Running a household–no matter how few or how many people are involved in it–can get complicated fast. We don’t want to spend our free time doing more chores, keeping up with laundry, or catching up on yard work. But when we don’t stay on top of the household tasks, they pile up and become monsters.
There are some simple changes you can make to help you, and the other people in your household, stay on top of the necessary tasks without spending all of your time on them. That way you can all get back to having fun and being productive at what you really want to be doing.
1. Pick up the “one bag a day” decluttering habit.
This simple practice can keep stuff from piling up and overwhelming your space. Simply keep a stash of small plastic bags on hand (the kind you get from the supermarket work well) or any kind of small bag or box. Once a day, spend five to 10 minutes walking through your house or apartment, taking out clutter that you don’t need anymore. Make it your goal to fill up a bag every day. It’s kind of sad how easy it is to do for most of us. We really do have that much excess stuff.
Some of what you pick up might need to be trashed or recycled (dried-out markers, waste paper, and so on) but some of your clutter can be donated. Keep a box by the door, in the hall closet, or in the trunk of your car. Throw all your usable items in there and stop by the donation center once the box is full.
2. Assign people to tasks or areas.
Unless you live alone, there’s no reason you should be doing all of the household work yourself. Many times, however, one person ends up taking on the responsibility and ends up getting worn-out with trying to do it all. End that mess by assigning tasks or specific areas of the house to the other people living in it. So, Bob gets to keep the living room cleaned up, and Jasmine is in charge of taking the trash to the curb, and everybody does his or her own laundry.
There are any number of ways to assign tasks or areas to the members of the household. Play around with some different methods until you find one that works for yours. But don’t keep doing it all alone in frustration. When everybody helps, everybody benefits.
3. Repeat favorite meals and snacks.
The Internet has become a vast repository for all sorts of recipes and food-dedicated blogs and websites. That’s great, because now you can find 27 versions of hash brown casserole when you want that many options.
All the options, however, can lead to a feeling that you’re supposed to use all these recipes, all of these options, every time you plan a menu. The truth is that most of us are happy to repeat a few favorite meals, and try out something new every now and then. There’s nothing wrong with repeating favorites; it saves time, money and stress.
Make a list of the tried-and-true meals and snacks that work for you, and keep the ingredients on hand. Let those be your go-to meals. When you have the time, energy, and interest, you can dive into all those recipes waiting for you on the Interwebs.
4. Stock up on your favorite meal supplies and do prep work in big batches.
Once you’ve established a list of your favorite meals, take it a step further by shopping and prepping in bulk. If you’re already chopping carrots or cooking chicken, it’s very little work to chop twice as many or cook an extra batch of chicken. You benefit by having ingredients ready to go for a meal you know you love. You can refrigerate or freeze the extra ingredients, depending on how soon you want to use them, and you’ll have a meal practically made whenever you’re ready for it.
Do this with all your favorites and you’ll have a freezer full of meals without much extra effort.
5. Do the dishes before bed.
I’m not a big fan of arbitrary household rules, but this one really helps keep things running efficiently. The last thing I want to do at night, when I’m tired and ready to relax, is tackle that sink full of dishes. But when I don’t, they don’t go away overnight.
If you leave the dishes in the sink, you may not have time to tackle them in the morning. So you grab your breakfast, run out the door, and leave them there for the day. You get home and make dinner, adding a few more dishes to the pile, and now you really don’t want to tackle it.
It’s easy for a small pile of dishes to add up to a large one. Instead, make it a nightly habit to spend 10 minutes washing up or loading dishes in the dishwasher. Staying on top of dishes is a small thing that makes a big impact on your energy and how in control you feel of your household.
6. Set up an inbox for everyone in your household.
You would think, in our digital age, that handling paper mail, bills, invitations, and so on, would be a thing of the past. But that hasn’t happened; we still have to process a staggering amount of paper in our daily lives.
If you don’t have a designated place to put the mail and other paper items that trickle through your household, they’ll pile up on any available surface, create clutter, get lost or shuffled around or accidentally trashed, and you will end up with a paper mess to clean up and a paper trail to follow. No fun.
Designate an inbox space for everyone who receives papers, no matter how old or young they are. When the mail comes, or the information gets brought home, stash it in the appropriate person’s inbox. It can stay there until it is used or irrelevant. You will know where it is, and you won’t have to shift piles of paper every time you actually want to eat at the table.
7. Divide regular household tasks into a daily chore list and a weekly task list.
Some household tasks, like the dishes, need to be done daily. Others, like emptying the trash or mopping the floor, can be handled weekly without any detriment to the state of your household. (Unless you have multiple young children, like I do, in which case emptying trash and mopping floors really does need to be done daily, as well.)
When you don’t know which is which, however, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all there is to do. The result is that you don’t want to do anything, and so stuff piles up into bigger messes that become even more overwhelming.
Write down all of your regular household tasks. Then decide which ones really need to be done on a daily basis. Write those down onto something you can put on the refrigerator or some other visible spot: that’s the daily chore list.
The other stuff should get added to a weekly task list, which we’ll talk about next.
8. Handle your weekly household tasks with a 1:1 approach.
During the week, when everyone is busy with school and work and all the stuff that makes up our lives, focus on simply completing your daily chore list and, every day, one single task from the weekly household task list. That’s just one task per day. You can do it (or you can delegate it).
On the weekend, dedicate one hour of your Saturday to getting through the rest of your weekly task list. If you can finish it all up, you’re done for the week, and you get to enjoy the rest of your weekend! If you’re not quite done yet, then give it one more hour on Sunday, getting through as much as you can. When the hour is up, be done even if you’re not quite through all the tasks. The week will roll around and you’ll get a chance to tackle it all next time.
9. Handle cleaning like a pro.
Most of us do the cleaning chores but don’t really think about what we’re doing. If you take some time to research, however, you can gain a whole slew of tips, techniques, and tricks that will make you more efficient.
Read up on how to clean efficiently and effectively. Stock up on the tools and supplies that will help you get the job done well and fast. Then use your newfound knowledge to zip through your weekly cleaning before the hour is up.
10. Get stuff off the floor.
Instead of stacking a basket on the floor, mount it to the wall. Put books on a shelf instead of piling them up by your desk. Use clips to attach wires to the wall just above the baseboard instead of letting them drag on the floor.
Whatever you can do to get stuff up and off the floor will make your space look less cluttered and make your cleaning go faster. Moving stuff around when you need to clean is what usually takes the most time, not the actual cleaning. So the less stuff you have to move, the faster you can get through your cleaning chores.
11. Clean out your closet when you do your laundry.
This is a wardrobe tip that is along the lines of the bag-a-day decluttering habit. Whenever you do your laundry and are ready to put it away, do a quick scan of the clothes on your shelves, in your drawers, or hanging up in your closet that haven’t been worn in weeks or months.
Next step: get rid of one or two pieces every time you put laundry away. Grab that pair of shoes you never wear, that sweater that doesn’t look good on you, those pants that don’t fit. Go ahead and add them to your donate box. Your closet will slowly become uncluttered, easier to organize and easier to maintain. You will have a wardrobe filled with pieces you actually love and wear. And putting away that laundry that you actually folded this time will get a whole lot easier.
12. Time yourself.
I used to get overwhelmed by the sight of a messy kitchen after a big cooking session, or a toy-covered floor at the end of the day. They always seemed like such big jobs.
But then I started wondering how long that stuff actually took me, so I started timing myself.
Hugely dirty kitchen clean-up: 30 minutes
Normal kitchen clean-up: 10 minutes
Emptying the dishwasher: 3 minutes
Toy clean-up: 10 minutes
Really? Not that bad. When I realized that, at its worst, a kitchen clean-up usually only took half of an hour, and normal kitchen messes only took 10 minutes, it suddenly got much easier to go ahead and tackle the mess. Hey, in 10 minutes I’d be relaxing AND the kitchen would be clean.
When you know that a task won’t take very long, it becomes easier to talk yourself into doing it.
You can also use the timer in a different way: if you have a task or chore you need to do, but don’t want to, ask yourself for five or 10 minutes. Set a timer, work as hard as you can for that amount of time, and then be done. You can give it another five or 10 minute session the next day, and keep at it, until you get the whole thing done.
What are your favorite tips for simplifying your household?
Featured photo credit: towel pile/prettyinprint via flickr.com