Thursday, June 23, 2011

No natural homemakers here

I mentioned in a recent post how I struggle to keep up with my house. It is a constant, daily battle, and a vast majority of the time over the last few years, one that I felt like I was losing. And not just losing, but going down in flames. Clutter and messes are created at my house at an astonishing rate (as I'm sure is true in any house with young children) but I was usually at a complete loss as to how to combat it. It really was overwhelming.

The last two years have been particularly bad. We sold our previous home around the same time I discovered I was pregnant with Clara and we moved while I was still consumed by a constant nauseous haze. The remainder of that pregnancy and Clara's first year or so of life were very difficult. We had to adjust to having a fourth child and two school aged children with their corresponding activities and Eric and I were over committed to activities outside of the home. It's been difficult recognizing our limitations and adjusting our commitments and expectations.

However, over the last few months the house situation has been slowing beginning to improve. You wouldn't necessarily recognize the improvement if you walked into my house right now. I'm still working on creating the habits we need to keep the house uncluttered on a daily basis. So right now my desk is a fright, the bar in the kitchen is covered in books, magazines and random toys, there is clean laundry on the couch waiting to be folded, there are dishes in the sink and on the counter in the kitchen, the kids' bathroom is absolutely atrocious and the bookshelves are a disaster, besides all the random toys, books and shoes scattered everywhere. But -- BUT! -- the playroom and both the kids' rooms are picked up right now. My room is tidy and the bed is made. I'm not behind on the laundry (I'll have that load on the couch taken care of by this afternoon) or the grocery shopping. I have a time scheduled to clean the kids' bathroom and the kitchen will be back in working order shortly. In other words, everything isn't a complete disaster all the time anymore. There are a few areas in my house at any given time that are actually presentable. And I have a plan in place to at least keep the daily messes manageable. This is a huge improvement for us. And, I expect things to continue to get better.

The main reason for this improvement? Clara turned a year old.

Clara turning one marked a huge change in my daily life. She started nursing less, playing independently more, taking longer, more regular naps and sleeping through the night. It seemed like almost overnight I went from being strung out all the time to actually having time and energy to do things. That restored time and energy has allowed my to start tackling the house.

Over the last few months I've been slowly purging room by room and working through the boxes left over from our move two years ago. I've been reading Smart Martha's Catholic Guide for Busy Moms by Tami Kiser and the down-to-earth suggestions in this book have been exactly what I needed. I also downloaded an app on my iPhone called Home Routine. I understand it creates a similar house keeping plan to what Fly Lady does (I don't know exactly since I've never used Fly Lady's system) and it has been such a wonderful blessing. I thrive when I use check lists and I've tried many, many different versions both paper and electronic. This one has been the best for me with it's daily, weekly and monthly to do lists as well as splitting the house into zones that I tackle one at a time.

I don't know when we'll be blessed with another baby, but in the mean time I am doing all I can to try to bring some more organization into my home so that hopefully the next pregnancy/infant stage won't be so difficult. We've come to realize that one of our biggest problems is that not everything has a place to belong. We've bought bins and baskets to keep toys, games and art supplies in. We've also had to bite the bullet (financially speaking) and buy some furniture, storage pieces mainly: additional dressers for the kids' rooms, storage cabinets for the office. I'm making lots of plans to make our home run more efficiently, am slowly putting them into practice and we're really starting to reap the rewards.

But, the main thing that has led to this improvement in my home-keeping really is Clara's no longer being an infant. I repeat this for myself, so I remember that when things are hard when the next baby comes around, it's because that's just the way it is, not because I'm lazy or some kind of failure. I also mention it again as hopefully an encouragement for any of you other mamas out there in the trenches with little ones who aren't natural neat-freaks. It won't always be this hard. Life won't always feel out of control. Time will pass. Kids will grow. Things will get better. Hang in there. Don't be too hard on yourself. Ask for help when you need it. Pray daily, giving Him your worries and needs, and He will provide.


bobbi said...

Hi Colleen, I'm new to your blog but have been enjoying it so far. I LOVE this post since I could so easily relate. I have been cleaning/purging all day. (I paid my sister to nanny for me this week so I could catch up on the house!) Thanks for the post and the book & app recommendation. I'm going to check them out. God bless!

Colleen said...

Thanks for stopping by, Bobbi! I checked out your blog -- It's beautiful! Your family is precious and it's so nice to find another mama of four!

Lillian said...

Yeah!! Baby steps, baby steps!

Colleen, you strike me as a delegator. Just wait until your kiddies are older. Picking up will become easier because you'll have the indentured servitude of your children! ;-)

One thing that works well for us is to have one time a week (Friday evening or Saturday morning)when we clean as a family. Everybody, including Craig, helps me clean the entire downstairs and their rooms. We do this every week (in addition to their daily pick up chores). That has been a tremendous help to me. It also helps the kids realize how much work it takes to clean so they start to take more care of their own messes.

Craig likes to play loud music, make teams and race (1 parent, 1 big kid and 2 littles per team) against another team, etc.

When the house is beyond a quick pick up, I focus on the entrance. That way it gives the illusion of a clean house in case of a surprise visit from either of my moms.

Keep up the good work! I totally remember those days when my kids were younger!

Colleen said...

Thank you for your comment! I get so excited when I see a comment from you because you always have such wonderful wisdom and advice. You've been there and I love your to hear your perspective. God bless you and I hope you and all your kiddos are doing well!

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