Homemaking Skills Needed - I'm Overwhelmed!
Heather has written in with this homemaking skills question. To sum it up, she's overwhelmed and want to know where to start. Below is her story. I would love for you to comment and share your thoughts on where to begin.
Heather says:I am a SAHM of 3 lovely kids. They are all very active. My oldest is 5 and has many special needs that require lots of my time and attention throughout the week in regards to special schools, therapies, doctors visits and individual attention. He is also very dependent on a daily routine and acts out whenever this routine is disrupted or changed.
I also have a very smart, but very messy 2 year old daughter and a curious 10 month old that is able to get into and onto just about everything imaginable.
Due to my eldest sons high needs my husband and I feel that it is best for our family that I stay home with our kids and care for them rather than working outside the home.
Living on one income is not easy, especially when it isn't a whole lot to begin with. While I appreciate his efforts to financially support our families needs, I am left with the task of managing 90% of the households needs (as with most other mothers...).
We live in a 900 square foot apartment that has 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths. We have some storage space, though not fantastic. Five people in such a small space can be frustrating, and when it's a mess, we feel as though we are climbing on top of each other.
We are working on paying off our credit card debt and ever increasing medical bills to get into a house, but it's looking like at least a year before we can make that happen. For now, we are pretty stuck in this small apartment.
After I had my 3rd baby last spring I got extremely overwhelmed and depressed trying to keep on top of everything and started losing control of the daily up keep of our home.
We are officially a terrible mess. It's embarrassing to have company over but with my son having in-home therapy twice a week this is unavoidable.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of the household notebook and would love to implement it. However, I feel like I need to find our floors and surfaces before I can get that going.
I guess my question is: where do I start? How do I tackle such a massive task alone while still trying to care for my children and keep them from making the mess larger while I clean?
For example, if I fold laundry while they are awake they destroy the piles and spread it throughout the apartment. When I clean a bathroom they pull half their toys out of their rooms and spread them in the living room....
My husband is a fantastic man and father, but not the best of help when it comes to cleaning and upkeep. Yes, if I ask him and assign him a specific task he will do it, most the time...but not always.
Honestly though, when he is home, I don't want to clean or cook. I want to play with my kids and relax with my husband. I need to be able to tackle this mess before 5pm as well as do the grocery shopping, create and implement a menu, cook it, etc.
Here is a visual of the mess (in words...)
We have 3 massive mountains of laundry. A giant dirty pile in my bedroom, a clean pile in the hall and a clean pile in the living room. For every load I get washed, it would seem 2 more loads get dirtied and I can't manage to get them put away. This is the most frustrating of my tasks.
Included in this laundry are lots of clothing that the kids have outgrown that either need to be stored or donated which is why this process is even slower.
My daughter has her own room and the boys share a room. The toys are every where and the floors are impossible to find. This has now led to the toys being dragged into the living room (which I try to keep picked up so we have some open floor space!) and then we trip on them there also.
The kitchen is small so cooking one meal completely destroys it and I can't seem to keep up on the dishes. As soon as I get dinner done the kids are screaming because they're "starving" and we go straight to eating, then baths, then jammies, then bed...and before I know it it's 9 o'clock and I am wiped out and my husband is tuned out to reality and the kitchen and table are still a disaster.
The bathrooms are fairly easy to maintain unless the baby (and two year old) unravel toilet paper or toss dog food all over (our main bathroom is very large and we keep our dog kennel and dog food in there).
Then there is the paper trail. I have baskets and boxes of 2 years worth of mail and medical notes and research piled in our master bedroom, which also serves as our office.
Between these baskets and boxes and the mountain of laundry my room is anything but a relaxing sleeping retreat.
The surfaces of our dressers and counters are covered in piles of stuff that need to be put somewhere, but that somewhere pretty much doesn't exist so it just gets left there.
I can see as I write this that we really need to dejunk and get an organization system going. And I feel like once this is cleaned up we can set up as system. But how do I get to that point!? Where do I start? The laundry? The toys? The dishes? AH! (Anyone else overwhelmed here???)
And then once it does get picked up, how to we stay disciplined so it doesn't happen again? Any advice would be very helpful.
Taylor says:Heather, first you need a cyber hug!!! I am thinking of you!!!
Now, look at the picture at the top of this page. This is the typical Suzy Homemaker. You do not need to be her to be happy! Remember that. Just be the best Heather you can be.
Your description of how you felt after you had your third child sounds really familiar to me, because I felt the same way. For some people it happens after 2, some 4, some never, but for me three was the number that tipped the balance. It sounds the same for you.
Basically, what I learned was that I had to approach things differently than I did before, because these wonderful children I had were a lot of work, just themselves, much less adding on all the work they provide with a messy house and keeping them fed, clothed and clean.
The two big areas I personally would work on first are the kitchen and the laundry. When you can eat meals in your home without as much stress (since this happens at least 3 times a day), and also have clean laundry to wear, things seem a lot better.
For the kitchen have a day where all you do is focus on the kitchen and getting things clean, when you can. That may be 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there. Finish up when the kids go to bed if you have to. Maintaining is easier than the big clean up, so clean up after each meal. I know it is hard when all the kids are small, so catch up while they are napping if you must. Here is my suggestion of daily kitchen tasks that need to get done. It will take longer at first to do these things, but as you do it more frequently it doesn't take as long.
Plus, you will need to get in the habit of tackling one or two kitchen tasks every time you walk in there. Like sweeping the floor really quick, or taking out the trash, or sticking dishes in hot water to soak, etc. When you have very small kids all you get are 2-3 minutes at a time, but if you use them wisely they can add up.
Next, do a laundry reboot. What I mean by that is to do all that laundry, and deal with the clothes. Get rid of what you can, and put what will be used for a younger child or in a different season in storage so there is not so much out. It will most likely take a couple of days, and you won't have as much time because you will also be maintaining the kitchen, which will take time itself. That is OK. It will not change overnight.
Once you have your laundry under control you will need a routine for this too. I personally suggest a weekly laundry schedule, especially since you have three kids. That means you most likely need to do laundry every single day to keep up. My hang up is actually putting the clean clothes away. Wherever in the laundry cycle you seem to have a problem, really focus on making sure you do that part and things will improve.
It took your home a long time to get to the point where you feel it is out of control. It will take just as long, or longer, for everything to get back to where you like, and even then it will take a lot of time to maintain it everyday. That is OK. Just these couple of steps will make you feel better, and let you enjoy your home and kids more.
That is just my advice. I know that there are other people that have different opinions of where you should start. I would love to hear from you in the comments, because no one answer is right. Lots of perspectives are helpful and useful, because different things work for different people.
Good luck Heather! Just remember you aren't alone, and that people are thinking of you, and also in the same boat you are!
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