How do I manage my household when I am never home?

Working mothers are usually on the move from the moment they wake up until the lights go out that night and often feel like their efforts were useless. The house is still a mess, the to-do list only got longer and sometimes feel like the worst parent in the world. I have been there ... often.

The question of how in the world I am supposed to keep my house clean, feed my family a healthy meal, manage mountains of laundry and bathe the dog when I am barely home more than a few hours at a time has been asked.

Countless books, blogs, and videos have been produced about the topic. While there are many useful tips, it is easy to get bogged down and overwhelmed because we try to do everything all at once. I narrowed my focus down to three suggestions that cover most of the basics of household upkeep. They are keeping a running to-do list, following a cleaning schedule and declutter and organizing. These three tips can allow us to prioritize what needs to be done and prevent us from running in circles.

Keeping a running to-do list -- Write down what needs to be done. This can be on a marker board, a notepad or on your phone but keep it handy. Once you know all the odds and end things that need to be done that are not part of your housekeeping routine, you can prioritize what is most important and urgent. Anything that has a deadline or specific date should be added to your family calendar, but the rest can just be listed and checked off as you accomplish it.

Follow a cleaning schedule -- Make a list of all the daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning tasks that need to be done around your home. You can again prioritize them and then divide and conquer. This is also helpful for creating chore lists for your family members. Having a system for cleaning can help prevent the crisis cleaning that happens when company is coming and everyone is suddenly in nonstop, stressed out and barking out orders.

Declutter and organize -- Clutter is the enemy of every flat surface in your home, including the floors. Clutter makes sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, and dusting take twice as long, so those tasks often get skipped until you just cannot stand it. Clutter makes it impossible for people to sit on furniture and makes a house look dirty even when it is not. Declutter gives everything a home within your home and makes managing the household take less time.

I have used Flylady's system of decluttering for a long time. She uses 15 minutes of focused decluttering time and three bags or boxes to eliminate clutter in a room (go through a room and find items to put away, throw away, and give away -- in the end, everything gathered either has a home or leaves your house.) Also, fight clutter by sorting the mail and throwing away anything that does not need to be paid or filed immediately instead of letting it stack up.

You can read more about how to take small steps to a healthy home. For more information on programs and tips for family life and household management, contact the Garland County Extension Service at 501-623-6741 or email [email protected].

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