Although I routinely answer questions on my Facebook page, sometimes a question requires a more in-depth answer. Today’s Reader Question, from Karlie, is certainly one that deserves more than a quickly dashed paragraph.
Like many of us, Karlie is feeling overwhelmed with the knowledge that housework is never completely finished. As a new wife, she also seems determined to keep her house clean 24/7. I don’t know about you, but I remember feeling that way once, too. And then I discovered I was driving everyone, especially myself, insane.
I’m a new wife, and since losing my job I’m now a housewife. I really want to be good at it, but there’s so much to do! We don’t have kids, and yet I feel like I’m struggling more than some moms I know just trying to keep our house clean all the time. Your printable chore charts and all your explanations are helping, but I have to ask how you manage it. I always feel like it’s not right to stop cleaning until the house is finished but it’s NEVER finished.
How do you fit it all in on your schedule?
Karlie Is Going Krazy!
Dear Karlie (and everyone else),
I hate to burst your bubble, but there is a world of difference between writing a blog about how to make housework easier and more efficient and actually doing that housework! Like everyone else, I have high-energy days… and days when just changing TV channels seems like a lot of work. Add in a busy pre-teen who’s involved in a number of extra-curricular activities, two rambunctious cats, and a husband being treated for brain cancer and there is NO WAY my house could be perfectly spotless even if I cleaned 24/7.
Nor should you expect yours to be that way, either! The goal of Housewife How-To’s is to empower you to do your housework based on the schedule you’re most comfortable with. I think sometimes we read words like “weekly cleaning routine” and think that means we absolutely must clean the living room on, say, Monday and the bathrooms on Tuesday, etc.
That’s not how I work. In fact, every time I’ve tried assigning specific chores to specific days something has come up to derail my plans. The result? I get frustrated, throw up my hands, and blow it all off until the house is in such disarray that I can’t possibly tolerate it one more day.
My days fall more into “zones” than anything else. What I mean is, while I don’t necessarily do certain things on certain days, I do certain types of things around the same time each day. Maybe it would be easiest to explain by giving you an example of my “typical” day.
- 6:30-6:50 am: My wake-up time. Sometimes I jump out of bed, sometimes I lounge a while. But at some point I manage to brush my teeth, wash my face, and decide if I can just throw a jacket over my pajamas when I drive my son to school. (Answer: yes.)
- 6:50-7:30 am: Wake my son up and feed him, usually one of my make-ahead school day breakfasts. While he eats I also feed the cats and do most of the kitchen tasks on my daily house tidy routine.
- Early morning: Once I’m back from taking my son to school I start a load of laundry based on which compartment in my laundry sorter is starting to overflow. Then, because I am not a morning person, I catch up on email and Facebook, and watch the morning news while I surf the internet. After an hour or so I’m ready to start being more productive.
- Mid-morning: The messiest room in our house is always the family room, so it’s the next thing I do from my daily cleaning checklist. Then it’s back to the kitchen to load any dishes I found downstairs. This is when I switch the laundry to the dryer, too.
- Noon-ish: By this point, that load of laundry is done so I fold and put it away. Then, after lunch, I straighten the living room and main floor bathroom.
- Early afternoon: If I’m going to a weekly room cleaning, this is the time I do it. Then I finally take a shower and change out of my pajamas. (Really!) I like to tidy the master bathroom and bedroom at this point, too. If I happen to have a little extra time before I need to pick up my son, I try to squeeze in a few one minute chores.
- Late afternoon to early evening: After my son has a snack he starts his homework. That’s when I generally do the dinner prep work (washing and chopping vegetables) so I’m around to help him if needed. Plus my husband and I like to spend a half-hour or so talking about how our days went. Dinner is at 6:30, then my husband and son do the dishes.
- The rest of the evening: I don’t do housework after dinner. Ever. If I didn’t insist on a cut-off time it would be too easy to feel like my life consisted of nothing but cleaning, and that makes me miserable. Since one of my New Year’s Resolutions involves reading more, so I make a point to sit in the living room reading at least one hour every night. After that we watch a TV show together as a family on most nights, and either I go back to reading or hop on my computer because I don’t like watching TV all night long.
- 9:30 pm: Most nights, my son and I share a bedtime. As I said, I’m not a morning person, so if I don’t get a good night’s sleep the next day is brutal for everyone.
Now, I don’t want you to get the impression that my life is like this every single day. Nothing could be further from the truth! I have high-energy days (above) and low-energy days (when I don’t step away from the computer until it’s time to pick my son up). That’s just part of life, and I refuse to feel guilty about it. Hey, people who work outside of the home get to take days off, so why can’t housewives?
The trick is, when you hit those low-energy days, don’t berate yourself. Give yourself permission to enjoy them. If a slew of low-energy days completely derails your life, that’s okay, too. It happens to ALL of us. (You think my house was spotless at any point the month after my husband’s brain cancer surgery? Oh heck no.) You can get back on track with some crisis cleaning (even if you aren’t expecting company), then re-start your daily cleaning routine before deciding which rooms need more attention. Eventually, if you keep at it more often than not, it will all come together.
But above all, remember this: your life is about more than just cleaning. Much, MUCH more, hopefully. So keep all of this housework in perspective. Do what needs to be done, and then stop. No one expects you to keep your house perfectly spotless every day. The goal is to make your home a comfortable, livable place not just for your husband, but for YOU as well. Housekeeping, like life, isn’t about being perfect — sometimes it’s just about being okay with just being.
Disclosure: The laundry sorter link above is an Amazon affiliate link to a product that I own, use and absolutely love.