Posts Tagged ‘housekeeping’

Adulting: Housework

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

Ever since Christmas, I’ve been on a mission to have a clean house. I read the Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up. I joined some organization groups on Facebook and revived my Pinterest boards dedicated to improving my home. I read lots of blog posts. I looked at dozens of house cleaning schedules and charts. And then I threw myself into it.

It’s been going pretty well. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • Cleaned and organized the coat closet
  • Bought a shoe rack to solve the pile of shoes by the back door problem
  • Cleaned out most of the kitchen cabinets and got rid of TONS of things I didn’t use or love
  • Cleaned out the banquette storage
  • Cleaned and organized the file cabinet
  • Moved the cereal/snacks/crackers/misc food stuff to a cabinet so my countertop is mostly clean
  • Cleaned and organized the fridge
  • Bought new pillows for all the beds
  • Created a laundry system* with multiple baskets
  • Started emptying the sink every night before bed
  • Started unloading the dishwasher every morning after the kids go to school
  • Prioritized an evening clean up every night before bed
  • Started making my bed, complete with throw pillows

Now, weeks later, I wouldn’t be ashamed to have surprise company show up at my door. (I mean, I will probably be in pajamas and no bra, but my house will be in pretty good shape.) I’m not saying things are spotless or that you could eat off my floors – I have a dog, a cat, and four kids – but if you wanted to come in for coffee I wouldn’t be mad. I still don’t live in a Pottery Barn catalog or a blank white box, so those toys on the coffee table are actually supposed to be there, as is the downstairs laundry basket, the art supplies on the dining room table and the bins of small plastic things. The look I am going for is “well-loved and lived-in family home not occupied by hoarders”.

Are you dying to know the secret to my success? Do you want the link to my eBook on how to solve your messy house once and for all? Am I so smug you can’t wait to poke holes in my system? Let me tell you how I have accomplished this 180 turn around from trash heap to nice home. Here it is, my secret to a clean house:

You just have to f**king do it.

There aren’t any tricks. There isn’t a magic organizational chart or schedule or Pinterest board that made my house clean. I have to do all those stupid, repetitive chores every single day to stay on top of the mess. Even my laundry system boils down to “Oh you put away three loads of laundry yesterday? DO IT AGAIN.” I sit down less. I see something that needs put away and I get up and put it away. I don’t let things “soak” in the sink for five days. I pick up the same toys five times a day and then one more time after the kids go to bed…then I do the same thing the next day. It is never-ending. It is stupid. It is necessary.

It sucks.

The peaceful sleep of a child who isn’t living in chaos, made possible by the fact that I made my bed. And then I had to make it again because he slept in it.

But it is starting to get easier. It’s become a habit to clean the sink and clear off surfaces as soon as I can. Same thing with the laundry – I finally remember to throw in a load/switch to the dryer/empty the dryer several times a day. I’m learning to value how 20 minutes of work can help me stay on top of the housework instead of constantly playing catch up. I mean, I am ALWAYS playing catch up. Always. I have four children. I am very tired. But by constantly climbing towards the top of housework mountain I don’t end up buried under it.

It would be foolish of me to say this is a permanent change. I doubt I will ever be someone who finds it easy to stay organized. But by changing my attitude from “I need a strategy” to “Just f**king do it” I’ve made definite progress. You too can have a sort of clean home if you sleep fewer hours, relax less often, and follow your children around cleaning up their messes as they make them.

*I ordered medium sized laundry baskets for every member of the family at the advice of a friend. That way when I’m throwing clean clothes out of the dryer I can throw them into the baskets and putting away each person’s laundry takes a lot less time than sorting from one giant pile. These baskets are the perfect size:

Organize My Heart

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

This post was going to be full of sidebars and parentheticals, so I’ll try to sum them up with a general disclaimer: like I’ve said to many people and had quoted back to me by astute readers – one person’s hard does not invalidate someone else’s hard. I am not saying “Woe is me! Pity me! This is the WORST EVER!” I am saying “These are my feelings and maybe you have some feelings and we can talk about our feelings and maybe braid each others hair if you want or you can call me a spoiled douchecanoe if you want and either way I will understand.” Because, feelings.

dining room

I have been on a cleaning tear (Tear might be too strong a word. More like a cleaning small rip in the corner of a page) for a couple of weeks. My housekeeping skills are not great and in general everyone is fine with that situation. The children certainly don’t care. But things reached a point where I didn’t even want to open the door for the pizza guy. Every time I would look at the pile of mail by the door or the pile of school papers on the piano or the pile of birthday decorations on the table I would freeze. Where to START? What’s the POINT? Why should I even BOTHER?

When one thing in your life feels hopeless and out of control, it’s easy for that to reflect into other things, and in this case the mirror was clearly my house. The thing being reflected is bigger than a few stacks of paper though. I’ve been off birth control and hoping for a baby for 9 months now without success, even though it feels like everyone around me is getting pregnant and having babies. Tons of babies. Babies everywhere. You get a baby and you get a baby and YOU get THREE BABIES! (True story, a friend from high school is having spontaneous triplets.)

There’s a whole online world of trying-to-conceive message boards and secondary (tertiary?) infertility boards where people talk about this stuff, but because I never had any trouble the first two times I’m mostly unfamiliar with them. To be totally honest, until I started talking privately with some of my friends about how I’m struggling, I had no idea how much planning COULD even go into getting pregnant. Ovulation sticks and fertility apps and trying disgusting information involving mucus became things I Googled on a regular basis. The biggest surprise was how many people casually mentioned “Oh yeah, I used those OPK sticks to have my daughter”. I think a lot of people err on the side of privacy when it comes to their baby-making-attempts (because, yeah, no one wants to know ALL THAT and no one owes the internet their medical history) but it gives the impression if it takes more than 5 minutes you’re sort of a weirdo. A “Surprise! Pregnant!”-baby (which I am totally guilty of) is more blogable than endless “Not pregnant! Again!” posts, so someonr announcing it when it happens means you don’t really know what people have gone through. I’m a tiny bit concerned that the IUD I had after Caroline was born caused some sort of terrifying, permanent problem (Dr. Google totally agrees) but before we’ve been trying a year no real medical professionals (Dr. Google obviously got his degree online) want to talk to us.

I realize 9 months isn’t that long to be trying, but when your friends who said “Yes! We’re trying too!” back in November are actually giving birth to their babies it feels like forever. I also realize I have two beautiful children so complaining about not having a baby is going to sound selfish and disgusting to some people. But two was never our plan and close together is so much fun, I liked the idea of adding more sooner rather than later. I guess that “Man plans, God laughs” adage is pretty apt, although I if anyone embroiders that on a pillow for me I’ll punch them in the face.

So instead of thinking about my sad, empty uterus constantly I’ve been cleaning. CLEAN ALL THE THINGS. It’s part super-premature nesting, part feng shui and part at-least-this-is-a-problem-I-CAN-solve, but it’s helping. Sort of.

dining room-2

Yes, it’s definitely helping. Just looking at that room and knowing all the birthday decorations (from APRIL, good God woman, you’re so lazy) are put away makes me feel better.

I’ve got the guest room and the kids’ rooms to tackle next, including a couple of terrifying closets I haven’t fully opened in years. I even wrote a garage sale on our calendar and I’ll be running in and out of the house throwing stuff in the yard all day. Maybe space – a space, lots of space, many spaces – will leave room for more good things to come in. It’s better to think about it as space than as emptiness. I’m tired of empty.

The Five Stages of Cleaning My Bathroom

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

1. Denial and Isolation
Oh, this bathroom really isn’t THAT dirty. I mean, it’s a bathroom, it’s not like anyone’s going to be eating off the floor. I have 2 kids and am very busy and important. I’m sure everyone’s baseboards could use a good wipe-down. That smell isn’t pee, it’s just general bathroom smell and as soon as I remember to light a candle in here it won’t even be noticeable. No honey, I don’t really want to have anyone over for a cookout. No, let’s have a playdate at YOUR house. No guy doing the estimate for the yard work you CAN’T come in and use our bathroom. Sorry.

2. Anger
WHY is this bathroom such a mess?! I’m certainly not the one who keeps peeing on the floor. I already spend my days cleaning up crap, why should the bathroom be my job!? I don’t wanna! It’s not fair and I’m not going to stand for it!

3. Bargaining
Ok, maaaaaaybe I should pour some bleach in the toilet or I’ll just call house cleaning services auckland to do it. And take out the trash. And clean the hair out of the shower drain. But then I get to go take a nap. Or read a book. Or take a nap AND read a book because it’s important that I keep my strength up. You know, for PARENTING. I bet I could get E to clean the bathroom if I do ALLLL the dishes for the next week. Month. Year. TEN YEARS.

4. Depression
I hate this bathroom. We should just rip the whole thing out and install a new, magical, self-cleaning bathroom. Like those port-a-potty things in Europe. Man, I wish I could go to Europe. I never get to go ANYWHERE. My life is terrible.

5. Acceptance
Fine, there, the bathroom is clean. Enough. For now. Just don’t make me ever do it again, OK?

Mrs. Homemaker or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Laundry

Friday, February 11th, 2011

I had a MAJOR BREAKTHROUGH this week. It is epic. Truly life-changing. I actually cannot believe it took me this long to get here, because now it seems so totally obvious. Are you ready to hear about it? Are you super excited?

OK, here goes…

I am a homemaker.


I’m serious though. In 6 1/2 years of marriage (the last 2 1/2 of which I have not had an outside job) I have never thought of myself as someone who is in charge of a home. I thought of all the stuff that keeps this place running – cleaning and laundry and cooking and dishes – as CHORES, chores I hated, chores I tried to avoid. I spent a lot of time and energy being pissed off that I was expected to do these things. It’s because I’m a WOMAN. It’s so SEXIST and UNFAIR and DAMN THE MAN for pushing me into this gender stereotype!

Until I realized wait a minute…I wasn’t pushed into a role I was unhappy with. I wanted this. Yes it’s true that the other option – me working and E staying home – wasn’t ever really on the table (the Navy doesn’t exactly let you quit just because your wife is tired of doing the dishes) but his job stability and paycheck was part of why I signed up for this marriage. Wait, that sounds bad. What I mean is knowing E could provide for me and our future children was one of the things I liked about him from the start. Wait, that still sounds bad. Before we even GOT married we decided I would stay home once we had kids. We just forgot to negotiate out what “staying home” included.

(If you still think the previous paragraph makes me sound like a gold-digger, let me assure you, there is no gold to dig. There is maybe a frappuchino or two and possibly a new toilet seat – SO SEXY – to replace the broken one. But no gold.)

My “ah-ha” moment came the other night while I was trying to make dinner. I say “trying” because it is difficult to cook while a toddler throws his entire weight against the back of your knees and screams for more milk. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but you’re much more likely to cut off a finger and I kind of like having a nice even number. So, in a conscious act of gentle patient parenting (something I am working on SO HARD with mixed success and/or results) I got down on Little Evan’s level and said, “Honey, Mommy needs you to go play in the family room. Mommy is making dinner right now, which is part of her job. You know how I watch you during the day while daddy works? Well, right now I need Daddy to watch you while Mommy works.”

It was like a light bulb went off in my head. MY JOB. Making dinner is my job. Housekeeping is my job. I should have work hours and a lunch break. I should be allowed to do my job without the toddler climbing up my butt. People DO get paid for these things – a cook, a housekeeper – so why shouldn’t I value my work?

(Of course, none of that applies to motherhood. Kids don’t give a crap about my stupid “job” theory, especially when they need something something right now NOW I WANT IT NOW MAMA SOMETHING FOR ME NOOOOOOW. That also means parenting duties during hours we are both home are still 50/50. I’m not some kind of June Cleaveresque mommy martyr.)

So while E is off doing…nuclear Navy stuff, I am here doing the house stuff. There’s stuff that needs to be done every day, stuff I hate to do, stuff that has to be done a zillion times a day, and stuff that only needs to be done every once in a while. So I made a list. Actually, I made three lists:

Do these every day
– Laundry
– Dinner
– Empty and clean sink (my tribute to the FlyLady method and the ONLY part of her plan I’m adopting)
– Put all the toys in the toy box
– Feed animals
– Scoop cat box

Do one of these each day
– Clean a bathroom
– Sweep/mop downstairs
– Vacuum upstairs
– Dust
– Clean out fridge
– Declutter flat surfaces

Do these as needed
– Menu plan
– Grocery shop
– Buy bulk items (toilet paper, diapers, etc)

Yesterday I scrubbed down the powder room and it felt AWESOME. Today I straightened up the dining room and feel FANTASTIC. If someone were to stop by for an impromptu dinner I could not only feed them, I could serve it to them on a clean table. The best part is I am no longer overwhelmed and angry about all this housework. When I’m not spending all my time putting it off and sending E angry glares for not helping it doesn’t really take that long to load a dishwasher. Of course, on the weekends there WILL be helping. And when I am sick/need a scheduled day off (and there WILL be scheduled days off) I’ll have a concrete to-do list E can follow. It’s not fancy and it’s not worthy of a book deal (or even an Excel spreadsheet) but I do feel like this is a major change for the better.

Secret bonus part of my new “job?” I get paid in impromptu shopping trips to Target for new black flats and bright colored tights, guilt free.

Now excuse me, I have to go shine my sink.

The war will be fought with Swiffers and Lemon Pledge

Monday, June 21st, 2010

I am declaring WAR. An all-out battled to the death from which no one emerged unscathed and the casualties will be severe. The target of the impending attack: MY FLOORS.

With a dog and two cats, pet hair has always been a problem, but the kind I could generally solve with a broom and the occasional damp paper towel. But add a baby to the mix and suddenly the pet hair dust bunnies grow into tumbleweeds of Cheerios and Goldfish crackers and bits of sandwich and half chewed fruit and sticks and leaves and the kind of foot-blackening dirt that sticks to the floor unless you scrub it with straight bleach and a toothbrush. If I don’t sweep, dry Swiffer, wet Swiffer, mop and vacuum EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. the baby gets so covered in dirt he looks like that kid from Charlie Brown who vibrates with grime. I can’t take him out in public after 3 pm out of fear someone will call CPS. And if CPS comes to my house I’m SCREWED.

I took up the rug this weekend (sidenote: what the HELL was I thinking when I picked out a shag rug for the family room? It’s basically a giant upside down yarn mop that traps every crumb and hair and is IMPOSSIBLE to clean) thinking it would be easier to do a quick mid-day sweep of just the hardwood floor but all it did was create a barren desert for the dirt tumbleweeds to tumble across. Plus my problem with sweeping wasn’t so much rug-related as 300-wooden-blocks-two-dozen-chuck-the-trucks-four-sippy-cups-and-a-partridge-in-a-pear-tree-scattered-acr0ss-my-floor-related.

The most permanent solution to my problem is to get rid of the pets, although I don’t think I can bring myself to actually do that. (A quick Google search for “how long do cats live” reveals no hopeful results.) I suppose the other thing I could do is restrict snacks and meals to the high chair but the idea of making Baby Evan sit still for the 7 or 8 hours a day he’s eating something is laughable. I think he would rather give up food than be strapped in a chair that often – and since I JUST got him to eat I’m not doing anything that might hurt his love of stuffing his face.

So I’m left with war. The kind of furniture moving deep cleaning usually only reserved for the holidays or right before my mother comes. (CRAP. My mother is coming TOMORROW.) I’ll buy stock in Swiffer and reacquaint myself with my Dustbuster. I will pick up toys three times a day instead of once. I will not rest until the baby can strip naked, dump a cup of juice on his head and roll across the room without a single speck of dirt sticking to his body.

Ok, maybe that’s a little too ambitious. But I’ve got to do something.


They reset the list on Top Baby Blogs so all that begging I did last week was useless. If you could take a second to click on the link below – and then click in the middle of the screen where it says “Vote here!” – I’d really appreciate it. The click is your vote, you don’t have to find me on the list but I encourage you to check out the other blogs over there – TONS of awesome moms (and dads).

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