Top 10 Tips for Managing Household Chaos

A friend from business school works full-time at Johnson & Johnson, travels several days a month, and has a long commute. Her husband's schedule is similar. They have two daughters in elementary school. The last time we ran into each other we shared notes on our nutty, totally unbalanced lives. The most hilarious stories centered around our lack of ability to execute minor (or major) household repairs. My friend confided that two of their house's three bathrooms were kaput -- and had been for over a year. We howled over how unlike our neat business school forecasts our lives have become and how nearly impossible it is to get to chores and repairs, to stay home for the plumber or electrician, to get our cars serviced and other increasingly non-essential essentials.

Which leads us to today's Top 10 Tips for Managing Household Chaos:

1. Groceries: Get 'em delivered or grocery shop at lunch. Let the dry goods sit in the car and bring in the cold stuff to the work refrigerator. You can't buy for a month -- but it really makes you feel productive for the day.

2. Hire a college student, elderly neighbor or your very own teenager to wait for the plumber, electrician, cable guy, and to take your car into the shop for those time-consuming repairs and check-ups.

3. Find a trustworthy handyman to take care of small household and yard repairs -- ideally someone reasonably priced, who could also handle minor "emergencies" (like a stopped toilet) that are urgent but time-consuming to fix.

4. Order everything imaginable online, in bulk to save on shipping costs, instead of going to the bricks-and-mortar store. Keep a list of "bookmarks" on your computer to provide easy access to an online drugstore, grocery store, etc.

5. Let relatives help during their visits. Be really nice to the handiest relative and invite him or her to visit often!

6. Get your kids to help. Even kids under five can have regular chores, like setting and clearing the table, feeding the dog and making their beds.

7. For those who travel a lot on business --scope out the few blocks around each destination for a bank, post office, nail salon, drug store or office supply store nearby. Don't wait until the weekend -- use the downtime on a trip to make a bank deposit, buy stamps, mail a package, pick up a birthday card or a pair of hose.

8. Set a routine (dishwasher runs every night, emptied every morning while the kids eat breakfast; laundry is done every Sunday night, etc.) That way nothing gets left undone and there's no fighting over who forgot.

9. Each parent takes one vacation day a year to oversee major repairs like plumbing, electrical work, minor construction. Schedule all appointments in advance for the same day for maximum efficiency.

10. Never let anything pile up to the point where it gets unmanageable and overwhelming. Clean as you go! In everything you do! When you cook, when you're getting ready in the morning, when you winding down at night. It's all about baby steps.

What are your tips for keeping your home an oasis instead of a crime scene?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  March 17, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Top Ten Tips
Previous: Dumb and Dumber | Next: Motherhood Take Two


Add On Balance to Your Site
Keep up with the latest installments of On Balance with an easy-to-use widget. It's simple to add to your Web site, and it will update every time there's a new entry to On Balance.
Get This Widget >>


Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



"Find a trustworthy handyman to take care of small household and yard repairs"

Besides, illegal aliens need to make a living too you know.

Posted by: GutlessCoward | March 17, 2008 7:15 AM

Oops, forgot to say first!

Posted by: GutlessCoward | March 17, 2008 7:17 AM

No unnecessary stuff in the house!

Posted by: chittybangbang | March 17, 2008 7:47 AM

OK, I wrote #10, and I live it, but that only takes care of keeping up with piles and minor cleaning. We've been slowly remodeling our house for 3 years, and we do the lion's share of the work. However, we got smart and have a wonderful team of experts consisting of an electrician, a plumber, and a handyman. They are vital. They get us through anything we're unequipped to handle. Things are much harder now that we have a child, so, when the grandparents come to visit, they take over baby and we furiously get construction stuff done. It's amazing how 2 people working get 3x as much done as 1 person. All of the decisions and troubleshooting happen on the fly, and 2 brains are definitely better than 1. What's not on the list is cooking/meals. You have to get 90% of the prep done on the weekends. Think out a menu, write a shopping list, get what you need, and prep. You can have that all done on a Sat or Sun morning before 10am. I also discovered Let's Dish this weekend. The process is a lot of fun with a friend, and the food is healthy and interesting. If you eat out a lot, this is a money saver. Otherwise, it may cost a bit more, but it saves a lot of time.

Posted by: atb2 | March 17, 2008 7:57 AM

Lots of fodder for us engineering types here.

1. Groceries: Get 'em delivered or grocery shop at lunch. Let the dry goods sit in the car and bring in the cold stuff to the work refrigerator. You can't buy for a month -- but it really makes you feel productive for the day.

Or: do it Saturday morning before the stores get crowded. Saturday I was up at 6:30, spent a couple hours getting the softball fields ready for program use, then hit Costco, Target and Safeway. Back home before 10, which means that the Costco, Target, Safeway part of the run took about 90 minutes total. Have a list, stick to it.
When it comes to food, I'd rather buy it in person than on-line.

2. Hire a college student, elderly neighbor or your very own teenager to wait for the plumber, electrician, cable guy, and to take your car into the shop for those time-consuming repairs and check-ups.

For the car, find a mechanic you fully trust and do all your business with him. Our guy is good and honest - he ain't cheap but you get what you pay for. Since we bring three cars to him, he's more than happy to schedule us at our convenience, to give rides to work or come pick us up, etc.

3. Find a trustworthy handyman to take care of small household and yard repairs -- ideally someone reasonably priced, who could also handle minor "emergencies" (like a stopped toilet) that are urgent but time-consuming to fix.

Stopped toilets: buy a drain snake at Home Depot, Lowe's or your favorite local department store. They cost 20 - 30 dollars. Clogged toilets take two minutes to unclog. Also, teach your teenage daughters that used tampons WILL OFTEN clog the toilet and when that happens THEY, not Dad, will get the drain snake and unclog it.


4. Order everything imaginable online, in bulk to save on shipping costs, instead of going to the bricks-and-mortar store. Keep a list of "bookmarks" on your computer to provide easy access to an online drugstore, grocery store, etc.

Amen to that.

5. Let relatives help during their visits. Be really nice to the handiest relative and invite him or her to visit often!

Another Amen.

6. Get your kids to help. Even kids under five can have regular chores, like setting and clearing the table, feeding the dog and making their beds.

And another.

7. For those who travel a lot on business --scope out the few blocks around each destination for a bank, post office, nail salon, drug store or office supply store nearby. Don't wait until the weekend -- use the downtime on a trip to make a bank deposit, buy stamps, mail a package, pick up a birthday card or a pair of hose.

Some of this can be done. A woman I used to work with used to pay all her bills, balance her checkbook, etc. on the flight to Phoenix and back. The bank stuff assumes that you have an account at a big, national bank; I don't.

8. Set a routine (dishwasher runs every night, emptied every morning while the kids eat breakfast; laundry is done every Sunday night, etc.) That way nothing gets left undone and there's no fighting over who forgot.

Can I get an Amen from the congregation?

9. Each parent takes one vacation day a year to oversee major repairs like plumbing, electrical work, minor construction. Schedule all appointments in advance for the same day for maximum efficiency.

Alternatively, telecommute on those days when you're waiting for repair folk. This also applies to 2, above.

10. Never let anything pile up to the point where it gets unmanageable and overwhelming. Clean as you go! In everything you do! When you cook, when you're getting ready in the morning, when you winding down at night. It's all about baby steps.

Or lower your standards. Tolerate a degree of messiness.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 17, 2008 8:09 AM

Keep things simple.

If your schedule/life is that out of control that the household and your family are being neglected too much; then a re-balance is necessary.

Posted by: cyntiastmancom | March 17, 2008 8:09 AM

Is anyone else really irritated with this woman who would rather share ONE bathroom than take the time to have the others repaired?

Clearly, things are out of control in her life and she needs to re-balance.

Posted by: germantchr2 | March 17, 2008 8:16 AM

Use online banking and bill pay -- your mortgage, rent, car payment and other recurring transactions can be set up and direct debited. When the credit card bill comes it takes a matter of minutes to schedule the transaction on the due date. I don't have kids and this feature saved me this month. (Though I forgot to write paid on the bill so there was a bit of panic until I logged in and saw the debit out of my account).

I used to do more shopping out of town than in town when I traveled for work. I also took advantage of lower prices for certain services in bigger cities such as LA and NYC (nails especially).

Stand over the trash with your mail - throw away the exterior envelopes from bills, the catalogues you don't need, etc. and minimize the number of times you have to touch the same stack of paper.

Posted by: tntkate | March 17, 2008 8:21 AM

In my house, we do Cinderella Saturday. We clean the house on Saturday morning and go do something fun in the afternoon. Our house isn't that big and we each have a job. Our 3 year old loves it.

I'm also a fan of The Fly Lady. She recommends your number 10. Baby steps. You can do anything for 15 minutes and stop being a perfectionist. So, get up and get it done. (I think that was my mother speaking.)

Groceries: Peapod and Washington's Green Grocer. I started having them delivered when my daughter was a baby. I've always hated grocery shopping, so I don't think I could go back.

Posted by: bdreesbach | March 17, 2008 8:28 AM

Agree with all but #9. One day??? How about one week--that's a little more realistic?

Posted by: trishat40 | March 17, 2008 8:31 AM

I have to admit that I just live with the mess. If I can keep the sink clean and my clothes put away then I pretty much call it a good week. My husband has done a pretty good job recently of stepping up to the plate since he works less hours and I make do with that.

And for the person that said... just re-balance your life if things are being neglected... would you care to pay some of the bills so I can do that? And no... we don't live luxuriously as attested to by our older, small condo and 12 year old car.

And for those of you who know a bit about me and might want an update... my husband is studying to write the entrance exam for an electrician's apprenticeship with the local union. Supposedly he is writing the exam on the 27th so please keep us in your prayers. If he gets accepted into this program, we could be a turning a huge financial corner and maybe even a relationship corner.

Posted by: Billie_R | March 17, 2008 8:34 AM

"What are your tips for keeping your home an oasis instead of a crime scene?"

Exceedingly low standards.

On-line groceries: I'm lukewarm. Haven't been super happy with quality of produce, and haven't yet figured out proper quantities to buy (last time ended up with 3 bananas instead of 3 pounds, and 6 giant heads of broccoli). Don't like the 4-hr delivery window. And I'm cheap, so I don't like paying the delivery fee and not being able to use my coupons. Plus they're usually out of at least one or two critical things, so I end up having to go to the store anyway. But my Safeway is 1/4 mi. from my daughter's school, so it's usually easy enough to pop in for a quick run once a week. One thing that does work for me is to write my list in the order of the aisles.

I'm also impressed with 9: if you can get it all done in one day, more power to you. If I get the kids in for their checkups, that's 2-3 hrs; juggling that with getting the car serviced and having repairmen come to the house (with their typical 4-hr window) just ain't gonna cut it. I could really use a week off to get everything done.

Of course, the problem with that approach is that a week gives you enough time to get into more trouble. Just ask my husband -- he was going to use his Christmas shutdown to finish stuff up, and instead he decided to rip apart the downstairs bathroom, because when else was he going to have enough time to "make progress" on that next project? :-)

Posted by: laura33 | March 17, 2008 8:40 AM

Is anyone else really irritated with this woman who would rather share ONE bathroom than take the time to have the others repaired?

Clearly, things are out of control in her life and she needs to re-balance.

Posted by: germantchr2 | March 17, 2008 08:16 AM

uh, No. Not only that, He**, no. Since when did sharing a bathroom become unacceptable? We didn't all grow up in McMansions, and some of us can differentiate between the big stuff, e.g., water leaking from the shower into the living room, from the merely inconvenient, e.g., the commode in the kids' bathroom needs to be fixed.

She's made the rational decision that the household can function for an extended period of time with one bathroom. If that wouldn't be your choice, so be it, but reacting to someone else's minor life choice by being "really irritated" makes me wonder what other minor things in life are causing you to blow a gasket.

Posted by: mn.188 | March 17, 2008 8:50 AM

HIRE my own teenager to do chores? What kind of crazy talk is that? If I have to pay him to do chores, I'm going to start charging room and board...

Posted by: mucus99 | March 17, 2008 8:58 AM

I like online groceries, but they won't prevent chaos if it isn't coupled with a solid menu list.

While some don't like eating the same thing for dinner every week, a set menu plan can reduce uncertainty in those after work hours.

I've gotten good tips on cleaning from the flylady web site.

http://www.flylady.net/index.asp

Sometimes a little bit every day is all it takes.

Posted by: RedBird27 | March 17, 2008 8:59 AM

Thinking about Leslie's friend with the bathrooms that were out of order - what exactly was wrong with them? There are precious few things in a bathroom that can't be fixed by Harry or Harriet Homeowner.

Toilets, for example. If they're clogged, get the drain snake I mentioned above and they're unclogged in two minutes. If the flush mechanism is broken, a new handle, chain, lever arm, flapper, and/or float valve can be gotten from any hardware store for less than 20 bucks (unless you want the solid brass ones) and you're done in 20 minutes. Broken seat? A new seat, a Phillips-head screwdriver and you're done. About the only thing related to a toilet that CAN'T be fixed by an occupant is a broken wax seal, and then I suspect your house smells so foul that you're calling a plumber quickly.

Similarly with a sink. The whole faucet assembly can be replaced using a wrench (or pair of pliers if you're desperate), for as little as you'd like to spend. A stopped up drain is another quick fix - wrench and a bucket, and/or drain snake.

Showers and bathtubs might be a little harder because leaks sometimes happen behind the wall. But then you've got a real issue, because by the time you discover the problem you've already had leakage down into your walls, and just living with the problem means that you're allowing all the mold & mildew to grow. Think what happened after Katrina, with the mold in all those houses - that's what you're willing to live with? Trust me, if that's the problem you've got you need to bite the bullet and get it fixed, stat.

So unless there's some other problem I'm not aware of, then, yes, I think Leslie's friend IS being irrational in not fixing a bathroom in over a year.

(Disclaimer: I'm not a plumber. I worked at a plumbing supply wholesaler while in high school; that's all. This stuff ain't rocket science. Just remember that it's all supposed to flow downhill.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 17, 2008 9:11 AM

ArmyBrat -- That was my favorite post of yours to date (which is saying a lot). You covered it all. Thanks.

I am a master toilet unclogger and those snaky things (plus the super duper plungers that look like car tires) really work.

And my apologies about not having the tip about cooking in advance -- someone did send it in, plus the tip to get a huge second freezer for the basement to store cooked food. It somehow got lost along the way.

Posted by: leslie4 | March 17, 2008 9:15 AM

"3. Find a trustworthy handyman to take care of small household and yard repairs -- ideally someone reasonably priced, who could also handle minor "emergencies" (like a stopped toilet) that are urgent but time-consuming to fix."
Where do you find one of these? My husband has easily spent a week's worth of time researching, calling, setting up appointments, getting stood up on appointments, and getting wild bids from scores of handymen. If anyone can recommend someone in the Arlington, VA, we would be eternally grateful!

Posted by: S1234P | March 17, 2008 9:17 AM

I have to laugh about the bathroom... I have had two partial bathrooms (different combinations of sink/toliet/shower functioning) for longer than I will admit to the blog. As with atb -- the problem is we are doing the work ourselves -- the demolition gets done swiftly but the reconstruction drags on. That said I agree with Army Brat -- pay attention to this stuff because it can cost you... I had a slow leak in one of my toliets and didn't realize it (was during a heavy travel period) until the water bill came.

Posted by: tntkate | March 17, 2008 9:25 AM

OT to Irish Girl: Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

And to everybody else too!

Posted by: Lil_Husky | March 17, 2008 9:29 AM

For handymen:

1. Craigslist.

2. Most cities have a paid service you can join for something like $25 a year that provides personal references of other homeowners.

3. The real estate agent who sold you your house, or the house painter or carpenter you hired, are also great sources for referrals. They know the reputation of the locals over time - something your buddy who hires someone once can't know.

and everything ArmyBrat and Laura said.

Posted by: mn.188 | March 17, 2008 9:30 AM

Ooh, MN makes a really good point about the real estate agent. They tend to know all of the people who can do small but important jobs. They know who's good and who's not. And as importantly, they can call in favors for you. A lot of times, if you just need a small, low-cost job done, it's tough to get a handyman to come do it for you because they're prioritizing jobs by the money they make, and you're at the end of the queue. But for an agent who gives them tons of work over time, they'll fit something in as a favor.

Then the trick is finding the right real estate agent, who will do you the favor when you're not selling or buying. Find a good one, not somebody who's out for a quick buck. Look for somebody who's been in business for a long time. We owned rental property for a few years, and to buy and later sell the property we used an agent who we knew from church - who had also been in business for 30 years with a spotless reputation. She can call in favors to get any job done for you, and we stay friends. Plus, she knows that if we ever do go to sell our current house she's getting the listing.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 17, 2008 9:41 AM

In search of a handyman, I tried Craigslist and got three questionable estimates and not one would agree to signing a contract. I used my real estate agent's handyman three years ago and I'm still fixing up their mistakes.

If anyone has a reliable handyman that does not break your bank, please share!

Posted by: anicole72 | March 17, 2008 9:46 AM

Have a maid come in every other week or so. It's way cheaper than marriage counseling.

Posted by: RiverCityVA | March 17, 2008 9:48 AM

Cook on weekends, and eat leftovers during the week. I like to cook a really nice meal on Sundays, and I cook enough that I can warm things up on Monday. It also helps to cook something versatile. For example, I can roast a large chicken and have it with mashed potatoes and some veggies on Sunday night, and on Monday, we can do chicken burritos with the leftovers, just adding some beans, rice, and tortillas. And the next night, I can shred anything chicken that is leftover, and throw it in a pot with some staple veggies from the fridge, some chicken broth and pasta, and we have chicken soup. There are myriad things you can do with leftover chicken (can you tell we eat a lot of chicken?) Another thing we do is make lots of homemade spaghetti sauce, and one night have spaghetti, the next night, use the sauce to make lentil soup by just adding some broth and lentils, and even jazz it up for taco filling sometimes. If you have a few standard dishes that are versatile, they can save you a lot of cooking time, and still be delicious, healthy, and frugal.

Posted by: emily111 | March 17, 2008 10:06 AM

If you live in the sea
Fishing is free

Housework would never bother
You and me!

Chomp!

Posted by: nonamehere | March 17, 2008 10:20 AM

Three recent changes have calmed the chaos slightly.

We bought a 19cu ft freezer in the basement. We try to find healthy pre-made meals or healthy easy to make foods whenever we find good prices. We also buy meats and frozen vegetables in bulk when we find good prices.

Every Sunday we write down the weeks meals on a scheduling board in the kitchen next to who is responsible for dinner that night. Then we put everything in the refrigerator that needs to be defrosted. It is amazing how much stress we eliminated by getting rid of the last minute dinner decisions.

One other thing we have done is one of us takes the kids to visit grandparents for the weekend while the other stays home and takes care a list of predetermined tasks, but also gets a well deserved break, then we switch a few weeks later. I think this may become an annual event.

Posted by: Augustmom | March 17, 2008 10:20 AM

I second the one about being careful about recommendations from your real estate agent. He recommended someone to fix my leaking toilet. Let's just say that I paid him and then paid myself to do it again. I watched him do it and learned how to do it. Good thing since I ended up doing it myself.

For the person interested in a recommendation for Arlington, VA. I have a list that is used by a group of residents in Oakton. I have never had need to use this list (thank goodness) but I could send it to you... maybe through Leslie?

Posted by: Billie_R | March 17, 2008 10:23 AM

Amazing how much relatives can help, even when they live far away.

My MIL sends shipments of frozen homemade food (she's an incredible cook and let's just say I'm not) several times a year, packed in dry ice.

My sister-in-law has three kids under 8. Her father lives in Austria and comes for two weeks or so each year. He fixes everything, organizes her basement, builds furniture...even once dug a small swimming pool in the backyard.

It really does take a village.

Posted by: leslie4 | March 17, 2008 10:25 AM

I have fixed a couple of toilets long distance. One in Fla and one in Turkey (the nation of.)

Amazing that kids can take phone pixs of broken plumbing and send them to dear old dad instantaneously from half way around the world!

Guess I need to "tech up!"

Posted by: fred | March 17, 2008 10:56 AM

Fred -- In my 20s I used to call my dad with every house emergency. My favorite was one time in New England at 11 pm in mid-January my furnace went kaput. Could not fix it for my life. Dad told me to turn on every light bulb in the house. The warmth emitted would keep the house warm enough that night so the pipes would not freeze before the furnace repair guys arrived. No idea how he knew this.

Glad to know you are using the Internet and camera technology to good advantage!

Posted by: leslie4 | March 17, 2008 11:11 AM

Fred: "Guess I need to "tech up!" "

Fred, you're the uber-geek when: DS can have trouble with his C++ program, take a screenshot with his cell phone, send it to you while you're in Hong Kong, and you can come back with "of course; you're problem's in the fourth line. That should be == instead of = ." You type the correction into your computer so he really understands what you mean, and send the screenshot back.

DS has not questioned my capabilities since then. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 17, 2008 11:15 AM

ArmyBrat - I know you might have been just silly, but I've done the screen debug...for oldest's BA thesis...I was in Singapore and debugged his program...I'm a uber-geek and proud of it.

MN - I have no problem with only using one toilet, though I admit to having problems with two broken toilets. I mean, really, if their life is so busy they can't fix a toilet...especially since it can be one of life's easiest chores. I'm with ArmyBrat.

#3 kid changed brakes on the car he's using nowadays...He had some supervision help...but he had to do it himself. There are a lot of things people can learn to do themselves with only some effort. There is some upfront time to teaching, but it is well worth the time in the long term.

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 17, 2008 11:38 AM

a thought - blast away -

if your life is spent reacting, then start reacting by rebalancing. Life's too short to waste in a state of constant panic or feelings of inadequacy.

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 17, 2008 11:46 AM

"No idea how he knew this."

What can I say Leslie? As I get older, my kids are astounded about how much more intelligent I become every year!

(not that I say I told you so, but it is sweet to hear, "Dad, you were right about that!"

Posted by: fred | March 17, 2008 11:57 AM

I forgot to mention: the one thing I've started to splurge on a bit is a make-your-own-dinner place for a couple nights a week. It's not as cheap as full homemade, but it's a lot cheaper than takeout, and it at least involves real food, without a lot of crap thrown in.

But the big surprise was how much it simplified my life -- I knew the cooking part would be easier, and I really enjoyed "cooking" in a place with everything pre-chopped and someone else doing cleanup. But I didn't anticipate how much pressure it took off the menu planning/grocery shopping part of it. My husband doesn't like (a) slow-roasted anything, (b) leftovers, or (c) poultry; on the other hand, he loves flavor, ethnic foods, and lots and lots of novelty. I didn't even realize how much mental effort I was spending trying to come up with a slew of different, flavorful beef, pork, and lamb dishes every night until I didn't have to do it any more. I still remember the shock of the first grocery list after I'd gone -- milk, eggs, diapers, kids' lunch, fruit/veggies -- boom, done. Took 5 minutes to think about and 15 minutes to buy -- all the time thinking, "ok, what am I forgetting?" :-)

I don't do it all the time, because I still like to cook. But it's a huge difference only having to figure out what to cook a couple nights a week (I always have a couple of ideas pop into my head without even having to think about it) -- plus, I know that I've always got stuff in the freezer as a backup for a hugely nasty week. Added bonus: he and kids like fish, but I don't, so I never cooked it because I didn't know how and didn't feel like investing the effort in something I don't eat. Now I have built-in fish dinners for them. Double added bonus: when I make the 6-serving ones, I have leftovers to eat all week at work.

Posted by: laura33 | March 17, 2008 12:11 PM

Life's too short to waste in a state of constant panic or feelings of inadequacy.

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 17, 2008 11:46 AM

I second this comment, dotted, and would add "guilt" to the list.

Congratulations on your Number #1 seed! (I am counting on all the UNC fans in the office. I could clean up simply by picking UCLA to win it all. That would be nigh unto impossible in any other office pool, LOL.)

laura, I'm in agreement with your husband on 2 out of 3. No crock-pots and no poultry. On the other hand, there are no meal planners in my house, and we rarely eat out, so no $$ are saved with meal-making services PLUS it would add another weekly appointment to one of our calendars. We generally open the fridge around 6:30 p.m., pick the most appealing of the options and go on with life.

anicole, On what basis did you decide the estimates were questionable? If you're determined to sign a contract with every person who provides a service for $80, I'm not surprised they decided it wasn't worth the potential hassle to work for you. There's nothing that makes good, available workmen run faster than a woman who (a) wants an estimate in writing, then (b) comes across like she's looking for someone to sue if he breathes wrong on her begonias. They're not building you a deck; they're handling a minor household repair.

Posted by: mn.188 | March 17, 2008 12:45 PM

I don't know how families where both parents work and the kids are in day care do it. We had a nanny for a while, and now an au pair - they both could stay home and wait for repair people, deliveries, etc. Both DH and I work close to home, too, so we can be there if need be.

I like these ideas! Thanks for them! re: handyman: I even told DH that he should want to do that for a living, cause he can do a lot of the things people ask for, and it seems to find a competent person who will show up and do what he/she says would bring some nice money, since it's so hard to find. He says: when he retires...:)

We have some rental properties, so finding someone to do stuff is very good.

Re: dinners - our au pair and our former nanny would surprise us with dinner a lot. Which is great. Cause we'd usually have leftovers and whatever I was thinking of in my head would be good for the next night. The boys are growing, though, and I'm not sure we'll be able to keep feeding them! Fortunately, they will soon enough be able to get their own food.

We don't eat much meat (I don't at all - which is why we don't at home, I do most of the buying and preparing) - but fish dinners (if you can get the fish - always want it fresh) - are easy - bake a potato, steam some veggies (or my new fave - roasting with oil, salt and pepper). Then you have a meal...works with chicken or beef too...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | March 17, 2008 12:56 PM

re: living in a state of crisis: I totally agree. It's no way to live if you can do something else...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | March 17, 2008 12:57 PM

Efficiency? Ahahaha. I just live in filth and squalor. I only clean when the dust bunnies get bigger than tumbleweeds.

Posted by: kea_ | March 17, 2008 1:12 PM

MN -- yeah, apparently he had a traumatic childhood experience with his mom's pot roast. :-) Although it bugs me that he hates the taste of GOOD slow-cooked stuff, too (homemade beef stew, lamb shanks, etc). Seems like baby and bathwater to me -- but then again, I won't touch anything that once lived in water, so who am I to judge? :-)

atlmom -- with you on the roasted veggies. I also mix in a few tablespoons of parmesan over the top before sticking it in the oven.

Posted by: laura33 | March 17, 2008 1:18 PM

"if your life is spent reacting, then start reacting by rebalancing. Life's too short to waste in a state of constant panic or feelings of inadequacy."

Dotted, you rule!

For me, the state of the household is a direct reflection of the state of my mind, it's like the fung shui (sp?) only works in reverse - when I am in a good state of mind, I will live less chaotically without really thinking about it. When I am in a bad state of mind, things descend into chaos, but cleaning up has no noticeable effect on my mentality.

And of course all of this variation takes place on a level of cleanliness that is probably sub-par for most, LOL!

Posted by: LizaBean | March 17, 2008 1:45 PM

Serious question about hiring a maid. We desperately need to hire a maid, but my wife REFUSES to even consider the idea. She is seven months pregnant with our second child. I work and am finishing up a degree. My wife works two (!) jobs from home. The house is a mess. I'm tired (or lazy) and don't want to come home to wash dishes, fold laundry, clean bathrooms. I make sure the trash is out. I make sure that laundry gets done (folded and put away is anopther issue) and am willing to bring home dinner even if it puts us in the poor house.

My wife says she's a failure if she can;t keep the house clean on her own. How can I get her to change her mind on this? All I ask is a maid to come in once a week to help out with things like laundry folding, vaccuming and cleaning the kitchen. We aren't rich, but the mess depresses us both (her much more than me, but still). I feel like screaming when I come home and find her on her hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor because neither one of us has mopped it in the past two weeks. Talk about making me feel like Public Enemy No. 1 -- my VERY pregnant wife hand scrubbing a floor?! Like I'm some neanderthal who demands a clean house, clean kids and dinner on the table when I come home.

PS
I am gone many weekends with work. So my weekends are not really available.

Posted by: NoKidding1 | March 17, 2008 2:08 PM

No kidding -- a few thoughts:

1. Consider that this may be in part pregnancy hormones. When I was preggo, everything emotional was so much more. So, for ex., you may think you're saying "I'm worried about the pressure you're putting on yourself," and she may be hearing "he's unhappy, I'm not good enough for him, he thinks I'm a failure." (this sounds completely stupid to any guy, and may not be it at all, but just throwing it out there, because I was definitely like this at times).

2. Some women have a very strong nesting instinct while pregnant -- a friend of my husband's was 100% intent on redoing their entire linen closet (down to the shelving) despite the fact she was due in 2 days and maybe shouldn't have been standing on a ladder, but she would not take no for an answer.

So for any number of reasons, this may just not be a time to push it -- even though it's just the time you need it. Which brings me to:

3. Do you know someone to whom you could suggest that a maid service would be a heckuva great baby present? She'll still be emotional, but she may be more open if it comes from a friend and not you. And maybe, once the baby comes, she'll just be too exhausted to keep fighting about it. :-)

4. If you want/need to keep pursuing it now, really pay attention to what she's telling you about WHY she's so averse. What she's doing is meeting some sort of need she has, so you need to hear what that is and come up with some other ways for her to get there. I know I had a BIG problem hiring a cleaning service, because my family had always been proud to do for ourselves; having "servants" was what rich people did and felt wrong. Unfortunately, dusting tended to send me into asthma attacks. It took my mother telling me she was going to hire a maid for me, and pay for it herself, to make me realize that it was really stupid to let those old perceptions push me into risking my health.

Posted by: laura33 | March 17, 2008 2:35 PM

I too thought I would be uncomfortable with a house cleaner. My husband talked me into it (on a trial basis) one month before I ended up on 8 weeks of bed rest with my second pregnancy -- what a god send! I love it now -- couldn't imagine not having help.

Funny story -- when our oldest was 3, she was evaluated by a speech therapist. The evaluation consisted of my daughter being asked to name different objects that the therapist showed her in pictures. When my daughter was shown a picture of a vacuum cleaner, she had no idea what it was!

Posted by: S1234P | March 17, 2008 2:47 PM

Can I ditto Laura? Get a friend to suggest or give as a gift...I'm sure nokidding doesn't mean it, but it is likely his wife feels he is trashing her abilities around the home.

OT to MN - I was at the Top of the Hill for the games. Big fun was had by all. Though, in fact, Clemson is one of my recent faves. They just show heart.

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 17, 2008 2:51 PM

Well, I have no idea what the problem with her toilet may be, but I had to replace one. Learned all about the wax ring, etc. It was a hassle though, and having to dispose of the old used one...ick. We have more than one full bathroom, but one gets a great deal more use by the majority of the family than the other. More convenient, or something. Prettier?

I find ordering in bulk to be counter to suggestion #10. More stuff to clutter up, if there's a hole you may find creepy crawlies that will render it unusable for you. Might be okay for the dog, cat, bird-brigade though.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to those who celebrate it.

MM

Posted by: maryland_mother | March 17, 2008 3:46 PM

Army Brat~ Your suggestion about the do it yourself is a good one, but some people (like me!) are not very handy.

Our toilets needed the insides changed, so I tried to do it myself. It turns out that I cracked the base in both of the toilets, and a $20 project eneded up costing us hundreds. So... now I pay people to do things, even the simple stuff. The toilet example isn't the first time I've tried to do something simple and ended up paying a (relative) fortune to have someone come in and clean up my mess.

Posted by: sandiego_mama | March 17, 2008 4:35 PM

For those looking for handymen -- there's a company called Handyman Matters, with local franchises that we've used in both NoVa (Fairfax) and western Pennsylvania (helping out the parent from afar) with good results. They charge by the hour, and you can either provide the supplies or they'll buy them with a small markup and charge for the trip time to Home Depot. We save up a list and get multiple things all done at once, a couple of times a year. Last time was installing programmable thermostats, changing an overhead light fixture, and cleaning out the lint clogging the attic dryer vent. Could have done it ourselves, but it would have taken multiple weekends instead of 3 hours...

Posted by: marinn | March 17, 2008 4:41 PM

to Nokidding: I know your wife is pregnant, but maybe she should be tested for depression? Or Obsessive compulsive disorder? Either of those are possible.

If she thinks she is a failure because she can't clean the house while pregnant with child number two and having two jobs, then perhaps talking with her doctor/getting a referral for a therapist is in order?

Or, you could send a maid down here! I take any and all help I can get!

Posted by: atlmom1234 | March 17, 2008 4:58 PM

These are great tips. Mine is to use a slow cooker but I see some people object. We stick to good soups and stews, but yes sometimes it is - boring. :)

Nokidding: try asking her if she would expect a nanny/her coworkers to clean while they worked. Getting help is not a moral failing!

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | March 18, 2008 9:44 AM

I could not survive without my trusty housecleaner - she even washes, folds, and puts away the linens! I used to have a cleaning "service" (I use the word advisedly) - they only did what was on their list, not one thing more. With M if I occasionally ask her to do something extra, she does.

I am admittedly bad about pre-planning menus. The best I can do is make enough so we have leftovers for another night. But my kids WILL NOT eat leftovers of any kind - so I end up making (or having them make) something else! It's SO annoying. But at least hubby and I can eat it twice (or I take to work for lunch). And we still eat out way too much.

Posted by: lorenw507 | March 18, 2008 10:47 AM

test

Posted by: test | April 7, 2008 3:02 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2007 The Washington Post Company