When I was a young mom with 3 kids, a home, and a working husband, I thought that it would be easy to maintain all of the things that needed to be done around the house. How hard could it be? I had seen my mom do it my whole life, even when she worked full time. When I came home from school, the laundry was done, dinner was cooking, and the house was spotless. Saturdays were our cleaning days, and my mom had my sister and I help with cleaning…dusting, vacuuming, putting away our laundry and cleaning our rooms. We children took turns doing dishes daily. It was easy and a little fun. What else could possibly need to be done, right?
Even after living on my own for awhile before having babies, I was able to just do chores as I thought they needed to be done. So what if there was a little dust, no one noticed. I didn’t feel the need to vacuum that often, after all, it was just me living there (did I even own a vacuum? I don’t remember). Dishes were done when I needed a dish that was dirty, or if I had some free time and wanted to spend time “cleaning.” It was still pretty easy.
Living with others, be it roommates or spouses and children, is hard. One of the hard things about it is, you are no longer cleaning up after only yourself. Sure if you have a roommate, you aren’t expected to clean up after them, but there will be times when common areas (kitchens, living rooms, etc) need to be cleaned and you may have to pitch in a little extra to get things done. With children, there is a whole other mess that comes with them…toys, diapers, endless amounts of stuff. The messes grow, but time does not. You know that things needed not only picked up and put away, but laundry needs done (mountains of laundry when you have kids), dishes need done after every meal (you don’t want your baby screaming while waiting for a bottle to be washed), cooking and the subsequent cleaning need done several times a day. Then there is the dusting, vacuuming, grocery shopping. If you are like I was, my husband worked 2 jobs, so I was expected to pay the bills and make sure we had money for what we needed. I needed time to budget, plan, and execute in a way that wouldn’t leave us in the poor house. This was a never ending, and thankless, job. I cringe when I hear people ask stay at home moms “what do you do all day?”
I was a mess for a long time. I slowly, very slowly, learned how to manage specific parts of my day or my week so that I could get the bare minimum done. My house was small and cluttered, but I did my best to keep it clean. I looked into all the systems available online about doing chores and how to clean, but honestly, I spent more time looking up information than actually DOING the system. All systems work, if you commit to them, but I would pay for certain cleaning systems, or find free systems full of motivation, but I still couldn’t find the time to implement them all.
I was in college during all of this and I had learned how to manage my time for school. I knew to block off chunks of time for scheduled classes, for doing my homework, for reading the countless novels each semester. I did great with that. I had a planner where I wrote out specifically what I was going to accomplish and when. Eventually, I had the AHA! moment of doing that for my home life, too. I had done it for school because school was important to me and I wanted to do well. I had to dig deep and decide that I wanted the same for the rest of my life. First, I tried to keep lists on paper and organize my time that way. I still do this to an extent. Next, I decide to get a bigger planner and incorporate all of my other responsibilities into my school ones. So, my average day might look like this:
6:00am – shower, get ready, get kids ready
7:00am – drop kids off at their grandma’s
8:00am – arrive at school, find parking, study in car until class starts
9:00am-2:00pm – classes, homework, studyingj
2:30pm – pick up kids at school
3:00pm- start a load of laundry
4:00pm- start making dinner, dry and fold laundry as it is done
5:00pm – eat dinner as a family
6:00pm – do dishes, clean kitchen and dining room. Wipe up any messes on the floor, tables, and counters.
7:00pm- kids get baths
8:00pm – kids to bed
8:30pm- homework and studying
9:00pm – me time, while folding laundry if I was able to start a second load.
10:00pm – bedtime.
Of course, this wasn’t set in stone (remember, goals need flexibility) but it was my basic plan. I was able to keep my kitchen cleaned every day and at least one load of laundry done a day. This was a basic weekly plan, my weekend plans included more extensive cleaning: the bathroom, dusting, vacuuming and that left Sundays as my financial planning day. I did it every week, because paychecks came in weekly, so I tried to stay a week ahead. See it all fits in, in theory. Of course, my time wasn’t always my own to keep up with this schedule. We had dinners out, family events, other obligations. The goal was always to at least get that one load of laundry done a day and to keep the dishes done daily. Once I lost sight of that, it backed up so quickly that I would quickly feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and lost. It was always hard to get caught up once I fell behind.
So here are my tips for you to get everything done that needs to be done:
- Write down all the chores and responsibilities you have to maintain in your home. Decide how often each should be done into daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonally. You might even choose to just pick a day and do all your cleaning at one time. Whatever fits your schedule and your needs is fine. Just remember to plan for it.
- Get a planner and schedule your time. Your time is important and your home should be just as important as any other appointment you schedule. If you are more productive first thing in the morning, schedule some daily chores for after you eat and have your coffee. Maybe that is when you go get groceries and do your finances. Maybe that is your time to do laundry. Just don’t forget to take care of yourself in the process. Schedule your breakfast and lunch, or you could forget to eat and lose energy to continue. If you have a job, it is even more important to schedule your time so you don’t get burned out.
- Incorporate help, if you have it. Are your kids old enough to fold towels, unload the dishwasher, empty the garbage? I wouldn’t suggest making your kids do all the work, but it is good for them to realize that taking care of a home is every one’s job and also it will teach them life skills! You and your partner, roommate, or whomever you live with, should feel just as responsible to take care of the home as you do. Especially if you work, too! Remember, positive reinforcement and motivation will go a long way with getting help from your children. My 2 year old granddaughter cleans up her own plate after dinner and I give her some pennies for her piggy bank. She has learned, quickly, that if she helps out, she will be able to put a few more cents in her bank. She doesn’t understand the value of money, but she likes the sound of the change going in! When she is older, we might use a different system of motivation, like if you can keep your room clean for a week, then you get a reward. Different motivations work with different people and it works way better than nagging!
- Don’t get behind. If laundry is out of control all of the time and your goal is to do one load a day, get it done not matter what. If you hate having dirty dishes in the sink, put them in the dishwasher as soon as you are done eating. Keep up on the small, sometimes annoying things, and they won’t become bigger later. However,
- Allow yourself some wiggle room. Things don’t have to be perfect. It is okay if the only thing you got done today was feeding your child. But don’t let that bring you down and don’t think of it as a failure. Life happens. Don’t beat yourself up. Somedays, just doing nothing is needed to take care of yourself. If it seems impossible to keep up with the schedule you created, then change it. Do the majority on a day of the week you choose and are happy with. Sometimes it feels good to use a couple of hours and get everything sparkly new again. Your schedule should be your own, so decide what works for you. And if it is impossible, can you ask for help? Can you afford someone to clean for you? Will a family member help you out in exchange for a meal or free babysitting? Don’t kill yourself trying to make things perfect.
The point to all of this is to not put pressure on yourself to make things perfect. Time management is a tool to help take the feeling of being overwhelmed away, and replace it with a feeling of control. You choose what you are going to do and when. Don’t feel discouraged or disappointed when things don’t go as you have planned, just adjust to it. If you find a system that you like online with a consistent schedule to follow, then commit to it fully to see results. If you decide to create your own schedule, keep at it as best as you can for a couple months and see if it becomes habit instead of a chore. Enlist help when needed, but especially from those who live with you. Offer positive motivations and make it fun. Turn on your favorite music and tell yourself you are going to clean your bedroom and bathroom in 2 hours, and don’t get distracted. Do whatever works for you, but do it often and don’t wait until you feel so depressed by the state of your surroundings, or you won’t be able to do your best.
I hope you liked this post. Please rate it and comment below with questions you may have or tips and tricks you think should be included. Let me know what other topics you would like me to post. Don’t forget to follow my page and subscribe to my weekly email reminders.