Spring Cleaning for Today's Mom
Organizing the Disorganized Mom
My Story: Easy Clean
Not Getting Done
Does anyone have a tried-and-true schedule or ideas on housekeeping? With two children (one is an infant) and the rest of the "chaos" in my life, I am lucky to get dishes and bottles washed daily, let alone the bathrooms cleaned and the vacuuming done. I need to get organized. I'd appreciate any helpful suggestions short of hiring a maid.
Keeping Things in Perspective
I know how you feel! I remember when my first two sons were the ages of yours, and I felt so swamped. I hope these tips will help!
- Assign each room of your home a day of the week- i.e.: the living room - Monday, bathrooms - Tuesday, etc. Then you know what needs cleaned that day. If you don't finish, you know you'll get another chance next week. Any big things, like repairs or erasing crayon from the walls, get added to a running list. When it is the day to clean that room, you try to accomplish the special project. This really helped me feel like I could keep up.
- Put your toddler to work. Toddlers love to help. Let him/her dust, pick-up to a cleaning song, or wind the vacuum cord (up, down, up, down). Don't wait till he/she is asleep to begin your housework, save that time for you, if you can.
- A wise woman told me, "Start dinner as you are cleaning up from breakfast." Put dinner in a crockpot, make a salad, and you won't be in a panic when 4:30 arrives (everyone's children are at their worst by 5 p.m.-so don't feel alone).
- Accept all offers of help. If you can trade some time with a neighbor, do it! If someone wasn't willing, they probably wouldn't have offered.
- Keep a sense of humor and of perspective. I have laughed and laughed at the sight of a room doused in baby powder. Also, our time with these little ones is so short just ask anyone with teens, they'll tell you. This season of your life will quickly pass and how clean your oven wasn't won't be remembered!
The MOTH System
My best idea is for them to use the MOTH system. It is written by a homeschooling family with 8 children. They use a daily schedule for everything! The website is www.titus2.com. They make a master schedule so that every day is the same. They do their chores in time blocks with a chore schedule as well. We have used the system and find that it uncomplicated life tremendously.
Very Practical Advice
Christine's problem is a common one and part of the solution is to ensure that she becomes well organized and creates a schedule that she can maintain. It takes some effort up front, but she will be grateful for the results and the decreased stress.
First, determine what the cleaning priorities are (e.g., does it matter if there is dust on the coffee table for a day or two? is it important to make sure the bathroom is clean everyday?). Write down these items in order of their importance. Then next to each one write down how many times per week each task needs to be done. This may seem very basic, but what it does is let you see everything in black and white, brings some order to the process so you don't feel so overwhelmed.
Some chores you may be able to schedule for every other week instead of once a week. Maybe you will vacuum the upstairs rooms on Thursdays and downstairs on Saturdays so you don't feel your whole morning or afternoon is taken up by vacuuming.
The next thing to do with your list is to look at each chore and figure out what supplies you need to get the job done. For example, if you have two bathrooms, they are both going to need the same supplies. From the standpoint of conserving precious time, it doesn't make sense to have to run between bathrooms to get the supplies from one to the other. Buy duplicate supplies and keep them under the counter. Try to use as few products as possible. For example, a sink/bowl cleaner and a glass cleaner should be enough to get the job done. The point is to have the needed supplies as near as possible to the area that they will be used.
Hang a wiper (the kind that are like windshield wipers) in the shower and after you turn off the water, just wipe the walls down quickly. If you have a supply of disposable wipes, you can run a cloth around the toilet bowl/seat while you're in the bathroom and throw out the wipe. It keeps the bowl clean, it takes less than a minute and it's not something you have to "schedule". Then, once a week you can do a more thorough job.
If you have the space, make sure you have two or three laundry baskets, one for whites, one for colors, and one for the baby clothes. That will save you sorting time. If noise is not a problem, run a load of laundry late in the evening and put it in the dryer right before you go to bed. You will be less likely to be interrupted by the kids.
Back to the list. Review the list with your husband and see what chores he can take on. Even one or two off the list will bring some relief. Many women do food shopping with their kids. This can be a great stress maker. If possible, have the kids stay with your husband and do the shopping alone. It will give you a break, you will get done more quickly, and have a few moments of peace and quiet. Many food markets have late hours, and it may make sense to go out late during the week with fewer shoppers, shorter lines rather than waste precious weekend time.
Keep a box handy near the family room or wherever the kids play and in the evening just toss the scattered toys in the box. You will immediately decrease the feeling of being overwhelmed by kid-clutter. The important thing for you to do is to just sit down and review all the chores that have to be done in a week and prioritize them then schedule them. Have the supplies and equipment handy. That will bring some order to the chaos, make the chores feel more manageable, and relieve some of the feelings of being overwhelmed.
If you are cooking dinner each night, it is also helpful to structure your approach. Plan your menus in advance. Not necessarily exactly what you'll be eating, but more in terms of categories. For example, twice a week we'll have pasta, once a week we'll go to the local fast food chain, once a week we'll have leftovers, etc. Pasta, stew, and casseroles are great time savers also make a pot of tomato sauce large enough to have a couple of pasta meals. The same with stews. Get a few basic recipes that can be repeated often and then have a few dishes that may be more complex to prevent monotony. While the babies are still small, you might want to give them dinner earlier so that you and your husband have a more relaxing time at the table. This won't last long but take advantage of it while you can. Hope some of this is helpful.
Great Resources to Check Out
Housekeeping with children around is indeed challenging! I have one child in middle school, one child in elementary school, and one child in diapers. Here are some resources that have helped me. I know it can be tricky to find the time to read books that don't include cats in hats,
but I borrowed the following books from the library, and read them in the evenings while Spouse watched TV.
- Jeff Campbell's book Speed Cleaning
- Don Aslett's fun books on decluttering - Clutter's Last Stand: It's Time To De-junk Your Life! (I think this is the funniest one.)
- Don Aslett's book on housekeeping; Is There Life After Housework
- Deniece Schofield's books, including Confessions of an Organized Housewife and Escape from the Kitchen
- Deborah Taylor-Hough's book Frozen Assets: Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month
- Pam Jones/Peggy Young's book Sidetracked Home Executives(TM): From Pigpen to Paradise
Aslett's ideas include getting rid of things you don't want and/or don't use so they are not in your way. I am a hoarder married to a pack rat. I was amazed at how freeing decluttering has been. I thought I was being wise to save things "in case I need them", but realized that there is no point keeping things for later, if later comes and you can't find the things you need among all the other things you're keeping "just in case".
Schofield's ideas include organizing the things that you do keep so that you can get to them easily when needed.
Taylor-Hough gives recipes and teaches how to plan, cook, and freeze meals ahead of time (cook for a day and eat for a month), so that when dinner time rolls around, you need only pop something in the oven instead of spending hours puzzling and gathering and cooking and cleaning every night. Spending a day cooking with children underfoot can be all but impossible. Another option is to cook two or three times as much as you need to while you are cooking for tonight's dinner, and freeze the extra portions for another night. (On a personal note, I'd like to say that crockpots are a great help for homemakers as well as paycheck parents.)
Jones/Young teach how to create a perpetual calendar/to-do list within a recipe box. Sleep deprivation and constant interruptions gave me scatterbrain. When I find myself dithering around the house and asking nobody, "what was I doing?" I glance at my box of reminder cards. "Oh, right! Loading the dishwasher!" This helps me, because then I actually finish a few chores instead of merely starting a dozen different ones.
A Web Site Resource
Have I got the place for you to go to get help with housekeeping. You have just got to sign up with the "Flylady"! She will help you with your CHAOS (she likes to call that - Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome). She isn't a "born organized" person, she is a "SHE" - Side-tracked Home Executive, so she understands the way our minds work. I have changed so much in the short time I have been on her list.
She has "zones" for each week, gives "pep-talks", shares testimonies of others who have been helped, and also cautions you not to try and do everything at once. "Baby Steps" is one of her mottoes. Another motto I love is "Housework done incorrectly still blesses your home."
Give it a try. She does send about 25 -mails a day, so after a while you may want to change to "digest" mode. You will get all her "reminder" e-mails in one e-mail the next day. This is the link to the website with the routines. FlyLady.net
The webpage for this list is here. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FlyLadyMentors To subscribe to FlyLadyMentors, send a blank e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org And here's one more motto from her: "You are not behind. I don't want you to try to catch up, I just want you to jump in where we are."
A Getting Organized Web Site
Christine asked for tried-and-true ideas on organizing and housekeeping. I recommend this website: GetOrganizedNow.com They offer a number of solutions and planning ideas for lifestyle organizing. Another good resource is the book Confessions of an Organized Homemaker by Deniece Schofield. My personal advice to this young mom? Heed Erma Bombeck's words of wisdom: "Cleaning the house while the kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing." Enjoy the kids now. Keep one room presentable in case somebody drops by and just let some things go. Believe me, the housework will still be there when the kids get older!
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