Once, when this blog was new and I had a preschooler, toddler, and newborn, another mom asked me how I managed it all. Not one to try to keep up appearances, I said, "Well first of all, my house is a mess..."
This story makes me smile because I've grown a lot since then (and obviously, so have my children). While my house was not a top priority at that point, it has crept into at least the top five more recently. More specifically, when we moved and renovated, I decided that I would need to better my habits so that we could be good stewards of our home and share it with others openly without being terribly embarrassed by the dried spaghetti noodles stuck to the floor.
I am not one of those “naturally organized” people whom you'd think would be giving you any sort of advice on this topic. No, I'm an outside-the-box 30-something who never quite acquired those good housekeeping skills that I probably should have decades ago. But, maybe hearing from someone who was a hot mess and now does significantly better in this department will be helpful. So here it goes-
How I Improved Managing My Home While Homeschooling
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1. Paying for a meal planning service.
I'm going to start with this one because feeding our families is something that we as moms and homeschoolers have to do pretty much all day every day. But this is something that used to send me into a panic at about 4:00 when I realized I didn't know what to make for dinner. Even if I did have a plan, I would still panic at 4:00 because "I could have sworn that I had ___________ in the pantry."
About two years ago, I started using free meal plans to help me plan out our menus. I mainly used the plans from Tastes Better From Scratch, but would search out different plans when I needed to switch it up. When we figured out that our daughter needed to eat gluten free, we decided to buy a one-year subscription to eMeals, something that we had done earlier in our marriage. We get weekly menus and meals plans, and make 4 or 5 out of the 7 meals each week, subbing some nights for leftovers, dinners out, or old favorite recipes. This has been so helpful, especially while homeschooling, because I buy all the ingredients at the beginning of the week and know what I'm going to make ever day. There are different plans available based on dietary needs, so when we had a big lifestyle change, this was a lifesaver.
2. Viewing Housekeeping Skills as Habits
As a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, habits are integral to what we do everyday. I didn't see why this shouldn't be the case with homemaking. While we were in the process of renovating, I read How To Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana K. White. When we moved in, I worked hard to adopt the habits of homemaking, like doing laundry and washing dishes. One of the hardest parts was accepting that these things were my responsibility, whether or not I wanted to do them, whether or not the kids destroyed the shiny, newly-mopped floor in just a few minutes. These habits have taken a long time to develop, and I'm clearly not all there yet, but I'm not sure I will ever be "all there." My family is my top priority, and chasing them around to make sure they keep the house clean replaces spending actual quality time with them.
3. Figuring Out The Never Ending Laundry Piles
Our laundry basket feels a little bit like Mary Poppin's purse: just when I think I've tackled it all, more and more keeps flowing out in what seems like an impossible, never-ending supply. When I started viewing housekeeping as habits, I designated one day a week for laundry. My goal was to get all the laundry done in that day. This worked for a little while, but soon we got busier outside the home and I just didn't have a whole day to devote to washing, drying, and folding.
Recently, I switched to the "one load a day" method. This works great with my approach of housekeeping-as-habits. A daily load of laundry has become a habit. I don't feel overwhelmed by putting away one load of laundry, and no matter what we have going on during the day, I can usually make time for it (popping a load in each morning and making sure it is put away by evening).
Delegating is easier said than done for many of us, especially when our kids are young and we're not sure what they're doing will get done, ahem, right. But I've had to decide that being done at all is better than not. So, now my kids each put their laundry away, and even though it's mostly crammed in their drawers, this is hugely helpful.
My husband also gifted me once a month house cleaning for Christmas, something I never thought we'd do. Having the house clean all at once is motivation to keep it clean.
There are other ways to delegate, too. We have a Roomba vacuum that sweeps the floor while we put the kids to bed.
5. Not Going to Bed Until The Kitchen Is Clean
Letting the kitchen get messy during a busy day of homeschooling and then failing to clean it up after dinner was my biggest housekeeping mistake. Waking up to a messy kitchen in the morning filled me with a sense of dread, and then I felt overwhelmed by the thought of having to get it clean at some point and would procrastinate. Spending 20 minutes or so at the end of the day making sure everything is put away and the counters are all wiped down has made a huge difference. I also treat running the dishwasher like a daily habit, running it at night and unloading it the next morning- almost every day.
6. Manage the Clutter
Decluttering goes in cycles for me. I get on a big kick, declutter well, and then feel like I'm done, giving up the task and giving into my shopping habits. Then, I hit panic mode when it feels like I can never get my house clean, and know I have to start over again. Some days, all of us tackle a room together, making decisions about what stays and what goes. Other times, I just have to declutter as I live my life, finding something I don't need in a space and getting rid of it.
But clutter isn't always excess things that need to be purged, sometimes it's just the things that are in the wrong place, and my over-burdened brain doesn't think to put it back immediately. From Dana K White's book, I learned that it's helpful to put something back where it belongs right away, rather than letting things pile up on the stairs, in laundry baskets, and more importantly, as a stressful, looming task in my brain.
I hope this encourages you that little by little, you can improve in this area.