How To Get Caught Up On Housework When You Have Kids: Strategies for Getting House Work and Laundry Done
I'm thinking of a word that elicits more groans than almost any other word in the English language...housework. I bet right now you're thinking about all the things you should be doing instead of sitting in front of your computer screen, yet just thinking about that pile of work is discouraging you from getting up and tackling it head-on. I've heard people tell me again and again that anyone who has kids will never be caught up with their housework, and while it may be true that the house may never be truly spotless with kids (and husbands!) running along behind to mess it up I had to believe that I could be a lot more caught up than I was.
Here's me not so long ago...I did laundry on a daily basis, I picked up the living room five times a day, I washed dishes until I had no more room to put them to dry, I washed and vacuumed like nobody's business, and at the end of the day I'd gotten none of my home business work done and the house looked just as bad as it had that morning. My other half would come home and look at the freshly-strewn toys all over the living room and still more dirty dishes in the sink and deduce that I hadn't been doing anything all day.
Gets pretty disheartening, huh? Imagine how I felt when I was still working a full-time job outside the home and trying to get all this done while squandering away what little time I had with my son over a sink of dirty dishes. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a good housekeeper...I was raised in cramped and cluttered houses an it simply doesn't bother me that much. Sure it feels a lot better when it's NOT cramped and cluttered, but I definitely have a lack of motivation when it comes to cleaning all day for something that's just going to have to be done again tomorrow (if not this evening!). Does this sound familiar to anyone? I figured there has to be a way to get a little more caught up and there absolutely must be a way that I can get enough done that I don't feel guilty every time I try to relax.
Finally, I sat down and came up with a strategy for getting this house CLEAN and minimizing the frustrations...and I've got to tell you that with a two-year-old, three dogs, a cat, and a significant other who works with concrete all day the frustrations in cleaning are many, especially when I have my own business to run on top of it all. My biggest thing is that I have to feel like I actually accomplished something in my day and if I can't see a difference I fall into a nasty cycle of depression that is only compounded by the other half's frustration at having a perpetually messy house. For those of you that think the amount of picking up is excessive in a day let me tell you I generally just try to keep a walking space clear until shortly before "he who thinks he is boss" gets home, but I live in a house that is merely 480 square feet (yes, you read that right, my house measures 22'x22') with all those residents, it takes about five toys in the middle of the floor to make it hard to walk. Don't worry though, if this strategy will work for you it will work regardless of the size of your house.
First - You know all those dishes, laundry, and general picking up I just mentioned? Forget them for the moment, put them aside. Come up with an amount of time you can dedicate to housework per day, something you know you will be able to fit around work, kids, cooking, special time with the significant other, extra activities, exercise, and whatever else you do regularly (I usually schedule a little less time on Saturday and none for Sunday because, religious or no, everyone needs a day off to decompress), take the last 1/3 of that time and save it for those every day chores. Alright, so I usually cheat a little on this and throw laundry in the wash as soon as I start my housework for the day so that it will be ready to fold and put away when it gets to my "every day work" time.
Now for all that other time...the first 2/3 of the allotted time. Look around your house and choose things that will take at least two days before they have to be done again...I'm very bad about randomly working on things throughout the house and never actually getting anything finished so I've made an effort for myself to start on one wall of one room and work my way around that room before going to the next until I've hit my allotted time. See things on the floor on the way? LEAVE THEM, those kids will have more stuff out before you're done so just leave it sitting right where it is until later. For this part of the work I like to do things like dust, wipe down appliances, scrub out cabinets, wash walls (white walls and mechanically-inclined person just don't mix), scrub out the tub, if you have a yard this would be the time to mow the lawn, rake leaves, clean out the dog kennel, boot some things out of the garage you've been putting off throwing away, and whatever else is needing done. Yes, it will take a while to get caught up on these jobs especially if you only have an hour a day to put into it.
The reason this works for me? I can see results. I can look around the house as soon as I get up in the morning and see clear indications that I did work the day before. This is a major boost for me and helps to no end with the motivation part.
Alright, now to the every day things...multi-tasking is a wonderful thing and with a tiny bit of planning a lot can get done in a short time. I like to run a sink full of water and load it up with dishes, then let them soak while I go pick up. The clutter in my house is usually all the same sorts of things, so I place a garbage can, laundry basket, and box to put toys in in the middle of the room and start throwing everything into its correct box (with a small pile for anything that doesn‘t fit into the three)...I take these with me to each room of the house and usually have everything off the floor in less than ten minutes. Dump the toys in the kid's toybox (if it's not the box you used to collect them), throw laundry in the wash (if it's a full load) or throw in the hamper (if not) and take the trash out if it's full enough. I personally take the trash out immediately and just dump it out of the can without removing the bag so I'm not wasting a half-full plastic bag. Then I wash my dishes through, they've been soaking so it might take ten minutes but usually less, take the clothes out of the dryer that I did during the rest of my work, fold and put away, vacuum, dry the last bits of water off the dishes and put them away, and I'm done. Generally takes about 45 minutes.
I know in today's world it can be very hard to find the time to do housework, but if you can stick with even an hour a day in between work and PTA and whatever else your life consists of it can help tremendously...as I pointed out the major success point for my personal strategy is that I don't get discouraged nearly as easily because I can actually see something accomplished later. I personally try to budget three hours a day to housework since I stay at home, I put at least five hours into my business then three hours of housework for my full day (then usually put a couple more hours into the business!) and so far I'm seeing tremendous results...it may be a small house but it was built in 1942 and I swear there are nooks and crannies that haven't been cleaned since then.
A couple of additional tips...if you're a stay at home parent and want the house nice for your significant other when he/she comes home from work schedule your house work in the early afternoon (or whatever time is applicable) to have it done before he/she gets home, but not far enough before that the kids and pets have a chance to trash it again first. If you're not getting enough done with the time you've allotted for housework, add five minutes! Just five minutes won't make a huge difference in your schedule but may be enough to finish up that last little bit of every day work or let you get that faucet polished up the way you like. Additionally, limit your clutter! I know the vast majority of people have more clutter than they want or need but deciding where to start on donating or throwing things out can be difficult (check back for an upcoming article on de-cluttering) but my best advice is...just do it. If you're unsure of whether you should get rid of something don't wait, give it away today or throw it in the trash and make sure it gets all the way out to the dumpster today before you have a chance to think twice about it. Chances are you'll never miss it and you'll breath a little easier at having that much less clutter. A clean house shouldn't be something only bored childless people get and it doesn't have to be...all you need is a strategy that works for you and I hope that mine might be of some help if only as a starting point to developing your own unique housecleaning strategy.
Thank you for reading my hub, I hope it has been helpful. What about you? Please take a moment to post a comment with your favorite clutter-busting or organizational tip.