I often have people asking me about scheduling, time management, and any tips to make life easier at home with lots of little ones running around. If you have any, please let me know, as I am still trying to figure that out every day! No seriously, I do have a few tips that help me stay focused, organized and sane (almost) everyday. Without them, I’d be completely lost. I always post them as comments on other people’s posts, so it’s about time to devote my own post to these tips.
A lot of times it may seem like I am a supermom on the outside. But I’m not. Actually, I am far from it. I try to do EVERYTHING only to be stopped in my tracks and be left completely overwhelmed. Having a baby that doesn’t like to be put down very often hasn’t helped situations, and because of this it often takes an hour to do something as simple as unloading a dishwasher on some days.
Even though I want to do so much more than I do, I can’t do everything, nor should I try. And there are far more important things (like loving on my children) than getting ONE. MORE . THING. DONE. This is a lesson I need to re-learn over and over again. Obviously, I haven’t learned this yet, but I am working on it. One thing I need to learn how to do (but am getting much better at) is stepping away from the computer. I spent far more time blogging than I should have, and less time than I wanted on loving my babies. Those 2 am mornings everyday were not conducive to a patient and loving mother and wife.
Here are a few tips that make my life easier, and I hope one of them can help your daily life:
- Start the day with a clean and organized home. Okay, maybe not completely clean, but seemingly so. Take 10 minutes before each meal time, before naps, and before you go to bed to pick up toys, straighten up couch cushions, put things where they belong, declutter, etc. Ten minutes is all it takes the majority of the time. And if you can’t get it done in 10 minutes, just do 10 minutes and leave the rest for next time. You’ll be surprised at how far 10 minutes will get you, especially when done a few times throughout the day. As a general rule, you should put away anything you get out and not leave it for later. I personally strive to have a fairly clean and organized house – my rule is to keep my home within 10 minutes of being tidy and presentable. That way, I never have to spend oodles of time on cleaning days or when there is a surprise visitor.
- Keep a list of the basic things (and I mean basic) you need to accomplish each day written down somewhere you frequent. It helps to visually see it several times a day. Do each thing throughout the day when you can. I hesitate to write my own schedule, as it changes often and I wouldn’t want you to just copy ours. You need to do what works for you and your family.
- Try not to do chores all at once. Go for no more than ONE big chore per day (i.e. grocery shopping, mopping, dusting, etc.).
- Try not to pack your day full of things on your to-do list. Not only will they not get done, but you will feel frustrated, rushed, stressed and everyone will end up upset by the day’s end. [By the way, we hardly ever follow our schedule on most days. Try to adapt and not feel so frustrated about it.]
- Have one day schedule-free each week, if possible. Use that ay to catch up on things you need to get done or simply playing or going on an outing.
- Make the beds first thing when you get up.
- Empty out the trash cans daily.
- I know I have mentioned this before, but I will reiterate this, clean the bathroom daily. Not a major cleaning, just a little here and there (it literally takes about 5 extra minutes) while you get ready. By doing these suggestions, you eliminate a much lengthier process of cleaning when you do have to (deep) clean the bathroom:
- Use a scrub brush (with no cleaning agents) while showering to clean the tub. Again, nothing major, just a little (leave the “big” stuff for when you can schedule it in). This way, it makes it that much easier to clean the tub (not to mention less time consuming).
- Take a piece of dirty clothing (preferably that you just took off) and wipe the shower walls and doors to avoid that scummy build-up. You could also use a shower squeegee.
- After getting ready, take another piece of clothing and wipe up the mirror, counters, sink, then floor. The article of clothing should be good and damp to clean the floor with by this point. If not, just moisten it a bit. Poof! Dust bunnies and pieces of hair will just disappear.
- Once a day, wipe the toilet seat and handle (well, having a 3 year old son helps keep me accountable here). Every couple of days (or as needed), clean the toilet bowl.
- Pick up ONE thing every time you go into or leave a room. Is there a dish in the living room? When you leave there, take it to the kitchen. Are there clothes in the laundry room to be put away? Place them in the room where they belong (even if you don’t put them away quite yet).
- Make chores a game with your little ones, even if they can’t quite “help” yet. Kids love to help (it’s good for them to learn as well) and they love kid-sized items with which to do it. Invest in a few inexpensive things they could use and let them have at it. I gave my son a small spray bottle filled with water to use as his “cleaning spray” when I am cleaning. He follows me around the house dusting, spraying, vacuuming, and straightening up. This allows me to clean at a much faster pace than if I tried doing it while he played in another room.
- If you are fortunate enough to have a child that naps alone (we had issues with this for the first 9 month with my daughter and still do on occasion) and you don’t need a nap yourself that day, get things done while they nap. Computer work, phone conversations (because we all know they don’t happen very well when the kids are awake), bills, menu planning, cleaning, cooking, anything.
- Do a load of laundry from start to finish every day. I sometimes need to do 2 if it’s a diaper washing day. Generally, I put the load in first thing and sometime mid-morning I put it in dryer. Folding and putting away is much harder for me, I’ll admit. But on a good day, it’s done in the late afternoon while the kids play in the basement living area (I fold clothes on the couches down there). My son actually folds all the washcloths and small towels for me in exchange for mini chocolate chips (1 rag = 1 chip).
- Treat spot-laden clothes the night before you wash them. I keep a big tupperware-type tub in the laundry room and every morning I fill it with cold water and oxygen bleach (sometimes a bit of soap as well, depending on the stain). [You can use whatever you want to treat the stain.] I dump the stained article(s) of clothing in the tub and keep them there until I am ready to wash it. Most of the time it’s just one full day, but sometimes I don’t get to that particular load until a couple of days later. If I have other stained clothing, I keep adding to the tub throughout the day. When I am ready to wash it, it’s already de-stained and clean! Dump out the container every morning and start anew, even if you still have clothes in there from the day (days) prior. FYI, be careful with bleeding colors (maybe keep a separate tub for those articles of clothing).
- With a baby and a toddler, things (their shirts, floor) get rather messy at meal time. I have two time-saving suggestions:
- Put a towel, sheet, or mat underneath their chair to catch most of the mess.
- Use a designated eating shirt (i.e. an oversized child’s t-shirt you don’t care too much about) that you can put over their clothes when they eat. If the child is wearing long sleeves, fold the sleeves back. We reuse the same shirt until it’s too dirty to use again. This saves A LOT of stains.
- Do dishes as you cook. Dishes piling up in the sink are one of my biggest pet peeves. When dinner is over, I despise having to spend a lot of time on clean up. Instead, as I am cooking, I will handwash a dish here and there (or put them in the dishwasher) until all the prep and cooking dishes (and countertops) are pretty much done by the time the food is. The sink is clear, and all I have to do is put the eating dishes in the dishwasher and wipe off the table. Try to keep the countertops, tables and sinks clear and clean throughout the day. (That’s a sanity saver for me!)
- Menu planning DOES WORK! I’ll admit that I don’t always get around to doing it, but when I don’t do it, I definitely see the difference. Time flies by, meals are repetitive, we spend more money on food, etc. Take a few minutes each week to plan out your week (or month). You can plan it out specifically for each day or you can make it a “loose schedule.” A “loose schedule” just means you have a list of meals you want to make but not on any specific day. Cross them off when you make them. (I have mommy brain on most days, so I need to cross them off to remind me that I have already prepared that meal.)
I would also love to hear how you make your own day more manageable!
Valerie, a God-fearing coach’s wife and stay at home mom of five bright-eyed little ones. She is the original founder of A Nation of Moms, a “one-stop shop” blog-azine of resources and advice for all moms who, like Valerie, just needed a little help.