Saturday, 29 November 2014

Hints and Tips for The Reluctant Housewife

If you're anything like me then housework doesn't come easily. Ok, let me rephrase that: if you're anything like me then you're a complete and utter slob. Don't deny it; the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. When you only have yourself to worry about, being a slob is fine, if a little unhygienic, but I would assume that you are reading my blog because you are a parent in which case something will eventually give.

Having a baby does not turn you into a domestic goddess. What it does do is highlight how far removed from a domestic goddess you are. There are, of course, people who are natural born housekeepers and, for them, parenthood simply sharpens that set of already well defined skills. However, for us slobs, there is no automatic urge to pick up a steam mop the second that we push out our offspring. It's something that we have to work at.

I spent an awful lot of time making excuses for having a messy house. It wasn't just messy either; the bedding was musty, the shower drain was clogged and a thick layer of dust covered the shelves and windowsills. Don't even get me started on my kitchen. I kept telling myself - and anyone else who would listen - that I was sorry for the mess but that it wasn't my fault. I honestly believed that it was nigh on impossible to maintain a household as well as looking after a baby. The problem only got worse when I went back to work because it gave me yet another excuse to not clean up after myself; I was a working mother gosh darn it. I deserved to put my feet up at the end of the day. Unfortunately, my feet may have been up but my conscience was as clean as my kitchen work top; I ended every day feeling guilty, stressed and overwhelmed.

It's only now that I've realised that I can have a clean home and put my feet at up the end of the day; it's just about having a system and breaking life long terrible habits. I'm still finding my own routine and I don't want anyone to think that I'm preaching - I'm not - I just want to share some of the ways that I've sabotaged my own internal tramp. If I can help out just one fellow stressed out slob then it's been worth it.

1. Laundry

Do at least one load of washing any day that you're in the house. Personally, I hate sorting through laundry; it's not the washing and drying that bothers me, it's the putting away. I despise it. It takes so long and I can think of a thousand things I'd rather be doing. However, rifling through baskets of clothing looking for a clean sleepsuit gets really old, really fast. It was when I found myself doing this at every bed time that I eventually cracked. 

By seeing one load of washing through to completion each day, I can completely avoid the overwhelming sensation of 'Shit, I've run out of everything', and the sight of three separate airers groaning under the weight of all of the clothes.

2. Routine, Routine, Routine

Babies love routine, so it stands to reason that a few weeks in you will find that you've adopted one without realising it. The trick is in shoe-horning a little bit of daily domestic into what is already a well established itinerary. 

For me, this means getting up and, before I so much as make a cup of tea, I tidy away any post dinner carnage in the kitchen and put the hoover round downstairs. It's not much, but it makes me feel like I have my shit together. It then means that the little things are more or less taken care of, so I can often tackle another room at my leisure during the baby's nap times.

3. The OCD Friend Technique

As you are cleaning up, keep telling yourself that the most judgemental clean freak you know is on their way round to examine the fruit of your labour. 

I use my little sister; the girl is a complete bleach fanatic. In order to keep myself on the straight and narrow, I firmly convince myself that her arrival is imminent and that, if I don't finish, she will go away with a diminished opinion of me. If I'm having a really lazy day - more often than not - I will tell myself that she's bringing my mother with her.

4. Get a Dishwasher

Ok, so this is technically just a way of cutting a corner, but hey, we've admitted we don't like chores so let's not put on any airs and graces. The more that you allow dirty dishes to clutter up your work surfaces, the less inclined you will feel to tackle them. 

Babies mean bottles, sippy cups, dummies, weaning spoons, teethers... any number of plastic objects that need constant cleaning and sterilising. Take it from one who found out the hard way that it's far more difficult to stay on top of your baby's bottle output if your worktop is covered in crusty saucepans. By putting as much as you can into the dishwasher, the space around your sink is freed up for washing teats and other non-dishwasher safe bits and pieces. Again, it's about protecting yourself from feeling overwhelmed - the enemy of organisation - but it's important to remember to work unloading the dishwasher into your routine. Out of sight shouldn't mean out of mind.

5. Establish a Holding Zone

I actually read this tip in Psychologies magazine. The idea is that if you're inclined to dump stuff on a chair/table/desk then that inclination should be embraced rather than fought. Nominate a 'Holding Zone' - mine is my kitchen table - and plonk anything that needs to be dealt with, but that you haven't got time for right now, here. Here's the important part: You must have regular sort through of your Holding Zone. If you don't clear it on at least a weekly basis then you'll be right back where you started.

6. Tackle Other Areas of Disorganisation 

For me, this meant emptying my email inbox of 2,456,354 unread emails and replying to a bunch of (quite important) correspondence that I'd been hiding from. By starting to claw back some control in other areas of my life, I felt able to start tackling the superficial issues inside my house. It's amazing how quickly things can begin to feel like a huge weight on your shoulders if you try and push them to the back of your mind. Eventually you just find yourself unable to deal with any of it, and that definitely includes doing the dusting.

7. Enlist Help

If you're lucky enough to have a partner or family/friends that are willing to pop round and lend you a hand then, by all bloody means, make use of them! By halving the time you spend cleaning, you are doubling the amount of time you get to spend playing with your baby.

8. Have a Day Off!

In other words, go easy on yourself. Even with all the best intentions, it's very difficult to maintain domestic harmony if it isn't something that comes particularly naturally.

I always find the end of the week is a bit of a problem, because I have to go to work. Usually, by Sunday, things have begun to get a bit scruffy again. My heart tells me to just close the door on it and go out for the day, but I know that doing that just means more work for me the following week. So I do try to get on top of it before it gets on top of me.

All of this is just fine, but it's important to remember that the idea is to minimise the time you have to spend cleaning. The single most important thing to spend your time on is your baby, so don't get too obsessed. There is more to life than bleaching and tidying; it's just about striking a balance that makes your life easier. So, if you want a day off, have a day off. Don't torture yourself, but also don't think that one 'off day' is an excuse to throw in the towel. Housework has to be treated like the Boo ghosts in the Super Mario games: if you turn your back on it for too long, you're going to end up in all sorts of trouble.


And now your bathroom needs cleaning again


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