Are you so overwhelmed with the mess right now, that you don’t even know where to start? Dirty kitchen, dirty dishes, piles of dirty laundry, and no clean clothes? No idea what’s for supper tonight? 4,000 things that you know you need to do, and it’s just so overwhelming that you can’t even begin. Girrrrl… I’ve been there. The greatest journey begins with a single step. Sometimes the trick is knowing which step to take. What you need is a 1 day plan of action, something you can begin right now! Those messy little blessings are to stay (for a good while, anyway.) So put down that butter knife, a DIY-husband-castration won’t help. Let’s get to work!
First things first!
First, attend to the immediate needs of your children (like changing a diaper or nursing the baby) so you can get to work! Put the baby in the swing, wear him, or put him down for a nap. If the other kids are old enough to help, get them working alongside you, or put the oldest one in charge of watching the younger ones. If possible, confine the little ones to a single room where they can play.
We all know too much screen time is a no-no… but mama, sometimes a little Veggie Tales can be worth it’s weight in gold! Your kids may actually need to eat, and to have a sane mama, more than they need to be sheltered from a little screen time in the form of wholesome children’s programming. (Of course, if TV has no place at all in your life, more power to you! I grew up this way, and I turned out just fi… well, kinda odd. I have 17 kids.)
What is for supper tonight? What do you have on hand that you can have ready tonight? I’m not talking about a complicated, time consuming, 5 courser. You just need a meal! There is a time for complicated and time consuming, but not tonight! If there is still time in the day, get something in the slow cooker, or throw something in the oven. If it’s early enough in the day, go with the slow cooker! That way, you can leave it to cook, and walk away without worry. We’ve got other stuff to do! If your kitchen is a wreck, don’t worry. We will get to that. For now, get something cooking.
I LOVE to get supper going in the morning, and have the rest of my day to be productive in other ways! It relieves so much pressure knowing that is checked off my list, and will be ready at mealtime! (Here is my recipe for Emergency Chicken Enchilada Soup. This can be thrown together in a couple minutes for the crock-pot OR heated on the stove at the last minute. Just thought you might like to have it in your toolbox!)
Make Your Bed
There is something psychological about making your bed that tells your brain, “I’m awake, I’m up for all day, and I’m going to get this ship in order!” (Every time I walk into my bedroom, seeing my made bed, even if the rest of the room is a mess, feels like “Aaaahhh….” That one little thing motivates me to do more quick tasks, which when added up amount to substantial! And climbing into a made bed at night feels great!)
Start the Washer
What laundry needs to be washed most desperately at this moment? Are there any clean towels for baths tonight? If not, start here. Go gather up a load of towels and get them in the washer. This is not the time for catching up on all the dirty laundry, just get one load going. Set a timer for one hour, (or however long it takes your washer to finish) and come back when it sounds.
Back to the Kitchen
It’s time to do the dishes and clean up the kitchen! Few things make me feel more in control at home than a clean kitchen! (Now, I should tell you, I’m a good enough-ist, not a perfectionist. So when I say clean, I mean workably clean, not perfect.)
If you have a dishwasher, load it as quickly as you can with as much as will reasonably fit. Perhaps not everything will fit in one load. That’s okay, just get it going. Once it’s loaded and started, wash the rest by hand. If you have pots and pans with dried on food, get some water in them and let it soak while you wash other things. Washing will be so much easier in a few minutes!
When the dishes are washed, clean your sink! Put away all the random things that are sitting out, and wipe down the counter tops and stove top. Close the cupboard doors. Last, sweep the floor. There is always more to clean, and you could probably spend the rest of the day in there, but… your kitchen should now be workably clean and the rest of your house needs your attention!
Find Your Clothes
By now, the washer is probably finished. Go throw the load of towels in the dryer and start another load. Locate clothes for yourself and your kids, 2 to 3 complete outfits, and get them washing! There may be a great deal more laundry to do, but for now you and your people need enough clothes to get through the next couple days. Baby steps! Set your timer again, and head into the living room.
Main Living Space
It’s time to tidy up the main living space in your house! For us, that is the family room and dining room. If you have kids old enough to help, get them involved! For young kids, give them very specific jobs. Example: “Pick up all your Legos and put them in the box.” After that job is finished, give them another specific job. “Put away all your shoes.” Young kids need instructions in small bites, or they will become just as overwhelmed as you are. But do start training them to work alongside you very young! No system is going to be effective in the long run without it. Read Raising Responsible Kids Who Know How to Work.
*Side note: Having a box or a bin (near the door, if possible) that kids can toss shoes in makes life simpler. Asking most 3 year olds to line up shoes in a neat row in the closet can be a little tricky. (Actually, if I don’t confiscate and hide my 3 year old’s shoes as soon as she takes them off, I may never see them again! Auggghhh!!)
Set a timer for them, and make a game of beating the timer. Give them a reasonable amount of time to do a job. Too little time is better than too much. Giving them too much time just encourages piddling. 5 minutes is a good place to start. If they are working diligently, but aren’t finished when the timer goes off, give them a high five and couple extra minutes.
Clear off the “hot spots.” Hot spots are flat areas that become piled with clutter, like coffee tables, end tables, etc. When the main living areas are tidy, sweep or vacuum the floor. Again, there is always more deep cleaning to do, but right now is about getting your head above water! And we are making progress!
When the laundry timer sounds, go take your towels out of the dryer and fold them right there. Stack them on the washer as you fold. When you are finished, put them away. Throw the next load in the dryer, and get another load in the washer. Reset the timer!
If/when lunchtime rolls around, today is a great day to feed your kiddos apple slices and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, served on a napkin! You don’t need to take extra time out for cooking or heavy cleanup, especially after you worked so hard on the kitchen!
If there is any time left in your day before supper, head into the bathroom. Do a quick tidying up. Spray down the shower/ tub and let it sit. Wipe down sinks and counters, give the toilet a wipe down and a scrub, and sweep the floor. Last, quickly wipe down the tub/shower that has been “soaking.” (If it’s really gross, don’t spend too much time on it today. Schedule a time for it later this week. Today, we want to keep moving.)
When it comes to the daily cleaning of bathrooms, spend no more than 15 minutes on it. The idea that cleaning a bathroom will take a huge chunk of time gives way to procrastination. And procrastination gives way to never. Use a timer, (I love timers) and work quickly. If you can do it even faster than 15 minutes, go for it!
*Side Note: Thieves Household Cleaner from Young Living Essential Oils is awesome. It has no harmful chemicals, so it’s safe for kids, etc. It smells fantastic, and it works great in any room of the house. Nobody is paying me to say this, I just love it!
When the laundry timer sounds again, fold the load and put away again. Get the last load in the dryer.
After supper tonight, clean up your dining area and kitchen again. Wash every dirty dish, and go to bed with the peace of knowing it will be clean when you wake up tomorrow morning! Have the kiddos pick up their toys before bedtime.
So much of what we do as moms can be undone in 5 minutes. That’s what is so frustrating, right? We clean the kitchen, cook a meal, eat, and the kitchen is a wreck again! Do the laundry, and the clothes are dirty again! Pick up the toys, and in one quick motion the Legos are dumped all over the floor again!
That’s why it’s so important to invest some time doing things that will not be quickly undone. Take some time tonight to plant some seeds. Do things that will bring a harvest later!
Before you go to bed, let’s make a plan for tomorrow. There are a couple of things you need to do (seeds to plant) to build on the work you did today.
- Jot down a menu for the rest of the week. Do your best to make use of the food you already have on hand. Make a grocery list for whatever else you need, and go shopping tomorrow. The time you take doing this will knock out that last minute panic and struggling with “What to cook?” decisions for the rest of the week! ( Read “Help Me!” How to plan menus and shop for a big family for some tips with that.)
- Jot down a daily schedule/timeline. A schedule could include:
- what approximate time you will wake
- when you will shower and dress
- when you will have alone time with the Lord
- when you will prepare and serve meals, and clean-up after
- when to change loads in the washer/dryer
- nap-times for kids
- chore time for kids (if they are old enough)
- tidy-up times (one in the morning, and one in the afternoon before supper works well.) You don’t need to work out every single detail right now. (I can feel you overthinking this!) You will make adjustments and improvements to your schedule in the following days and weeks. The important thing is to start somewhere!
- Make a plan for laundry. Beginning tomorrow, start working your way through your backed up dirty laundry by washing 2 extra loads per day, above and beyond whatever laundry accumulates from one day’s wear. Soon, you will be all caught up! (Read Taming the Laundry Beast for some help with that.)
This Too Shall Pass
Every mom goes through seasons in which she feels like she is in way over her head! You are not alone! In those seasons, certain things will slide. That’s okay for now. Focus on the things that will make home life functional. At this juncture, it does not matter how long it’s been since you disinfected the wall behind the fridge. It matters that you and your family have meals to eat, clean laundry, and a house you can walk through without getting lost in the maze and wanting to kill people.
(My childhood best friend had a mom who was such an amazing housekeeper that you could not find a speck of dust in her house. Anywhere. Yes, Bonnie, I’m talking about you! I really wanted to be like her, but alas… I’ve heard a rumor that God gives people different gifts for a reason 😉 )
One of my favorite quotes…
Housework done imperfectly still blesses my family!
Take a deep breath, mama! You can do this! As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Hugs!