Keeping the Laundry Monster at Bay: Homemaking Series, Part 5

Welcome back to the Homemaking For Real People series! We’ve made it to week 5 already, and today I’m talking about laundry. Yes, I know it is not the most glamorous or exciting part of our homemaking duties, but it is still important. And since it seems to be an area in which a lot of people struggle, I thought I’d share a few things that have helped me keep the dreaded “laundry monster” at bay in our home.

Have a Routine:

I’ve said it before in this series, but it bears repeating. Having a predictable routine for your housekeeping tasks will help you stay on top of everything, and laundry is no exception. In fact, in our house, even if there is not a set schedule or day for any other task, there is a schedule for laundry. No matter what else I have going on during laundry day, I try to make no excuses and just get it going. Since my husband and I got married nearly 14 years ago (say what?!) we have done laundry primarily on Friday and/or Saturday. This way I always know we have clean clothes for church and the coming work week. It just makes sense for us. As a young couple, we could generally do all of our laundry in 2-3 loads each week, making it pretty easy to get done in one day. Now that we have kids, I usually have a few more loads than that to do, but I still have specific days for washing clothing, towels, bedding and doing hand washing, when needed.

Fold and Put Away, Right Away:

I know that this is where a lot of people get tripped up, but believe me, friend. You will be able to stay on top of the laundry pile so much better if you just buck up and fold, hang and put away that clean laundry right away. Now, let me say this: in our house that doesn’t always happen exactly while the clothes are still hot from the dryer. It does, however, happen on the day the clothes are washed. I will frequently do 3 loads of clothes in a day, bringing them all to our bedroom and piling them on the bed. I hang things that will wring easily right away, but I will often wait until all the clothes I’m washing that day are done before starting to sort, fold and put away. But it always all get put away before anyone goes to bed at night. It is just part of the job, so I have disciplined myself to do it. My husband usually helps, but if he is busy, I don’t mind doing it all myself. I know there are seasons when this can seem overwhelming, but sometimes we have to stop making excuses and just do the work.

Train Your Kids to Help:

This is another things I’ve said before but will say again. Teach your children to help with the laundry. My son has been doing his own laundry since he was around 6 years old. Every week he has this on his chore chart. It is not his favorite thing to do, but he know how to do it and will not be bringing his clothes home for me to wash on his college breaks! Ha! Also, my daughter is learning how to sort the dirty clothes into colored piles and to help sort the clean ones into the correct family member’s pile. She can match up socks and fold wash cloths. Anything you can teach your children to do to help out, even if it takes more time in the beginning, will pay off in the end, I promise!

Don’t Buy Too Many Clothes:

Seriously. Capsule wardrobes, minimal amounts of clothing for each family member for each season, will help you. The fewer clothes you have to wear, the fewer clothes you have to wash! Also, if you don’t need to buy a lot of hand-wash or dry-clean only items, you will save yourself the time and money of needing to take special care of so many clothes. Buy permanent press or non-wrinkle dress clothes when possible to cut down on the need to iron.

Bonus tip:

Another way to cut down on laundry is to re-wear barely worn clothes. I’m obviously not talking about sweaty t-shirts or muddy jeans. But often we wear clothes lightly enough that they are fine for a second go round before hitting the wash. Teach your family members to hang up clothes that have only been worn for short periods and are still clean, instead of automatically tossing everything in the hamper. Dress clothes and jeans especially fall into this category.

It’s pretty no-nonsense and simple, but those are the things we do here to keep the laundry from getting out of control Do you have any other tips or tricks you use to keep from swimming in unfinished laundry? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Previous Posts in the Homemaking for Real People Series:

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Pt. 1

Why Just “Good Enough” Housekeeping? Homemaking Series, Pt. 2

A Good-Enough Housekeeping Routine: Homemaking Series, Pt. 3

20 Daily “Quick Wins:” Homemaking Series, Pt. 4

20 Daily “Quick Wins”: Homemaking Series, Part 4

Welcome back to my Homemaking for Real People blog series! This week I wanted to give you a list of 20 Quick Wins– small tasks that you can do when you are short on time that still make a big difference around the house. Most of these ideas are things that you should be doing daily, or at least weekly, anyway. All of them can be done in a few minutes, except perhaps washing a full load of dishes. For tasks that may take longer, or areas that have become overwhelming problem areas, try setting a timer and see how much you can get done in a 5-15 minute time period. I suggest printing off this list and posting a copy somewhere you will see it when you have few spare minutes. One great place to stick this list is in your planner so you will see it when you are checking off your to-do’s for the day! Also, if you have kids, many of these tasks are things your children can and should be taught to do, too. After all, as the saying goes, many hands make light work! Here goes:

20 Daily “Quick Wins”

  • Make the bed
  • Put dirty clothes in the hamper
  • Put shoes away
  • Clear off kitchen counters
  • Wipe bathroom counter and sink
  • Wipe kitchen counters
  • Wipe down microwave
  • Sweep kitchen/dining room floor
  • Fold throw blankets and fluff pillows
  • Hang up jackets
  • Fold a load of laundry
  • Put away clean clothes
  • Wash dishes
  • Put away clean dishes
  • Do a quick pick-up of one room
  • Empty waste baskets
  • Take out trash/recycling
  • Sort mail
  • Straighten a bookshelf
  • Clear off your desk/dresser/nightstand

How many quick wins will you have today? Click here to get the free printable list of the above 20 Quick Wins to help you make the most of your housekeeping time. It is formatted to print 3 lists on a page, so you can cut them apart and post them around the house where you will be able see them often. Happy cleaning!

 

 

 

Previous Posts in the Homemaking for Real People Series:

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Pt. 1

Why Just “Good Enough” Housekeeping? Homemaking Series, Pt. 2

A Good-Enough Housekeeping Routine: Homemaking Series, Pt. 3

 

A Good-Enough Housekeeping Routine: Homemaking Series, Pt. 3

Welcome to Part 3 of the Homemaking for Real People Series! Last Monday I wrote about my why behind the idea of  “Good Enough Housekeeping.” Today I’m going to talk about how we can start keeping our house in good working order and relatively clean without being total neat-freaks. I think most of us would like to have a house that feels uncluttered and could be “good enough” for company in under an hour. So we have to find a way to balance keeping order and not getting caught up in the details. Let’s get to work!

Define Your Priorities

The first step to creating a workable housekeeping routine is to take a good look around your home and decide what areas are the most important for you to keep clean and neat. You can do this a couple of ways. First, think about the areas in your home that get the most use, like the kitchen and bathrooms. Those are probably going to be your highest priority for getting and keeping clean because they need to be ready for use so much of the time.

You may also want to go through each room in the house and identify “problem areas” that seem to perpetually get messy or cluttered. Once you have identified all the problem areas, you can (hopefully) think of a solution to help keep those messes at bay, whether that be adding a daily “clearing up” time specifically for those spots, or better organization, or maybe just better habit training for your children (or yourself!). 

Take some time to write down a list of the areas of your home that are the highest priorities for you to clean, maybe even listing them in order of importance. I would also challenge you to write down at least one area that is NOT a priority for you right now, and give yourself permission to let it go for a while.

Divide Up Your Tasks

Next it is time to think about what specific tasks need done in order to keep your priority areas neat and tidy. Write each task down, then note how frequently you would like it to be done. In my kitchen, for instance, these are the main tasks that need to happen on a regular basis: 

  • Wash dishes: at least daily, preferably after every meal
  • Wipe down counters and table: at least once daily, preferably after ever meal
  • Wipe down stovetop, sink and faucet: once daily
  • Sweep floor: once daily
  • Mop floor: once a week
  • Empty trash: once a week, or as needed

There are some extra deep-cleaning tasks I could add to that list as well, but they are things that need done less frequently, like cleaning out the fridge, reorganizing the pantry, and cleaning the oven. 

Once you have written out what specific tasks you have and how often you need to be doing them, take a good, hard look at that list and make sure you have reasonable expectations for yourself and your family. When I look at my list above, for instance, I know that although I would like to have the kitchen and dining area mopped once a week, that rarely actually happens. So I need to decide if it is my routine or my expectation that needs to change.

Decide on a Plan

Finally, it is time to make a plan. This is the most personal and flexible part, so I am not going to give you specific instructions on how to make your plan. You need to find a routine for cleaning that works for you and your family. If you have children 3 and up, they can be taught how to help with some basic chores. If you are married and your spouse is willing, perhaps you can divide up some tasks between you. It may help to create a short list of morning tasks and evening tasks that you can post somewhere in your house to remind you to get those key things done daily. You may want to assign specific days to specific rooms, or to specific weekly tasks so that you know they will get done on a regular basis. 

The key in our “Good Enough Housekeeping” routine is having grace and giving ourselves permission to miss a day here and there. Maybe you even need to plan a “day off” every week in which you purposefully don’t do any housework beyond what is absolutely necessary. Keep your expectations reasonable. Don’t compare yourself or your current situation to someone’s pretty Pinterest or Instagram photos. Do what you can, when you can. Remember to put relationships first. Housekeeping is an act of service to your family and those who enter your home, but it is not the end all be all! 

Previous posts in this series:

Part 1: Intro to Homemaking for Real People

Part 2: Why Just “Good Enough” Housekeeping?

Why Just “Good Enough” Housekeeping? Homemaking Series, Pt. 2

The Backstory

Before I jump into the how of creating a “good enough” housekeeping routine, I wanted to give you a little backstory on the why. When my husband and I were newlyweds, we both started working outside the home right away, and when we were home in the evenings and on weekends we generally shared the load of housework pretty evenly. After he finished seminary and got a full-time job in music ministry, we decided I would stay home. But we did not have children for a few years, so I got used to having a lot of time during the day to do whatever needed done whenever I wanted to do it. Since time was at a maximum, I didn’t really need to learn to manage it well. Then, when we finally started a family, I was completely thrown for a loop. Life was messy for us on a whole lot of levels (that I won’t go into here), and I did not have a clue how to manage a house while caring for a baby and our pets and still be a halfway decent wife. 

Unreasonable Expectations

When I finally did what any normal internet-age housewife does and hit up Pinterest and Google for “home management planners” and “housecleaning schedules” and the like, I was immediately frustrated and dismayed. All the lists of all the things I was “supposed” to be doing just overwhelmed me even more! Some people’s lists included tasks that did not apply to my house at all. Others seemed to have no grounding in reality at all, at least for a mother of an infant or toddler. In an effort to measure up to these goals of housekeeping perfection, I would swing to the extreme and try to clean All the Things, All the Time. But I would quickly burn out and not to do any housework for days, if I could possibly help it. Obviously, this did not work well at all.

Finding Balance and Grace

I am glad to report that this crazy cycle did not last forever. I finally did find a balance and learned how to keep a reasonably clean house without going crazy over the details but not living in squalor, either. The key was GRACE. I had to recognize my own limitations, get over my perfectionism, quit comparing myself to others, and give myself grace. Once I received the grace of not having to measure up to someone else’s (or even my own unreasonably high) expectations, then I was free to do what needed to be done without any guilt. Yes, I still had to work at keeping a clean house. But I was released from the idea that it all had to be perfect or had to be done a certain way. It just needed to be good enough for our family. And that was a huge game-changer for this little rule-following momma! 

What’s Your Struggle?

Maybe you struggle with some other aspect of keeping your house in “good enough” shape. Perhaps it isn’t perfectionism that has you overwhelmed like I was. Perhaps you just plain don’t see the messes as a problem. Perhaps you are overwhelmed by too much stuff and don’t even know where to begin. Let me know in the comments what your biggest struggle with housekeeping is. I would love to get a conversation going and see how we can help each other out! I may have some extra helpful resources to share at the end of this series, so come on back next week for more!

Previous Posts in the Homemaking for Real People Series:

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Pt. 1

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Part 1

Do you ever look at images on Pinterest or Instagram and ask yourself, “Does she ever do anything besides clean or cook and take pictures of the results?” Or maybe you are more tempted to ask, “Why can’t my house ever look that picture-perfect?” Either way, going down that rabbit hole of comparison is a dangerous path to take, isn’t it? We have to remember that those little pictures are not the whole package. We can only see a small piece of someone else’s life, and what we see may or may not reflect real life.

Why write about homemaking for real people?

The fact is, we are real people with real life situations and real busy schedules. As a result, sometimes our houses are going to be a REAL mess! And that’s okay. We can, however, aim to take control of the mess and find some order and beauty in the ordinary. Over the last 14 years of marriage, and even more so the last 7 years of motherhood, I have been finding ways to make homemaking a priority without sacrificing relationships. After years of swinging from perfectionism to sloth, I am finally able to keep our house in a tolerable state of cleanliness, to have a manageable schedule in most seasons, and to keep healthful food on the table and in the pantry. Thus, the inspiration for this blog series!

What is homemaking for real people?

Homemaking for real people is all about having grace while also getting things done. It is about doing what you can, when you can, to keep a balanced household without killing yourself. This series is for anyone who has a home, whether you are married, single, have kids in the home or not. I will talk a lot about routines and systems we have in place currently, which means they include my husband and our kids. These are things I wish I would have learned how to do a lot earlier on in life so that good habits had been in place before I became a mom. I will also weave in little bits of wisdom regarding our attitudes toward homemaking and having grace with ourselves and those who share our homes.

Topics I will cover in this series are as follows:

  • Good Enough Housekeeping Routines– Why and How
  • Daily “Quick Win” Tasks
  • Keeping the Laundry Monster at Bay
  • The Reluctant Cook’s Guide to Meal Planning

Every Monday for the next month, I will be sharing a new post from the list. I would love to hear from you as we go through this series. If you struggle with a specific area of homemaking I didn’t mention above, we could tackle that topic, too. Just leave me a comment here or on my Facebook page. If you have an extra tip to add, please share that with us, too! We can all learn from each other. Join me back here next Monday, and let’s embrace this concept of homemaking for real people together, one real day at a time.

We Are Family: Child Chore Training, Pt. 3

Welcome to the final installment (for now) in this series on Child Chore Training! Last week I gave specific examples of what this currently looks like in our home. Today I want to share how and why we pay our children for doing chores.

I guess we should start with why we chose to pay our son for his chores every week. First, we decided at age six he was ready to begin learning some basic money management skills. We want him to grow up with an understanding of how much things cost, how long it takes to earn enough money to actual buy something worthwhile, and how to save and give back to God some of his earnings. Also, even though he does chores because he is part of the family, we feel that paying him now gives him an idea of what it will be like to work for an employer some day. We told him early on that if he did not do his chores when asked each day, he would not get paid, just like an employee does not get paid when he or she fails to show up for work. So it is an additional motivational tool to get those chores done! Plus, our son is at that age in which kids start to want to buy things themselves, and his is into Legos in a big way. We have never been able or willing to buy toys just anytime throughout the year, saving those things for birthdays and Christmas. So now he knows that he can earn his own spending money and save it up for as long or short an amount of time as he wants before spending it on that new Lego set he has his eye on. But he already has learned that the longer he saves, the better!

As to how we pay him, we started out with a rate of $.05/year of his age, so he is currently paid $.30 every Saturday. We will increase his pay as his responsibilites increase, probably right around his next birthday. I have sometimes allowed him to earn an extra nickel in the week if he has been especially helpful with extra chores that were not on his list. Yes, this is a small amount, but we do not have a big budget as a family right now, and he really does not NEED much of his own money yet anyway. It is more about the lessons learned than the money earned!

Since part of our goal was teaching him how to manage his money, we divided up his earnings into three categories: spending, long-term savings, and offering. Because I did not want to be counting out strange amounts of pennies each week, rather than divide his $.30 into exact percentages, I simply put $.20 into his spending pouch and $.05 into both the savings and offering pouches each week. We found a set of 3 matching zippered pouches in the school supply section at Walmart last year, and they have been perfect for this purpose!

In case you are wondering, my son is not allowed to spend from his savings until much later in life. This is truly meant for long-term savings and can only be spent on something big, like a car or college. We will eventually open a savings acount for him for this purpose. The offering money is supposed to go with him to church every week. You might not believe it, but he gets a real thrill out of putting that nickel in the plate eery Sunday! I cannot totally take credit for how we do this whole payment for chores thing, since I originally heard about it from organizing guru, Mystie Winkler of  Simplified Organization. (That’s my affiliate link, by the way, because Mystie and her courses are AMAZING!)  In case you want to hear how she and her family does it, here is her Youtube video “Paying Children for Chores“, so can get more inspiration!

So, that’s it from me! Now I want to hear from you! Do you pay your kids for helping around the house? If not, do your kids get an allowance? I am curious to hear your repsonse!

Open Hands: Releasing Control of What Is Not My Own

We had a house showing today. I am not sure how many we have had now, but every time it stresses me out so much. Today was no different. I cleaned most everything yesterday because I knew we would be out of the house this morning for prior commitments and would only have time and energy for vacuuming and final tidying in the afternoon. Still, the whole day I was on edge. I snapped at the kids for stupid little things. I felt discouraged and frustrated. I complained to God about how long this process is taking and grumbled about all the hard things that have happened to us during our time here. When it was finally time to clean up before leaving the house for the showing, I was super tense, worrying that everything might not be just perfect enough and that the people coming would not be impressed and not want to buy the house. And it would be my fault for not cleaning enough, for not taking good enough care of the house or the yard.

That is when it hit me. I was taking sole responsibility for selling this house upon myself. Forget the fact that God gave my husband his new job without any help from me. Forget the fact that He has provided everything we have needed up to this point, again without my help. Sure, I keep praying for Him to help us sell and move and all. But then when it is time for me trust Him to work, I take it all on myself. And that makes me a very nasty person to be around. And I am pretty sure it doesn’t do a single lick of good for the house, actually! That stung, to realize that I have been so faithless and allowing that worry to control me to the point of even taking it out on my kids.

But even in the midst of conviction, I felt a sense of relief. I do not have to sell this house. I do not have to clean every speck of dust off the floor in order for God to bring us a buyer. I do not have to stress about the house having the perfect lighting and temperature set for a showing. Those things might help, but God does not need me to do them in order to sell this house. It is not ours anyway, not really. He has given us at a resource for a time, and now we are releasing it fully back to Him to use for a different purpose. What if I let go completely and let Him work as only He can? Yes, I do still have to do my job. But I don’t have to hold tightly to control every detail. I do not have to sacrifice my relationship with my children over this. I can hold loosely to all things because my Father is caring for me.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:6-7

So from this point forward, I am making an effort to release control of the sale of this house and all the details that go with that. I am going to prioritize spending quality time with my family, making heart connections and memories with my children. I am committing to open my hands to release that which is not mine to control and to accept that which God has already given me. And I am thankful that tomorrow is a fresh new day. . . And nobody is coming to look at the house, so I will not be cleaning. Well, maybe I will at least do the dishes. 😉

This post is part of the Grace & Truth link-up at Arabahjoy.com.

We Are Family: Child Chore Training, Pt. 1

Before my husband and I had children, I worked in a private fine arts preschool. The school used several different methods from a variety of early childhood education philosophies, one of which was the Montessori method. The children were taught from the day they started at our preschool how to take care of several self-care and classroom needs, like tidying up after their own messes and helping with classroom chores. Even though the children did not always do a very good job of sweeping up crumbs or wiping up spills, they were learning and being trained in these important habits. They knew that at school, at least, everything has a place, and it was everyone’s job to help keep our school looking neat and tidy.

Years later when we had a child of our own, it became important to me and my husband to train him to learn to help do the same here at home. We are both naturally pretty organized people and do not like clutter. From the time my son was old enough to put his own toys away, we began teaching him to help clean up his playthings at the end of the day before getting ready for bed. As he grew older, we added more responsibilities to his daily self-care and family job routine.

Last year, on his 6th birthday, we started paying our son weekly for helping with things around the house. This was in part because we felt it was time for him to start learning first hand about managing money, and partly as an incentive to be more a more helpful contributor to the family. I will admit we have not been as consistent or as proactive in teaching new skills as a lot of families may be. But I am not a Type A mom, and this is what works for our family right now. A lot of moms say they start teaching new chores over the summer when they don’t have a busy school schedule, and if we were not getting ready to move, we would probably do that now, too. But I am not starting any new routines until we get settled into a new house!

We have done the same with our 2 year old daughter, teaching her to do as many things for herself as she can. Unlike her big brother, however, she is highly motivated and independent, so she actually wants to do more than she is able to at this point! I guess that is a good problem to have, though, most of the time!

I have a few specific examples of what we do around here for kids’ chores, but I will share those in another post. I will also share how we do payment and divide up my son’s earnings each week. I hope you will come back for the next post in the series soon!

So, talk to to me about chore training in your house. Do your kids help with housework? If so, what are their responsibilites? If not, do you wish they did?