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Old 03-09-2008, 02:49 PM
672 posts, read 5,821,434 times
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I'm a married woman in my early 30's who works and I am interested in hearing about how others manage their households. We moved last summer from a small apartment to a rented house, and with a larger sized place I'm having trouble getting everything done.

How do working parents do it? Managing a household is hard work! And we don't even have kids! When do you get all the chores done? I don't like saving it all for a weekend day, because then that cuts into a time that should be for relaxing.

I know I need to be more efficient, but I'm not sure what I should be doing. Managing a household was so much easier with a small apartment. Here are some of my main problem areas, that I'd love to hear others' thoughts on:

1) Food. We try to do meal planning and only go to the grocery store once a week, but this never works. Either the meals we want to try end up sucking, or we end up having to go back to the grocery store a couple of times to get more food. We need a repertoire of easy and healthy meals, but because I'm a vegetarian and my husband is not, we don't eat the same things usually, as he doesn't like my standbys, pasta, pizza and salads.

2) Chores. I try to stay on top of picking up and tidying, and I'm pretty good at that, but beyond that I'm terrible at staying on top of actual cleaning, except for the kitchen, which I do regularly. I usually spend about an hour a day tidying, and I'm too tired after work to do more than that. The laundry really piles up, because our washer is in the basement, and it's hard to always keep bringing clothes from the top floor down to the basement; as a result, we get a huge laundry buildup that we end up doing all in one day.

3) Smaller maintenance chores--I try to space these out, but there are so many we need to do! We still haven't unpacked about 10 boxes from moving here this summer. I have several closets that need to be organized. I have a bunch of other things that need to be sorted and organized; I try to break these into manageable jobs and do them one at a time, but there are so many of these kinds of things that need to be done, that it seems overwhelming at times.

Any thoughts/tips would be appreciated!
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Old 03-09-2008, 04:04 PM
Location: Lynbrook
517 posts, read 2,484,516 times
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Honestly, I have a cleaning lady every other week. Its an extravagance but I figure my time is worth the $85 it costs to have her come and do all those things I never find time to do - like mopping, dusting, windows, scrubbing the bath, etc.
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Old 03-09-2008, 04:27 PM
Location: Nebraska
4,176 posts, read 10,683,581 times
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See? Another reason to have children. Indentured servants until the age of 18!

Seriously, I can relate. After the kids moved out and hubby and I had this huge house, we had to do all of the work ourselves.

Suggestions - Pick days to dust and vacuum, two other days to do a run or two of laundry. Tuesdays and Fridays, at least 2 days a week. Break the chores into reasonable bites. Do you have a dishwasher? Load it and run it every night, no matter how many dishes you have.

As for meals - well, I don't know how to address the vegetarian thing, but there are all sorts of quick and easy 30 minute recipes on the Internet. I like Bon Appetit, they have great recipes for new and unusual stuff. You can start something in a crockpot in the AM and come home and it's done. You can cook a big meal on the weekend and freeze portions of it to microwave during the week. I do a big pot of soup, chili, or stew in the winter; it can last three days.

Big stuff has to wait for weekends so you don't get worn out. Do things together - if you wash towels, clean the bathtub and sink while they are washing. Then when you throw them in the dryer, you hang fresh towels and go to bed - you can always fold towels tomorrow night.
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Old 03-09-2008, 04:44 PM
Location: Chaos Central
1,122 posts, read 4,107,941 times
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I never plan meals more than 1-2 days in advance. I keep the freezer, fridge and cupboards stocked with all the foods we normally eat: chicken, vegetarian, soups, breads etc and have several variations of each dish to fall back on. For example, if you boil chicken breasts, you can eat them as-is with potatoes or rice and veggies, or pull them apart and serve over bread with fat-free gravy, etc. Chicken or turkey burgers can be served on rolls on in Mexican dishes. Sometimes we go vegetarian so that's even simpler. If you're near a Trader Joe's there are many healthy yet quick-to-prepare foods like 3-minute microwave brown rice.

Regarding chores, get into the habit of combining trips throughout the house, i.e., before you go from one room to another, look around and see if you need to bring anything from that room to wherever you are going. Don't leave the LR without snatching up any dishes and bringing them to the kitchen for example. Spending an hour a day just "tidying" is too much. You and your husband need to get into the habit of having a place for everything, and keeping everything in its place. Sound advice 50 years ago, still good today! Have a place to keep papers or magazines, for example, and put them away as you're going to bed each night. Have a place to stash bills to be paid. Have a place to put any bills or letters going out. Throw junk mail and other garbage into the trash or recycling bin immediately. Split up all the chores between yourselves so that each person knows what has to/should be done, and takes care of it without prodding

Laundry: get sorting baskets for upstairs and put your dirty clothes, towels, or bedding straight into them each day. About 2x a week go straight upstairs when you come home after work, take the stuff to the basement and put some loads in. You'll figure out how often and which stuff to do when in a couple weeks. You can vacuum or dust or start dinner while the laundry's getting done. Both of you should help fold the dry laundry and bring it back upstairs when you go to bed. Goes faster with 2 people.

Cleaning: keep a small set of cleaning supplies in each bath and the kitchen. Stick to products than can be used in multiple ways wherever possible. Wipe up spills promptly and thoroughly, and you can go longer between complete moppings. Use the most effective product you can safely use for your particular type of tub/shower, to make cleaning it as easy and quick as possible.

I'd like to have a cleaning lady but frankly I'd rather do everything myself than give part of my hard-earned money to someone else for doing it

And...um....dust? Not a priority for me; I keep table chatchkes to a minimum so most surfaces can be dusted without having to move dozens of little items, and I've been known to dust the bedrooms quickly with a towel or sock that's on its way to the laundry bin. If you keep up a little at a time, you never have to spend hours or half a day doing it all at once.
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Old 03-09-2008, 05:09 PM
Location: Western NC
651 posts, read 1,416,491 times
Reputation: 498
If you can afford a Roomba, it's worth every penny! They start out at around $120 new and go all the way to $599. My Roomba is scheduled to run everyday and keeps my floors very clean. This also helps to eliminate dust and your base boards will stay cleaner longer. I have 3 pets that shed everywhere and I don't know how I lived without Roomba. I also have a Scooba which mops my kitchen daily. Muddy dog paw prints on the floor are a thing of the past. The Scooba's a bit more expensive but worth the price. While my two little helpers are running, I'm free to tackle other tasks. Technology is great!
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Old 03-09-2008, 05:30 PM
Location: DC Area, for now
3,517 posts, read 13,257,254 times
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When do you get all the chores done?
I never do. I prioritize but everything never gets done. I've got a 3 hour daily commute on top of 9 hour days. There just isn't enough time in the day to do everything that needs to be done. I'm hoping after I retire that I'll be able to get the chores done so i can have some time for fun stuff.
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Old 03-09-2008, 05:37 PM
Location: Moon Over Palmettos
5,979 posts, read 19,891,469 times
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Excellent tips, y'all! OP, I can relate, but I have a husband that cooks dinner and does the groceries and lawn work. I too have lived in a house where the laundry was in the basement and 3 floors up and down takes its toll on you. Here's what I did then:

My first mantra, which I suggest you adapt fairly quickly, is a little dirt does not hurt!

Now, I have a tendency to "float" bills when I did the bill-paying. I would put the due date on the left corner of the bill envelope and arrange the bills in a sorter in chronological order at my desk and send them out about a week and a half before it is due. I also file bill stubs by date by vendor in hanging folders. Now when DH started doing it 2 years ago, he just designated 2 days of the month when he writes out all the bills. He now also reconciles the check book.

I tend to multi-task laundry. Once you throw a load in, you don't have to watch it. I put in little loads during the week, the ones that I don't care if they stay in the dryer overnight, like undies nd house clothes. My DH's clothes need to be hung straight out of the dryer so they have to be watched. I time the entire cycle b/w washing and drying. If I have that time, I will do it on a weekday, else it would have to wait for the weekend. Fridays are when I can stay up as late as I want to since I won't have to work the next day so it's a good candidate for a Friday task.

Vacuuming and dusting are weekend daytime chores for me. Dust first, vacuum and change linen when necessary. Bathrooms were once my exclusive task, but now the kids do their bathroom and that helps.

Dinners are planned around who has the time to cook what. I am Asian so the family looks at what I can cook as a treat...this is weekend stuff. We always cook for two servings of the same meal, but will not eat left overs immediately the following night. Depending on what we know is the schedule, we know exactly when the left-overs will come in handy. The kids are now old enough to use the microwave, stove and oven. Like one poster said, have kids...indentured servants till 18! LOL on that!

Other yard work (aka weeding, planting new plants/flowers) are also my territory. DH has a black thumb and will kill anything he touches. These are seasonal tasks which I do on weekends. Deadheading spent blooms are a daily event for me as I walk past them going into the house.

Dog duty belongs to the kids, except baths which I do with their help.

Now I have a house cleaner to get it cleaner sooner. But without them, I'd still be fine. I just do little things like wipe counter tops and appliances as I find the smudges and spills.

Relax! Don't let it get to ya, okay?
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Old 03-09-2008, 06:12 PM
Location: Cary, NC
147 posts, read 689,025 times
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Laundry: Put a load in to wash in the morning before you leave for work. When you come home, put it in the dryer, then fold and put away before bed.

Dinner: Don't be too inventive during the week. Come up with a list of easy meals that you like and that you can cook and work with those at first. I can make the following quickly and easily: tacos, chili, pasta with marinara sauce, rosemary chicken, stir fry. That's a week's worth of meals. I make sure I have the stuff in the house to make any of those dishes at any time, this way I don't have to worry about what we're going to eat.

There is a book called Saving Dinner written by Leanne Ely which is really great because it provides a list of dinners for the week complete with a shopping list. It isn't vegetarian but on her website she does have some vegetarian meal plans for sale.

Chores: What has worked best for us is picking one room a day to do. Monday is the living room, for instance, so we pick up, dust and vacuum on Monday night. Doesn't take long at all once you get used to it. And if you both work together it goes really fast. On the weekend, run the vacuum over the high traffic areas and you're done.

Doing small amounts of housework all week long has a two-prong effect. First off, you no longer have to cram all of your housework in on the weekends. This gives you more free time to do what you want -- or work on some of those 'projects' that always need to be done around the house. Second (and most importantly for me) the house is never really dirty -- most of it is clean most of the time. This makes me feel better and for some reason motivates us all to keep up with things around here.
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Old 03-09-2008, 06:27 PM
4,097 posts, read 11,473,825 times
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And when you really need to get a whole lot of laundry done, take it to a big local laundromatl. We did that for years. 1 hour and 15 minutes on an early Sunday morning with the paper and Starbucks and it was done, folded or hung. I could do the touch up ironing and all done right after we got home. Since we did it together, it was kind of a Sunday morning date time. Got a lot of talking done.

Maybe consider it for some quick action when all else fails.

We do a grocery and menu list once a week. I plan on cooking fresh food early and eating out of the refridgerator and freezer for the end of the week. Quick pasta, quiche, stuffed chicken, chili, etc. Nothing too fancy and all thought out ahead of time. I even use our extras for lunch at work the next day.
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Old 03-09-2008, 06:34 PM
Location: NC
1,268 posts, read 2,331,278 times
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I am most here with the poster of a little dirt doesn't hurt. There is no reason in my opinion unless you have a full time maid for there to be not a spec of dust throughout the house. It's unnatural.
Here's what we do.
Dishes are done everyday, along with cleaning up from meals, and keeping items around the home straightened up (ie not throwing things on the floor, all over counters, and in corners) There are hampers, closets, baskets for newspapers, and a dishwasher. That pretty much takes care of the everyday weekday messes. If they don't get thrown around they don't need to be picked up all the time.
For the deep cleaning, we do that whenever we feel up to it. It is a simple thing to see something looks a little dingy, and clean it quickly it doesn't have to be a big production where the entire house needs to be scrubbed from ceiling to floor everytime you take out the cleaning items. Clean things as you go.

For the meals, I agree with everything above, pantry and freezer should always be stocked with the staples, (about once a week) and then when you run out of milk, or juice, or bread, you can stop by the store on the way home a pick up an item or two. and it's not, oh we need chicken, blackbeans, scallions, and wine,-- it's, honey can you pick up some scallions on your way home? because the chickens in the freezer, the blackbeans are in the pantry and the wine should always be stocked :-)

The laundry, I like that idea of putting it in in the morning, and switching it when oyu get home. I might try that one... I normally do t all on the weekend. I do however split the hampers to colors, so that the entire hamper is darks, or whites, and you don't have to handle the dirty clothes prior to washing them. just dump the whole thing in. You can also have a special one for delicates.

That's the way we do it, and it works fine. Don't make a mess as you go, and be prepared ahead of time by making you job easier (ie. pick up as you go, and sort into dirty hampers)
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