by Valerie Plowman
Moms are busy. It doesn’t matter if you are a working mom, work from home mom, or a stay at home mom, you are a busy! A huge difficulty as a mom is to find ways to stay up on your necessary house tasks while still allowing time to be a mom in ways other than a housekeeper. This post isn’t intended to give you the pep talk on “spend time with the kids, not time cleaning.” Yes, we all want to spend time with our kids, but we do also have things we need to do each day, and that is okay! The trick is figuring out how to best accomplish those things so there is still time to fulfill other roles in your life. Here are some tips on getting those tasks done efficiently and with wisdom.
1-Have a Plan/Schedule
I find it very helpful to have a cleaning plan and schedule. I have certain days I clean certain things each week. I also make a plan for what additional things I want to get done during the week.
To see more details on how I manage my chores throughout the week, see this post: How I Do It: Chores. To see how I plan my meals, see this post: How I Do It: Meals.
I keep lists of things I need to get done. I have always been a list maker, and I have noticed as I have gotten more children and as my children have gotten older and busier, I really need lists just to free up some head space! I can’t keep it all in my head. I used to do lists with paper, but I now use my iPhone. I put stuff in my list as soon as I think of it. I initially used my Notes on the iPhone. I now use two different apps.
For my personal “to-dos” I use Mom’s Daily Planner by Yadahome.com. I just use the free version and so far only use the “to-do list” function. It has been very helpful for me in organizing my to-dos. I can categorize and prioritize my lists. I can assign due dates and look at what is only due that day, which makes the list more manageable I can also look at the entire list of what I have open if I need to.
For keeping the entire family on the same schedule, my favorite app is Cozi. We also use the free version of this. My husband and I have the same app, and when I put something in, it updates on his phone as well. We keep our family calendar on it. We also keep our shopping lists on it. You can also have “to-do” lists on Cozi (good place for a honey-do?).
Lists help me keep track of everything I need to get done and where I need to be.
3-Start with Scriptures
I find that when I start my day with scripture study, I am able to get so much more done in my day. I have found this to be true ever since I was a teenager, and I never miss an opportunity to share about it. Put it to the test!
4-Let Things Go
If you are feeling overwhelmed and like you don’t have the time or means to do it all, figure out what you can let go. Sure, cleaning the blinds monthly would be great. But how much do you NEED to do that? Just think through the expectations you are putting on yourself and cut back where you can. For more on this idea, see my post Pregnancy: Think Through Abilities. It is directed to pregnant mothers, but it can easily be applied to all situations where you need to cut back. You can also see “Good Sacrifice vs. Foolish Sacrifice” and “Slow the Pace.”
5-Don’t Clean All Day
It took me until my third child to figure this one out. Don’t clean all day! When you have young kids, you can easily spend the day following them around and cleaning everything up as they go. Then you get frustrated when a new mess is made because you just cleaned that area! One Dad I know was left to be a “stay at home dad” for a week while his wife was away. He started complaining about cleaning all day and I told him to just let it go. You will find you are a nicer parent when you pick once or twice a day to focus on picking up the house. See more on this under 9 below–Work as a Family.
Now, you want to balance this idea with the good practice of having your children clean up after themselves. With young children, you need to help them clean. So you do want to instill good habits of cleaning up after themselves, but that doesn’t mean you follow them around cleaning the trail they leave behind them–that is not teaching good habits.
I do my main chore in the morning. I try to clean up after meals. I then do the pick up in the evening before kids go to bed.
6-Early To Rise
This one isn’t very popular, but if you can get up early, you will find you are able to get so much more done in a day! Getting up early means you are up before your children, and we all know doing things without the help of our children is much faster and easier than doing it with the help of our children :). So, even just an extra thirty minutes in the morning could do a lot for your “to-do” list.
7-Keep Things Presentable
My main goal for my house these days is just to keep things presentable–keep things in a state that if I had an unexpected visitor, I wouldn’t be totally embarrassed. This is definitely easier said than done, and I have plenty of embarrassing visits, but it helps give me an end-goal that I can focus on for each day.
8-Pretend Company is Coming
I once had a friend comment on Facebook about how much faster she worked when company was coming over. Isn’t that so true! If you want to clean your house in a hurry, pretend company will be there in 15 minutes. Clean like crazy for those 15 minutes.
And of course, actually inviting someone over can accomplish the same thing. Company coming is a great clutter-reducer for me
9-Work as a Family
When I decided a few years ago to stop cleaning all day long, I figured the best time for things to get very clean was right before bedtime. My children are all required to help clean up before bed. Everyone helps clean, then we do our bedtime routine, then the kids are put in bed, and the house is clean for about 12 hours!
A great thing about doing this is that the children think about what kind of mess they are making because they know they will be cleaning it up. You don’t have to do this before bed–you can pick any time of day.
10-Hire It Out
Sometimes you just need to hire it out. Many families I know who have both parents working find hiring someone to come in and clean 2-4 times a month well worth the investment. I “hire out” my children to help me with deep cleaning–I used deep cleaning as the jobs they can do to earn money. You might find there is something you want to hire out, whether it is a neighbor teenager, a professional, or your own children.
Valerie is wife to one and mother to four. She blogs at www.babywisemom.com
It is funny that Valerie from The Babywise Mom chose to write a post about chores from a few suggestions I sent. I had already written today’s post, and it follows beautifully. As always, Valerie has some great ideas for making chores a daily part of your family’s routine and offers specific suggestions on how to include your children from a very early age. I want to shift slightly to the topic of household chores between the parents.
One thing that is bound to test most every marriage is the division of chores and feeling like you’re partner isn’t pulling his/her weight. You run around the house picking up, cleaning up, organizing, folding, washing, folding…all the while watching your spouse sit down and relax for a few minutes. Or you ask five times just for one little detail to be done. Or each of you remembers a task and the timeline very differently.
I wish there was a simple solution to equally divide or magically see eye to eye on who does what. I think there may *possibly* be a simple solution for each couple, but what works for me may very well not work for you. To confuse matters even further, work schedules and part-time vs. full-time can throw a wrench in everything. For us, we had a huge shift in responsibilities when we moved earlier this year. My husband actually works from home now and his day is filled with major 3 year old drama and keeping an active 5 year old occupied. Some months are smoother than others, but it has taken us most of the year to find a good balance…and it’s still very much a work in progress.
What I can tell you is that communication is KEY just like most major marital issues. Days, weeks, and months that go by with us silently resenting or wishing for things to be different are so much harder than the times where we sit down and ask for feedback, opinions, suggestions…genuinely listening to the other. There are months he keeps everything on task. There are weeks I am so ready to pull my hair out over the way our house looks. There are times I feel like we are closer than every and mutually respects each other. There are days I come up excited and joyful and praising of him. There are seconds I cut him down to the quick with one look or comment.
The times that we accomplish the most are those when we are willing to hear what is working and what is not working. We ask how we can each improve for the other or make things easier. We compliment. We prioritize spending time together. We talk.
The times things go more sour than old milk in the back of the fridge are the times we turn our focus inwards. We start keeping a mental tally of what he or she has not done…and all that we have.
I do think things should be divided up but it is almost never “equal.” There are things that we as mothers and women are just built to accomplish. We do great at the little details and keeping things running behind the scenes. I believe guys are great at seeing the whole picture and not being bogged down with all of the small things. They pick a few of the most important things to focus on and knock them out…the rest is just not as important to them…and that is okay much more of the time than we admit! My kids are almost always clothed and fed when I come home :))) And, I *never* have to worry about the nanny quitting!
Some of the things that have helped us are to sit down monthly for “check-ups.” Is the other happy? Are there things that need to be addressed by both spouses? What few things could each of us do for the other (without any interrupting or justifying from said other person)? We also make sure that no matter what the house looks like we sit down several nights a week for “us” time. Yes, sometimes it is watching a show. No, we don’t have as many date nights as we should, but we do sit down a lot after the kids are in bed and spend time together. So I do think one of the biggest things you can do is to simply talk about what your expectations are and what is or is not getting down.
Next, look for things you can do to help your spouse. This always seems counter intuitive when things are not getting done the way we want them to be done, but I *promise* that going out of your and above and beyond to make your spouse valued and appreciated will have huge rewards. The trash will miraculously be taken out when you’re not looking or his pile of t-shirts seem to jump into his drawer. Also look to see if your expectations are unfair or too high. Does the laundry really, absolutely need to be folded tonight? Is it okay for him to sit down tonight after a super hard day when he has the day off tomorrow?? Do you need to find another way to do the laundry a day earlier if it’s really important to you to have it folded and put away at a certain time/day?
Re-organize the list of chores. I really enjoy cutting the grass sometimes. Just because most husbands are cutting the grass in their yards doesn’t mean I don’t cut it a lot (before it gets really hot 😉 in our yard. My husband is an amazing cook and does almost all of the grocery shopping and some weeks almost all of the cooking. Reversing of typical roles is completely fine in my book!! Do whatever works for the two of you, and if you have it in your budget, decide what you can afford to hire out. If cutting the grass or ironing or dusting is the absolutely most mundane, draining, time-consuming task, see if you can possibly have someone come starting once a month.
Most of all, don’t simply sit and wish things were different! Find out what your spouse needs from you first! Then start with 1-2 things differently that you would like from them to help divide some of the household responsibilities. Look to see if there is anything you can do to pick up the slack or if your mentality just needs to change. You can also look for ways to think outside of the box or divide them up in less traditional ways. Most of all, have fun with it. Maybe set some goals or a small reward for checking everything off for the week. Or schedule a small *fun* get together to inspire you to knock out those last few projects. Lastly, don’t be afraid to teach your children early. Don’t save all of the chores for naptime or after they are in bed. Involve them in cleaning windows or sweeping things into a masking-taped square on the floor or dusting coffee tables. Take advantage of these early years where they want to be just like you and think chores are fun
The culture I grew up and and currently live in is one that values work. My father is the son of a dairy farmer. They worked hard. Because of the example of my parents, I am a hard worker. I always knew that I would want to teach my children to be hard workers as well.
I spent many hours during the first several years of my oldest child’s life reading and reading about chores–developing my own opinion and philosphy as I poured through countless “expert” opinions. We worked on chores in our home and had a great system going.
And then something interesting happened.
Organizing and implementing chores was and is easy if I am home and my children are home all day every day (for the most part). When you are all home, you have an entire day to fill. Chores are almost necessary just to keep the masses sane. You need to balance the structure with the the free play. But when we started adding school, lessons, sports, etc. to life, it became a little trickier. I would imagine much of my dilema with it all is similar to what many of you readers experience since most of you are working mothers.
We could do chores each morning before school starts. My children typically have about an hour they can spend playing with each other before school starts. An hours is plenty of time to work chores in. But…I have a hard time with the idea of chores before school. My two older children are about to go to a day highly full of structure–I love that they can spend some time just letting their imaginations take over before they head off to school. My third child (3) has this precious hour to play with siblings before she is left in the house with me for the day, so I hate to have her play time spent doing chores.
Another option is to load a bunch of chores onto Saturday. Saturday can be our work day. But do I really want to turn the one day of the week we have off into chore day?
The reality, however, is that I am still a big believer in the benefits of chores. I believe that work has more than an economic value (Work: More than Economic Value). Most of us who have had our children help with work around the house know full well having the child help with chores does not make things easier (at least initially–since I have children who are 7 and 5 I can promise you the day does come that they do actually add quite a bit of help as they get older). Work is a necessary part of life, and I even believe work is good for us (see Work and Responsibility).
I deeply believe all of this, and yet I waffle on when to best work chores into our lives when school is in session.
- Write down on paper the possible times you can do chores. You want to choose times that are consistent each day–times you know you can follow through on.
- Think through your options–visualize each scenario in your mind. Follow it from beginning to end. Does it seem to work?
- Think through the possible reasons that time doesn’t work for you. If you can’t resolve your “nay” reasons, that likely will not be a sucecssful time for you to have chores.
- Choose the time you think will work best and implement it.
- A great idea is to work some chores into certain routines that happen each day. For example, making your bed can be part of your morning routine. You can have a routine where each person clears his or her own place after each meal. Each evening, we clean up all of the toys that have been played with that day as part of our bedtime routine. There are many small things you can make part of the routine of the day.
- Be willing to change your strategy if the one you picked is not working after a time. There is nothing wrong with changing things up if what you are doing is not optimal.
I started to title this post “doing for others.” That’s what we teach our kids…D
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat others with respect. It’s better to give than to receive. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.
Ok, that’s a lot of lessons rolled into one, but you get the gist. We are constantly trying to teach our children how to serve with kindness. I realize that is something I still struggle greatly with…serving others not on my terms. Sure I serve others. Sometimes I even feel invigorated serving others…but it’s usually something I have specifically picked to volunteer for or something that I am already passionate about.
What about the things I don’t want to do? The things that are thankless jobs?
It’s not my skill set, my strong suite. It burns me out. Someone else is better at it. I’m supposed to be energized by serving.
I have a whole list of other excuses if you need them! Especially when it comes to cleaning. Hence, the title. I’m not just talking about tidying up or organizing or even deep cleaning. I’m talking about the monotonous, daily cleaning that goes under appreciated–the type of cleaning that is undeniably going to be messed up minutes to hours later. The cleaning that you will do all over tomorrow. With little children there are certainly going to be messes and lots of them, but I recently realized that I can have a pretty stinky attitude when it comes to cleaning with a servant’s heart. I love a clean house as much as most, but I absolutely hate watching things explode back to a normal level of messiness within a short matter of time.
I think there are two lessons I have learned from this realization…one, I often don’t have a servant’s heart when it is most needed. I should not be cleaning with the expectation that sticky, fast-moving little hands are going to respect the effort. In all honestly, it probably just creates more of a temptation to play harder, lol…and that’s okay. It gives me opportunity to teach as well, to practice cleaning as we go along. It’s hard, it’s monotonous, but it’s a practical, valuable lesson that I want me kids to learn in life. I also want them to learn how to clean. It’s perfectly fine with me if they leave more smudges than before while practicing wiping windows. We have a blast cleaning together. Even if they are not around to help clean, I know I need to work harder to have a good attitude even if I am not around to fully appreciate the cleanliness or even if it is wrecked again. Just because I go back to work the next day doesn’t mean they shouldn’t enjoy a clean house even if they don’t admire it.
Two, when I start feeling disgruntled about all I am doing, I also need to do another attitude check about whether it is just a lack of a servant heart or whether I am forgetting to have a Mary heart in a Martha world. Yes, I do need to have a servant’s heart when serving my family even if I don’t like serving that way, but I also need to make sure my priorities are straight. It may sound contradictory, but cleaning may not always be the best use of my time. Am I more worried about folding that last load of laundry or have I gotten down on the floor to play with my kids today? Am I cleaning for myself or my family? Have I spent time thanking God for all that I have been given to clean first??
Sometimes I keep on cleaning…but change my perspective. Sometimes I lay the mop down and race the kids to the backyard! Just know that both are okay and that children very rarely ever notice whether the laundry is folded…but will remember if you are too busy or stomping around!
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