This is the second installment in a series on the hot and heavy subject of Home Management – how we’re all doing it (poorly or prolifically) and why it should butter your biscuit as much as it does mine. For Part 1, click here.
What is this thing you speak of, “Home Management”?
I’ve been throwing around this term “Home Management” quite a bit (and putting quotes around it, or capitalizing it, or not, completely at random. Sorry). But I haven’t quite defined exactly what home management is. I think of home management as:
A system for creating a home environment that is comfortable and liveable, as defined by our own standards.
This mean we’re ditching the Martha Stewart School of Home Maintenance and Clinical Neurosis. Instead, let’s take a long look at what we want to derive from our homes, and what we need to do at a BARE MINIMUM to arrive at these goals. Everything beyond that, we can chalk up to overachieving and operating at omnipotent god status. Because life is full of so many things that will and, goddammit, should distract us from multi-step cloth napkin laundering.
I’ve decided to figure out where my priorities lie, and I aim for tending to just those. Maybe occasionally I’ll surprise myself, and anyone who knows me, and venture into advanced levels of home management. But I’ve found that it’s impossible to get schfancy with my napkin laundering routine if I don’t have a bare-bones, fundamental routine in place first.
(Honestly) Prioritizing Your Home Management Goals
Cleanliness and order are pretty relative. I once had a friend comment that she was surprised to witness the many, many times I washed my hands while preparing a chicken for roasting, given…. Then she sort of trailed off and changed the subject.
GIVEN WHAT, SARAH??
I’d like to think of my home management style as not passing any white-glove tests, but nearly always protecting you from food-borne illness. To some that is a down-right contradiction, to me it all comes back to prioritization. And, given limited time and resources (read: every single day of life on this planet), here is that ranking:
1 – Time sitting on my keister… and microbial management
The first part of this is obvious: I’d rather sit on my butt than clean. But then the second part of this up and cancels the first part. The dishes in my sink might suggest otherwise, but I am pretty serious about trying not to harbor harmful bacteria in my home. Like, biology-serious. I don’t use bleach unless we have a crazy outbreak of something because I don’t want to screw with my home’s microbiome. Don’t even get me started on how Triclosan should be banned. And I am a big fan of cooking meat-free meals for my family, because they tend to be healthier, blah, blah. But mostly because I know myself and I don’t need to be introducing salmonella and e. coli into my kitchen sink. I cook meat or chicken once or twice a week and I get down with the hot-ass water and soap. It’s time-consuming and annoying. But delicious. Ugh, conundrums!
2 – Cooking a daily meal or two from (mostly) scratch.
Like, I’m not baking bread or anything (very often). But I’ll make a white sauce before I reach for a can of mushroom soup. Because I have the time. Because I stay at home with two proto-humans. And cooking fulfills my stay-at-home mom magic trifecta: it occupies my atrophying brain, allows my proto-humans to “help,” and results in a useable product (bonus points for also sustaining life). Also, cooking meals from whole ingredients is relatively cheap, especially compared to the type of take-out I’d be getting given that I have small children to feed properly and a husband to protect from cardiac disease so he doesn’t die and leave me to raise them alone. I’ll leave you to imagine the inner turmoil wrought from having cooking as a priority and loathing washing dishes. I aim for personal growth, always.
3 – Sweeping the kitchen and dining area
Toddlers in the house makes this higher on the list of priorities than it normally would be, but there’s something both grounding and liberating about maintaining this habit. I find that when my kitchen floor is swept, a whole swath of other domestic tasks get done alongside. I am not a morning person (I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning, short of a screaming child, is coffee), and mornings are so much more palatable when my kitchen is in vague order. And that vague order starts with me sweeping the floor after dinner every night, sometimes progresses to wiping down the kitchen table, and occasionally ends with cleaning the stove and sink. If I can force myself to sweep every night, only good will ensue.
4 – Laundry
Cliche, yes. But truly central to my existence. As part-time hippies, we have to avoid the perfect storm that occurs when there are simultaneously no clean napkins, diapers, rags, or underwear for anyone in the family that uses them. As such, I have a scorched earth approach to cleaning clothes. If a garment enters my house and is soiled in any way, it will ONLY EVER be washed in the washing machine and dried in the drier. If it survives, it stays. If not, c’est la vie. Makes shopping at Forever 21 positively thrilling.
5 – Clutter abatement
Collecting tchotchkes is forbidden to someone as averse to dusting as I am. Everybody now: know thyself. I’ve almost convinced myself that I don’t like decorative things that make my house look nice. I’ve implemented the “by halves” rule for my kids’ toys: gather up everyone’s crap and take away half of it. Then take away another half. Most of the edited items can be donated, and the rest are stashed in the closet to be cycled in later. I’ve pared down my wardrobe to an inventory that rivals the average aesthetically-arrested male’s. And I’ve gotten ruthless with my craft supplies. That shit hurt.
6 – A regular cleaning of the house
This falls after all the other things I consider necessary to keep me sane in my home. Sheets are changed, trash is taken out, bathrooms are triaged (HAHA – I used a rhetorical plural there! In my dashed dreams…), floors are swabbed, spiders are evicted, and the like. I’ll admit that this cleaning is accomplished more frequently than not by complete accident any time I look at a particular surface and feel shame over how filthy it is. So I’ll clean it. Sometimes that will make the adjoining surface look filthy in comparison. So I’ll clean that, too. And sometimes this action will repeat until the room is clean – or until someone starts screaming about having to go poo-poo or losing at Dirt Fight. Were this cleaning to ever happen regularly, the intent is for it to take no more than one hour, and be a speedy triage of general living spaces. Because I cannot be trusted to “thoroughly clean” anything without my children starving to death while I OCD myself into a rage state. Aaaaaaand, know thyself.
Consciously (and Unabashedly) Omitting Shit You Don’t Care About
You’ll notice a number of things that haven’t made this prioritized list.
For example, note the lack of references to anything having to do with the outdoors, or landscaping. We live in an area suffering from severe drought. I have decided this is my blanket excuse for why my front and back “yards” look the way they do. All 20-square feet of them.
Things That Should Be Done Seasonally or Annually don’t really get done as such. Primarily because I live where there are no seasons, and there’s nothing like No Actual Consequences to inspire a lax attitude about something. I may have rain gutters. I’m thinking I probably have a heater/AC filter that needs changing. I’ve never vacuumed my refrigerator coils.
Fact is, I’ve committed to doing a veritable mountain of laundry and cooking meals out of thin freaking air at this season of my life. I’ve actively chosen to have cloth napkins and use rags instead of paper towels, at the cost of growing and mowing a lawn (or replacing it with anything approaching attractive or useful. Oops). I’ve consciously decided to cook every god forsaken night of my life instead of changing the (admittedly, perhaps very important) filters in various apparatuses in my house.
I know I have limited time and resources to get things done (and maintain a low grade level of sanity). And I’ve doled out said time and resources in a way that fits the priorities in my life, right now. There are people who excel at all the things I’ve prioritized, and all the things I’ve omitted from my standards, and they don’t yell at their kids, and they make spontaneous, unscheduled love to their husbands, and they’re not the least bit twitchy or horrible to strangers in line at Trader Joe’s. Who has two thumbs and is not that person?? This guy.
Work a System – Or Just Be Naturally Good at Coping with Adult Life and Don’t Ever Mention it to Me.
If you’re the non-twitchy person described above, you for sure are not reading this line. You didn’t make it past “Sitting on Kiester,” above, because what the hell is wrong with this lady?
I’ve determined that my prioritized To-Dos only hum along at a reasonable rate when I’m employing a system. Because I am simply not good at Home Management. And there is nothing wrong with that. I’m good at making fun of myself. I’m good at knitting. I’m really good at puzzles. Like, freaky good. I’m okay with not being good at Home Management. But I’m not really okay with the results of not being good at it.
So, because I KNOW MYSELF, I don’t rely on myself to work out how to keep things managed. I rely on others. A conglomeration of others, all of whom have their own tried and tested methods for coping with sucking at keeping it together. There are some parts that work super great. And some parts that give me an anxiety attack and have been banned from my view. There are some parts that work fantastic now that I’ve dissected them and reassembled them to make better sense. Because I’m left handed. Or “highly sensitive.” Or introverted. Or short.
And there’s one secret weapon I’ve found that seriously trumps all others.
Wanna know what it is??? I won’t make your eyeballs bleed anymore trying to read my endless pontificating. I’ll give ’em a rest and resume the bleeding week-after-next, because…
NEXT WEEK IS SCREEN-FREE WEEK! And this mama seriously needs to give the laptop and iPhone a break. It’s disgusting, really.
In the interim, leave me a comment about what your priorities for your household are, or whether or not you’ve even thought about it. What things will you die trying to maintain control over? What things are you actively relegating to “who the hell cares?” status? I want to know!!