Why Hello there. It's me again, The Lazy Mother.
You might remember me from such inspiring articles as "Confessions of a Lazy Mother" and "The Science of Mess".
I am the reluctant housewife's reply to Martha Stewart; the clutterbound mama's sign that she is not alone with her laundry mountain.
I'm the one whose dust bunny armies regularly threaten anarchy and who will do anything - anything! - to avoid emptying the dishwasher. Unlike some other Domestic Goddesses, I do not delight in filling the tins with homebaked goodies and coming up with something for dinner every night is not the best part of my day. And the mornings, well. Don't get me started.
I feel I may be able to offer you fellow domestic strugglers a bit of hope and some Helpful Homely Hints, because if you come to my house (after giving me at least 30 minutes notice) I can promise that you'll find me dwelling in a pleasant, welcoming home, in spite of myself.
I'm here to let you in on my best houseworky secrets: the Lazy Mother's tricks for surviving domesticity and avoiding having your family star in an episode of New Zealand's Worst Hoarders.
Let's be honest, who here gets excited about cleaning pee puddles off the toilet floor for the 16th time in a week? Who amongst us signed up to spend our lives making lunchboxes and picking up Lego? When we aspired to motherhood, did we get excited about being "housewives" at the same time? Ugh. No way.
Not this Mama, anyhoo.
I love being a mother and I wouldn't swap it for the world, but when it comes to the repetitive samey drudge of household chores and food-prep, what I wouldn't give to hand it all over to a Housekeeper.
But since I'm not a millionaire executive/filmstar/model and I don't have the funds to hire some Help (and the chores won't do themselves) here are my three best tips for Defeating Drudgery and maintaining your sanity...
This is my first and best tip: GET THE KIDS TO DO IT.
Training my offspring to pitch in and share the load is a complete win-win.
It benefits me in the short term by reducing the headless-chicken routine somewhat; it helps my kids in the long term by helping them gain life skills and a sense of confidence that they can do things for themselves.
There are loads of things you can get your kids to do to help out:
- Make their own lunchboxes*
- Make their own (and their siblings') breakfast
- Vacuum the house
- Empty the dishwasher
- Make their bed
- Make you a cup of tea
- Mow the lawns
- Take a trip to the corner store to get milk
- Bake stuff
We don’t just throw our kids in the deep end and leave them to fend for themselves with all this - growing independence starts out small, with baby steps. You don’t simply shove them out the door/into the kitchen and hope for the best. Even though helping my kids gain the skills necessary for independence requires more work, initially, than simply doing everything for them, it is well worth the effort.
Now that my kids can whip up a batch of pancakes/muffins/cookies, plug in the vacuum cleaner, get their own cereal, I get to enjoy more time being lazy, less time being defeated by drudgery. You've wondered where I find all the time to read? Ha, now you know! A little trick I like to call, "Getting the kids to do stuff for themselves".
*Once the kids began making their own lunchboxes, the morning school rush became so much smoother. There was less shouting, less chaos. They know what has to go in it; we have a basket of school-only snacks and they must have at least one piece of fruit or veggie plus a bread roll. Even our six-year-old does it.
This one is how I trick myself into doing housework: KEEP YOURSELF INTERESTED by changing things up. It works for me, I tell you.
Rearrange the furniture, swap around some pictures, pick a bunch of flowers, paint a wall, some cupboards, a shelf, a wooden chest: CHANGE SOMETHING.
I trick myself into keeping things clean and tidy by making my house pretty. After all, if I've spent all that time and energy painting the cupboards, do you think I want my freshly-painted, pretty kitchen ruined by that pile of dirty dishes? Now that I've painted my laundry cupboard do I want the overflowing laundry basket to spoil the look?
No, I do not.
DIY is how I stay interested in keeping my house clean.
I've always been this way, even as a kid.
It used to drive my mum bonkers, me constantly rearranging my bedroom (now my daughter does the same thing, and it drives me crazy too - ha!).
The Lazy Mother in me is easily defeated by the repetitive boredom of drudgery, doing the same tasks over and over, which is why if I can make a new cushion cover, frame a piece of my kids' art or change SOMETHING - I stay interested. Because it's not the same.
Are you hearing me?
This one is a good one for forcing me to look at my house through another person's eyes: PLAY HOSTESS - and rush madly to clean up before the guests arrive!
It's amazing how we can go for months, even years, without noticing stuff about our homes that would be apparent to the first visitor that walked in the door. There's a term for it: Shop Blindness.
The way to defeat Shop Blindness is to invite people over. All of a sudden you'll notice that the windowsills need wiping and the loo needs scrubbing. Hopefully you can do something about that before your guests arrive!
After years of practise, I'm now a complete pro at the last-minute whip-round tidy-up. I can invite you home for lunch/brunch/coffee because I know that it will only take me twenty minutes to clear away the worst of the clutter, sweep up the crumbs, wipe the benches and open the windows to let out the smell of burnt toast.
Inviting you over gives me the incentive I need to get off the couch and clean.
I don't want you stepping in a puddle of pee when you go to the loo, or gagging at the toothpaste spattered sink when you wash your hands. That would be really embarrassing.
Imminent House Guests take the cleaning motivation to a whole new level. Your mother-in-law is coming to stay for Christmas. Your hubby's aunty and uncle from England are coming to visit your country for the first time ever. Now you notice the worn-out fabric on your 13 year-old-sofa and the mildew that needs cleaned off the bedroom windowsills and curtains, the dings in your walls and the way your towel stack threatens to fall on you when you open the linen closet. So you start getting the house in order, decluttering and re-organising (and saving all your part-time wages for a new lounge suite) as you see your home through your House Guest's eyes.
It's amazing what the threat of imminent company will achieve in record time!
The best approach is NOT to wait until your home is spit-spot before inviting a friend over - if you wait before making the invitation, chances are you will NEVER do it. You have to take a leap, pick up the phone and invite someone over. Then with the time and day looming like a deadline, you will be motivated (by fear!) to whip yourself into a frenzy of domestic activity*. It works I tell you!
You might think this is duplicitous of me - putting on a good impression - but actually, it's how I motivate myself to do housework. When the house needs a spring clean, put on the kettle, lay out the welcome mat and go into a tidy-frenzy.
*You don't have to do the WHOLE house. Focus on the main areas - kitchen, loo, lounge. Shut the doors on the other rooms, and invite a nice easy-going friend not a Martha Stewart wannabe. Baby Steps.
So there you have it. Probably not what you were expecting, no tips for doing this or cleaning that - just some broad stroke tips on how I defeat drudgery. I hope it was useful.
Got any tips for me?
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