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Simplify your household

by Karen on January 11, 2012

I always planned to be a stay-at-home mom for the early years of my childrens’ lives. Back when I worked 9 to 5, I remember looking forward to all the downtime I thought I’d have once we had kids. After all, if I was able to manage all of our household tasks in the evenings and weekends when I worked 40 hours a week, how much time would managing a household take when I wasn’t working full-time?

I’m sure all of you find this very funny. I know I do. Because I was so wrong.

I don’t know how such a tiny person complicates things so much, but it seems like my itty bitty 1-year-old son has tripled my housework. Or at least tripled the amount of time it takes to get things done. We have more laundry, more dishes, more things to do during the day, and less time to get them done. I have to squeeze housework in between his naps and after he’s in bed, but it can be so hard to stay on top of things when I all I want to do when he falls asleep is crash myself, or finish work I need to do, or read that book that’s been staring at me from my bedside table, or sew something.

After Judah was born, there were a few glorious weeks when I parked my butt on the couch with my baby in my arms and didn’t worry about the housework. I realize that is probably the last time my butt will be parked anywhere for a long long time. Now I’m all about getting the housework done as quickly and efficiently as possible so there’s more time to chase him and possibly a little downtime for myself when he finally goes to sleep.

Here are some of the ways I’ve simplified my long list of household chores.

Cleaning

I quickly tidy the house three times a day — once during Judah’s morning nap, once during his afternoon nap, and once after he’s in bed. This tidying takes roughly 5 minutes. I whirl through the house picking up things that are out of place, and putting them where they belong. Dishes into the sink, random dirty laundry into the hampers, paper thrown into the recycling bin or neatly stacked, shoes lined up next to the door or put away in the closet. I also sweep around Judah’s high chair as soon as I get a chance after he eats, because those crumbs drive me bonkers. This keeps me sane throughout the day, because I don’t feel constantly surrounded by clutter. Also, keeping everything relatively tidy throughout the week makes deep cleaning much less time consuming.

At least once a week, I clean the house. Usually when Tony is home either in the afternoon or on the weekend, I let him take Judah into his room for some playtime so I can get the house clean as quickly as possible. I start on one end of the house, and work my way through each room. This is when I scrub the bathrooms, clean the floors, dust, and disinfect.

Thanks to this tidy every day, clean once a week system, our house never looks like a tornado hit it. Clutter doesn’t build up, and the house looks pretty presentable throughout the week.

Laundry

I am continually amazed at how much laundry there is now that we have a toddler in the house. When Judah was a baby, I didn’t think keeping up with the laundry was so bad. But now that he’s feeding himself and getting so messy, it seems like I’m changing his clothes two or three times a day and constantly washing everything.

Because I like to check things off my to-do list instead of keeping a revolving list, I don’t do laundry every day. I prefer to wash everything once a week or so. I do all of it in one day in the winter when I’m using the dryer. In the summer, I line dry the laundry, so I usually split it up into two days so there’s enough room on the lines.

I have three hampers in the house — one in the closet in the master bedroom, one in Judah’s room, and one in the laundry room where I throw miscellaneous laundry that I pick up around the house during my daily tidying sessions. Because I tidy every day, all of the laundry is condensed to these three spots, so I don’t have to run around hunting for dirty laundry. I dump all of it out on the floor and separate it into whites, colors, towels/linens, and jeans. I put each load into one of the laundry baskets and carry them all into the laundry room. Depending on how much laundry we have, the colors and whites are sometimes double loads.

When a load is dry, I fold it as soon as I can. I hate folding and putting away laundry, so I’d rather get it done in small chunks throughout the day than sit and fold everything for an hour. I separate and stack the folded clothes by person and by drawer. Tony’s sweaters in one pile, Tony’s t-shirts in another pile, my t-shirts, Judah’s pajamas, etc. I stack them in the laundry basket in order so I’m not running back and forth putting things away. I stop in each room once, put the laundry in the proper place, and move on.

I love the feeling of folding and putting away that last load of laundry knowing that I won’t need to worry about laundry again for another week.

Dishes

I used to be a firm believer in putting a dish into the dishwasher as soon as you were finished with it. Now I’m lucky if I have time to feed myself during the day, and half the time when I put a dish into the sink, I’m holding Judah with my other arm. I still don’t like to let dishes pile too high, though. It makes the whole kitchen seem cluttered when there’s a huge pile of dishes in the sink, not to mention those stuck on messes can be a real pain to scrub out.

To stay on top of things, I wash dishes 2-3 times a day — when Judah is strapped into his high chair for his afternoon snack and after dinner — and sometimes while Tony is cooking if it’s a particularly messy meal. I wipe down the counters and the stove top every time I load the dishwasher. I am amazed at how clean the kitchen feels when I just keep the counters clean and the dishes in the sink to a minimum.

I run the dishwasher every night so the dishes are clean and ready to be put away in the morning. Sometimes if it’s a really light load, I wait and run it the next night to conserve energy and water.

Toys

Judah’s toys are the beast that I’m still struggling to find a good system to organize. His toys are scattered between two rooms — his bedroom and the guest room where we sometimes play with him when he’s bored with his bedroom. I try to keep the guest room pretty tidy. There’s a bin where we toss all of his toys when he’s not playing with them, and bigger toys just get lined up next to it. His bedroom is trickier, though. Since my tidying is almost always done when he’s sleeping, his bedroom often gets neglected. One of my big plans for early this year is to invest in some bins and organizers to keep things tidy in there, and move some of the furniture out to make the room more practical for a toddler.

Now share your ideas for keeping things simple and organized in your home. I wanna hear about your systems!

 

 

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{ 14 comments }

1 Mrs. Money January 11, 2012 at 9:22 am

I’ve got to come up with a system that works for us soon! One of the biggest tips I can give anyone about keeping their house clean is to declutter relentlessly. When you’ve got less stuff to keep up with, it is SO much easier to clean. Same with clothes, towels, dishes, etc. We have enough of all of those for us plus a couple guests. (Well we don’t have clothes for guests!)

When I was working, it was so hard for me to get everything done on the weekend because it felt like ALL I was doing was laundry and sweeping, mopping, cleaning bathrooms, etc.
Mrs. Money´s last blog post ..Gluten Free Pancake Recipe

2 Kate the Librarian January 11, 2012 at 11:17 am

I am incredibly impressed with your level of motivation. Call it pregnancy, call it laziness, but I have trouble killing the clutter NOW. Forget when I have a small one rampaging… it’s going to be tragic. Your blog is inspiring me to take small steps toward control, for sure.

3 Karen January 11, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Oh, geez, Kate. I was QUEEN LAZY when I was pregnant. I was lucky if I got up and showered and dressed, let alone cleaned anything, and I wasn’t even working at the time. You will be amazed at how much energy you have once the baby is OUT instead of in.

I said in the post that I sat on my butt for a few weeks, but if I’m being really truthful, it was actually more like months. It seems like it took forever for me to find a groove. Surprisingly, though, having an older baby does a lot to help you find a groove and get into a routine — out of necessity more than anything. You will find a groove! After you take the several months to sit on your butt that you rightfully deserve after giving birth. :)

4 Kacie January 11, 2012 at 12:32 pm

You are doing great! I am still trying to get my groove. Johnny now has a chore. He wipes the dining table before meals. I plan on having him do more and more as he gets older because I believe in outsourcing and delegating the heck outta stuff.

I’m trying to get Viv involved in putting her toys in the toybox and whatnot but it’s not easy.

My house is messy and my best solution is to invite people over, because I’m motivated to clean better for them.
Kacie´s last blog post ..Investing in our greatest asset and going back to school (for cheap)

5 Karen January 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Viv is cleaning up her toys?! One of Judah’s favorite games when I’m attempting to pick up his room is to follow me and dump out all the toys I just put away. Pfft.

It is so hard to know when to get kids involved in the process. I’m sort of just playing it by ear. I think it’s awesome that Johnny already has responsibilities. My plan is to get Judah involved as soon as he can reliably follow commands (so when he’s 21, maybe? lolz).

I think I’ll start by having him just shadow my when I’m doing chores and “help.” He can put away plastic bowls and things in the lower cabinets when I’m unloading the dishwasher. Or help me fold towels or put away his own clothes. And obviously he’ll be responsible for cleaning up his own toys when he’s done with them. It’s going to depend on what he’s capable of doing without undoing all of my work, though. Sometimes with littles it seems like their “help” just makes more work for you, but I do think it’s important to find a way to get them involved in chores as early as possible to create good cleaning habits.

6 Kacie January 11, 2012 at 9:27 pm

I said “I’m trying to get Viv involved….” as in yeah no she’s not really doing what I want her to do yet. Still trying!

Earlier today, I was cleaning the bathroom. Was like, “Johnny, wanna help?” “YEAH!” So I got him a squirt bottle, filled with water and vinegar and gave him a clean towel. Told him to spray the floor and countertops and whatever and then wipe it. He loved it, it sorta helped, and I think it was overall good stuff.

I think even though I still had to do the real cleaning, he felt involved and tried to contribute, so that’s setting a good mindset for later on.
Kacie´s last blog post ..Investing in our greatest asset and going back to school (for cheap)

7 Kacie January 11, 2012 at 12:32 pm

PS if you add those “tweet this” or “like this” widgets to your post pages I will tweet ’em from time to time! SOCIAL MEDIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
Kacie´s last blog post ..Investing in our greatest asset and going back to school (for cheap)

8 Rachel January 13, 2012 at 4:31 am

I’m with you on the washing once a week. because I still work full time it’s split over a few days, washing on Friday night, hang out to dry on Saturday, iron on Sunday, unless it’s really windy and the clothes dry on Saturday!
I love knowing that once everything is folded and hung up on a Sunday its done until next weekend, and I’m all ready for the week!
I do however like folding, I find it therapeutic (my mother thinks I’m nuts!!)

9 Jennifer January 13, 2012 at 2:41 pm

I hope you enjoyed it, because once you have more kids the only time you will be “parking your butt” is to nurse – and even then it won’t be always because you will get good at standing and walking around nursing real quick while chasing a toddler/preschooler. LOL I wish I had realized all of that with my first one.
Jennifer´s last blog post ..Day 12 No Spend Month Update

10 margot January 15, 2012 at 3:12 am

There was an interesting long-term study that showed that no matter how much (or how little) housewives had to do, they expanded the work to fill the full amount of time. There are several reasons, but the main one was that it helped them feel important and validated. The study showed that major technological advances (like the laundry machine, the dish washer, the vacuum, etc) didn’t decrease the amount of time women spent doing housework – women just expanded the work they spent on other tasks or invented new tasks to do. I see this trend all the time among my friends. For example, one friend who stays home might be stressed by how much she thinks she needs to do all day while another friend accomplishes the same amount in the home even though she and her husband work full-time. I regularly see friends get just as stressed out raising one child as other parents are raising six children. I try to keep this in mind as I go through my life. It helps me be more efficient, not make up new work or more neurotic work to fill the time, and it helps me proactively choose to adopt a less stressed out attitude which I think makes my reality that way.

11 anne January 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

“getting things done at home” in efficient (or non-efficient) ways is not the issue.Raising your children well by being around and available to them is. That is importance and validation that money can never buy. You are doing a great job, Karen!
:)

12 Karen January 15, 2012 at 1:50 pm

I think any theory on *why* women expand their work to fill their time is just that — a theory. I would argue rather than wanting to feel “important and validated” that stay-at-home moms spend more time on housework because a.) they have more time to spend on it and b.) being in the home all day with a small child creates more mess that then requires cleaning. If you and your children are outside the home 40 hours a week, of course there will be less housework because no one is in the house making messes during that time.

I agree with Anne that I don’t need to increase my time doing housework to feel validated. I wouldn’t have quit my job if I didn’t think being a stay-at-home mom was an important and valid alternative to full-time work.

That said, I was definitely more stressed as a working woman with no children than I am as a stay-at-home mom of one. I enjoy this work much more and I feel more in control of my own time, so the stress isn’t as great.

I try not to let housework stress me out at all. I stay busy, but at the end of the day, if I don’t finish the tasks I planned to do, I remind myself that I chose to stay home not so I could clean more, but so I could be with my son.

13 Melissa January 26, 2012 at 1:42 am

I totally agree with you, as a mom that has bounced between part time and full time roles at work, I often find there is much less house work when I work full time because the kids aren’t there to go behind me and un-pick-up their toys :-). That being said I much prefer working less hours so that we can play and work on preschool stuff etc. also, the more time you spend at home the more you see what needs to be done and take care of deep cleaning stuff that needs to be done. When I work more I usually neglect washing windows, washing furniture, etc that really does need to be done (especially if you have pets!), but I just concentrate on the superficial picking up, sweeping, etc instead.

14 Melissa January 26, 2012 at 1:51 am

Also,if you have just one kid, you are the sole source of entertainment/interaction/care. Siblings are a great source of all of the above. This doesn’t mean I’m stressing people need to have 3+ kids, it is just that having an only child(especially a young one) isn’t a piece of cake either. Most days I am thankful that my two can play/help each other while I try to get stuff done. Not sure what I will do when my oldest starts school in the fall!

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