If there’s anything more defeating than a to-do list that keeps growing, I couldn’t really say – unless it’s perhaps the chore that never ends – laundry!
Honestly, though, between raising a family, keeping a house, working from or away from home, running kids to activities and appointments, taking care of yourself, being a good community steward, and maintaining relationships with people who don’t share your roof, it’s a wonder we can get anything done.
So when I was at my most overwhelmed I found some things that really helped me keep up as much as I possibly could – because, let’s face it, doing it all 100% all of the time is a fantasy.
1. Do it now.
Don’t put off for tomorrow what can be done today. Or sooner.
Except in the case of small kids and wet Rice Krispies, couscous, or quinoa, it’s really just easiest to clean up right after the meal is finished. In the case of Rice Krispies, etc. I tend to wait until the dishes are done and the table and chairs are wiped off before I vacuum or sweep as it’s a little easier to get the stuff up once its had some time to dry. Since it’s all still part of the same chore, though, it’s still technically “now”.
I also apply this to our daily and weekly schedule. Three years into this stay-at-home-mom gig, we have a pretty solid routine. When we stick to it, we do better.
When we don’t, there are lots of tears – and the kids cry more too.
So, when our schedule says breakfast, play, lunch, nap, snack, play, dinner, bath, read, bed, that’s what we do. Because when we don’t, everyone suffers.
2. Do it once.
This is perhaps an expansion of the one-touch rule. If you’re not familiar with the one-touch rule, it just boils down to putting things away right from the get – instead of dropping your things where you stand when you get home, walk in the door and hang your keys or purse or coat or backpack, take off your shoes and put them away, etc.
I apply this to laundry in our house in a big way.
When I wash clothes and linens for our family of four, I fold and sort it at the same time. It’s organized by person or room then by drawer. When I’m done washing, drying, and folding, I place each person’s laundry in their own basket, haul it to their room, and put it away (my kids are three and four and my daughter’s knobs are still inside-out in her dresser drawers so they don’t put their clothes away just yet – but soon!).
Because everything is already sorted, I open each drawer only once, toss in what belongs (just kidding – I don’t toss laundry – that’s why my daughter’s dresser drawer knobs are inside-out), and am finished with laundry. I can accomplish this chore in a fraction of the time it takes when I don’t sort this way.
This also means that I wait until I’ve washed all the laundry for the week before putting clothes away, instead of putting each load of clothes away as they are done. Since we wash clothes one day each week and have the space to sort all this laundry, this is pretty doable for us.
3. Do it completely.
The job isn’t done until it’s 100% done.
Okay, so the dishes can dry in the dishrack overnight (Yes they can Marie Kondo), but all of them need to be washed, including recyclables needing a rinse. Dirty dishes on the counter means the.dishes.aren’t.done.
Besides, who likes waking up to a dirty kitchen.
There are also some implied tasks that go along with dishes, such as washing the counters, table and chairs (when you have small, spill-prone kids), stove top, and any other surface touched during the meal prep, as well as sweeping under and around the table and in the kitchen.
The thing about laundry, though, is that it seems to never truly end. Unless you strip your family naked while you wash laundry, there is literally a pile of clothes brewing for you just as the last load goes into the washing machine.
But! I feel like, with doing laundry one day each week and following through until the clothes are put away, that it actually does get completely done. That might also be because I don’t think about it again until it comes up on the chore schedule.
4. Make a [Prioritized] List
Whether this is a daily routine/schedule or a list of actual tasks with deadlines, knowing what you need to get done is half the battle.
Personally I use both.
I have a daily/weekly schedule for my family that includes our daily routine including everything from waking up and making beds and when naptime is over to what day a week we wash bath towels (yes, only once a week). These are the routine daily/weekly things. The schedule keeps us on task and helps us identify our margins.
I also use a bullet journal where I keep a running list of short- and long-term goals. Having recently retired from the military and moved from Germany to Minnesota, my husband and I had several short-term goals such as updating our driver’s licenses [second priority] and getting commercial life insurance [first priority].
Using the time in the margins of our daily routine, we were able to accomplish several of the items on our short-term goals lists and even some on our long-term goals lists.
Bonus Tip: Don’t Sweat It.
We all have days where, no matter what we accomplish, we feel like we got nothing done. It happens. Just don’t forget to give yourself credit for all the things you did do – even if it wasn’t what you wanted or needed to get done. And if you literally sat in your pajamas all day and watched Lifetime – Brava! We all need those days, too.