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:
MOXIE TENET: 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.
*CLEAR SURFACES* 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.
TIPS FOR A TIRED MAMA:
-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.