Confessions of a Mediocre Homemaker

Last year I wrote a post about how much I suck at homemaking and I got some really, really supportive feedback basically telling me to breathe, honey, it’s ok. I’m sure I also horrified a lot of people who are really grossed out by food on the floor, but those were kind enough to not to comment and say…ew. 

So, one year later, where do we stand?

In a slightly cleaner house.

I don’t have any miracle solutions to share with you, I’m sad to say. But over the past year I’ve found a few strategies that work for me and thought I’d write about them, just in case they might be helpful to anyone else.

Fair warning: these are not high-level, whip your entire household into shape with military efficiency and bounce quarters off your tightly-made bed kind of tips. If this were a class, it wouldn’t even be Homemaking 101 — we’re talking remedial homemaking.

Let’s do it.

1. Take care of yourself.

This is the biggest, most important thing I’ve found for myself. If I’m exhausted and subsisting entirely on coffee and the crust from Natalie’s sandwiches and not drinking any water…I’m useless.

I’m absolutely not saying you need to run to Whole Foods and spend $847 on asparagus water and quinoa and kale and eat nothing but that, but basic nutrition plays a HUGE role in how much energy you have. I get more done when I fuel my body right. Fact. 

So if the house is a mess and I’m absolutely dragging and just can’t even at the thought of pulling out the vacuum, I try to get back to basics. Drink some water. Eat something with protein. Take a nap.

HA HA HA HA ok just kidding about that last one.

2. Reach for the low-hanging fruit.

After Natalie was born, I learned the value of keeping your expectations very, very low. It was a while before I started using written to-do lists, but when I did, the items on them were like “brush teeth” and “put on clothes other than the ones you slept in last night.” Basic, everyday, normal human being type stuff. That way when I got nothing done except those things, I didn’t feel quite so bad. After all, I kept a human being alive AND brushed my teeth today. #winning  Even though my list is a little more involved today, I haven’t forgotten the psychological boost of crossing super easy, extremely obtainable things off the to-do list. I don’t like writing those things out every day, though, so I made a habit tracker with the really basic stuff. Do the thing, color in the box. Boom, done. (Hat tip to Kara at Boho Berry for the idea for this tracker.)

The easiest ones for me are making the bed and taking my vitamins. If I do those two things first thing in the morning I’m usually much more motivated and productive the rest of the day. Silly, but it works.

3. Make the house smell pretty.

 My brain has a really hard time reconciling a nice smelling Yankee Candle tart or (my personal favorite) the Walmart wax melts with a messy kitchen. Just can’t do it. I used to hoard my wax melts for the “right occasion” (um I know, what?) but now I have one going almost all the time. LOVE. IT. They cost a whopping $2 for a pack of 6 melts, so that’s $2 for many hours of happiness and motivation. If my house smells nice I’m definitely more inclined to spiffy things up a bit.

4. Invest in cleaning supplies that motivate you to actually clean.

I’m using the word “invest” quite loosely here — no need to buy that gold-plated toilet brush I’m sure you’ve been eyeing. Maybe spend a few extra bucks and get the stuff that smells really nice instead of like something that’ll burn your eyebrows off if you get too close. For me, that stuff is basically anything by Mrs. Myers.

 I think that brand is available at Target, but ePantry (affiliate link) is where I get mine. Right now they’re running a deal where if you sign up using my link, you get a $10 credit. Might I suggest anything in the orange and clove scent? It’s amazing. Seriously.  So far I’m super impressed both with the company and with the Mrs. Myers products. I never in my life thought I’d be enthusiastically recommending CLEANING PRODUCTS on my MOM BLOG (dear god, what has my life come to), but, here we are.

I can tell you that my sink has NEVER been cleaner than after I got the sink scrubbing powder stuff (technical term). I’m not Fly Lady-obsessive about it, i.e. I don’t scrub my sink every night before I go to bed, but I’ve been doing it probably 3 times per week. Which is 3 times per week more than I’ve ever cleaned any sink, ever, in my whole life. Except for when I worked at a bed-and-breakfast inn and that was kind of my job. But that’s a story for another time.

So yes, for the first time ever I actually enjoy wiping down my countertops and admiring my shiny, shiny sink. I don’t even recognize myself anymore. We’re not exactly talking Stepford wives-level of housekeeping, but it’s a heck of a lot better than where I was at this time last year.

One of Gretchen Rubin’s Secrets of Adulthood is that outer order contributes to inner calm. I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy cleaning bathrooms, but hey…at least my kitchen sink is clean.


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