Friday, November 9, 2012

How We “Get It All Done” (HA!)

Or, better yet, how we live WITHOUT getting it all done! ;)

This morning, I got a phone call from an acquaintance who was feeling really stressed about this lately.  Her three kids are almost exactly a year younger than each of mine.  She was feeling overwhelmed and wanting advice.  (She might have hung up the phone immediately if she’d seen what my house looked like at that moment – I am NOT the one to ask for advice on pulling it all together with little ones, ha ha!)

I’ve also had a few e-mails recently from moms wondering how we get it all done with three little ones in the house.  How do I take care of the kids, teach Alex & Max, keep the house clean, design printables, and just generally keep up with life?  Oh ladies, I am nothing special.  I am just like you…maybe worse! :)

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Jensyn “helping” by dragging the items from the laundry basket all over the house ;)

I want to be transparent about this.  This blog is not about giving the impression that we are a perfect family.  We do not have it all together.  Oh, please trust me on this one.  If you stopped by unannounced sometime, you’d know the answer for sure.  There are days when I hope with all my might that my neighbors do not ring the doorbell.  I’d be embarrassed beyond belief to let them past the front door.

I don’t have it all together.  I don’t even come close!

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Confession: We never make our beds.  Ever.  Unless I’m washing the sheets.

We are learning as we go.  Our days are always evolving, depending on the ages/needs/interests of our kiddos.

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our messy school corner – you can’t see the floor behind the table, and I’m glad!
Somebody dumped all the colored pencils, and another somebody has toy cars all over!

We had a pretty good routine in August and September.  It included doing school time in the morning during Jensyn’s nap, and I *loved* it that way!  We were really enjoying this routine, but then the time came for Jensyn to give up her morning nap.  Ugh.  Even though I dreaded that inevitable day, it arrived.  My baby was partying in her crib during her afternoon nap, refusing to sleep, and then cranky and miserable by 5 PM.  It was time to rearrange the nap schedule…and, as a result, rearrange our whole day.

November2012 060trust me – it’ll be MUCH worse before the day is over ;)

I *love* to do school in the morning, but I just *CANNOT* do school with a toddler underfoot.  It doesn’t work for me, and I give a lot of credit to the moms who manage that each day.  I can’t!   So, like it or not, school time is now in the afternoon in our house.  Which means that Max is getting less school time with Mommy, and I can’t figure out how to fix that problem.

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Jensyn’s room is the easiest room in the house  to keep clean at this stage!
Even so, there are almost always books & blocks on the floor.

Here’s what is working for us right now, but PLEASE keep in mind that my house is never fully clean.  There’s usually a laundry basket full of clothes waiting to be folded.  The kitchen counter is often covered with papers, toys, and other random items.  The living room floor is often a minefield of toy airplanes and HotWheels just waiting for you to step on them and cry out in pain!  I struggle to get the bills paid on time or remember to make important phone calls at times when 3 children aren’t noisily interrupting.  Sometimes I am opening the freezer at 4:30 PM and realizing that I’m not sure what I can pull together for dinner.  Yep, I am *VERY, VERY* human!

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Our kitchen counter is usually KID-STUFF CENTRAL!
The floor is ALWAYS sticky,
and the windows have fingerprints and yogurt splatters with 30 minutes of being cleaned!

6:40 AM – Keith leaves for work; I read or check Facebook from my Kindle
7ish AM – boys wake up & snuggle with me in my bed to watch PBS together
(I also take a quick shower during this time.)
8 AM – Jensyn wakes up and we all eat breakfast
9 AM – we *try* to be dressed and ready for the day by 9 AM
(I will admit, though, that it’s after 10 AM and I am typing this in my pajamas.  The kids are dressed, if that counts for anything!)
Morning – play time/run errands (I try to squeeze some blog/design time in here if all 3 kids are playing happily.)  Bible study on Tuesdays, babysitting on Thursdays
Noon – lunch
(sometimes we run a local errand right after lunch, otherwise we play)
1:30 PM – story time & naptime for Max & Jensyn, school time for Alex & Mama
(sometimes Max stays up for 30 minutes of school)
3 PM – Alex & I clean the “room of the day” together, then he plays quietly while I design printables/fold laundry/pay bills etc.  
(Max is sometimes awake by 3 PM; Jensyn often sleeps until 4 PM)
4:15 PM – Get dinner ready while the kids are underfoot and making me crazy ;)
5 PM – Daddy’s home!  Hooray!
7:30 PM – bath time
8 PM – stories, prayers, bedtime
(usually, all kids lights are out by 8:20 PM)
10 PM – Keith & I head to bed.  He’s usually asleep by 10:30; I usually stay up until 11 to read a Bible passage and then read a chapter or two of a book on my Kindle.  I aim to turn off the Kindle at 11 and then pray until I fall asleep.

November2012 050Office: where I design printables & where Keith sometimes works from home –
the desk is usually COVERED with papers by the end of each week!
There are usually Little People or toy trucks scattered about on the floor.

Room Of The Day – My husband suggested this a while back, and it’s working well for us!  Each room in our house is assigned a day of the week.  On that day, I spend 15 – 20 minutes focused on cleaning that particular room.  That way, even though the whole house is NEVER clean at the same time, at least it’s getting cleaned once a week to keep the piles & messes from getting out of control! 

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playroom – toys EVERYWHERE on the floor!
(and this is *after* the boys and I filled 4 paper grocery bags
with toys to give away last month)

I usually also try to do one load of laundry/day and attempt to get all dishes done each night after dinner.  (The dishes wait ‘til the next day if Keith has a church meeting/praise team practice/etc and I am a “single parent” for the evening.)

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Yesterday was bathroom day on the cleaning schedule.  :)

For the really curious readers, here’s our cleaning schedule:

Sunday ~ master bedroom (pick up clothes piles from floor, put away stray toys that have wandered into the room, clear all flat surfaces of “stuff”)
Monday ~ laundry room (it’s also our family’s main entrance, where piles accumulate quickly!)
Tuesday ~ living room & office (put away toys, sort paper piles, dust, spray & wipe glass surfaces)
Wednesday ~ both bathrooms
Thursday ~ kids’ bedrooms
Friday ~ kitchen (clear junk counters, clean out fridge, wipe counters & cabinet doors, etc)
Saturday ~ bonus room (our school/toy room)

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This is pretty much the cleanest our laundry room gets…
it’s also our mudroom/main family entrance. 

Each picture in this post was taken around 10:30 AM today.  It’s pretty real.  And it gets WAY worse than this! So, as you can see, I am really NOT the one to ask about how you can get it all done.  We’re just wandering our way through this journey, hoping to do our best each day.  It’s messy.  It’s noisy.  It’s often chaotic. 

November2012 It took courage to post this one.  The clean laundry pile on my dresser (and dirty laundry pile in front of the dresser, if you can see that…) is awful!  My nightstand is always messy, and there are all sorts of random objects sticking out from under the bed.  The bed is ONLY made if I’ve washed the sheets.  Oh, and the center picture that should be over our bed fell down MONTHS ago.  The frame – and the broken glass – are STILL under our bed because I dread cleaning up all the glass.  Sigh. 

My few bits of advice are:

  1. Have a basic routine, but not a set schedule, for your day.  Try to stick with it as Monday through Friday.
    We live in a small town with one decent (but overpriced) grocery store.  I used to take a day each week to run errands 30 minutes from home.  We opted to give that up in order to stick closer to home at this phase of life.   We may pay more for groceries now, but we save money on gas (and sometimes fast food) by staying closer to home, and we keep the house cleaner and our lives “saner” by keeping to a routine rather than having a wasted day “up north”.
  2. Don’t overload your schedule – limit playdates, outings, etc.
    This is easy for me, as I love to be home!  We do try to do something fun about once a month – a special playdate, a trip to Grandma & Grandpa’s house, etc.  The rest of our time away from home happens during our ‘morning play’ hours.  That’s when we do things like:  go to the library every other Friday, Bible study on Tuesday mornings, invite the neighbor kids to come and play, etc.
  3. Have a cleaning schedule, and ask your husband to hold you accountable.  This has helped us a TON in our house!
  4. Involve your kids! 
    • Alex LOVES to help me clean the room of the day each afternoon!  Bathrooms and anything involving a spray bottle/cleaning rag are his favorites.
    • Alex is very good at setting the table for dinner, and Max is learning.
    • Max & Alex both put their clothes in the hamper after bathtime.
    • Both boys put their pajamas on their beds after getting dressed in the morning. 
    • Both boys know to put their coats on their hook and their shoes on their shoe shelf AS SOON as they walk in the door from outside.
    • Both boys clear their plates/bowls and place them in the sink after breakfast and lunch.
    • Even though it takes a LOT longer and can leave you wanting to pull out your hair at times, involve your kids in your cleaning and cooking.  Alex is learning to do a lot of helpful chores by working alongside mommy each afternoon.
  5. Let it go!  I am not a perfectionist, so this is actually easy for me ;)  Who cares if it’s messy?  I’m not saying you should live in a dirty heap of trash, but just let go of the idea that it has to be perfect.  You do not live in a Pinterest-perfect house.   You live in YOUR house, with YOUR busy life.  Enjoy your kids!  They’re only going to be little and cute once…but the clutter and mess will always be there :)

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So there you have it – 
some non-expert advice from a mom whose house is never clean…
and is wearing her pajamas at 10:30 AM as she types this! ;)

I’d love to hear any tips or tricks
that work well for your family!


Len said...

Sounds just like our house (LOL). When someone calls to come over we (meaning all 3 kids and myself) do our "cleaning dash". That means try and make the house look presentable as fast as possible. I pray on regular basis that no one stops by unexpectedly because they may never come back :-). We have baskets of laundry that never seem to get folded and a basket full of just socks because I NEVER seem to find the time to match all of those so I quit trying. I guess I rationalize our mess by telling my self that someday I will look back very fondly at this mess we live in (at least I hope I do). Thank you for the post, I could have said it better myself. Oh, side not the day I took pics of our school room the kids had been banned from the room all day :-) (I'm NOT organized).

Becca said...

Our house looks just as bad and sometimes worse and I only have one three year old! It helps to know we are all just human. One thing I am trying to do currently is keep a list of all the little things that are bugging me (deep cleaning/organizing) for January. In November and December I want to be able to focus on the reason for the season and spend time keeping the house just "good enough" and doing more fun things with my daughter. In January she'll probably watch a movie every afternoon (she refuses to nap) just so I can get to my list of projects!

Anonymous said...

We have talked about this before.. but glad you found a cleaning plan that works for you :) I need to regain my motivation!

Allison said...

I typically keep my house pretty neat, but I cannot function knowing there are messes or beds are unmade. It's how I'm wired (ok, I admit it. I have a little OCD in this area.), so it's actually more stressful for me to leave it a mess. That being said, I thought I'd encourage you, Dawn. Your kids are younger & closer together in age than mine, and I wanted to give you hope that it does get easier as they get older -- at least it has for me. I always give myself a free pass the last few months of pregnancy and a good part of the first year of a new baby in the family's life though. That's just a hard season in general. You have a house full of pre-school aged kiddos. Now that 2 of my 3 are school aged, it has changed completely. They can actually clean things up well. I still have to monitor this area, but at least I know the task will be carried out. All of this will once again go to pot when #4 arrives in the spring, of course. :-) Anyway, I know you don't lead a perfect life. We all live imperfect lives. I think a great piece of advice for your readers is to be careful not to compare online best with their real life. It's an impossible comparison.

Holly said...

Thanks for sharing this. You and I had emailed about this earlier (thanks for replying to my email) because I have a 4 year old son I am doing a homeschool preschool with, and a busy, busy, busy 20 month old son. We also used to school in the morning, and we loved it that way. That is when my 4 y/o son is at his best and most awake, happy and ready to learn. Now my toddler is napping around 11:45 to about 1:15. It's hard to do school during that time because it's right during the lunch hour for me and my 4 year old. Also, he is really good and having some down-time, quiet independent play while my tot naps and I clean house, etc. Then my toddler is up, and my 4 year old is ready to nap (he usually still does for an hour or so). The later and later it gets during the day, the harder it is to "school" because he gets tired, etc... Still trying to figure it out too. Please let me know if you figure out tricks to keep your tot happy or new schedules. My house is ALWAYS messy too. One thing that helps me is my boys have a very early bedtime. We eat dinner at 5, baths at 6 and they are in bed by 6:45. Both fall asleep very fast (but wake up around 6:30am). I am always surprised at how fast they fall asleep so early, but it gives me more evening time to do house work and school prep. Good luck!