Doing it all; Home care ideas from a professional organizer
Last week I talked about Doing it all. Since we can’t actually do everything, how can you figure out what things are most important for you.
There is no cookie-cutter model for balancing work, family, and self. I think that’s because people have really different priorities. For some people, an organized house is not nearly as important as being successful in their career or traveling around the world. For others, having a place for everything and everything in its place is what keeps them sane. So for those people, an organize house is quite a high priority.
You might have guessed, I’m in the second group. I’m a professional organizer, after all! And since this is an organizing blog, I will talk about some tangible things I do to be more organized in caring for my home with my precious, limited time every day.
Calendar in the cloud
The first trick of my organized life is a shared mobile calendar.
Sharing your personal schedule with the other members of your family can seem like a vulnerable act. But I have found it to actually be very empowering.
My spouse and any children old enough to have computers can see my schedule and I can see theirs. So, if I have a lunch date with a girlfriend on my calendar, my family knows I’m not available to them. If I am going out of town for work it’s on the calendar and everyone knows they need to adjust accordingly.
At my house we use google calendar, but any online calendar will allow you to see what your partner is doing and vice versa. This in turn will give you a chance to plan your own days without having to discuss or argue about priorities at every turn.
There is a bit of a learning curve as you all get used to relying on an app instead of your day planner or wall calendar to tell you when to go to the dentist. But the payoff in increased communication, and the practice of actually planning ahead, will seriously change your life and possibly save your marriage.
Can I get an Amen?!
Sharing the burden
How can a calendar save your marriage? Here are some examples:
- School gets out early next Friday. No problem. It’s on the calendar and both parents are aware.
- You are both working late Monday night. The last one to book work, calls the sitter.
- You want to go out with the ladies. Check the calendar to see if there’s a night you wouldn’t have to hire a sitter at all because Dad will be home.
No,the calendar app doesn’t find a sitter for you, or convince your spouse that your meeting at work is just as important as his business dinner. BUT! The a shared calendar definitely will reduce the number of annoying conversations you have with each other about scheduling.
If you just read that last paragraph thinking, HA! No one in my family can simply adjust just because I want to go to lunch with my friends. Or were you thinking, the times I have gone out with my girlfriends at night it wasn’t even worth it because my husband texted me every 5 minutes to ask how to do something at home!
To you I say, NO WONDER you feel overwhelmed. And then I say, THIS AGGRESSION WILL NOT STAND, MAN.
So keep reading.
Good managers delegate
The second trick I practice and highly recommend you do, too is delegating household responsibilities.
Before you go dismissing this as another pie-in-the-sky diatribe about making a chore chart, let’s look a little deeper at what your household responsibilities actually are so you are better able to delegate some of them.
As the keeper of the house, aka the house keeper, you are essentially the manager.
Think about any situation regarding housework where your partner or children have said, “I would have helped if you asked me for help. How can I read your mind?”
In your head you are thinking, “You seriously can’t tell when the trash is full?”
The point is, if you are expected to ask for help, that means you are viewed by others as the manager in charge of the situation.
Being a manager of a house is a large job. And depending how many people live in the house, you could easily qualify as a high-level manager. Think about the running dialogue in your head about what needs to get done around your house. That is management.
In most companies, a manager is not expected to carry out the actual work. They are merely expected to manage the details and assign tasks. Managers are ultimately responsible for things getting done. But they usually are not required to execute menial tasks because they don’t have time for that. (Here’s a great article on division of labor and management in the home.)
When you are tallying up your list of household responsibilities, make sure you include all of the areas you manage.
What are your individual strengths?
Next, think about which of your responsibilities you really enjoy. What are you good at? Maybe managing is your thing. Maybe you are more of a cleaner or an organizer. Maybe you are good at planning and scheduling. Whatever you strengths, hold on to those responsibilities.
What are your family members’ strengths?
Don’t laugh at this and blow it off. Just because they don’t have many responsibilities (yet) doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be awesome at handling them. Some people like loading a dishwasher. Some people like unloading a dishwasher. Rare is the person who enjoys both.
It may take a year of trying different tasks to figure out what strengths are hiding in your children. But they are there!
Everyone deserves a chance.
And everyone deserves proper training.
Just because a child has been living with you for 6 years (and watched you do it everyday) doesn’t mean they have internalized the way you make a bed or load a dishwasher. Take some time to coach them. Here are some great ideas about teaching new life-skills.
If you have a family member who is really into food, they might enjoy being the kitchen manager. That doesn’t mean they cook and clean everything. Maybe they do meal-planning and grocery list making. Then other people could take turns cooking dinners. But, it’s the kitchen manager’s job to make sure someone is cooking each night.
Detail oriented people often enjoy laundry, putting away dishes, organizing spaces that are cluttered.
Big picture people often enjoy planning family trips, handling the finances, researching big purchases or even school choices. Give them tasks that take a while but don’t need to be done every day.
People with short attention spans are great at taking out garbage, vacuuming, setting the table– lots of short jobs that happen every day.
Once you’ve thought about all the jobs there are and who might enjoy them. It’s time to present your ideas to the household. If you go to therapy as a family, I recommend bringing this up at therapy — a safe space! I’m not kidding.
Letting go of control: an aside
If you are one of the people I mentioned before, the mom whose husband calls her every ten minutes to ask where the wet wipes are, where the dog food is, and what time the kids go to bed, you probably have a hard time letting go of tasks and the management of tasks because you like to control things. Maybe you like to control everything. It’s time to get off that ship, honey, because it is sinking. You will drown on the control ship. So, jump on over to dry land (aka the real world) where you (and everyone else) get to ask for help and let go of your standards of perfection.
Perfection is the enemy.
We aren’t aiming for perfection. We are aiming for independence. Click To Tweet Independence for our kids, independence for us. Independence for our partners.
Here are some great things to read about letting go of perfection:
Now back to delegating.
There will be responsibilities left on your list even after everything is doled out. That’s when you have to get creative.
The easiest way to do this is to hire help. I don’t mean a butler or a catering service to cook your meals. (Unless you can afford it and hate to cook. In that case I do mean exactly that!)
There are small jobs in every home that can be outsourced—maybe to your own children as paid chores. Or consider help that is already in place. How happy was I when I discovered the dry cleaner down the street will iron a man’s shirt for $2?! I thought for sure I was going to win the nobel prize for marital harmony! Now, instead of spending over an hour ironing (and not very well), I could spend $10 and pick those puppies up later! $10 is so worth 85 minutes to me. (Yes, it once took me 85 minutes to iron 5 shirts. I’m not a strong ironer.)
If money is tight, get creative about how to outsource. There are young students in every town who want to earn money at a lower pay grade. Find those people and hire them!
This is where women start to feel guilty because You could save money by doing it yourself. But doing it yourself costs you precious time. Click To Tweet Doing jobs you don’t enjoy may also be building up some resentment. (Not that I know anything about that!)
Lighten your professional schedule
One final practical suggestion for you specifically would be for you to negotiate
with your boss a change in your work schedule (if possible) so that you might have one half-day, or even a whole day, off in which to complete a project for yourself every now and then.
Let me know how these 3 ideas sound to you. Have you tried a shared calendar? Are there other chores you hire outside people to do for you? Tell me all about it, please!