Practical Dad

Cleaning Up:  Where Do I Begin?

Kids are time-intensive.  When they're young, you spend your time cleaning up the personal messes and keeping them on track.  When they're older, they can handle their own bodily functions but they still generate messes and dirty laundry like the Dallas Cowboys generate hatred in Philly.  Couple that with the various activities and there are weeks when the household work takes a back seat.  This weekend culminated in a spate of soccer tournaments, scouting and youth activities and I awoke this morning to a household that's adrift with debris.  Throw in a website that's behind on posts and a spouse who's work has taken her out for the better half of the month and things really are in chaos.  What can I do to effectively bring things back under control?

There are certain things that I've had to learn.

  • Take a few moments to lay out a plan on what has to be done.  On this particular day, I know that I need to pay attention to the website as well as do laundry and prepare a family dinner for about 5:30 this afternoon.  While the laundry is going, what else can I do? 
  • Multi-tasking.  Women really are better at multi-tasking than men but one can learn through time.  Devices such as washing machines and dishwashers are labor-saving after they're loaded, so take the time to get them moving first and then move onto other tasks while they're going.  Sorting laundry is time-consuming but once a load is going, I can move onto other items.
  • Understand that multi-tasking will generate chaos as piles of clothes await their turn.  Also understand that I'm not going to be able to handle any task to completion before moving on to the next item, as most men like to do.
  • Take a moment to think after shifting to a new task.  In my case, this is my second effort at this article.  I've already done several loads of laundry and cleaned the kitchen while returning to the laptop to write new bullet points and I didn't take the time to remember that the posting software won't hold the work for more than an hour  unless I remember to periodically save the writing.  So an article that was more than three quarters complete was lost and I'm now on the second take.
  • Think about what tasks can be passed off to the children.  Part of growing up is learning to care for things and that includes such household tasks as bathrooms, dusting and vacuuming.  The trade-off is that I might not have it done exactly the way that I'd do it, but it's still done and they've contributed.
  • Look for little things to physically carry with me as I move from one part of the house to another.  I'm presently sitting at the dining room table and noting that Youngest's toys are clustered on the living room sofa instead of the family room while Eldest's shoes are at the base of the steps.  When I leave this spot, I'll take the toys to the family room - which adjoins the laundry - and then take the shoes upstairs when I next go upstairs.  I could wait for the kids to come home, but the reality is that kids and teens have wildly short attention spans and it's immensely frustrating to constantly remind them to take this or carry that.  This is definitely a case of picking the battles since I'd rather have them spend the time handling the bathroom and dusting.
  • Re-evaluate the plan through the course of the day.  Kids get sick or other issues arise that require time and attention and it's frustrating to get to the end of the day and not have accomplished what you wanted. 

Finally, I've had to learn that these tasks and chores are a process instead of singular tasks or projects that can be completed, like a wood project or car repair.  That change in mindset will make the work infinitely more acceptable.

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