Sunday, April 16, 2006

Household mediocrity revisited

In February, I wrote about mediocrity. This is one paragraph from that entry:


"Back to my contemplating: Why is it that if we have a really good school week, everything else is mediocre or dismal. School was great which means my house is not. Why can't I have both? My kitchen looks like a tornado went through it. I've got bills stacked to pay, checks to order, checkbook to balance, library books to return, a telephone line to get fixed, a broken car window motor to fix, a house to clean, menus to plan, groceries to buy, prescriptions to fill, sheets to change, laundry to wash, floors to vacuum and scrub, etc. Why can't I "do" both and do them well?"



After I wrote this, I felt liberated. Just getting that frustration out and into the open enabled me to clear my mind and come up with a solution. Thinking about the mediocrity in our day-to-day life did me good and inspired me, which in turn carried over to our family. Harmony and teamwork. That was the answer. I needed to distinguish between my work as a wife, mother, homemaker and the work that belonged to the entire family unit. I needed to reflect on what I was teaching my son. I needed to teach him that a good work ethic applies to more than just school work.


I called a family meeting. We’re not big on official family meetings, but this needed to be done. My husband was less than enthusiastic to come to the table, sit down and start discussing. My son wanted to play. We did it anyway. I explained the problem about the mediocrity, the house and household responsibilities being chaotic if we had a good school week. I admitted that I could not do it all. That was obvious. I asked for ideas on what we could do. My son was great with coming up with ideas. My husband knew what was coming and again was less than enthusiastic but he did participate. I clearly defined my expectations. All I wanted from my husband was a couple of hours each weekend to help clean the house. I was surprised but he didn’t put up a fight.



When the meeting was over, I started work on the chore chart my son requested. After working on it a bit, I decided it wouldn’t work. Charts are great for some things, but I knew we needed something more tangible. So I got out my colored index cards and Sharpie markers. I made a list of things that needed to be done each day to keep the house in the shape that we desired and deserved. Then I wrote one chore on each index card in my best kindergarten-style handwriting. I highlighted the top of the cards in pink to denote daily chores. Then I did the same thing for our weekly cleaning tasks. The weekly cards were highlighted in green. It needed to be simplistic for everyone to participate fully. It needed to be easy because all the family members have a tendency to go off on tangents. All the cards went into an index box.



Every morning when we get up, the first thing we do is lay the daily cards on our counter. Every morning we start our school day with home ec. Home ec consists of the daily chore cards. We cannot start school until all the tasks have been completed and the cards have been put back in the box. There is something very gratifying about starting the morning with a counter full of cards and watching the pile dwindle down to nothing. We needed to see our work being accomplished in more ways than one. Obviously, you can see a clean bathroom. How much more empowering it was, though, to move that bathroom card back into the box. My son and I complete our morning task cards in 15 to 20 minutes.



On the weekends, at my husband's desired time, we do the weekly cleaning. Once again, I lay out all the weekly cleaning task cards on the counter. Everyone just grabs a card and goes to work. We aren't going off on tangents now because we know what task we are completing. House cleaning takes about an hour and a half now with all three of us pitching in. I always wanted to get up Saturday morning and clean the house first thing. My husband hated that. For years it was a problem or he was in my way. When we discussed it, I realized I could be more flexible. By doing so, I got what I wanted, and he got what he wanted, too.



It's that simple. Kindergarten stuff, basically, but it works. The results have been fantastic. For over a month now chaos has been eliminated and we have had both: good school and good home. Household mediocrity eliminated.



Last week I added two cards to the box. They were: balance checkbook and pay bills. That takes just a few minutes, but those two tasks done on a daily basis have taken a massive amount of stress away from me. I hate paying bills, but somehow I was the one that got that responsibility in this marriage. I used to pay bills and balance the checkbook once a month. As of the last week, when one came in the house, it was paid the next morning. Although I’ve only been at this for one week, I will continue. The results are too good not to. This took a major amount of dread and stress away from my life.



I have a few more ideas that I will add to the box in time. For now, I’m just happy to know that I can run my house well while homeschooling.



Our Daily Tasks

Thomas shower

Mom shower -- yes, we included showers, more cards to put away ;-)

feed and water pets

general house pick up

empty dishwasher

load dishwasher

gather dirty clothes

sort laundry

start load if needed

make beds

empty trash

empty recycling

plan supper

swiffer dust (my son's choice, he loves to dust)

wipe down bathroom

wipe down kitchen

swiffer or vacuum floors

checkbook

bills


Our Nightly Tasks


pick up house

rinse snack dishes


Our Weekly Tasks

mass pick up

kitchen

vacuum basement

put laundry away

laundry

basement bathroom

vacuum floors upstairs

cobweb removal (Minnesota has too many spiders)

mop floors

windex

empty garbages

cat box

dust upstairs

upstairs bathroom

bedrooms

vacuum furniture (1 dog, 2 cats)

vacuum drapes (1 cat lives in the window and gets hair on the drapes)

vacuum stairs

wash bedding

clean out cars

ready trash and recycling for pick up


6 comments:

wisteria said...

This sounds terrific. Similar to "Sidetracked Home Executives, but with less structure. Maybe I can combine this with Doc's Goal setting and create a calm.

contemplator said...

You know, I've been pondering your post for a while now, and I'm glad you posted it. Some time back I would've said that if I had the extra money I would've spent it on a maid. Now, through some similar tactics to yours, I get most of what I need done. It just takes asking for it, I guess. My husband is generally really clean, and germphobic to boot, so he cleans the bathroom (YAY!!), but his downside is that he tries to kill us with paper. Coming up with ways to get it done without resorting to outside help is very cost effective for the family. Thanks for posting these suggestions. I love to hear success stories!

Homeschool Mami said...

I love this idea. I have had such a struggle with this in my house over the last few weeks. Last week I basically stopped school and just did clean up. I much prefer school to housework!!!! I am going to try this--it's easier than chore charts and it sounds like a game my kids could buy into!

Melissa O. Markham said...

This is a great idea! I have the same issue, can't seem to get everything 'perfect' at once. Thanks for the post!

wisteria said...

I thought of your idea during drive time (3 hours) to ballet and back and will soon have my own set of cards. Thank you. This could really work for our family.

Michelle said...

Fantastic idea...I've always been really organised, but I think this is the best way to get the family involved and get it done quickly.