Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday Sound Off

From a dear Moxling who is exasperated by the enormity and futility of trying to stay ahead of a toddler:

"...Therein lies my problem...I got nothin'. I have no idea where to begin. I can maintain the bathroom and the kitchen (for the most part anyway) but the bedroom looks like a wreck and the living room is like "the dump zone" or something.

I don't know if I need a schedule with minimums on it (Like, if nothing else do XYZ) or a list of chores that can be done in certain time increments (If you have 5 mins you can do X, 10 mins you can do Y, 20 mins...etc...) or just to take a weekend and throw a bunch of shit out and downsize (fewer things equals less clutter right?) I see all the neat things that you buy (the organizers and stuff) and think "ooh I want some" but then I think "What would I put in them??? WHERE would I put them?" We don't have a lot of space (our apt is a little over 1000 sq ft) and we can't properly utilize the drawer space that we have because F. just pulls things out. There are literally 10 drawers/cabinets in this place that are kept empty because F. just empties them anyway."

Ah, Grasshoppa, dis what you do...

Okay. This pretty much captures the essence of every email and S.O.S. I get. How to maintain EVERYTHING. Also known as the entire house. While it is possible, and very rewarding, and something you're apt to find me doing, for most people it a) causes endless anxiety unless you have 99 arms, b) is an unreasonable goal (due to jobs, being pregnant, time/health constraints, c) and because the very notion makes people want to punch themselves in the throat. Likewise, the idea of maintenance is also daunting because it connotes images of basically cleaning constantly. And even I don't want to do that! Obviously, different systems suit different families, and quite often, a combination of systems is best.

All of your examples were excellent. Personally, though, I wouldn't necessarily give a list of tasks that can be completed in five or ten minutes because there are always variables, so the risk of rushing, having to leave things incomplete, or running late to finish that last part. However, setting a timer for five or ten or twenty (and so on) minutes in each room, or select rooms, at any point, and just tackling what you can, is always a great supplement to your over all routine.

Speaking of routine, you need one! First, your house is not dirty, it's messy. Thank God for that. The carpet beneath your scattered laundry and toys is clean, your counters are not encrusted with days-old spaghetti sauce, and your bed has all its bedding and is cute and one minute away from being made. You just gotta make it!

Since I know your limitations, challenges, and stresses the best, I'll just speak right to you, but know that many many friends/readers are in the same sitch, and I hope they cough up some helpful hints, despite the fact that I had to blow dust off this blog. Bah! Come on people!

I have a general routine, basic principles, the supplements when I find myself with an extra hour approximately once in a blue moon. And I will cheer, and even do the wave, for anyone who spends a weekend gutting their shit. That is amazing.

My general routine is to make up my bedding as soon as my feet touch the floor. I've seen your bed, you can do this. This creates a soothing visual, and potential surface for laundry that has been folded from the Pack 'n Play, lol. (Brilliant I say!) I have a tendency to gather/wipe/straighten as I walk, every time I cross the house. Most of you don't. But, you'd be surprised at how getting used to a nice made bed will prompt you to swipe up Stefan's t-shirts and underwear (?) off the floor to make it that much nicer. (Wait. He's military, does he sully his barracks like that?) Next is that ominous catch-all, the dresser! Obviously dishes and trash demand immediate removal. Clothing is irritating but try to get it off there too. As for the knick knack paddywhack nightmare: If you can't sort through it right away, just put it all in a stack or tray, and wipe the dresser down.

MOXIE TENET: Clean surfaces!

Finally, take a damp cloth or duster to the walls, corners, hanging photographs, and when that's done, vacuum. Voila. You now have one clean, peaceful space. The keys to keeping it on track are to stop tossing things about, keep the bed made, and never let F. in again!

By the time I use the bathroom in morning, I've made my bed, picked up 17 things, started the coffee, loaded the dishwasher, taken out trash, gotten the washing machine going, and generally shake out bath mats (into the shower) and wipe down the sink/faucet/chrome/mirrors. But these things take 10 extra seconds, really!

You say you maintain the kitchen and bathroom(s). That is amazing. The two most important areas by far. Also, the pics of your kitchen, that is a 10 minute job at the most, including sweeping. One of your barriers, like so many others, could be eased by remembering this:

Do not say you have to "Clean the house!"

Who wants to clean an entire house? But cleaning a room, surface, or folding one truckload of laundry, is entirely possible.

My place isn't much bigger than yours, but all my drawers are carrying more than their share, and as you said, caddies/organizers galore. We need to overcome Hurricane Baby so that you can utilize all the space you have.

I remember a child-proofing thread from fb but can't remember the problem. You need to use those drawers. He is old enough to start telling no, though it will take time, and since you're skipping the whips, may take even more time. But patterns are established by repetition.

Your assignment is to re-claim your drawers.

Basically, I need my house to be clean. Even if it's cluttered, cleanliness is next to sane-li-ness, I know you know this.

*CLEAN* This encompasses wiping, dusting, scrubbing, sweeping, spraying.

Keeping those fucking islands and jutting counters from being strewn with debris that seems to belong nowhere is paramount. Surfaces are an aesthetic illusion that will comfort you when other areas have been victimized by Baby.

*DE-CLUTTER* This can always be one small area (the dresser), one dreaded area (the counter), a surprise area (a shelf or drawer), etc. You can plan these or attack random targets when you get all those AMAZING bursts of energy that pregnant mamas
of toddlers whose husbands' supervisors are slave driving assholes are so prone to having! :(

*GET RID OF IT* I am a huge fan of throwing things out. If it's junk, it's junk. If you haven't fixed it by now, you won't. It's causing you stress now, so forget that you spent $19.99 on it. You aren't likely to have a yard sale in an apartment so for things that are usable but not to you, keep a bin on your dryer, and when it's full, take it to a women's shelter, your sister-in-law, etc. NOT THE GOODWILL. Again you can toss junk any time or set a timer to see how much you can get. And devoting a weekend is pure bliss.

*DO IT NOW* This one seems tricky because people think it means clean 'round the clock, but it doesn't. If I'm brushing my teeth and see smudges on the mirror, I go get the Windex. This always leads to clean mirrors chrome and inside windows throughout the house. Five minutes. Dead serious. Waiting = stress. Do it now = Ugh, but worth it!

For you, there has to be a way to keep F out of the drawers and the wicker bins in your living room. This has to happen.


-Make a general OR daily list of priorities and chip away at them as you can. Or ambush them, whenever possible.

-Commercial breaks! Don't feel guilty if you watch Oprah, but grab an armful of laundry to fold while you watch. Then put it on your nice made bed during commercials, and repeat. You can probably fold it all by the time she shuts her stupid mouth. :) And no going to bed without putting your clothes away! I'm not typing this in 95 degrees so those clothes end up on the floor!

-Clean where you sit. If you're at the computer, organize your papers, pens, wipe down the desk, lamp, etc. Same for the couch. Straighten cushions, throw pillows, grab whatever you can reach and fold/toss/____ it.

-The walk through. Do something every time you walk across your house. Anything. Preferably multiple anythings. Swipe some dust, pick up some debris, a sippy cup, a shoe, a magazine...

-Challenges. You can blast your music and challenge yourself to get one room done, or a little in each room, in 20 minutes or an hour, whatever works at the moment, or you can have Stefan, a friend, or me do it. And then do it. I love challenges. I take medication.

You just need to understand that you are not dealing with filth. You're dealing with mess, a toddler, increasing fatigue and anxiety, and repetition burn-out. All understandable. All can be helped. Your house is one hour away from being exactly how you want it. You may not have an hour, but it's not the cesspool you think it is. Take your drawers back from F. Do a little at a time. Stop thinking about the entire house. Make the most of your movements, where you are, your time, and your energy. Minimize. Set five-to-ten things each day that you must do, starting with making that bed. Also, if vacuuming each night makes the list (Oh Stefannnnn!), that will require the clearance to do so--bonus! Realize cloth diapers on his dresser are not dirt. Put a bin on your dryer. Even if roller skates and visors and a half a pack pens sit in it for a year, you won't have to look at them anymore. Throw rugs = stain concealer and pick-me-up, provided you don't have more than ... three. Lastly, stop being so hard on yourself! You do more than you think, and it's not as bad as you think. Start familiarizing F with "no," and start familiarizing Stefan with "Honey I'm growing our child, please vacuum, kthanks."

If anyone else gleaned anything from this, fabulous, get cracking. For those who relate to Kasondra's predicament, and have words of wisdom, please pass them along to me so that I can tell her and get all the credit.


  1. I'm very happy to see this blog post. Interesting, these things are the exact same as what my mom tells me when it comes to keeping house. The exact same. Although I don't have a child, my husband works full time as Stefan does, and I work part time and go to college full time. It doesn't take long for things to pile up and for me to feel overwhelmed. I know how Kas feels. This was encouraging for me, and I hope it is for her. You're right, it isn't as bad as she thinks it is. She has a lot on her plate, but she can do it. You can do it, Kas! I hope you'll blog more Cheyenne (and Kas), I miss your blogs. Hope all is well. -Jackie

  2. Yea for Moxi. We are far past it now, but I've been through the books being emptied from the bottom two shelves of the bookcase phase. This week I am going to make my bed and see how it goes. I NEVER make my bed but can see that it could be magic like you say.

    And BTW on the cloth dipes, you may already have this K but we had a basket with supplies in the living room and bedroom so the cloths weren't all scattered everywhere and sometimes they didn't even get folded after washing before they went back to the basket.

  3. I make my bed everyday cause Cheyenne bought me a duvet in the most calm green color years ago, plus, it's easy cause I never use a top sheet.

    HOWEVER, I listened to the John Tesh show on the radio the other night, ya know, the one with soft rock and interesting info...and he says that making the bed is a bad idea! Cause all those little creatures that I don't want to think about love procreating in the warm dark of a made bed!

    I will still make my bed, cause it does calm me to see it made, plus is the perfect place to sort laundry, paperwork, anything since there is no other calm surface in my house...

    And anyway he said that if we change the sheets weekly, it will all be ok. I will never change my sheets weekly, well unless I start sharing my bed with someone, so I guess i'll go on not thinking about things I don't want to think about.

  4. Oh don't I know the woes of keeping a clean house with little ones?! It took me years to get some sort of system going, and even now things pile up in hyperdrive in my house with four kids. My own personal tips (not that I'm a domestic goddess but...)
    ♥ Shortlist the things that keeping clean keep you sane. Some people need a clean kitchen, for some it's the bathroom, etc. Make those your priority (as it sounds like you are!).

    ♥ I'm so with Cheyenne on the never tell yourself it's the entire house. THAT was my biggest downfall years ago. Now mentally, I just think about smaller jobs I need to do. Breaking it down so helps.

    ♥ Keep a few cleaning supplies hidden in key rooms. For example, I have some spray cleaner in the bathroom, so when I'm in there I don't have to go get anything, it's there for a quick wipe over. I also keep bathroom wipes for quick 2 min jobs in between deep cleans.

    ♥ When cleaning doesn't feel like much, I Febreeze stuff. Sometimes I realise how clean the house actually is when it's not stuffy and musty.

    ♥ Stop torturing yourself! Being a Mama is hard enough, anyone that expects you to have a perfect house is being unreasonable. So long as the kids are happy, healthy with a nice enviornment the rest is purely for us. By nice enviornment, I mean just as Cheyenne said - Clean not filthy. Clutter is fine, can't be avoided sometimes - minimize what you can and don't sweat the rest.

    Great post Cheyenne. As always xxxx

  5. Jackie: Aww, thanks babe!

    Dana: My MIL suggested (and we put into practice) putting the wicker baskets full of diaper stuff in the hall closet so that Frankie can't get to them. Such an easy thing that never crossed my mind!

    Chey: Now that I'm on top of my house (thanks to my MIL!) I think I'm going to put the "do the basics and then notecards" thing I did before back into practice. So, as long as I have an empty sink and the washer humming I'll move on to my notecards. I re-did them. I now have one for each room in the house (so I can focus) and then a card for different chores (surfaces, floors, declutter, etc...) I figure, as long as the basics get done the rest is extra!
    Franklin has started helping more again. He now takes folded towels to the bathroom and wants to help put them up. It's so sweet!

  6. It couldn't be any more ironic that I'm here today given that I have succumbed to residing in the couch curled in the fetal position doing less than nothing. I can only hope that given this day of rest tomorrow I will be raring to go.

    WTG to all of you Moxlings who are so diligently on top of your game!!

  7. Dawna, once I figured out that it was ok to wallow in melancholy but no more than 24 hours my life did notably become easier and more associated with laughter.