Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tips for the Domestically Challenged (Or Lazy)

If you are like me, then you didn't really mentally or physically prepare yourself for a life of domesticity while you were growing up. Sure I played dolls when I was little, but I also played "lawyer." I was usually a working mother in my childhood pretend play. So now that I am lucky enough to stay home with my kids, I gotta say I am a little nonplussed. So, I am the one who cleans? All the time? Now, my mother taught me to clean and she taught me the value of hard work, but she worked outside of the home, too. So I just never really thought about the every day work of domesticity. I've been married for almost eight years, and I am just finally starting to "get" what it is that I am supposed to do--but that don't mean I like it! So, I've developed a system for myself, and people like me--read lazy slobs--that makes domesticity a little easier to swallow. So, without further ado,


1. Realize that chores are things you will have to do more than once. The floor gets dirty every day. If you only do the dishes once, you may run out of clean plates. Accept this as absolute truth, and you will avoid some heartache. It's hard to believe, I know. I have spent a lot of time feeling bewildered: "I just swept this floor last week! What's with all the dust bunnies? "How can the toilet be this dirty? It looked so clean two weeks ago!" etc.

2. Keep a container of Clorox or Lysol wipes in the bathroom and kitchen. They make quick spot-cleaning a snap and help you avoid the hard work of spraying cleaner, wetting a rag, and THEN wiping. Sheesh.

3. Have at least one household task scheduled. May I recommend laundry? It never goes away, increases exponentially with each new baby, and really sucks to fold and put away. So do what my mother-in-law taught me: do laundry on Tuesday and Friday. Kacy recommends folding while watching TV or movies. Use nice smelling detergent, and make your laundry area pleasant by putting a brightly colored rug there, or installing something cute and organizational from Ikea or the Container Store. Crank some White Stripes or other rock music if it puts you in the mood. If you have to do your laundry at a laundromat or communcal laundry room, arrange to not have your children with you when you do it, then you can read a good book or magazine while you wait--better yet, leave it and go shopping till it's finished!

4. Another word on laundry: occasionally you may feel the need to get a leg up, some extra help, a head start. In this case it is perfectly acceptable--if not absolutely necessary--to take your laundry to a laundry place and pay to have it cleaned and folded for you. I have done this and felt empowered and happy afterwards (and yes, it cost $80).

5. Don't worry about cleaning your whole house every day, but have like one-two things that you do every day. For me, it's the dishes. I haven't always been the best dish-doer in the world. But I have FINALLY established a daily dish habit and it actually makes me happy. Having a kitchen that I love helps. So if you need to remodel your kitchen on the basis of making cleaning it more enjoyable, go for it!

6. If clutter is a problem for you--like it is for me, yowza!--purchase cute baskets or tins and put clutter in there. Clean it out once per week. Also, don't feel guilty about throwing away some of your preschool/elementary student's artwork/never-ending supply of completed worksheets. Keep a file for each grade and save only the best artwork. You are not a bad person for throwing 90% of this stuff away.

7. Never clean for more than fifteen minute intervals. Set the timer. Work like a dog. Then take a nice break--for an hour, or a week!--and start again. Fifteen minutes is actually longer than it really takes to pick up the clutter in a room. You'd be surprised at how little time it really takes to clean up. I always am.

8. Make time for the following things: blogging, tv, reading, staring, and doing stuff with your kids and for yourself.

9. They say it takes three weeks to establish a habit. I am on week 20 of trying to make the beds every day. It still isn't a habit yet. But I am a believer in the power of a made bed to make you feel good and to improve the look and feel of your whole house. If you can make a bed, you don't have to vacuum!

10. Lower your standards of cleanliness with each child you bring into your home.

11. A fluff in the dryer on "permanent press" beats an hour of ironing any day of the week.

12. Know this: a house that smells good looks better.

13. Keep one part of your house--the part closest to the front door, perhaps?--perpetually clean. Then you won't be too humiliated when people drop in on your unexpectedly.

14. Don't try to ascribe special meaning to the cleaning that you do. It's just cleaning. The glories of being a mother lie in teaching your son to scramble his own eggs, to like cool music, and to be a good person.

15. And while we're on the subject: the sooner you teach your kids to get their own snacks, the happier you will be at six a.m. when your three year old is hungry.

16. Furthermore, set your kids' expectations of meals and snacks LOW. Then anything you do will seem like a treat!

17. Last, but not least: don't beat up on yourself for not being all "domestic" like. You are probably a product of the feminist movement and a working mother. You grew up admiring Diane Keaton in the movie Baby Boom. You can't expect to love cooking and cleaning.

18. But you can expect to be expected to do those things.


  1. What if I just want to make and sell homemade Jam? Will my veterinarian husband still expect me to clean? Because I don't think that's fair.

  2. YES! I agree with everything you wrote. That validates me AND you.

  3. Wow, I thought I was the only one who mopped the kitchen floor only when it was too sticky to ignore any longer (about 2 1/2 - 3 weeks by the way) Cleanliness next to godliness??! I always knew I was a heathen.

  4. OK, I love these tips because I hate hate HATE how these stupid domestic things have to be done over and over. I mean seriously, cooking? I should be able to cook once all week and still get dinner every day. And cleaning? If I only had to do it once a month I'd still hate it. Over the summer I had a day set aside for all cleaning and laundry--thursday. I did it, but I HATED thursday so much that I had to quit after a while. I'm going try to do it again, but right now I'm just enjoying my unstructured laziness too much.

  5. Wow. This is what I needed to hear, as I am perpetually a never ending failure at this whole "Housekeeping" business. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, as I too have just entered year #8 of marriage(which sounds really old) and still feel quite lost on how to do most things. Hope you're doing well. How's Idaho?

  6. I'm glad I'm not the only one that was amazed when I got married that I would be an instant domestic goddess. And that I would be expected to love it. No matter how "forward" our society becomes, somehow us ladies are still expected to love the housewife side of life.

  7. I'm totally going to print this list out and tape it to my refrigerator.

  8. I agree with Heidi - NEVER stop blogging.

  9. By the way - it's Diana not Rebecca. I didn't know she was logged in...

  10. Great list, Carly. You should write a book... :). I want a signed copy.