Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Diary of a Mad Housewife: Nuts and Bolts

Hey thanks everyone! I am *loving* the comments. And gosh, thanks for all the kind words.

But first a note of welcome to newcomers: Jo, one of my all-time favorite housewives, has single-handedly increased my traffic by like ten times by mentioning our conversation on her real, live, grown-up blog, The Modernity Ward. Jo's was one of the very first blogs I ever read, and I will write an honest-to-goodness blog review soon, because I can't say every wonderful thing I want to say about Jo in a little aside in this post. But I did want to say "hi!" and welcome to all her readers who have stopped by today. I hope some of you will return. Maybe Jo and I (and Patrick, if he's up for it?) can do a little parallel blogging about housekeeping in the weeks to come!

But I think for now, enough of the Big Thoughts About Homemaking -- lets get down to the nitty-gritty. Here's a little housekeeping meme I'm totally making up. Feel free to paste it into the comments and answer it yourself.

What are your housekeeping routines, daily and weekly? How long do these chores take?

Daily morning chores, do or die (about one hour):
Pack three lunches and snacks
Make bed
Hang up and/or fold and put away clothes laying about from night before
Clean kitchen from breakfast and lunch making
Wipe down sink in bathroom and toilet if it's gross (we have a man on the land, you know)
Put in a load of laundry and/or hang one to dry
Tidy surfaces in the main living areas -- coffee table, dining room table, shoe rack, tops of bookshelves, cabinets, piano, etc.
Vacuum and/or mop if the floors are visibly dirty

Daily evening chores, do or die (about 30 minutes):
Clean kitchen
Wipe dining room table
Tidy surfaces in main living areas

Weekly Housekeeping (four to five hours, not including bills/paperwork):
Put away all playmobile, lincoln logs, cars, trucks, etc. that have been set up and Must Not Be Disturbed in the play room
Catch up on laundry, including bed linens and towels
Make beds
Clean kitchen, including fridge, tidy cabinets if they are a mess, wipe down outside of cabinets and appliances, mop floor
Scrub both bathrooms top to bottom
Tidy everywhere
Dust entire house
Vacuum/mop entire house
Paperwork, bills, kids school stuff, at least once a week, another hour or two

Do you do Spring and/or Fall Cleaning?

I have always wanted to have a real spring cleaning routine, but it always seemed futile.  With all the STUFF to sort through, it just never seemed possible to really do anything meaningful in a week, much less a couple of days.  This past year, though, I've sorted through almost every closet, drawer, box, file cabinet, bin and shelf in the whole house, and suddenly it feels like it might actually be worthwhile doing a deep cleaning.  Right now the week before Easter is on my calendar for spring cleaning -- seems like a great time to start fresh.

If you have kids, what chores do they do?

My almost 12 year old daughter Trixie cleans and dusts her own room weekly, collects and takes out the trash, puts away her laundry (I wash and fold), changes the cat box three to four times a week, feeds her cat daily, makes her bed daily, and clears her own dishes after each meal.

My 5 year old son Micah makes his bed, helps clean his room, helps clean the bathrooms, helps with vacuuming, and clears his own dishes after each meal.

What housekeeping chores do you most enjoy?

I love hanging laundry to dry (we don't have a dryer, just a couple of hanging racks in the laundry room and a line out on our tiny patio in the back). I find hanging laundry so aesthetically pleasing, I never ever tire of it.

Once when my brother and sister-in-law still lived in Philadelphia (*sigh*), I went to synagogue with them, and during the time in the service that's sort of the equivalent of "Passing the Peace" at my church, Claire (who has lived and studied a lot in France)(and who is, incidentally, a wonderful homemaker, on top of having a full-time, demanding, academic job as a French professor, and I have no idea how she does it, except that she does it with incredible grace)( and who is also one of my very favorite people in the whole wide world, but I digress...) -- Claire turned to hug me and exclaimed, "You smell like France!" We spent a long time trying to figure out what soap/lotion/perfume I was using that reminded her of France, and then she realized: "You're hanging your clothes to dry, aren't you? That's what it is!" There may not be anything better than the smell of clothes fresh off the line, especially when it's cold outside. Possibly not even the smell of a newborn baby's head, although that's pretty darn sweet too.

What are your least favorite housekeeping chores? How do you keep yourself disciplined about these? What do you do if you fall off the wagon?

I hate doing the dishes, and I REALLY hate putting the food away. Cleaning the kitchen is especially a challenge if Micah takes a long time to go to sleep, or I get caught up with the computer or a book, and it gets late. Evening chores in general are a plague to me, because I'm so not a night person. But the only thing worse than cleaning the kitchen at the end of the day is waking up to a dirty kitchen in the morning.

I used to be terrible about getting the kitchen clean in the evening, but it's really become a do or die chore for me.  The other day the dining room table was cleared, and I didn't have occasion to go back into the kitchen after I got Micah to bed, and I totally forgot to do the dishes.  In the morning, I was completely disgusted.  I guess I have turned over a new leaf.

I think the main reason it was so hard before and so possible now is that I have -- or at least I can have -- down time during the day.  When I was working outside the home and/or taking care of a baby/toddler all day, I was on total overload by the end of the day.  So wiped out, I guess, that on balance I needed to be done more than I needed to have a clean kitchen, no matter how disgusted I was in the morning.  Now, I can read, run, blog, even nap during the day if I need to.  I used to feel really guilty if I wasn't working at home pretty much the same hours that Julie was working at school, but that's sort of missing the point of having a life that doesn't have to be structured around a typical work day.  

When my housekeeping discipline fails, it's a sure sign that I'm not taking care of myself.  Taking good care of myself is the best way I know to take care of the house and my family.

What housekeeping chores do you find give you the most bang for your buck?

Making the bed is so easy, and goes such a long way to making a room feel neat.  

But the biggest bang for the buck is keeping surfaces clean.  If the surfaces are clear, the house feels clean, even if its not.  I love cleanliness, but in a pinch, the appearance of cleanliness will do.

Which chores can you let go in a pinch?

Well, I used to think that dusting and vacuuming were pretty optional, but lately I find that these chores give a lot of bang for the buck as well.   When the house is dusted and vacuumed, it's like someone turned the Technicolor on.  

I also feel fine letting the bed linens go for several weeks.  And if the mess is behind a closed door (closet, cabinet, etc.) it can wait in a pinch.

If you work outside the home (for pay or as a volunteer), do you pay to have someone help you with housework? 

I do not work outside the home anymore, although until last spring, I worked twenty to forty hours a week -- as a volunteer, and occasionally for pay -- for the previous four years.  Maybe because I wasn't getting paid for it, and because I was mostly working part time, I did not pay for help with housework.  It seemed self-indulgent (I was a "stay-at-home-mom" after all!), and we couldn't really afford it anyway.  But in retrospect, the housework -- and my mental health, and thus our family's well-being -- suffered.  If I ever work outside the home for more than twenty hours a week or so, I will definitely hire help.   It would just be part of the cost of having a job, as far as I am concerned.  I realize that for many families, even two-income families, paying for help is not possible, but personally I would sacrifice a lot of other stuff to make sure housework is taken seriously.

True confessions?

If you look close, my house is still pretty dirty.  I'm working on it, but it takes a lot of time to catch up.  I haven't gotten woodwork, walls, and windows into my routine yet, and sometimes I'm kind of grossed out when I look too closely.  All in good time.


May said...

Hello. I'm here from Jo's. I'm finding these posts particularly relevant to the current state of our house- we just hired a housekeeper to come help clean every two weeks, and as a result, I feel like we may climb out of the mess that 3 years and 2 kids have generated. At last!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad Jo mentioned you - that's how I got here too, and I'm really enjoying it. You are a talented writer.
I can't answer all those items yet - I have had a really bad time since my youngest was born, and I think the one thing that resonated with me is that my home is a reflection of how I'm feeling about myself and how I'm doing emotionally. I'm fighting depression, and my home shows it.
But I will say it at least gives me fodder for writing - I'm trying to laugh at myself a little bit. Here are some posts I have about my lack of cleaning skills:


If nothing else, these might give you a chuckle and make you feel better about your home. I'm going to friend you on Facebook now so maybe we can chat about our defensive/seeking children :)

Patrick said...

Oh oh oh. So excited. Yes, I definitely want to jot down some thoughts about all this. At present my only problem is having too much to say, in a rather scattershot fashion. But housekeeping as spiritual practice, definitely something I think about, just for starters. Also must go read Jo's blog now. And now there are at least three essays of my mom's that I think you would enjoy (one in particular about the joys of hang-drying laundry).

Joanna said...

Well, thanks a HEAP for taking all the good blog posts! ;) Seriously, once again all I can do is nod and say "uh-huh!" at my computer.

Especially about the surfaces. And the kitchen. And outdoor laundry. We used to hang ours out when we lived in student housing (it was built in the '40s and there were tons of clotheslines and gardens); it's one of the things I miss most. I liked the result, and I really liked the doing of it.

Joanna said...

Oh, and thankee kindly, ma'am!

Marta said...

May: Yay for you! I'm such a big believer in paying someone to help if you possibly can. When you have small children, it's really no different than if you worked long hours outside the home -- just more folks home to make mess, but no more time to clean.

barelyknittogether: I'm loving reading your blog, v. funny indeed! Looking forward to chatting with you more.

Greg said...

There's a meme to make you go "hmmm". Still settling into some regular housekeeping routines here in my new place, as I continue to sort out where everything belongs. But I think I'll be printing this out just to give me a checklist!

Melissa said...

Great stuff, Marta!
I must admit that FlyLady was a big influence on me, especially with regard to leaving dishes in the sink overnight. I just don't do it anymore. Well, let me qualify that -- I do all the dinner dishes (by hand, no dishwasher, sigh) every night but if Michael or I have a bowl of ice cream or whatever, it can sit 'til the next morning. I do the dishes at least twice a day.
Do you have to iron by line-drying all your stuff? I line-dry stuff like pajamas and socks most of the time but not always. The rest of the stuff goes in the dryer so I don't need to iron.
I don't have a weekly routine, I'm sorry to say. I do a little everyday, but very very rarely do I that kind of deep-cleaning. And I hardly ever dust. Am hoping that once I get through my major spring declutter I will be better able to deal with those kind of niceties ;-)

pam said...

i really like cleaning, marta, for the most part. i work outside the home one to five days outside the home, the average being 2 probably, but scott and i do all the house work (and the kids a little bit).
every day i make the bed - definitely, and clean the kitchen at least 3x. the bathroom once a day (4 boys here --yikes!) i would like to get away with dusting once a week but this time of year the surfaces get coated daily. i am still debating with scott as to whether dirty ducts are a complete fantasy, or is it just during forced heat season dirt gets kicked around more. i vaccum maybe twice a week, much to my mom's dismay - who is my babysitter when i work. i sweep the kitchen a little more often than that, but only mop once in a while. it was important to pick stone flooring that allowed for weeks on end to go by between moppings if necessary. but that is one place i allow a gadget/short cut - a swiffer for in between moppings with a real mop. i am constantly CONSTANTLY putting things back in their "homes" for sanities sake and because we live in a 1920's modest house with 7 people. i love to "spring clean" as in get rid of major amounts of stuff and organize attic/basement, probably 3 times a year. it makes both scott and i feel better to get rid of stuff. we have weekly curb pick up in the city of anything of any size, we belong to a local free cycle and use craigslist. but nothing beats putting stuff outside that we no longer urgently need and watching people pick it up before garbage day.
the kids set the table, clean rooms occasionally, take out weekly garbage and recycling, feed pets and always bring dishes from the table. but it's still not enough. i feel they sometimes get away with less because they share houses with their other parents.