I have always loved this poem, and cried big fat tears when Mrs. Magic Wand posted it a few months ago.
I love the sentiment, and it is such a beautiful reminder… but eventually (at least for me), someone has to do something about the cobwebs… and the pile of bottles in the sink… and the cat hair dust bunnies that are collecting in every corner.
My goal as a mom is to, first and foremost, be there for Little Lion. His development and well being are my top priority, and I am okay with letting the house get a little messy when the need arises. Sometimes those beautiful moments sneak up on us, and there is nothing more important than some extra snuggle time. But the truth of the matter is I function far better in an orderly environment, and it is much easier to maintain order than to create it from chaos. I am not obsessive about having everything perfectly clean all the time, but I like for things to be neat enough that if a friend randomly drops by to say hello or we decide to have a last minute cookout, I am not too stressed at the idea of having people in our home. I want to be able to focus on the time with those I love without distraction.
Here are some shortcuts for keeping the cleaning under control so there is more time for rocking sweet babies!
1. When it comes to clutter, just say NO – We don’t keep anything that we don’t want or use. If I can’t immediately see a need for an item, it doesn’t stay. We consider every item that comes into the house (including papers and mail) and throw away or donate anything we don’t really want or need. We did a massive purge of all unnecessary clutter while I was pregnant, and now that I see how nice it is to live with less “stuff” I don’t think I could ever go back. It is easier to part with items before you form an emotional attachment. I do have a memory box for myself (letters from students, friends, or family members etc.) and a memory box for LL so that I have a home for sentimental items that I don’t want to display but also don’t want to discard. In general, however, I don’t tend to keep much… and when those boxes fill up I will have to reevaluate which of those items are important to hang on to.
If you have never done a huge purge, I would highly recommend it. Tackle one room at a time. That way you get the reward of having a room completely finished. Start by taking every single item in the room and putting it in the middle (or on top of the bed if it is a bedroom). Everything. Empty out every drawer, every closet, under the bed, etc. Leave nothing but the furniture (and you can use the opportunity to move furniture around too if you want). It helps to see everything in one place to group things in a way that makes sense to you. Then, decide what you can get rid of and what can be stored elsewhere (we use our attic for this but or attic is small, so we really limit what we keep). Once you are down to only what needs to remain in that room, you can determine a “home” for every single item. Then, when you get the bottom of the pile, in theory everything will be organized. I would give yourself at least a full uninterrupted afternoon for each room. This can be a long process, but once it is finished, maintaining the organization is simple.
2. A basket for everything (and everything in its basket) – I love baskets. I could not function without baskets. They are my secret weapon to being able to straighten up the house in 10 minutes or less. I especially love baskets that hide the contents… that way, even if everything is just thrown in there, it still looks neat.
3. Have a Junk Drawer (or basket) in every room - Sometimes things just don’t fit neatly into a grouping with other items, or you are keeping them for a specific purpose for a short time, and a permanent home isn’t necessary. Junk drawers are essential. I have one in the kitchen, our bedroom, LL’s room, and the living room.
4. Choose 1-2 things that make you feel at peace with your home, and make time for them every day – For me it is making the bed and clearing all the counters in the kitchen. I make sure these two things are done every day. If the living room floor remains covered in toys and the laundry isn’t finished, I can handle it. Prioritize.
5. 10 Minute Power-Clean - When I start to feel like things are getting out of control, I set a timer for 10 minutes, and set to work as fast as possible. This time usually is long enough for me to load the dishwasher, pick up the living room and bedrooms, make the bed, and start a load of laundry. Just that short period of time once or twice a day tends to be enough for basic home maintenance. I am like a little kid…the timer really helps me stay focused. :) If every item in your home has a designated space to go, picking up everything is relatively quick and painless.
6. Don’t Fold Laundry – That’s right… I don’t fold laundry. In our closet we have a section of shelving with baskets (yay, baskets!) which hold items like underwear, undershirts, gym clothes, socks, etc. Mr. Lion and I each have our own, so when we do laundry all we have to do is sort into piles and then dump the piles into the right location. Any clothes that need to remain unwrinkled are hung in our closet. LL has Ikea drawer dividers in his dresser, so we are able to use the same method for him. I can put away a full load of laundry in about 5 minutes this way. We do fold sheets and towels so that they fit better into their designated spaces, but my fitted sheets are never pretty (yes, I have seen the strategies on pinterest but I am not talented enough to make it work). I just put them under the flat sheet in the stack so I can’t see it. ;) Since laundry is my least favorite chore, I will cut corners any way I can.
7. Create a Weekly/Monthly Cleaning Schedule - To manage this I bought small popsicle sticks and wrote every chore that needs to be done monthly in one color, and weekly chores in another color. I start the month with all of the sticks in the “To Do” jar, and as I do them I move them to the “Done” jar. At the end of the week I move all of the weekly sticks back and start again. This allows me to reach in and choose a job when I have a few spare minutes. I like the sticks because I don’t have to print anything out or rewrite a list every month. Again, I am a lot like a little kid. For whatever reason, the tangible act of moving the sticks from one jar to the other makes me feel accomplished, and I like to see the jar becoming more empty as the month goes on. Some months are busy and I don’t get to every chore. I don’t stress about this…I just try to get to those things first the next month.
8. Create a Yearly Cleaning Schedule - Some things only need to be done occasionally, but often fall off the radar since they don’t need to be done regularly. I don’t need to wash the windows every month, but every 6 months makes me feel a little better. I made a list of all the things that ever need to be cleaned/maintained, and then divided them up among 6 months. I created a schedule of things to do each month, based on repeating these chores twice per year. The monthly list can be tackled in about 2 hours, so I can either spread out the list over the course of the month, or dedicate a block of time to knock them all out at once. You can see my schedule here.
9. Meal Planning - To keep our grocery spending down, we do some general meal planning. I admire families who can make specific meal planning/freezer meal planning work, but I have tried and really struggle to stick to the plan. I like to have a general idea of what I plan to cook for the week, but we decide on individual meals based on what we feel like eating each day. Each week I plan 4-5 meals. The other nights we reserve for going out, leftovers, or something simple like sandwiches. We shop at Sams Club once a month for things like ground turkey, cheese, salmon, and chicken. I also buy things that we use a lot of, like oatmeal, peanut butter, and pasta sauce. We don’t have a ton of storage space, so we only buy things in bulk if they save us a considerable amount of money.
When we bring them home we prep things for the month. I use a food processor to shred the cheese and put it into individual bags for the freezer. I cook the ground turkey and portion it into half pound portions. Chicken gets portioned as well. Having this done ahead of time saves me a ton of cooking time, and allows me to spend less time in the kitchen.
Also, any time I make a casserole that serves 6 or more, I split the recipe into two dishes. One gets cooked for dinner, and the other goes into the freezer. This way I almost always have a quick meal I can pull out if we have a rough day and cooking just isn’t going to happen.
These strategies save me a ton of time and allow me more time to do the things I want to do while feeling peace about my home. Do you have any tips or shortcuts you use to save time on cleaning so you can spend more time with your family?
Household Chores part 6 of 61. 9 Ways to become a more equal partner in household chores by Mr. Bee
2. The Cleanliness Threshold or: How I Learned To Stop Being Messy and Love Chores by Mr. Bee
3. Chore Schedule by printables
4. Home Management Binder by Mrs. Bee
5. Chore Swap: swapping chores for the weekend by Mr. Bee
6. Life's Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets by Mrs. Lion