Housework is one of the most challenging jobs for me because the sense of completion lasts for such a short length of time. (Can you tell I’m a first-born, task-oriented person?!) Within minutes of vacuuming the floor, kids track in dirt and disperse trail of crumbs. I had to learn to live with the satisfaction that at least I removed one layer of dirt.
I think dishes and laundry are the most monotonous for me. Now that my kids put away their own laundry, even they see the monotony of it. Saturday they asked, “Laundry again? Why do you have to do it every day?” I looked at them and asked, “Why do you have to wear clothes every day? If you’d stop wearing clothes I could stop doing laundry.” They looked at me for a second while the thought registered and then the giggles started. Humor definitely helps dispel the drudgery of housework. I try to employ humor to help me whenever I can.
So goes life. It’s a never ending cycle of dishes and laundry and vacuuming and cleaning bathrooms. It seems as if you take just one day off a pile builds that you can’t un-bury yourself from. When Mom gets sick, for just one or two days, no matter how much Dad does to help keep things running, it still piles up. (Mom, I really, really appreciate all you did for us growing up!)
While we were still living in Florida (and my tile floors were WHITE, and my children were toddlers), Kedron read a book called Getting Things Done by David Allen. He shared the principles with me from the book and one stuck with me – getting to zero. The principle for business people is “inbox zero,” meaning by the time you leave work each day you’ve dealt with your email inbox or your desk inbox and everything has been read, dealt with and filed so that the next day you are starting from “zero.”
I immediately saw how “getting the house back to zero” could help me not feel like I was continually catching up or living under a pile of housework. I analyzed what I struggle with the most and determined that by the time I went to bed each night those items would be at “zero.” Here’s my zero list:
1. Dishes – all out of the sink and off the counter, either by loading/unloading/re-loading the dishwasher, and washing, drying and putting away the bigger items (such as pots and pans from dinner). By the time I go to bed the kitchen counters and table are all cleared and clean.
2. Laundry – dirty clothes are picked up off the floors and put in the hampers, and all laundry that was washed and dried that day has been folded and put away.
3. General pickup – all main living areas have been generally picked up, mail and school papers dealt with, coats/boots/hats/gloves picked up, and toys picked up off floors of main living areas (not bedrooms, I only deal with those once a week). But if we’ve built a fort, or we have a craft of school project in process, I leave that up to play with or work on.
Getting back to zero is a family effort. The kids and Kedron do their part to pick up and put away their own things. And while it’s a daily goal, it’s not a hard and fast rule. If it’s been a long, crazy day and we’re getting home late from something and I’m exhausted, I let myself rest and leave it for the morning. Or if I realized at 9 pm that one batch of brownies is not enough for Little Miss to take for her class birthday treat, I leave the brownie baking mess for the next day. But on most days, we get things back to zero, and I go to bed and wake up feeling the satisfaction of completion and not like I’m continually playing catch-up. On the days that I do the bigger cleaning jobs, like bathrooms, vacuuming and mopping (or dusting, which is usually only right before my Mom comes to visit :), those jobs are easier to get done because the rest of the house has stayed fairly picked up all week long.
In my goal to stay steady in all areas of my life, getting the house back to zero each day greatly helps me with housework!