A lot of forces conspire to create messies. Sometimes we’re messie because we lack good habits. Sometimes we feel like we’re too creative to “waste” any time with mundane tasks like cleaning. Sometimes we just don’t like to clean, and sometimes, we don’t know how to clean, or we don’t know how to do it efficiently. But if you used to be a cleanie before becoming a working parent, or before taking on a demanding job, maybe your messiness really springs from a lack of time management. If so, consider yourself lucky, because that can be relatively easy to fix. Proper time management can benefit every messie.
Have you mapped out every moment of your day? I did this
when I was in the Air Force, and it really showed where my time actually went. I took a planner page and wrote down what I did every 15 minutes. You could do this on a plain sheet of paper, it doesn’t have to be very fancy- just write down what you do every 15 minutes. You may see times you can multitask. Put this sheet in your notebook. You may like to refer to it later to see how far you’ve come.
Some household chores eat up more time than others. The one you dread the most could be the biggest time-sucker. I don’t mind cleaning the kitchen, because it rarely takes me more than half an hour (I have a dishwasher), yet I always dread cleaning the master bedroom or catching up on laundry.
If you spend an hour every day doing laundry, could you take it to the laundromat instead and do it all at once (and write or read or do something else for yourself while you’re waiting.)?
Another way to ease up on laundry is to start a load in the morning, throw it in the washer when you get home from work, and it’ll be ready to fold when you put the kids to bed.
Keep hangers by the dryer and put clothes for the closet directly on the hangers, instead of in the basket. Hang as many things as you can.
Always buy the exact same kind of socks for your
kids (different kind for each) then you don’t have to match- you just throw their socks into their drawer and let them pick them out. Depends on how organized you are, though- some people couldn’t handle that– too messy.
One thing I have found is that clothes sneak into my current laundry that have no business being there. Out-of-season clothes, clothes that don’t fit anyone, clothes that are torn or stained, that no one wears, yet that seem to show up every week in the laundry room. Crack down on these rogue clothes by:
Ruthlessly paring down your clothes (and the kids’ and spouse’s) to clothes that fit.
Only put away clothes that fit and are in wearable condition. Since we iron our clothes right before wearing them, we do think it’s okay to put away wrinkled clothes.
Store out of season clothes in closed boxes. Not on the floor of the laundry room.
Keep a large trash bin or trash bag by the washer and dryer. If a piece of clothing is completely ruined, throw it right away. Don’t let it get back into circulation.
Keep a large plastic bin with a cover in the laundry room. When you capture clothing that don’t fit or that no one likes any more, fold them neatly and put them in the bin. When the bin is full, take it to Salvation Army. Don’t bother to save it for a yard sale unless you KNOW you will follow through. Only you know what kind of follow-through you have.
With proper time management, you can have time for cleaning, play with kids, and your exercise. Dh and I figured out a way to fit in my evening run- we all go to the park and he plays with our son while I run or walk
around the park. When our older son gets back from vacation, he’ll play with Nick while John and I run/walk
Is there anything you can cut back on? Do you vacuum every day when you could get away with vacuuming every other day? Do you have and use a dishwasher? Do you wash dishes as you make dinner? If you don’t have a dishwasher, try running a sinkful of hot soapy water as you begin dinner, then while cooking, wash everything you’re done with. You can do the same thing at breakfast time- start a sinkful of hot soapy water when everyone starts eating, then it’ll be simple to wipe and rinse. (Air drying is healthier than towel drying, so let the dishes drip dry while you’re at work.)
Try preplanning your meals. I try to cook a month’s worth of meals over a weekend and then freeze them— that way there’s always something relatively healthy in the freezer (if we remember to defrost!) That eases up on dirty dishes, as well, since all the prep is done and cleaned up on that one weekend. It sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but when you’re done, you don’t have to worry about meals or major grocery shopping until the next month.
How early is bedtime for your kids? Do they go to bed right on time? Or is there foot-dragging? (that could waste time for yourself.) Remember, especially if you’re a working parent who doesn’t want to “waste” quality time by cleaning, it’s good for them to see you do chores. I know people whose parents did all the household chores after they went to bed, and as adults, they were clueless about what needed to be done. (I never saw my Dad clean. I know he must have, but I don’t remember ever seeing it.) Your kids might even pitch in and help out, like with putting away their own folded clothes and putting their own toys in the toy box. Both of my kids, 4 & 11, can get their own dirty clothes to the laundry room and both of them can make their own bed neat enough to suit me. Please, if you’re a perfectionist, do lower the standards to your kids’ abilities. You probably can’t bounce a quarter off their bed, but if the sheets and comforter are neat, that’s good enough. My kids would prefer a comforter with a duvet cover that is washed weekly over the traditional sheets and comforter set up. Consider that if it would make things easier for you.
If you’re a night person, like me, maybe you can do some of the morning tasks the night before, like setting up the coffee pot and cereal bowls for breakfast, helping your kids pick their outfits, packing their daycare bags– you might even be able to get away with washing your hair at night and styling it the next morning. If your morning routine is very smooth, you may be able to sleep in a little, and use the extra time at night for yourself and time with your spouse. Sometimes, things that take you 20 minutes in the morning will only take 5 minutes at night, if you’re a night person. If you’re a morning person, you can still do tasks the night before, but then use that free time in the morning when you’re fresher.
Can you walk and get some exercise during lunch at work? You could pack a sandwich and some fruit and use your lunch time for a walk and quick lunch. Exercising at lunch time can free up your evening if that’s when you try to get in a workout. It can also refresh you during a stressful day.
Do you watch any TV? TV is a huge timewaster, even when
it’s just background noise. If you have the TV on in the
morning, try getting ready without it, just to see if it
makes things faster. If you have TV on in the evening, try turning it off unless the show is a favorite. It’s so easy to lose time in front of the TV (or computer).
Don’t be afraid to putter at your chores in the evenings, even if you’re a working parent. Sometimes your kids won’t mind just playing by themselves, too. They probably would appreciate the chance to just chill after a structured day care day. Sometimes working parents feel like they have to be entertaining every moment they spend with their kids, but the kids just like being with you, even if it’s just a trip to the store or the laundromat, even if you’re all hanging out reading or coloring or watching TV.
Speaking of stores, do whatever you can to avoid that after-work run to the store. Always make sure you buy enough milk to last between shopping trips, and always make sure you have something in a can or box or in the freezer that you can put together to avoid the after-work trip to the store. The military requires that families overseas have at least three days’ worth of food in the house in case of emergencies, so that’s a good habit to adapt for your family. Milk freezes really well, just pour a little out (drink it!) and then freeze it, but remember it takes 2 days to thaw. If you always have one in the fridge, one in the freezer, and one thawing, you’ll be fine. Keep a box of spaghetti and a jar of spaghetti sauce handy always. Spaghetti and sauce is a fine meal for one of those hectic days. Before you run to the store after work for anything, ask yourself if there is any way you can do without until the weekend. On the same token, avoid going to the store on paydays, and on Fridays and Saturdays before holiday weekends. Go to the least crowded store in your area. When we go to the WalMart SuperCenter, it’s a stressful hour and a half, at least, but if we go to the tiny Hy-Vee, it’s less than 45 minutes. Needless to say, making lists makes things go MUCH faster.
All of these are just suggestions, and maybe none of them are useful to you, but I hope they help. I came up with most of them while my husband was in the military, so I often found myself a “single parent” for weeks at a time. I refined them when we both had time-consuming jobs. Any little bit helps.
Of course, remember that everyone who lives in the house must pitch in. If one spouse works longer hours than the other, be flexible about what they have to do, but do try to negotiate so that everything is not on you. Even stay at home parents deserve a break on some chores. My dh cooks dinner on the nights we’re not reheating frozen dinners, and he usually handles the laundry. He also coordinates and supervises the bathing of the kids.
If you do nothing else, I suggest you write down what you do every 15 minutes of the day, from the time you get up until the time you go to bed. (Not from memory, but while you’re doing it.) Write down every phone call, every potty break, everything, for a full, typical day. It’s very eye-opening.