Ten Guideposts to a Clean Home and Happy Family
As a stay at home mom of twins, I get asked a lot of questions. Of all the questions that I get asked, one of them, by far, is the leader of the pack: How do you get so much done in a day?!
Here is a quick summary of the Drager Dwelling so you have a clearer understanding of what my work week looks like. We live in a 3000 square foot home with four bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, and we have converted the house to be all hard floors except one room (curse that carpeting!). We have two cats that shed non-stop and a dog who, thankfully, doesn't shed. We also live on 1.2 acres that is mostly grass. We primarily eat home cooked meals, I am a stickler for cleanliness, and we have a jam packed schedule between my husband, myself, and the kids.
By no means is my method the end all be all! I have tweaked our schedule many times over the last (almost) two years. The kids have dropped naps, I stopped slaving to my pump, and we have worked diligently to carve out "me time" for both Bryan and myself. I think every household has it's own clock to run by but I am a drill sergeant when it comes to our daily schedule, especially the schedule as it pertains to our kids. It is my belief that kids crave structure and routine. Our kids have a good feel for how their days unfold and it keeps all of us ready for the transitions in routine. Without further adieu, here are my Ten Guideposts to a Clean Home and Happy Family!
1. Our Monthly Calendar
At the end of every month, Bryan and I sit down and fill out our monthly calendar. Ours is a dry erase board that holds six weeks so we always move the last week of the current month to the top and carry on with the next month so we have a forward glance at what is to come. We color code everything that goes on our calendar so we can easily locate work schedules, outings, appointments, and so on. You can find the calendar board we use here. It truly is a lifesaver!
2. Meal Plan Weekly
I have another dry erase board on my fridge where I write out our weekly meal plan. We eat leftovers every Monday and Thursday as those are the nights that Bryan and I take our "Me Time" (more to come on this later). I bought my board in the same place that steals some of my brain cells when I wander through aimlessly almost weekly, the Spot Dollar section at Target. It's nothing fancy but it allows me to be prepared and pull out meat to thaw the night before, try to spread out proteins, and mix in some meals I think the kids might (fingers crossed) eat with us.
3. Sunday Huddle
We are big football fans so I thought the title of this one was necessary.After the kids go down on Sunday night, Bryan and I sit down to hash out our week ahead. He tells me mornings he needs to leave earlier than usual and nights he will be home later than usual. We talk through gaps in the schedule where I have appointments and he can't be here with the kids so we can get coverage (my in-laws, aunts and uncles, our regular college babysitters, etc). We also figure out where projects and yard work will work into the schedule as needed. Sunday huddle is an absolute MUST in our house!
4. Kids' Schedule
I work, admittedly obsess a bit, to keep our kids on a pretty tight schedule. There is a lot of flexibility within the time blocks but the blocks are pretty rigid and I don't like to move them much. Our kids are great sleepers, are very pleasant an overwhelming majority of the time, and eat well at most meals. I like to think that is thanks to the schedule we keep them on. It is something I strive for daily and it has served our family well! This is what their day currently looks like:
5. Nap Productivity!
When my kids lay down for nap I kick my butt straight into high gear. I never go outside of the house until I know they have settled and are asleep so I always knock out my indoor work first. From the moment I close their door, I go straight into my cleaning task for the day. Once that is completed, I grab the day's load of laundry out of the dryer and bring it downstairs to the couch. I make my lunch, take it to the living room, turn on Hulu or Netflix and decide between watching my binge worthy show at the moment (currently Grey's) or watch the newest episode of the Bachelor/Bachelorette since Bryan refuses to watch that with me, obviously his loss!
Once that load of laundry is folded and I have relaxed a bit, I fill the kids' water cups, fill their snack cups, set up for our afternoon free time activity, and find odds and ends to do from there. Seasonally, I will go out and putz in the yard. I also take on a lot of fun projects around the house or craft in my down time, sweep the garage, get the crumbs and trash out of my vehicle...I love to be busy!! When they wake, I feel equal parts fulfilled by the productivity and relaxed by the bit of down time.
6. Cleaning/House Schedule
When I was a little girl, my dad worked a regular 7-4 type of job and my mom was home during the day to get us off to school and as soon as we were out the door, she tended to the house. When we got home she got us snacks, started homework, and made dinner. When dad got home, the roles reversed and mom went to work while dad tended to our needs including bedtime routines. Looking back, man my parents worked HARD to ensure that my brother and I were fully provided for and looked after...by themselves! They were (and forever will be) shining examples of the kind of parent I aspire to be; selfless and dedicated to their little family.
I remember in those days that my mom adhered to a cleaning schedule that ensured that her weekly tasks were done and meals were prepared. When I became the CEO of our house, I decided that instead of reinventing the wheel to find a system that worked to fit ALL the things into my hectic day, I would adopt a cleaning schedule of my own. Every day of the regular work week, I focus on a different cleaning task during nap time so that our house stays clean to my standards.
If the kids refuse to nap, I go about my cleaning task for that day until I am done (usually less than an hour) and if they are still awake and fighting sleep, I go get them. I firmly believe that even if they aren't sleeping, their brains benefit from being in a dark room with no stimulus. There are days that the kids are sick, teething, whatever the case may be, and I don't get to my house work. The perfectionist in me has accepted that this is parenthood and I'd much rather excel at mom-ing than scrubbing toilets. Nonetheless, my cleaning schedule is my Stay At Home Mom Holy Grail and I stick to it like glue!
7. Things I Do Every Day
There are things that I make sure get done every day so that our house doesn't look messy. All the cleaning in the world won't keep the little messes from piling up each and every week! It sounds silly to most but one of the things that I pride myself on is the fact that our house is almost always presentable so that if someone were to stop by unannounced or we make last minute plans for a visitor, I don't have to fall apart in a puddle of shame over our house resembling some sort of ship wreck. The things I do daily to stay on top of the odds and ends include:
Make our bed (and some day the kids will do theirs too)
At least one load of laundry
Check trash cans
Scoop litter boxes (myself or Bryan)
Sweeper vacuum small messes on the floors
Wipe down the kitchen
Wash the kids' water cups
Clean up play area
Thaw meat for next night's dinner
Run the Roomba during bath and bedtime routine (this thing was worth every penny!)
There are also some things that I do weekly (usually during Monday's Tidy Time session) that are worth mentioning here because they go a long way in making sure our house doesn't look like a tornado hit it. They are small tasks that pile up if I don't tend to them weekly and they make a huge difference when they are done! Those tasks are:
De-smudge kitchen appliances
Clean out fridge
Deep clean the kids' booster chairs and trays
Clean the microwave
Bleach the sink and clean the garbage disposal
De-clutter (weekends are busy for us and I find that the weekend accumulates ALL OVER our house!)
Change the sheets on all beds (Sunday's)
8. The Early Bird Gets Enough Sleep...?
I have read and heard countless times that as a parent, we need to wake at least an hour before our earliest riser so as to get ahead of the day. I am not a morning person. AT ALL. My body likes to stay awake until midnight or later and wake at 8:00. Having kids and being a SAHM to said kids allows none of this! I have trained myself (and some days it's still a fight that I lose, but very rarely) to get up earlier than I even thought time existed. My alarm goes off at 4:50 AM.
Yup. Not my jam at all. But you know what is my jam? Hot coffee. So is stretching before my day starts, having time to crank out some business stuff before I get ready for the day. I also love being able to take my time getting ready, listening to my latest Audible pick, a TED talk, or one of my Podcasts. I toss in my daily load of laundry before I start getting ready so that when I am heading downstairs to greet the kids, I can get it in the dryer (this way it's ready to fold by the time I finish my daily cleaning task). I use nooks and crannies of my day to simplify everything. And here's the thing, it WORKS! I am in bed no later than 9:30 PM so that I am getting enough sleep to conquer my day!
9. Me Time
My husband and I firmly believe there are infinite benefits to taking time away from each other and the kids to do some self care. For him, this means taking every Thursday to bowl or play softball, depending on the season. He gets to see his guys and unwind with stupid talk (all guys do this, I'm sure of it). Every Monday, we have a college girl that comes to watch the kids from 3:30-5:30 PM so I can leave and start my "Me Time" and not have to wait for Bryan to get home. I usually run a couple errands kid free and then write to all of you! Sometimes that is in my office, sometimes it's in the comfort of my bed, and occasionally I will go somewhere to sound out the kids and comforts of my home to really dig in and write.
When you take care of yourself, it fuels you to do the things in life that feel mundane and repetitive. I have many moments of self care throughout my week as you can see in my weekly planner; it has been a game changer in reducing my anxiety and perfectionism. I like to read, I listen to Audible books while I clean and take walks with the kids. I love crafting and projects so I am sure to include those every week. I color code my planner so that I can easily locate what I am looking for and move on with whatever task I am on at the moment.
10. Team Work
Bryan works some very long days, and some short ones too, but the long ones require that he be gone up to twelve hours. That's a lot of time away from the kids for him. So, on a normal morning where he works normal human hours, he takes on their morning routine from the time that they wake until after they are dressed, teeth brushed, ready to seize the day! This is when I am getting ready for the day. It gives him some much needed time with the Duo while I mentally prep for what the day has in store for me.
When he gets home, he is back at it with the kids while I tidy up the house, clean up from supper, and unwind from my day with the kids; again, TODDLERS! He does baths, brushes teeth, does the whole bedtime routine. Around 7:00, I go into their room and we have that 30+ minute window together to read, do finger puppets, snuggle, and calm down. We put them down together and from the time their door closes until we go to sleep at 9:30, we have those two hours together. We work hard to keep all the plates spinning by finding a delicate balance with our home life. This is how most of our days look. The others are the early or late days for him and the nights when we each take our "Me Time".
We also make the kids chip in on team work. They are responsible for putting their chairs and milk cups away after eating, picking up their toys before nap and bed, and assisting us with little tasks such as feeding the animals. They also have their own functioning vacuum sweepers and Swiffer dusters and will occasionally help me switch laundry over if I don't have time before coming down to greet them in the morning. We want them to understand that each of us plays a role in keeping the house functioning and even at almost two, they have a role!
So there you have it, all my dirty little secrets to my well oiled At Home Mommy machine! There are days that I am counting down the minutes until Bryan gets home because it has just been one of those days where I am looking up moon phases and teething schedules. There are also days that seem to fly by and suddenly it is time to get dinner pulled together so we can all sit down to eat together. No matter the outcome of the day, I go in to it and come out of it the exact same way, by following these ten rules to keep this ship afloat.
Do you have a schedule you adhere to? Are you a mama who works outside of the house and has a schedule at home to stay on top of things? I'd love to hear how other mom's are conquering the world one task at a time because you never know, I might find a gem that tweaks my routine again!