Wednesday, June 1, 2011

a question for you: lazy around the house?

After all that talk about housework and work, it seems a good time to ask you a question from a friend. (My friend, by the way, is pregnant with her second baby.) This is an issue I struggle with too, so we'd both love to hear your advice!

I want to ask how you organise your time? I know we're at very different stages of life, and I shouldn't aim at being some kind of supernatural wonder woman, but sometimes I feel like I don't get anything at all done, and it's mostly because I'm disorganised and generally lazy about things around the house - it's so easy to be lazy at home when nobody else is watching! Of course, that then leads to guilt about not getting things done... I've also just read Shopping for Time, so I'm starting to try to implement some of their suggestions, but is there any extra advice you could give?
Have you ever felt like this? Have you got any suggestions? Share your experiences and ideas here.

image is by Aunty Cookie (very appropriate!) from flickr


onlinesoph said...

I can definitely identify with feeling lazy and disorganised. I only have one child...not sure how I'll go with more!

I've never read Shopping for Time, but here are some things I've done that have helped me.

* When I'm overwhelmed about how much housework there is to do, I stop and write a list. The list has simple, achievable tasks on it, like "make bed," "put clothes in washing machine, etc" Then I just slowly make my way through the list and cross things off as I go, rather than focus on the big messy house. I put music on and try to include my son in the task (so if we're hanging out the clothes, I give him pegs to play with and give him some outside time, when making the bed we stop and play peekaboo with the covers for a minute, etc) so it doesn't feel like a chore.

*After my baby, I realised I spent heaps of time preparing meals, then having to clean up a messy kitchen afterwards. So I started doing all of my food prep in the morning - everything from cutting up fruit and preparing sandwiches to putting together dinner so it just needs to go in the oven at night (I tried to time this with my baby's sleep). This made me so much more organised as I only need to clean the kitchen once and it stays relatively tidy during the day, and if my child is hungry I have food prepared and ready to go. Makes the nights easier too.

* I have a "five things" rule. When I first come home from being out, I put the baby down with some toys and pick up five things around the room. Only five, so it's not like doing a massive clean...but I find by doing this, the place stays relatively tidy during the day. I also do this if I'm waiting for something, like for a kettle to boil or for something to heat up in the microwave.

*The biggest time saver for me was doing my grocery shopping online. I highly recommend it - the $5 delivery fee is worth the time you save!

Jean said...

fantastic suggestions, thanks!

mattnbec said...

I have particular tasks allocated to particular days:
* Monday: check over diary for week's tasks. Menu plan for week, do shopping list, catch up with washing from weekend.
* Tuesday: Fruit and veg and grocery shopping, ironing.
* Wednesday: busy day for us, so low taks.
* Thursday: second catch up on washing (and housework) day.
* Friday: Present/misc household things shopping.

Plus, I have an 'everyday to do' list for each day which includes all the every day things, unsurprisingly, (eg cook dinner, washing, tidying, cleaning up after meals etc) so that if I find myself too lost I have something to check. I should get this list laminated some time!! In it, I include a bit of 'me time' so I give myself permission to take a break, but don't over-do it. Although in practice, some days I do over-do computer time etc. I also include formal 'playing time' with the kids so I give myself permission to play without feeling like I should be doing something else. Ditto supervising homework.

I always do as much dinner prep as I can during nap time because school-run plus dropping off and picking up my husband from the train take time, especially at the usual dinner-prep time. I couldn't do this without a weekly menu-plan. The weekly plan includes leftovers, and an 'emergency/easy' meal.

If I'm planning to catch up with family or friends, I try to do it on Thursdays or Fridays.

Re keeping the house tidier, I've decided to aim to be better at returning things to where they belong and when I see something out of place, take it to the room it belongs in when I next go there too.

This has all come about because I'm naturally not so good at organising our family. The advent of school and, more recently, our house being up for sale have necessitated these things. I think the routine of these events have helped me a lot.


Jean said...

Thanks, Bec, I'm loving reading all these suggestions! Always so interesting finding out how people do things.

Yours sounds a bit like "washing day Monday..." - sometimes I long for the days when every day had a task! - and mine is similar: Mondays for cleaning, Wednesdays for shopping. I like the way you organise washing into it and I like the idea of that laminated list.

Jean said...

And Soph, I should have said, your cooking in the morning then tidying and cleaning is a brilliant way to structure the day. If you ever come across the children's book "Honey and Bear", check out the first story. You will laugh at the similar life lesson: cooking before cleaning! :)

Jean said...

Of course I do things the other way around...

Alison said...

I've just come out the other side of the first 12 months with 2 kids, and it has been a big challenge running the house as well as keeping up with the kids on not much sleep.

I've read Shopping For Time and I think the main thing that was relevant for this busy season is the idea of focusing on food prep and the laundry - with food on the table and clean clothes, the basics for your family are covered.

I've found that as life has gotten busier, I've gotten better at managing my time and being organised, because the alternative is not great. I've historically been terrible at bothering with housework, and I still have pretty low standards, but what I found with the addition of the second kid was that the mess can get overwhelming if you don't do something about it. I've come around to enjoy using my time well to have an organised household and it is refreshing after the chaos of a toddler and a newborn!

Other tips - lower your standards. Don't feel guilty if your house doesn't look like a magazine spread.

Lose the division between 'my time' and 'housework time'. It's all 'my time' - I want to be at home with my family so really, I'm doing what I want to be doing with my life! Even if it does involve cooking and cleaning.

Be flexible, and ready to use the time you have - I never really know when my kids will give me 10 minutes of peace to get something done, so I have to go with it when it happens.

This means being prepared and having a plan for what has to get done in the day. It has taken us a while to find our own daily rythym, but I am getting better at planning my days so that most things get done. It's a logistical challenge and takes work to manage it well. I see it as my job I guess, and try to take responsibility for it.

I used to write a to do list, and pray through it, which helped focus my priorities well.

I'm trying to limit how much housework I try to get done when the kids are around, because they are quite demanding of my attention and we all get frustrated if I'm trying to stack the dishwasher or sort the laundry etc when they want to play. I get done what I can when I can, and try to be realistic about what I can achieve each day.

And lastly, be kind to yourself. Especially with a baby in the house, sometimes the best you can do is to survive the day!

Valori said...

Apart from the large-scale planning that goes into managing a household, one small daily thing that helps me is to have a VERY simple morning routine -- Beds, dishes, laundry. I find that when those three things are finished, half the load is removed from my shoulders. So I unload the dishwasher and load the breakfast dishes, sort all laundry and get it going for the day so all I have to do is go up and down quickly to transfer loads (we are not even allowed to hang out our clothes in our neighborhood!), and I make my bed. Oh, and the other thing I try to do is be dressed for the day :) -- if I am going to try and exercise later and don't want to take a shower until afterwards, I at least try to make myself "presentable." It always amazes me how much better and ready to go I feel after accomplishing those things! Kind of the "once begun, half done" principle.

Adding one habit change at a time (from Shopping for Time) is a helpful one. Once I establish a habit, it become routine and bears a lot more fruit than all of the fancy charts and grandiose plans I make.

I also think it is good for the sanity to do simple regular pick-up like Soph and Bec mentioned and to keep at least the main area of the home tidy. And getting dinner partly prepared ahead of time is a big help.

Also, I like to bear in mind that seasons change, children grow, ministry needs change, and my household management schedule will need constant evaluation. AND in the midst of trying to maintain my home, I don't want to become so absorbed that I forget about PEOPLE (starting with my family) and become inflexible or unable to be spontaneous.

Catriona said...

As someone who is not naturally organised, I have found the Motivated Moms chore-planner system (you can find it online) helpful and satisfying. I think I can also tend towards being busy in a flappy way without being fruitful, iykwim, so a plan helps me to focus my wandering mind. Other things that help are meal plans, preparing the evening meal at lunch time. I aim to hold in my mind that my work is for God and to serve my family and that gives me perspective when it just feels/is dull.

Jean said...

Thanks, everyone, for your wonderful suggestions. I'll pull some of them together into a post sometime soon...

mattnbec said...

Was chatting with another mum from school about this very topic last week. In the process, one of the things I've realised is that the key, for me, is finding ways of creating routine and structure. Helps both Mum and kids too. I think the school day helps me with structuring time now. A lot. But before school, I found things like making watching playschool part of our daily routine helpful. If we went out, it would be in the mornings, usually. Also having morning tea or lunch, quieter time after that, reading or puzzles together in the later afternoon etc. The other mum I was talking to has been thinking of making a chart to help her son work out what's going on in the day to structure it too. I suggested she laminate that too.

Deb L said...

Catriona, thanks for the "Motivated Moms" tip! I've been trying it out this week. I'm a person who loves lists and tick-the-boxes so I quite enjoy it. I think I find housework a little overwhelming when I think of everything I could do.... and then I do nothing because I don't know how to prioritize. I like structure.

I've also found the Shopping for Time idea of "food & laundry" to be helpful. In crazy busy seasons, I try to get them done first and then see what else is do-able.

Jean said...

For what it's worth, here's the answer I sent my friend who asked the question in this post:

I wish I had more advice on the organising things front, but the truth is I'm pretty bad at this. Would you mind if I posted this question on my blog? I'll bet others have better suggestions.

But for what it's worth, here's a few ideas from my life:

- I get off to a good start - Monday mornings is for cleaning - my friend shops and cooks Mon morning - in both cases it gets our minds into gear for the week and makes us feel in control!

- I use a (flexible) timetable - Mon cleaning, Tues spend time with people, Wed shopping, Thurs ministry/school, Friday morning off

- I write lists (and then ignore them! :) ) of little jobs that need to be done for those spare moments when you can't think what to do

- I do whatever works instead of "best practice" e.g. at the moment I'm drying all my clothes inside instead of outside and leaving them folded all over a table because it helps me keep on top of the washing

- I find I’m more efficient and cheerful doing housework when I'm with/talking to another woman (I'm sure we're built that way) so I bought a phone with a head-set specifically so I can clean and talk to someone at the same time

- I have cleaning stuff I do every week which takes me about an hour (vacuuming, bathrooms, toilets) and keep it as simple as possible (enjo mits for bathrooms, spray bottles for toilet, all kept in the one place) - the dusting etc. doesn't get done much, if I'm honest!

- I use a big family organiser calendar

- I pray and talk with other women about all this (we sympathise with each other and share ideas)

- I try to treat caring for the home as my "work" - so I expect it to take up lots of hours each day - which isn't to say I don't set aside time for family and for time off (that's important too) including naps and blogging

- I have a thorough shopping list and mostly only go shopping once a week to one place including milk (supermarket): more expensive than shopping around at markets and Aldi, but it means I’m less frantic

- I save up all my errands for the same time (post office, kids to gym, library books etc...) instead of going out multiple times for different things

- I only shop for clothes for the family twice a year and don't do a lot of op-shopping or shopping around (clearly this saves me time, not money!) and don't shop in sales unless it coincides with my bi-yearly shopping (counter-intuitively, this does save money because I’m not tempted to buy things we don't need)

- Every year, I plan my week and commitments so I spend at least 2 days at home, with nothing on, to get things done (more about that below).

- As part of my prayer time in the mornings, I try to give 5 minutes to praying through the day and what I'll be doing and my general attitude to it all

- I try to remember to work as though working for the Lord even when unseen and unpraised

Despite all this I can be very lazy and disorganised. The home really is a hard place to stay motivated. It's very normal to feel overwhelmed, a bit down and discouraged, disorganised, and like about 5 out of the 10 balls you're trying to keep in the air are on the ground at any one time.

And different women do it differently. My friend fits housework around everything else. I can't work that way: I like to compartmentalise things. It also depends on your husband's preferences. Steve is happy as long as the bench is clear (which it often isn't); I know husbands who love a clean home but whose wives are very slap-dash, in which case I think the wife has something to work on!