the sample list only slightly. The app came with "Feed the cat" as one of those sample tasks -- I would not have thought to put that on my list if it hadn't been in the app, but I changed "the cat" to "cats" and also added a reminder to give my cats their medicine. I also like "Check Calendar," which I don't always think to do on my own. I added a couple of tasks of my own, and customized or deleted others. It's easy to add, delete, edit, and rearrange tasks, so there is no pressure to start off with a perfect routine -- mine has continued to evolve as I have used the app. Once a task is done, I tap the star next to it and it turns into a gold star (Gretchen Rubin would approve). I love the "Accomplishments" list, which gives a full list of tasks done today.
Each morning and evening has "15 minutes in target zone" listed. This means that we choose from the list of tasks for the current week's zone. Since each zone gets hit one week a month, over the week, everything on the zone list should get done by the end of the week. I edited the zones a bit to fit the rooms we have in our house.
There is an online account component too. If you don't like typing into your iDevice, you can log in to the online account and use your computer to customize routines. HomeRoutines syncs all devices logged in to the same account so tasks and their status are shared and updated. It isn't connected to the Apple account, so I think multiple family members could share one HomeRoutines account and, if they all had bought the app for their i-devices, share their routines across all of them. My husband doesn't have the app on his phone (yet) so I haven't tested this. Update: I bought him a copy of the app and it does work -- this makes HomeRoutines extremely useful for sharing tasks. I have been leaving my iPad at home so he can see what I've checked off and what is left to do. I like the idea of something to make it easier to share housework task lists -- it means that I don't have to do everything myself but I also don't have to be the boss/bad guy saying that things need to be done.
The amazing thing is how much these small routines accomplish. I haven't gotten deep into the zone work yet, and my house already looks a lot better. Last night, my husband was tired but we hadn't done any of our evening tasks. I said we could skip the "15 minutes in the target zone" task but that I wanted to do the others. I timed it -- 8 minutes, since we were both working and dividing the labor. In that 8 minutes, we had our living room, dining room, and kitchen clean, cats fed and medicated. As expected, the first time we did the routines, they took longer, but after the initial cleanup, the house stays looking good with minimal effort. I haven't had much to do to "Tidy up the living room" since the first day I did it.
There is also a general to-do list that can be used for any kind of task you want to remember to do. The sample tasks were things like "Return library books," but I have added things like "Buy new smoke/CO detector." These are one-time tasks.
I am looking forward to seeing what things look like after we have been using this for about a month. The big challenge will be continuing to stick with the routines once the novelty has worn off. I want to have the kind of house where friends and family could just drop by for a visit anytime. Keeping that goal in mind will help me stay motivated to stick with this.
Update: We are still using it and I still love it.