August 7, 2013

Keeping house and lots of children.

See, it was dirty even before we moved in!
(And, I can't get over how little Jacob was!)
Three years ago, when we moved into this house, we doubled our square footage.  We've also added two new people to the family since then (and countless furry, feathered, and scaled creatures).  I've never quite gotten the cleaning routine tweaked to how I'd like and organization is still floundering at square one.  Pregnancy, baby, broken ankle, pregnancy, baby, surgery=crazy.  But the basic problem is that I didn't have the routine in the first place.  And, I don't want to spend my life cleaning.  I want to enjoy all these crazy little people I have.  And I want to feel like I can have company over.  Whenever.

As much as I like to have organization and as much as I like to plan, I have never quite gotten to the scheduling of tasks beyond "clean the whole house on Friday or Saturday or right before a party".  Oh, my kids have assigned rooms to pick up every day before Dad gets home so the house is somewhat presentable, and chores they complete every morning.  And then there is the aforementioned attempt at cleaning the whole house once a week.  Mostly, I have previously thought I could just keep up little by little.  Increasingly, I feel overwhelmed and more like I am just spinning my wheels.  Hectic schedules and bigger messes makes me think I need to lock myself in to more of a schedule.  Merry Maids really wasn't that helpful (other than the glorious sense the house was clean and I didn't have to do it--the reality is that it wasn't any more clean than when my kids do it).  The fact is, my life doesn't look anything like it used to three years ago when I had more little people than big (and less running and more staying home).

So, I went looking for some concrete advice.  I found this book, Large Family Logistics, and thought well here you go--a mom of 9 who says she's got some good ideas.  And, she does.  But, like anything else, it is going to require some tweaking.

There were a couple of points that really hit home with me.  The first was my attitude.  I've noticed a whole lot of huffing and puffing from my children when I ask them to help.  Then I realized....they got it from me.

Yup, me.  I huff and puff.

Well, darn it, I'm tired.  Exhausted, really.  But they don't get that.  They only get the impression that Mom doesn't want to do what she is doing and is huffing.  So, I'm working on that.  And working on not getting cross when something doesn't get done the way I'd like and just requiring it to be done again with lots of positive comments.  Kim Brenneman does a great job of really explicitly describing a task--even the task of training your own children how to clean.  And I think that is a great refresher for those of us to forget that children forget and need to be consistently trained.  Children don't know how to automatically "see" what needs to be done --we need to clearly teach them.
The second was a little point but important.  She talks about cleaning the bathroom and just wiping the floors with a rag.  

Whooooaaaa.... what?  No mop? 

Then, I thought about it.  How many times do I skip mopping the floors because a) I can't find the mop or both mop heads are currently dirty because someone decided to mop the garage floor or b) I don't want to go downstairs/upstairs to get the mop and bucket and find the Lysol and fill it up and then mop the floor and wring out the mop and dump the bucket and put. it. all. away.   Yeah, you get the point.  
She does suggest having all the cleaning supplies you need for each bathroom IN each bathroom.  Novel idea, I know.  But I can't keep a mop and broom in each bathroom.

(I digress).  But you know what?  I cleaned my bathroom and I wiped the floors with a rag.  BOOM! Done.  15 minutes tops.  And then, when I gave Nick and Peter a bath, I did the kids bathroom.  I used to always clean the bathroom while I gave someone a bath and somehow I have fallen out of that habit.  And I cleaned the floor with...wait for it...a rag!  All that splashed-out bath water was actually helpful!  (I think I also got into the corners better than the mop does.  I'm just sayin'. I'm good at something).
The third thing I took away from this book was having an assigned day and assigned helpers for tasks.  I'm not sure I'm good at the assigned days.  I already do the Laundry day thing--Mondays and Fridays but then it doesn't always get folded, just run through.  But she says to have a Laundry day, Kitchen day, Office day and an Errand Day.  This week, I tried for the Laundry, Kitchen and Office days--and it didn't go so bad.  I didn't get as much Laundry done as I would have liked but we had an unusual amount of really icky laundry from the weekend that had to be run through.  The success was that I managed to get sheets off the kids beds, hung on the line, and back on the beds by dinner.  This week, I had Patrick and Jacob assigned to be laundry helpers (they all hate the laundry, I don't know why) and Nathan is on dishes.  So, Patrick and Jacob help me switch loads and fold, Nathan is emptying the dishwasher every time it runs and helps with loading.  So far, the assigned helpers are doing okay.  We'll see if we can keep up with it.

My ultimate goal is to come up with some systems that work for us.  And keep me sane.  Nobody wants a crazy mama.  Nobody.

So if you've managed to read this far, what works for you?  And have you read Large Family Logistics?

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