We love getting questions from our busy bee readers, and this one is probably something you can all relate to! As always, we’d love to hear your take on this and any advice you may have in the comments below.
Dear Cat & Natalie,
I’ll make this quick because I know you are busy! My life is a mess, and I’m just so overwhelmed. I was wondering if you could help? I have three kids who are 11, 7, and 3. I work full time, and my husband is away long hours. I’ve tried everything to try to get organized. I’ve bought baskets, I’ve signed up to different e-mail lists that give cleaning advice, and I’ve asked friends for help too. I don’t have the money to hire a personal organizer or a maid, but I feel really down every day when I get home from work and the house is a total disaster. What am I doing wrong?
(She asked to remain anonymous!)
Here’s my answer:
Hi! You’re not doing anything wrong, my friend! It’s called motherhood and wifehood and well, life. Lots of people struggle in this area, myself included. You are not alone. Actually, this year has been a major lesson in organizing for me too. I could usually keep things together pretty well, but after I had twins, I felt everything falling apart. I know how you feel. Or at least, I’ve felt before like I am getting “C’s” in all areas of my life instead of really excelling at one or two things.
I’ve really gotten in my groove the past few weeks after months of trying to find a cleaning and organizing system that works for me. Here is my advice:
1. Get Rid of Everything
Seriously, by get rid of everything, I mean be brutal. Just let it go. The things that we think are important are just so not. Even if you paid a lot of money for it, even if you remember wearing that dress to a special moment, just take a picture of it and move on. Digital files take up less space than the actual item. You can try to set up a day to list these things on Craigslist or eBay but that takes time. If you have no time and you’re overwhelmed, the best thing you can do is grab a massive trashbag and go to town. Then, drop the trashbag off at Goodwill. I recommend doing this while your kids are in school so they don’t freak out. Chances are, they won’t even notice that half their toys are gone. You have to breathe. It’s hard to clean up because you’re climbing over things in your house. Let them go, and enjoy.
2. Give Up Something & Hire Help
Okay let’s face it. You work full time and your husband works full time and you’re supposed to clean and take care of your kids and basically do everything (with your hubby’s help of course.) The thing is, that’s just not sustainable. You need to give up something you care about to free up money for hired help. Now, your hired help could be $8/hour high school student who goes grocery shopping for you. Your hired help could be $60/day housekeeper who comes once a month and deep cleans everything so you don’t have to. Your hired help could be your next door neighbor who is elderly but loves to cook and will make you two meals a week for a few dollars. I know you like to do everything yourself because I’m that way too. In fact, I’m as stubborn as they come. But, give up your cable for the housekeeper. Give up eating out so much for the cook. You’d be surprised at how affordable help is when you adjust your life to accommodate it.
3. Make a Detailed Checklist
I have a checklist on my fridge of chores I have to do every day. There are 12 of them that are integral to the way my house runs. My husband has 6 and I have 6 that we are responsible for, and sometimes we help each other out with their list if things are hectic. Before I made this list, I’d lie in bed at night and wonder if I fed the dog. Then I’d feel guilty and like a total mess. The checklist saved me. I know what I have to do every day to survive the next one and once it’s organized and laid out like that, you’d be surprised at how quickly the chores go too.
Good luck and keep us updated on your progress!
Natalie @ Financegirl says
I love this! And I’m laughing – number 1 is so perfect that it’s funny. You are right on. The best advice I give to anyone who is trying to organize (and it’s what I do myself) is to get rid of everything you possibly can. And I truly believe that once you start, it gets easier over time. Before you know it, you’re purging like crazy and you’re left with very little to organize. I love it!
I love it too. Thanks Natalie!!!
Another route, one that I am considering, is to take a day off and devote it to scheduled chunks of cleaning/purging. Maybe an hour in each room of your place, with a 15 minute break in between, rotating through as many times as needed. And maybe even plan a reward for yourself afterward: a nice dinner out or movie maybe, but stick to you budget ;D
Personally, it’s hard to take a vacation day for housework, but once you’ve convinced yourself/realized how refreshing it will be each day to wake up to an uncluttered place, it’s like mini-vacation each morning! Your mind will thank you!
Just make sure to keep up with the lifestyle changes necessary to keep the same thing from happening again 🙂
Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom says
I agree, when there’s nothing to organize, it’s a much faster job! I never seem to run out of stuff to give away, but the piles are disappearing.
I tried making a chore list after I had my daughter. I was so overwhelmed at the time that I think it included chores like: shower. It really did help me get everything I needed to done. Maybe I should make a new one…
This is a wonderful list. We just downsized to a 500 sq ft apartment. I’m working hard on number one so we have room to breathe