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Running a household is a big job, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And much of time, the overwhelming responsibility of it all falls squarely on your shoulders.
Whether you’re a stay at home mom, or you work outside the home, or you run your own business, keeping up with the daily demands of everyday life is tough…and never-ending.
Not too long ago, a sweet young mama wrote to me about this very struggle. She asked, “How do you handle falling off the wagon of daily dishes and chores when you know you’re the only person who will take it back up? I don’t get a break on doing the laundry or dish routine – if I don’t do it, it won’t get done.”
I’m guessing she’s not the only one who feels this way sometimes!
Maybe it’s because your husband works a lot, or he’s deployed overseas, or it’s just the way your family dynamics work, but it’s hard when you’re the only one keeping up with the housework, and it’s even harder when you get behind.
There are a few things you can do to make it a little easier on yourself and to keep your heart from becoming discouraged or bitter (that’s the real challenge!).
Eliminate and Concentrate
There are about eight million things calling out for your attention at all times. That’s just a fact. But it’s also a fact that most of those things won’t really matter at the end of the day.
Despite how much the magazine articles want to tell you how you can “have it all,” sometimes you just can’t. Sometimes you have to decide what you’re going to concentrate on and then eliminate the things that don’t make your “must-do” list.
During certain seasons of life (which, honestly, may last a few years – just keeping it real), you might not be able to make gourmet food from scratch every night, hand sew all your kids’ clothing, and have every inch of your home sparkling clean and perfectly organized. Real life is sometimes just a bit too real for that.
So, you need to remember that the two most important areas to keep up with are food and clothes.
If the troops have clothes to wear and food to eat, you’ll all survive until you can deal with everything else. If you’re struggling to catch-up or keep-up, give the bulk of your time and attention to these two basic needs.
Food and Dishes
Write a simple meal plan that’s easy manage. Don’t worry about fancy meals and new recipes. There will be a time for that, but give yourself a break until you feel like you have other areas of life under control.
Make extras of your favorite meals so you can serve leftovers for dinner on a different night. You could even stick some of those leftovers into the freezer to be used in a couple of weeks.
Keep the dishes washed daily, if at all possible. Make it one of your top priorities. I know that if I don’t do the dishes after dinner, they’ll just keep piling up, and they’ll become a worse problem.
Fill the sink with soapy water before you sit down to eat dinner, so the pans can soak while you’re eating and will clean up faster after your meal.
Set a timer for 15 minutes and see if you can beat the clock. You might be surprised at how quickly you can clean up the kitchen and the boost of energy you get from seeing the empty counters. (This one almost always works for me!)
Start a routine of turning on the dishwasher after dinner and unloading it first thing in the morning (maybe while your coffee is brewing) so it’s ready for all the dirty dishes that accumulate during the day. In order for this system to work, you’ll need to run it every single day, whether it’s completely full or not, so it will be empty when you need it for reloading.
Figure out a laundry routine that works for YOU. Really, there’s no one “right” way to manage the mountains of laundry that a family produces in a week. Just do what works best for you and your family.
Be sure that everyone has lots of socks, underwear, and staple clothing items (jeans, basic shirts, work shirts, etc.) so that you don’t have to do laundry every single day just for the family to be decent enough to leave the house!
If you want to do the one-load-a-day method, then plan to sort the laundry in the evening. If you’re sorting every day, this only takes two minutes. Use a white basket and a colored basket to keep them separated. When you bring the laundry together to be sorted, separate into the appropriate baskets. You’ll put one of those baskets into the washer (i.e. the light colored clothing), and the other will be ready for more clothes to be added to it and washed the next time.
Put the laundry into the washing machine in the evening so you’ll just need to turn it on in the morning (add this to your Morning Routine). Then, find some time before the end of the day to toss the wet laundry into the dryer. If you can, fold it when it’s dry.
Buy a basket for each family member and separate the clean (unfolded) laundry into each person’s basket to be taken to their rooms and put away. If you struggle with getting all the laundry folded, you may find that folding and putting away one person’s laundry at a time won’t seem like so much of a chore, and your kids may even be able to help out if they’re old enough.
If doing a load of laundry every day is just too much, then consider doing all the laundry one day a week. If you take a day to just relax at home, you could sort all the laundry the night before and keep the machines running until it’s done. Just be sure you have enough of those staple clothing items to make it through the entire week.
Guard Your Heart
As hard as it is, remember that taking care of your family is a blessing. You have a unique opportunity to care for your loved ones in a way that no one else can. Choose thankfulness and refuse to complain.
The laundry is piled up by children who are healthy enough to get dirty. The messy plates were full of food that so many people simply don’t have enough of. The blessings may seem hidden, but they’re there if you look for them.
I often have to remind my own heart to be thankful, and I regularly have to tell myself to not complain and to just do what needs done.
Refuse to let your mind gripe about those people (you know, the messy ones you live with) who leave stuff all over to be cleaned up. Pray for your heart to have love and not bitterness.
Oh, and be sure to smile every day! When you feel annoyed at your husband for not helping or your kiddos for leaving their junk everywhere, walk into the room and give them a kiss, a smile, and an “I love you”. I seriously do this, so I know it works.
Whew! Taking care of a home is hard work, but it is valuable beyond measure. God has a purpose for you right where you are, so take some time to enjoy that (messy) family of yours!