Columnist Erma Bombeck once wrote, “My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be.” Although a bit extreme, Bombeck’s statement allows us to look at housework in a new and fresh way.
The multiple tasks we have to accomplish each day can feel overwhelming. Think about the needs of your family as you discover the what, how and when involved in completing your individual “to-do” list. But it’s not only the needs of your family, it’s also your own priorities and comfort level — if you don’t care about messy floors but really want an empty kitchen sink, then work on that area of the house. To make life easier, first, prioritize tasks according to their abcs. Then, plan what tasks will be completed by using steps 1,2 and 3.
First, prioritize tasks:
Amount. How much space is being claimed? How large is the area? Dirty clothes, mail, school papers, even toys can take up much-needed space in a home. Look around your house and determine which areas and what tasks will bring the greatest amount of return on your investment.
Benefit. How does the task improve your family’s health and happiness? I’m the first one to want everything in its place, but sometimes I have to let the little things go in order to have energy for my family. Make sure the task is worthy of your effort and time.
Consistency. How often does this task need to occur? Scheduling household tasks is based on how you want your house to be. Daily tasks might include laundry, sweeping and doing dishes. Once a week, you might dust and clean bathrooms. Cleaning out the refrigerator or organizing closets may occur on a quarterly basis.
Then, plan what tasks to complete:
Step One. Assign each task a day, place and time. Be flexible and start with one task, then add others as you discover what works in your schedule. Decide when, where and what you will do, and then write it down! A resource from my Smarter Moms website, the Task Tracker, helps me plan my tasks and set goals.
Step two. Enlist help and release control. Allow your children to help and resist the desire to “fix” their efforts. A poorly folded towel is still a towel put away. For dusting, put old socks over children’s hands and spray the socks with cleaner. When sorting laundry, show them clean vs. dirty and dark vs. light. Cleaning windows and putting plastic dishes away are great tasks to start for kids.
Step three. Stay consistent and evaluate. Like an air traffic controller, your ability to stay on top of each task will make the difference between success and frustration. As your children grow, your schedule, tasks and available help will change. Allow the process you use to change along with your situation.
Repeat, repeat, and again I say, repeat
Not long ago I wondered just how long my afternoon’s cleaning efforts would last. I experienced a beautiful 4 minutes and 18 seconds. That’s how long the empty laundry baskets, clean floors and picked up toys remained intact. The sound of Lincoln logs being dumped on the floor snapped me out of my 258 second reprieve.
“There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one,” writes best-selling author Jill Churchill. Each loaded dishwasher, folded pile of laundry and wiped table provide a “little” way to make a big difference in how our home and family function, even if we have to keep doing them repeatedly. When we give these necessary, but never-ending, tasks a time and place in our life, we leave more room for what matters most: our family.
Kasey Johnson enjoys speaking to MOPS groups across the United States and spending time with her three boys and husband in Kansas City. She’s the author of 7 Ways to Be a S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Mom (Beacon Hill Press, 2010). Sign-up for her blog and monthly e-newsletter at smarter-moms.com.
Article originally appeared in MomSense magazine, Special Edition 2012.