Two Out of Three Ain’ t Bad

Slide the TP on a bat for easy carrying up the stairs!

Slide the TP on a bat for easy carrying up the stairs!

Something I’ve realized about having three children is that your workload definitely increases. More people in a house means more messes to clean up, more laundry to do, more groceries to buy. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely means more joy, too. I wouldn’t trade any member of my household for a clean bathroom. At least not on most days. Right now one of my biggest challenges is how to get what I need done on a daily basis, still have quality FUN time with the family, and take care of myself at the same time.

This predicament reminds me of some wisdom one of my college professors once shared with our class. When you’re trying to churn out [INSERT PROJECT NAME HERE] you need to make some compromises. It’s not possible to get everything done on time, under budget, and have it be of superior quality. At least not for mere mortals. You can get it done fast, you can do it on the cheap, and you can produce high-caliber stuff—but the rub is, you can only pick two of those at a time.  If you want something done quickly, you’re going to pay top dollar for it. If you want to save money and do it on the cheap, your [INSERT PROJECT NAME HERE] probably won’t earn rave reviews.

So in the honor of saving my sanity, I’ve decided that 2013 will be the year of “letting it go”. I might love a shiny, clean stove, but am I willing to get it at the cost of some playtime at the park? I’d love to get help to make mealtimes easier, but can I do it in a way that doesn’t break the bank?

I’ve decided to review my top four areas of concern over the next few posts and come up with strategies for either minimizing my time input, reducing the cost, or improving the quality and effectiveness of the outcome. Today’s challenge:


I’m one of those people who is okay with a little bit of clutter. I don’t mind a pile of folded clothes on the dresser or some shoes by the front door.  I do, however, mind dust bunnies along the baseboards, fingerprints on the windows, and I absolutely detest dishes in the sink. My house can be a bit cluttered, but it’s got to be clean. Before my third child was born, I used to devote one day a week to deep cleaning (cleaning up clutter—even piles of folded laundry—throughout the house, vacuum, sweep, and mop the floors, dust furniture, clean bathrooms, clean out fridge, scrub kitchen sink). This usually took me about  4-5 hours to do it properly. Now that I’ve got one more being in the mix and more “stuff” to manage, I’m struggling with how to maintain this level of input and still get the cleanliness outcome I want, while still making time for play—and, oh yeah—taking care of myself, too.

Option 1: Quick and Good

One obvious way to reduce my input is to simply lower my standards. If I spent less time cleaning, though, it’s counterintuitive to think that the outcome would be better than it is now. So, how can I spend less time and get a good outcome? I guess I could hire someone to help. That would definitely reduce my time input, but it wouldn’t be cheap. I’d want to use a reputable service that pays its employees well and uses non-toxic cleaning supplies. That’s likely to cost some coin. And considering I’ve recently left the workforce to stay home with my kids full-time, not the best option right now, but something to consider in the future if I can make the numbers work out.

Option 2: Quick and Cheap

Trying to keep the housecleaning up to my former standards definitely isn’t going to be quick, BUT, maybe what’s required here is not really a lowering of the standards, but of maximizing resources? When we were kids, my sisters and I had chores. A lot of them. When I was in the seventh grade I performed many of the chores I listed above under my weekly routine on a daily basis. Cinderella and step-mothers ring a bell?

Now I’m not about to pimp out my kids to scrub the toilets, but there must be some chores that take me time to do that I can reasonably offload to my two oldest children ages eight and four. Picking up their own toys/books/backpacks/etc. on a nightly basis and keeping their own rooms clean seem like no-brainers. I’ve already been doing this with limited success. The key to this option is to make it work consistently, with little interference from me, while also adding on chores that were previously performed by me. (See image above for the ingenious method the kids invented to help put toilet paper away.)

Option 3: Good and Cheap

Given the challenges of getting the kids to clean up after themselves without reminders and without parental involvement on a consistent basis, I’m inclined to think this option is just out of my reach. Can a job really be done well if it doesn’t require input on my side to remind (read: nag), or to follow-up and re-do it to my satisfaction?

The only way I can see this option working is if I let go of needing this to be done on my timeframe—or fast, if you will. Maybe I can give the kids a longer timeframe in which to finish a job, say, clean your room on Sundays instead of straightening it up every night? And maybe I can give myself a pass on some of the housecleaning jobs I do by simply “closing the door” and pretending it’s not there?  This option certainly would give the kids a reasonable timeframe in which to do their jobs, but it still requires me to find within myself the ability to ignore the unmade beds and the toys strewn about the house. This option does, however, offer the best opportunities for maximizing playtime. Maybe the key for me is to figure out what housecleaning chores, or which parts of the house, are most essential and create a more reasonable schedule. Every room can’t be clean every day. Maybe I could focus on those areas that need to be cleaned regularly (kitchen, bathrooms) and leave the clutter-clearing to once a week except for the foyer area that’s on display when you open the door.

After thinking about the possible options for making the most out of my time while maintaining the cleanliness of our house at a level I’d be happy with, it’s clear that some true compromises will be required. I’m going to research some best practices we can set up to help.

Got any ideas to share? Let me know. I’ll give a few things a try and report back in a future post.

One thought on “Two Out of Three Ain’ t Bad

  1. Pingback: Best Laid Plans | The Daily 500

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