How to Keep Your Home Under Control

One from the archives here that you may not have seen before.  Originally published in March 2012, I thought it was worth a re-visit with our forthcoming cleaning feature in mind.  Which bots of housework make you feel better?  It seems most of us have one aspect which helps feel like it's all under control.  What's yours?

A quick discussion with friends reveals that we all have a particular thing which, above all else, makes us feel organised in our space and enables us to sleep soundly at night (small people permitting of course!)  My 'thing' is having all the toys tidied away and back in their rightful places at the end of the day.  If I can also see the kitchen worktops without a sea of crockery, jobs to do, lists and other abandoned bits and bobs, adorned only with beautiful, shiny appliances, I can go to bed very happy indeed.

My friend Danielle, mum to two boys, says her thing is making sure the dishwasher is stacked, the odds and ends of washing up done and her 'sink is shined'.  I really resisted that one, preferring to crash in front of the TV or Twitter in the evening, but it does definitely feel better to wake up in the morning to a clean kitchen.

Whereas, with three older children, 35 year old Lisa's control point is laundry.  She insists that clothes get put in the laundry basket as soon as they're taken off, and makes sure she does at least one load of washing a day, washed, dried, ironed, put away, like clockwork.  I must say we have recently adopted the one load a day approach, well for weekdays anyway, and it works.

Being followers of Jean Liedloff's The Continuum Concept (Arkana) we subscribe to the idea of getting children involved in household chores from an early age, enabling them to learn vital skills and encouraging them to take some responsibility.  Whilst friends and family aren't entirely happy seeing our two year old, Lara, standing up at the kitchen worktop using sharp(ish) knives to chop vegetables, they are impressed when she helps unload the washing machine, puts the dry clothes away, helps tidy up or sweeps the floor.  To her this is fun, and she is genuinely proud of herself for making her own little contribution to the running of the household.

The other fun element we have introduced, which admittedly is a bit of a borrow from the Fly Lady philosophy, is timers.  I never would have thought it but setting the timer makes everything fun - even for the adults!  Knowing you have only 2/5/10 minutes to tidy this space or do this job not only motivates you to get a shift on, it actually [whisper it] makes the activity fun.  Who knew a lowly oven timer could be your best friend?

Our final ideas revolve around organisation.  We have a weekly schedule which details not only all the baby and toddler activities and groups, but also lists the household jobs to be done each day, even the ones which are done day in, day out like dishwashing and laundry.  I know a rota sounds very student house, but in reality having everything spread over the week makes it less daunting somehow, and also means all the adults in the house can see what needs to be done at a glance (very useful for getting the husband involved I find!)  And hey, if ticking things off gets you going, laminate the thing and do that!

Last of all, we have a multitude of containers throughtout the house where things get tossed when they're in the wrong location, need mending, need up or re-cycling, or otherwise need dealing with.  Then set your timer and off you go with your container of oddities to re-assign/deal with.  It works for us!

So here's my top tips:

1. Get a cleaner or a self-cleaning house, failing that follow tips 2 to 10:

2. Work out what your control thing is, and ensure that gets done even if nothing else does.

3. Stack your dishwasher, wash up and shine your sink every evening.

4. Do one load of laundry a day, and get one load ironed, folded and put away.

5. Involve your children in chores, a clean, tidy house is everyone's responsibility.

6. Set an oven timer and give yourself a time limit to get the job done.

7. Have a schedule which breaks the chores down over the week.

8. If crossing things off a list motivates you, laminate your lists!

9. Have open containers, e.g. garden trugs, dotted around to toss odds and ends into.

10. Make sure a treat is in sight at the end of your chore time.

Although as I overheard Lara saying this at the weekend, I think my days as a domestic goddess are still far away!

"I think we must live in an old house, Sophia, because there are lots of cobwebs. Do you see?" (points at offending articles)

Are you a domestic goddess?  What works in your home?


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