It’s no secret to us mamas that a lot of what we do is mundane, repetitive tasks and chores around the house. The cleaning, washing, grocery shopping and cooking is endless. Much to the rest of the household members surprise, there aren’t any magic fairies which help carry the load, unless you’re fortunate enough to delegate some of the tasks to cleaners or laundry ladies (lucky you!).
By nature, I’m a clean freak. Before kids I would find cleaning therapeutic and actually enjoyed all of my housekeeping duties. However, since having kids, things have changed. I’ve been through seasons where I’ve let the cleaning and washing get on top of me, and the joy has been sucked out of grocery shopping and cooking. I’ve had many evenings where I’ve put the kids to bed and groaned at the thought of everything that needed to be done before I hit the hay myself. With these relatively thankless tasks, the rewards of having them completed are often short-lived before they’re needing to be done all over again.
In the last year I’ve found my feet again, and put rhythms and tricks into place to take the overwhelm out of housekeeping! All of the jobs around the house still get done, but I (mostly) don’t dread them, and I always feel like I’m on top of things. Our house is always tidy, presentable, and a calming environment to live in, which is more important than you realise! I now spend the least amount of time and energy worrying about my chores, which leaves me with the most amount of time enjoying my family.
So let’s get down to business!
Here are my tips and tricks to take the overwhelm out of household chores:
Now I think that it is obvious why this is the first, and most important action to take if you want to remove the overwhelm out of household chores. But let me break this down for those of you who haven’t yet reaped the benefits of minimalism and de-cluttering. Less stuff, means less work. It’s as simple as that. The less toys my kids have, the less time we need to spend packing up their playroom at the end of the day. The less clothes we have, the less potential we have of piling up the dirty washing basket and less time I need to spend doing the laundry. The less crap we have around the house, the less time I need to spend cleaning around everything. GET.RID.OF.WHAT.YOU.DON’T.NEED and watch how quickly the overwhelm starts to diminish!
2. Create rhythms
Implement rhythms in your days and weeks which will guide you and take the thought process out of what needs to be done and when. Decision fatigue occurs when you have to make too many decisions in a day. Before I knew about decision fatigue, I didn’t even realise how often I was having to make decisions. “Should I put a load of washing on?” “Should we go for a play date today?” “Should I do the grocery shop today or tomorrow?”. The decisions eventually begin to pile up, and before you know it you’re exhausted. This year we’ve set a weekly rhythm in place so that I know roughly what we’re going to do each day. Sure, our routine is flexible and if something pops up we’re able to rearrange things to suit, but I’ve taken a look at our schedule and figured out the best days to go out, and the best days to stay at home and get things done.
For example, this is our weekly rhythm:
Monday – RESET DAY. This is the day where we set our goals and intentions for the week. On Monday’s my motivation and energy is usually high, so I like to take advantage of that! I often stay at home and get most of the washing, cleaning and meal prep done around the house. The kids get to play and chill out after usually a jam-packed weekend.
Tuesday – PLAY DATE DAY. This is the day that I plan most of our playdates and adventures that I do with the kids. Last year, we were out and about most days catching up with people, and I found it to be exhausting and overwhelming. This year, I know that we have Tuesdays specifically set aside to plan fun things to do, and organise to catch up with our friends.
Wednesday – ERRAND DAY. Charlie is at school on Wednesdays, which means that I take advantage of having one less child and usually book all of my appointments and run all of my errands.
Thursday – MAMA AND KIDS DAY. This is another rhythm that came out of being too “busy” last year. Thursdays are the day I set aside to hang out with the kids myself and spend quality time with them. Most of the cleaning, washing, cooking and errands have already been done on Monday and Wednesday, so I can relax guilt free and really soak up the precious time with my kids.
Friday – GET ORGANISED DAY. On Fridays Charlie is at school again, so I try to do a grocery shop with Cooper so that we have enough food for the weekend (NOTE: I used to do grocery shops on a Monday but was finding that by the weekend we had run out of food and were spending too much money on eating out, so this has worked better for us). I also review our week, see what did or didn’t work or get done, and I plan for the weekend.
Saturday & Sunday – FAMILY TIME. Self explanatory. On the weekends we spend time with Nick when he is home, often go to birthday parties or attend events, and hang out together as a family.
3. Set boundaries
Boundaries are imperative for keeping your house cleaner, making it easier to pack away at the end of the day, and leaving you feeling less overwhelmed with tidying up your house. Added bonus – kids thrive off boundaries! We set physical boundaries in our house when it comes to the kids toys and where they play. For example, we have a play room dedicated only to toys and playing (with a pull out day bed for guests when they visit). All of the toys are sorted into boxes in a cube storage shelf according to category, ie. dress ups, cars, Lego etc. The kids know that they are to take one box out at a time, and they pack away before moving on to playing with something different. I’ve put a baby gate across the door, and often when I’m busy in another part of the house I’ll close the gate so that the kids aren’t pulling toys out all over the house, as they are still quite young and Cooper especially hasn’t fully grasped the concept of keeping toys in the playroom. Their bedrooms are not for playing. They have books in their room which they can sit and read quietly, and Charlie has a little fairy corner, but other than that their rooms are a place for sleeping. Likewise, the lounge room is for watching TV, all of the kitchen cupboards are locked to keep little hands out of the Tupperware drawer, the kids are not allowed to play in our master bedroom, and all of the outside toys stay outside.
I want to clarify that this isn’t something which is enforced in a negative way, or feels like a punishment for the kids. It’s a method which works well for us and keeps everyone sane! I’m happy for the kids to play as much as they like in their play room, by the end of most days it’s absolutely trashed with their toys and many fun memories have been made. It takes no more that 5-10 minutes to pack away at the end of the day, and some nights when I’m extra exhausted all I need to do is close the door on the mess, and the rest of the house is always kept spotless.
Credit: Jasmine Dowling
4. Write lists
I have a few different ways which I go about keeping lists this year. I use Trello to “brain dump” all of the things I need to do in an organised way, and then I keep track of appointments, play dates, birthday parties etc in my Google Calendar (both of which I mainly use as apps on my phone). Then every night I check both apps and write out a To-Do list on a piece of paper for the next day. I like to use magnetic To-Do lists such as this one from Officeworks so that I can tear it off and take it with me during the day! I find that writing things down physically on paper helps me remember tasks easier, and I get more gratification from crossing something off my list throughout the day. This is also the first year I’ve changed from a paper planner to an electronic one, and so far I’m loving the change!
Find a method that works best for you, whether that be electronic or paper, and start writing lists to keep you accountable of what needs to get done. Sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed by what I need to do around the house, I’ll write out a quick list to keep me on track for an hour or so.
- Hang out washing
- Fold load of washing
- Vacuum floors
- Pack kids lunch boxes for tomorrow
It can be as simple as a small list, but I find that writing each point down and working through them systematically means that I don’t feel flustered and end up running around the house like a headless chook getting nothing accomplished!
5. Make your bed first thing in the morning
A quick Google will show you that there is heaps of evidence to prove the positive impact that making your bed first thing in the morning will have on your day. I have to agree, and I’m a huge advocate for making your bed in the morning! If you want to feel more organised, tidier and productive, try making your bed as soon as you get out of it. One simple task sets your tone for the rest of the day, but in my opinion no one speaks about the importance of making you bed better than Admiral William McRaven in his May 2014 Commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin.
“Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Viet Nam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed.
If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—rack—that’s Navy talk for bed. It was a simple task–mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs–but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over. If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.
If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”
6. Use the 10 rule
I have absolutely loved implementing The 10 Rule ever since I found out about it a few years ago! There are two ways that I’ll use it, depending on how much time or effort I have to spare. I either set a timer for 10 minutes and rush around getting as much as I can done around the house OR I’ll commit to picking up 10 things around the house and putting them back in their place. I’ll often use The 10 Rule either right before we need to leave the house (I can’t stand leaving the house if it’s messy) or just before I go to bed at night. This rule is also great to use to help get your kids involved with cleaning up as it gives them a challenge, and something quantitative to work towards. “Could you please pick up 10 toys and pack them away?” is a lot easier to process than “Pack up your play room.”
7. Essential Oils
I have been absolutely loving the benefits of essential oils lately! Personally I use DoTERRA essential oils, and if you’re wanting to get some yourself I recommend getting in contact with Belinda from Belinda Rae or Jazze from The Calm Compound. I love to use the Motivate roller on my wrists and behind my ears to give me a boost of energy and encourage me to get up and get moving around the house. The minty, uplifting smell works wonders! I also put blends of oils into my diffusers around the house and have them running throughout the day. My favourite morning blend at the moment (as shared with me by Jazze) is a few drops each of Peppermint, Elevation and Citrus Bliss.
8. Don’t stop at the end of the day
This tip probably goes against most things you’ve read, and it probably sounds contradictory to the point of trying to rescue overwhelm surrounding household chores. However, I find that I am much more productive if I commit to getting things done straight away rather than having a rest and doing it later. I always hear the saying “the cleaning will wait”, and to be honest it confuses the hell out of me! Knowing that the cleaning will be waiting for me after I’ve had a rest doesn’t make me feel any better, and in fact I spend most of my time “resting” actually stressing.
Nick gets home from work around 6PM, and from then its all systems go to get the kids into bed. Once the kids are in bed, I spend a little time getting the house sorted and all of the chores done, so that I’m able to spend the rest of the evening relaxed and not anxious about everything that’s waiting for me. I also find that its easier to ride on the adrenaline from the bed time routine, rather than stopping and then having to muster up the energy to start again.
A few more examples of getting things done straight away are; doing the dishes/stacking the dishwasher straight after dinner rather than letting it sit in the sink, folding and putting away washing as soon as you’ve brought it in off the line, making the bed as soon as you’ve gotten out of it in the morning.
I hope that these tips have been helpful for you, and if you implement any of them I would love to hear from you over on Instagram!