The campaign for more slacking off as a family.
October 17, 2012 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Are there corners to cut that we should be cutting? What tasks do you skip, consciously or not, as a family? Washing dishes? Putting laundry away? IS THERE SOMETHING WE SHOULD NOT BE DOING?

Mr. Llama and I are wondering if we're working harder than we need to, somehow, because our lifestyle-equivalent peers seem to be experiencing the universe at a more leisurely pace than we are.

My mother suggested that a solution for our cat sneakily carving up the couch behind our backs--she does it when we're not around--would be for us to cover our couch and chair each morning with some kind of drop cloth, and then uncover it each day when we return home.

That sounds so totally batshit insane, I don't even. Not because the idea is so dumb in particular, but because the thought of adding that task to our mornings and afternoons makes my head feel like it's going to explode. (I don't want to derail on this whole thing -- ultimately, preserving the couch isn't a major priority to us.)

We have a four-year-old, a dog, and a cat. We both work demanding jobs that demand a lot of attention. The four-year-old is in preschool. The dog gets a good off-leash walk every day, and both the animals are well-cared for. I run (three miles) most mornings. We get up around 5:30, sometimes 5, sometimes 6.

We are pretty tidy, and a little rigid, but not pathologically so. We don't leave dishes in the sink. The beds are made when we leave the house. We don't eat very much prepared food. On the other hand, we sweep the kitchen floor only weekly, and with a robot. The bathrooms are tidy, but it's safe to assume the counters are dirty and have a film of toothpaste on them.

I'm interested in: a member of a shared household, are there tasks or obligations (including social obligations) in your life which you have decided to blow off so that your life is slower paced and more relaxed and you have more time to concern yourselves with more important things, like sitting outside together on a fall day and having cider?

What are those tasks?

I'm interested in it also, obviously, if it turns out that this is just the way the world is and everyone is faking it.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Home & Garden (83 answers total) 86 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I certainly don't make the bed every day. Who cares? Nobody sees our bed but us.
posted by something something at 7:58 AM on October 17, 2012 [46 favorites]

The beds are made when we leave the house.

The author of a book on simplified living observed that if you don't mind the state of the bed when you wake up in it, you shouldn't mind the same state when going to sleep in it.

As for laundry, as long as you're not concerned about guests, after taking clothes out of the dryer, you can simply lay them out flat and stack them up. I find it no more difficult to pick a particular shirt that way than taking them off the hanger.
posted by Egg Shen at 7:58 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a father of 4 where both my wife and I have work and obligations, we've found a few things that make our life ...clearer:

1) Spot clean regularly, but only schedule big cleans. We'll sweep when we see a mess, rinse and stack the dishes after meals, and make sure the kids are in the habit of being responsible for their own spaces. Big cleans (mopping, dusting, vacuuming, etc) are for slow weekend afternoons. We put them on the calendar.

2) Since we had our first child, we've delegated at least one night a week to be "cuddle night". This means no play rehearsals, no night job work, no homework after 7, etc. Basically, we sit around as a family and either just veg out or watch a movie, or watch our favorite shows. Typically, there's popcorn.

I'm sure I have more, just have to think about it.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:59 AM on October 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

Our laundry tends to pile-up in baskets throughout the week. Everyone picks-through the piles when they need something. Eventually, I end up folding the clothes...usually when I have a new load of laundry and no room in the baskets.

Also, we don't sweat making the beds. Since I work at home, Usually, I eventually get-around to quickly making it up, but it's usually not until later in the day. The kids rarely do more than pulling the comforter up over the mess, if that.

You'd be amazed where your peers are letting things slide. For instance, my cousin and her husband live very comfortably in an older McMansion in one of Indy's tonier suburbs. The house is always clean and tidy in a non-fussy way. Just don't go upstairs into one of the bathrooms. Holy shit...It's like they're horders or something, but just in the bathrooms. Scary stuff.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:00 AM on October 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

Life is too short to do ironing. Drop your shirts off at the cleaner's.
posted by deanc at 8:05 AM on October 17, 2012 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Are you still folding the kid's laundry? We stopped that a while back. They have baskets in their rooms and bring us the dirty clothes when the baskets are full. A basket of clothes goes into the washer, then into the dryer, then back into the basket. Some sorting might be required, but we only fold our own stuff now.

Why did we stop? The kids were just stuffing clothes into their drawers anyway, or dropping them en route to the room and just grabbing them off the floor. It's given us hours of our week back, not having to fold their stuff. And they look fine.

We let a lot of stuff slide, but have a standing list of rooms and the brood rotates through them on a weekly basis. Kid A gets the family room, Kid B gets the stairs, and so on. At the end of the night, you run through your assigned room, tidy it up, clear your bedroom floor up and we're done. Sometimes it's a hassle getting even that bit of work done, but our house is simply too crowded for things to slide too too far. The bar for their rooms, now, is: can I walk across it without wading through stuff? If not, I've been known to get a rake from the garage and make a giant pile in the middle of the room. Otherwise, I've had to stop caring for the sake of my blood pressure.
posted by jquinby at 8:06 AM on October 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

I guess if I liked the couch, I'd get a slipcover, either custom made or off the shelf--or just sit on the drop cloth. Otherwise--we take out paper trash maybe once a week, ( a shredder made that a whole lot easier), and schedule trade-offs for the other bigger stuff--like one person vacuums when the other takes dog to park.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:06 AM on October 17, 2012

Are you clear on which household tasks are important to you/the Llamas in and of themselves? Because everybody loses when they participate in the housekeeping olympics.

/not even trying to fake-Martha anymore, because holy shit, you should see my barn, and we won't discuss the state of the attic, and yeah, sometimes I miss my standards
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:06 AM on October 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

Would it help for you to get groceries delivered from time to time? And would you be willing to make one night a week take-out or delivery food night?
posted by knile at 8:10 AM on October 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: No. You are not doing a wildly unreasonable amount of crap. It sounds like you have a pretty good balance.
Yourfriends are lying or faking it about how easy it is for them. Or they are letting things slide that would not be comfortable for you.

Basically, people who make the beds every day are people who need to have the beds made everyday. And that's nice. You could skip it, but you wouldn't be comfortable with the state of your home. And you need to be comfortable. Your friends may not do this, and they may be comfortable with it. That's fine for them, but it would not be for you.

So do what works for you, and don't fret about them.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:11 AM on October 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

more time to concern yourselves with more important things, like sitting outside together on a fall day and having cider?

You got it right there.

When it comes to the house, I only do things that make me happy, so let that be your guide: what's the bare minimum of tasks you need accomplished to feel sane/that your home is a haven to figure out what you need to prioritize & let the rest slide.

Being happy = not taxing morning for me, so making the bed is right out. (But I will note that I make the bed before going away on vacation, so when I come home there is a "welcome" feeling.)

Breakfast dishes go into the dishwasher, but anything big is left in the sink to be washed with the post-dinner washing.

Kitchen is vacuumed when it needs it: sometimes once a week, sometimes once a fortnight. This holds true for all vacuuming and dusting, actually. (For ex, I have 10-foot ceilings, which are lovely, but then are prone to cobwebs. I vacuum those about once a year).

Yes, the bathroom sink is a challenge, because the only way it is truly clean is to give it a wipe-down after every use: that doesn't happen at my house!

It was difficult at first to figure out what kind of housecleaning schedule I wanted when we bought the house 9 years ago, but I've become much more relaxed since then (Type A personality has lots of wiggle room), and come to realize that having my house guest-ready at all times really isn't that important to me at all.

Life is meant to be lived, and if that means leaving the dinner dishes on the table to catch the sunset, that's what I value these days!
posted by honey badger at 8:13 AM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I purchased enough socks and underwear to last me at least 3 weeks without doing laundry. If you have a working dishwasher, skip the rinsing off of the dishes. They will still get clean.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:13 AM on October 17, 2012 [9 favorites]

One of the great distinctions in life is what the house should look like when company's coming over versus the state it's lived in. I don't like things to sit around forever, but I don't feel any obligation to keep everything in some kind of Army barrack state of order all the time.

Making beds every day? fahgetabatit.

I believe in getting dishes into the dishwasher fairly quickly because food and water pooling up in them attracts pests and smells, but some rigid schedule about running the dishwasher, unloading the dishwasher, etc., no.

The kid's too young to help, yet, but a major thing that parents do to drive themselves insane is to let 2-3 other human beings get to voting age while still having all their chores done. And then wonder why they're lazy.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:23 AM on October 17, 2012

Eh? Making beds takes about 30 seconds.

In general, it's not nearly as time-consuming to do these things as leave them undone.

As for putting a drop cloth over the sofa - the cat would just get under the cloth. If you do just one thing differently, let the cat have unrestricted access to *her* sofa. Remember who's boss.
posted by tel3path at 8:25 AM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I stopped making the bed a long time ago. And rooms that company never sees aren't nearly as clean as, say, the living room and family room. Bedrooms are allowed to be cluttered as long as they're not dirty. Who needs a sparkling clean mud room? That's what mud rooms are for! It got cleaned once a week or so.
posted by patheral at 8:26 AM on October 17, 2012

Do you spend a lot of time looking for small things? "Has anyone seen the scissors?" "Why can't I find a flashlight?" "My kingdom for a working pen!"

Stop looking for stuff.

These things are all cheap. In just about every room in my house I use regularly I have:

A small flashlight
A pair of scissors
A box cutter (scissors and boxcutters everywhere means never having to struggle to open something)
Pens / pencils

I keep plenty of extra batteries on hand. Mostly AAA and AA. If I'm in Home Depot and I know I'm running low I'll buy a 30 pack or whatever the largest pack is. I have a battery tester at home so I can quickly figure out if batteries are dead.

Most of my tools are in my basement shop but I keep a small assortment of the most commonly used tools in the kitchen. These are all extras so when I'm in the basement I'm not missing something.

Life is too short to spend time needlessly looking for something, or walking up and down stairs looking for a $3.00 pair of scissors. Buy extras.
posted by bondcliff at 8:27 AM on October 17, 2012 [30 favorites]

Do the 3-5 things you absolutely could not stand if they weren't taken care of, hire someone else to do the stuff you can't stand to so yourself, and make sure your little Llamas have lots of responsibility around the house.

My big things:
1. Make bed.
2. Clean countertops.
3. Clothes hung up, nothing lying around on the floor.

I often forget to take care of the trash, I vacuum when I can stand it anymore, and everything else falls into place in the end.

And fwiw, making beds is great because it provides you with a clean staging area when you've got a small room and ostensibly need a surface at hip height to put things for a bit.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:27 AM on October 17, 2012 [6 favorites]

I only make the bed on weekends, when I will actually spend time in my room and I want it to look nicer.

I don't sort laundry by colors, I just wash everything together in cold water. With some exceptions of course - I test new red things with maybe a white sock or something, to see if it dyes it pink. If not, then red pants go in with the rest of the clothes next time. And I'll sort white things sometimes to bleach them. But no sorting otherwise, I just do a load whenever the hamper is full. Also, I start the wash 1 hour before bedtime, or before going out to dinner, throw things in the dryer before going to sleep, and then empty the dryer onto my bed in the morning. At night, I put the clothes away. The things that wrinkle will need to be ironed before wearing them anyway, so it's OK if they wrinkle while crumpled up on the bed. The things that don't wrinkle as much get de-wrinkled once I hang them up. None of the "I need to be home tonight because laundry takes 2.5 hours from start to finish."

Toilet/sink cleaning? I just spray a diluted bleach solution around the toilet and in the sink before leaving the house (bleach gets stinky). I come back and flush the toilet (sparkly white and disinfected!) and rinse the sink real quick. Done.
posted by at 8:28 AM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have a four year-old too.

We love pets, but what we do is play with other people's dogs at the park. Having a dog requires a good bit of time investment, so playing with other people's dogs is a great solution for us. Obviously you are not going to rid yourself of your pets, but having pets is definitely a factor in your situation.

We have a cleaning person come in once every three weeks. That's a huge saver of time for us.

We don't worry about always having no dishes in the sink and always having the beds made. Tidiness matters are obviously a personal preference, but my own feeling is that the bed and sink are just going to be messed up again very soon, so why bother trying to keep them looking perfectly tidy. That's especially true when you have a four year-old - things will sometimes not be tidy.

What it comes down to is there are trade-offs. You can't do everything. More cooking might mean less time reading or playing games with your kid (for me the latter are more important than the former). More exercise might mean less time reading books or sleeping. Each person decides what are the more important things for them. The key point is some things have to give, you can't do everything. If you try to do too much, you will create a stressful environment for your child (and obviously for yourself too) and twenty years down the road she'll be here on AskMetafilter asking for advise about depression.
posted by Dansaman at 8:39 AM on October 17, 2012

I keep plenty of extra batteries on hand. Mostly AAA and AA.

Simplify your life, save a bunch of money and be a Friend of the Earth all by switching to rechargeable NiMH AA and AAA batteries. Yes, you'll have to buy a charger, but they're cheap.
posted by Rash at 8:40 AM on October 17, 2012 [13 favorites]

We don't eat very much prepared food

Do you feel you're spending a ton of time in the kitchen cooking? I do a lot of slow cooker meals to keep from having to stand around in the kitchen too much. And sometimes we do frozen stuff- burritos from Trader Joe's, etc. Breakfast is cereal- there are plenty of choices that aren't candy in a bowl (although i grew up eating candy in a bowl and I'm fine, so I'd probably let my kids do that, even).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:40 AM on October 17, 2012

Best answer: Since you're both working, spend money to save time.

Possible suggestions:
  • Pick up and drop off laundry service every week/every other week.
  • Have groceries delivered.
  • Personal chef service (they come to your house and make a week's worth of food in one day, packaged for easy reheating).
  • Cleaning service every week/every other week for the bathrooms and such.
  • Dog walker, if it's difficult fitting that in.
  • Landscaper to take care of the yard.
  • User your dishwasher instead of washing by hand. Purchase one if you don't have one already. Do some research if you're worried about cleanliness. A good dishwasher is more efficient and produces better results than you do.
I agree that making a bed is generally a waste. Put the sheet mostly right, put the comforter mostly right, and call it a day. Assuming that won't break your mind.
posted by jsturgill at 8:42 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I do make my bed almost every day (if my bed is unmade, as indeed it is at this very moment, it is usually a sign that I am sick, stressed, or in some kind of bad mood or other). If I don't make the bed, I find that stuff (books, electronics, clothes, hangers) tends to accumulate in the bed (I have a queen-size bed but generally only half of it is occupied).

But! My bed-making routine consists of straightening out the duvet and rearranging the pillows (if I'm feeling fancy). Tucking in sheets is for suckers.

I'm pretty strict with myself about getting clothes hung up/folded, too. But one thing I've found helps a lot with that has been really paring down my wardrobe (this happened somewhat organically due to weight loss, a job change, and a move, but it's GREAT to not have to jam things in drawers and closets and I intend to stick with it).

So, what I'm saying is, maybe there are ways you can continue to do the things you are doing but make them easier?
posted by mskyle at 8:42 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Regarding your couch crisis: surround that couch with Ssscats! Bonus: it'll keep the dog off the couch too. (I swear I am not paid by them. They have saved my marriage and my life though.)

And then you won't have to do that dumb horrible thing of putting something over the couch daily.

We've started doing a weekly Saturday morning clean. The house goes a bit to hell in the week and we don't get worked up about it. Then it takes the two of us to run through the house top to bottom about an hour on Saturdays, which goes: dust, clean kitchen, put things away, change sheets, scrub bathrooms, sweep, mop, boom, DONE, see you in a week. (Obviously laundry sort of happens as it happens.) The rest of the week, I blow off everything except like "putting food back in the fridge." I'd rather drink cider every night, and I DO.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:59 AM on October 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

My mother suggested that a solution for our cat sneakily carving up the couch behind our backs--she does it when we're not around--would be for us to cover our couch and chair each morning with some kind of drop cloth, and then uncover it each day when we return home.

My parents-in-law are very neat people naturally.

They covered their chairs with drop-cloths for years to prevent cat-damage from a certain cat, and they didn't even remove it each evening -- only when guests came over. It had the added benefit of preventing people-stains (from spilled tea, etc).
posted by jb at 9:02 AM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

For many years -- like, until I went away to college and lived with roommates -- I was unaware that there really was such a chore as "dusting" that people might actually do. I never, ever saw either of my parents dust anything, things like lampshades and unused shelves had dust on them, and no one ever seemed any worse off for it.
posted by ootandaboot at 9:05 AM on October 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

I get the whole comparing your house to others; I was shocked to discover in my circle of forty or so close female friends that almost all of them had a maid service (or a relative like a mother) come in weekly or daily just to clean. It doesn't seem to be something most women volunteer information about (probably relating to shame in not living up to society's expectations).

When I compare myself with my parents, the fact that my nana cleaned our house every day for hours meant we had a lot more family time for fun stuff. I have had no luck convincing my mother to clean my house however. There was a reason most families had someone work inside the home full-time if it was economicly viable; there is a lot of work to be done.
posted by saucysault at 9:08 AM on October 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

How many of these leisurely friends also run 3 miles every morning? Could you combine the running and the dog walking?
Doubling or Tripling a recipe doesn't double or triple the time it takes to prepare and cook. If you don't want to have the same thing 2 or 3 nights in a row then freeze it for another night. You can easily halve the amount of time you spend preparing meals by making 2-3 times as much.
Unless there's risk of pests, breakfast & lunch dishes go in the sink until after dinner. There's no need to wash up 2-3 times a day. (If you're really pushed for time and have enough cutlery/crockery you can even leave it until the next day without the world coming to an end!)

Depending on your work 'uniform' this may not be doable but I can count on 1 hand the number of things I've ironed in the last decade. (pretty much any time one of us has to wear a proper shirt/suit). If you have to iron stuff then keep it to just the stuff that really needs ironing - suit pants, shirts, blouses etc. As I tried to insist to my mother for years, jeans do not need to be ironed! (she always ironed a crease down the front too!). Underwear does not need ironing.
posted by missmagenta at 9:17 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't fold women's underwear, just toss it in its drawer. It doesn't get wrinkly, and it wouldn't stay folded if I was rooting around looking for a certain pair anyway.

I've eliminated close-but-not-quite-matching socks. All my white athletic socks are the same, so I can just grab two white socks and put them together. All my black dress socks are the same as each other. It's not quite as efficient as only having one kind of sock, but I can't abide wearing the same style of socks to the gym and around the house and out to a fancy dinner.

Personally, I think ironing and going to the dry-cleaners are wastes of time, except for extremely fancy and important occasions. I don't buy clothes that require that kind of care. (Of course I'm lucky that I don't have to dress up for work; scrubs are about as easy-care as you can get.)

If you're willing to invest the time training the dog to be really good on a leash, the dog walk and the morning run could get combined into one activity. Alternatively, the dog walk could be reframed as fun family time to get some fresh air together, rather than a chore. Bring the cider along in a mug.

I find that stuff stays a lot neater when everything has an appropriate place to be put away, that is in the obvious room where it would be wanted. If the dishwasher has room in it, dirty dishes go right in rather than piling up on the counter. If there's a basket for magazines, they go into it rather than sitting on every flat surface around the house. Right now we don't have enough shoe storage, and it shows because there are shoes all over our dining and living rooms. But once I get that shoe rack in the entryway, I know we'll put the shoes there because it's just as easy as leaving them out.

Similarly, we keep a canister of shower wipes in the shower, so it's super simple to just wipe the tiles when we notice that they need it. We keep a broom next to the cat box, so it's not a major task to sweep up the litter he kicks out. Do everything you can to make cleanup easy and hassle-free, and it will happen more often and with less fuss.
posted by vytae at 9:18 AM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to answer a couple of points...

About making the bed -- some people sleep under the bedclothes, some sleep with the bedclothes. Mr. Llama and are a split couple -- he wraps himself up like a burrito as he sleeps and I passively lie there as the blankets are slowly stolen. If we didn't reset the bedclothes each day I would be forced to kill him. But we're not precise bed-makers, we're not like hotel housekeepers -- blankets and sheets are just unfurled and laid on top, not tucked in, and the pillows are just thrown on top. Little Llama -- I don't know. Maybe we want to give her the impression it's an orderly universe. But in any case, she's only got one wool blanket and a sheet, and again, we don't tuck in so it's not a time consuming process. (The 'no tuck' is a household preference, like toilet paper over/under the roll). Anyway, that's our deal with making the bed -- nothing to do with company coming over or anything. We're homebodies and don't entertain much and if I could stand sleeping in it I wouldn't be embarrassed by an unmade bed.

Also, we do major cleaning only once a month -- so we only vacuum monthly, we only dust monthly, we only wash sheets monthly, we only really 'clean' the bathrooms monthly (don't judge me).

Laundry gets done weekly, three loads, every Saturday.

None of us iron anything.

We are good about things being in their place -- we do have a set place for the flashlight, pens, Post-Its, scissors, etc. We're conscious of bandwidth-sucks like not being able to find things and have some basic tools in a junk drawer. We use rechargeable batteries, FWIW, and we keep regular ones around, and actually we keep extras of most things, like toilet paper, that we might otherwise find ourselves without and need to stress out about.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:30 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Duvet and comforter instead of a top sheet. Much quicker to just move one thing over the bed.

Baby wipes everywhere. I constantly use them to wipe my hands, etc., but then wipe down the counter, a cabinet, whatever is around, so I get an inch of something extra done.

Paper plates or paper towels instead of dishes all the time. If you are making a quick sandwich, just make it on a paper towel instead of a dish. Saves doing dishes and you can wipe something down on your way to placing the towel in the trash.

Get rid of everything you don't need. The less you have, the less you have to care for. Use deep storage even for clothes you like. You can bring them out in a few months and trade them for what's in your closet (from Project 333).
posted by Vaike at 9:31 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I try to be efficient on my trips out of the house. Can you stop at the bank/post office/pet store on your way to work and spend only 10 minutes, rather than a separate errand on the weekend that takes 1/2 an hour because it's out of the way and more crowded? Go grocery shopping only once a week? Drop your car off for its oil change and shuttle to work rather than doing it on a Saturday and waiting for it?

On the social front, do it only if you are either going to enjoy it or it furthers a goal you have, not out of obligation. Just because your company needs to fill a table at a charitable event doesn't mean you need to go.

I keep a neat house because that's important to me. But I also don't walk up the stairs just to put something away - I put the item on the stairs and grab it on my next trip. I have also relented on the "proper" place for some stuff - shoes can stay in the hallway rather than going upstairs, my daughter's trombone seems to now reside out of the way in front of the fireplace, papers get filed 3 or 4 times a year, not as they are generated.
posted by Sukey Says at 9:34 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am not at all a fancy-clean person, and I do not "make" the bed in the Martha Stewart sense but I have to pull all the blankets up, because I have pets and they will wallow their sheddy stinky asses and poop-covered feet all over the place where I sleep if I don't. Our bed is not fashionable anyway, as we sleep under distinctly separate bedclothes which only overlap to keep all the dog hair from falling in between.

I own one large load of daily-wear work (no iron, no dry clean, but the formal end of business casual because I'm a consultant) and lounge clothes. Sometimes I don't put them away, but it's all of 10 items on hangers when I do hang the work clothes. The lounge clothes generally get thrown over the shower curtain rail (we don't use that shower; I've used a towel rack in the past) until the next night's use. Underwear has one drawer into which it is thrown. Socks have another and are not mated - every couple of years I throw out all my socks and buy like 5 packages each of house socks and trouser socks, but they mate and make entirely new socks I've never seen before. But I don't need my socks to match exactly if I'm just wearing them at home to keep my feet warm.

My husband and I share a jumbo bath towel all week (because we're clean when we use it) and when both of the towels we own are dirty we wash them with kitchen towels and the tea towels I dry my hair with. That's two towel washloads a month. (I do have two sets of guest towels, we're not complete heathens, but they are ForSpecial and we don't use them ourselves.)

Prepared foods: I'm lucky enough to have a Fresh And Easy nearby, which means a decent selection of oven-ready meals (which I don't use very often) and trays of prepared vegetables ready to be cooked (which I use all the time) along with steamer bags and that sort of thing. I also only cook for-real every other night, when I will make enough protein for dinner two nights and lunch at least once so that the next night or two is just assembly or reheating.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:34 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I work full-time and go to grad school two nights a week, plus homework, boyfriend, etc. Some of my shortcuts:
- Order shelf-stable foods from; buy fresh stuff 1x week at the grocery store
- Don't make my bed
- I'm pretty bad about laundry. I don't have it in-unit and it shuts off automatically at 10pm, so I have a very limited time to do it. I guess I have more clothes than most people, so it's not a problem for me to only do it once every two weeks or so.
- Picking up and basic cleanup daily and deep cleans every two weeks.
posted by anotheraccount at 9:36 AM on October 17, 2012

Pay attention to how you feel when you finish a task. Is it just "check, that's done" or is there a feeling of "yes! bed looks better and there will not be cat hair on my pillow!" If you can look at your results and sigh in satisfaction saying "yes, that's better now!" then you should keep doing it. If the messy state wasn't really bothering you in the first place and the clean state is only better because you hear other people prefer it clean, then it's probably not worth putting on your to-do list just so you can scratch it off.
posted by aimedwander at 9:42 AM on October 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: My shrink would point out that these feelings are completely normal for parents of one or more children under about 10 -- that biologically/psychologically, this is typical for one's stage of development if one has chosen raise children.

No, it didn't make me feel any better, either.

Well, maybe a just a tiny bit.

posted by MeiraV at 9:48 AM on October 17, 2012 [9 favorites]

We don't have any dressers. Clothes are kept in labeled plastic bins in closets. The kids' bins are on their closet floors, Mr Corpse and I have a walk-in closet with the bins on shelves. Nothing gets folded because who gives a crap? This saves the time of opening and closing drawers (a big deal when you're putting away a family's worth of laundry) and makes it easier to find things when getting dressed. It doesn't look good but our closets have doors.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:53 AM on October 17, 2012

I think someone mentioned it further up, but I'd suggest exploring the option of a personal chef, too. They can be surprisingly reasonable, and very flexible. You can have someone do the grocery shopping (at the store/market of your choice), the cooking of the groceries, and the cleaning of the pots and pans for a couple of dinners a week all in one day. OR you can have someone just do your grocery shopping and veggie chopping for you so your dinner is halfway prepped by the time you get home. I'm not sure what city you're near, but if google fails, you can always call culinary schools in the area and see if they post jobs for graduates/students.

(Full disclosure: I work at a culinary school in placement services. MANY of our graduates are personal chefs and people are always surprised that someone will willingly do the grocery shopping part of it, too.)
posted by hungrybruno at 9:59 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

After I got a housekeeper, I discovered that pretty much everyone else I know has a housekeeper too. Like saucysault said above, people don't talk about their help.

Also, honestly, most women with small children don't actually exercise. Like, both my orthopedist and a nurse were both visibly surprised that I manage to work out. In my circle of 12 or so moms, only two of us exercise more than occasionally. So, there's that.

Also, I think you probably cook more than most people. Sandra Lee and her semi-homemade shtick are pretty cringe-worthy, but the concept is sound. I try to limit prepared stuff to one item per meal (frozen tamales from Trader Joes paired with a Crock-Pot beans; rotisserie chicken with homemade sides). But, yeah, something has to give, and I chose to preserve my exercise hour and skimp on cooking every meal.
posted by purpleclover at 10:03 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Making your bed is like tying your shoelaces after you take your shoes off. I view it as a general waste of time, but my wife would disagree!
posted by drewski at 10:03 AM on October 17, 2012

Like purpleclover, I cook "semi-homemade" but with Trader Joe's type stuff which I pretend is healthier than regular supermarket stuff. I can microwave some veggie risotto, scramble some eggs, and put together a salad in 10 minutes.
posted by chowflap at 10:05 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, oh, oh, and meal planning! Plan/shop for the week on Sunday! Plan in some shortcuts! It is okay to eat boxed red pepper and tomato soup with grilled cheese for dinner sometimes. Put it in your plan and it feels less like a crappy shortcut.

(There's a meal planning thread over on altdotlife that I find fascinating, because it represents what people actually eat. It's good for dinner ideas too.)
posted by purpleclover at 10:10 AM on October 17, 2012

The people you know are faking it. How do I know? I'm a SAHM, I have a 4yr old in school full time and a 2 yr old in daycare 3 days a week, I have a lawn guy, a pool guy and a cleaning lady and I still struggle to get everything done. Leisurely enjoying life? Hahahaha. Yeah. Ok.

I think it's a matter of consciously deciding what to cut out and what's important to you. Just recently I looked around and realized that life has just kind of stacked up on me because I'm moving from task to task to task. I'm currently doing what you're doing - deciding how much of my life works for me and what exactly I'm going to do about it. I think inertia just takes over sometimes and boom it's four years later.

I bet that if you look in your peer's closets you'll see the hidden chaos.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 10:20 AM on October 17, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: The dog gets a good off-leash walk every day, and both the animals are well-cared for. I run (three miles) most mornings.

I can't be certain from the way you phrase this, but do you mean that the dog-walk is a separate event from the 3-mile run? If so, that seems like a huge place to save time, assuming your dog is in physical shape to keep up while you jog. The amount of time I spent doing "chores" nearly doubled when we got a dog, because taking her on a 3-mile hike/run every day (or sometimes twice) is just a huge time-suck. A really, really enjoyable time-suck for me, because I'm outside on trails nearly every day now versus spending days at a time without going outside, but I can't imagine doing that separately from my morning workout.

Anyway, just something to consider. I agree with those above who say that cooking meals from scratch and having pets are just time-consuming things, and more than that I'd say they are also tasks that are fairly rigid in when they must be done. I'd bet the narrow window in which you must take care of those two things is more of an issue than the total time spent on chores; it's hard to seize the opportunity for spontaneous, life-enjoying moments when going apple-picking all afternoon means the dog will miss his scheduled walk and cause him to poop on the floor, or you'll come home at 6pm and not be able to eat until 7:30pm causing your kid to have an epic meltdown.
posted by iminurmefi at 10:27 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I save time by making my own convenience food. The freezer is stuffed with extra servings of things, so I only have to cook from scratch every other day or so. The rest of the time I'm just heating stuff up in the microwave or whatever.
posted by hazyjane at 10:33 AM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Looking at my circle of working parents with small kids, what you're doing that we're not is regular exercise and cooking most nights. It might not feel like it, but those are choices about how to spend your leisure time. Most families in my circle have a weekly or fortnightly cleaner too.
posted by crabintheocean at 10:33 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your life and mine look pretty much the the same, household chore-wise. The only difference is the dog (we don't have one), the running (nope), and my kid is old enough to do some of the chores. Where are your peers at with dogs and kids? Once my son took on a just a few weekly chores the whole world immediately got so much more leisurely!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:47 AM on October 17, 2012

our lifestyle-equivalent peers seem to be experiencing the universe at a more leisurely pace than we are.

Are you sure about this, or are they just really great at making it seem this way? With all of my friends who have kids the ages of my own kids, it's the latter.
posted by TinWhistle at 10:50 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, at the risk of being obnoxious by commenting twice in this thread, I'm wondering what your weekends look like? I don't have kids, but I have a demanding job and nearby nieces/nephews, and my impression is that during the week nearly any parent with a demanding job is going to be hard-pressed to get home in time to have leisurely, slack-off time with their kids while still getting dinner on the table at a time that won't ruin a 4-year-old's evening. (Unless you're picking up take-out. Or if your 4-year-old is much more tolerant of a 8:00pm dinner time than Nephew Iminurmefi.)

However, weekends should be prime time for leisurely, slack-off family bonding time, yes? That seems to be when most of my friends/family with kids do the fun "sitting outside with cider enjoying the fall" stuff. If you're not finding time for this stuff on the weekends because you're running errands all day or have a ton of social obligations requiring little Llama to be schlepped around, that's where I'd look to cut back and find time, rather than trying to eke out an extra 10 minutes each day during the week by cleaning less or not making your bed.
posted by iminurmefi at 10:53 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

When my wife and I were both working demanding jobs and we had a toddler, we hired a cleaning service that came in every 2 weeks. It cost us about $200 a month and was worth.every.penny

And I bet your friends are either faking it, or they don't do a lot of cooking, or they don't spend any time together.
posted by sauril at 10:56 AM on October 17, 2012

NEVER FOLD UNDERWEAR. Seriously. Is there a bigger waste of time? In the same vein, strive to minimize the time you spend ironing, for a well-lived life does not include hours of flattening fabrics.
posted by scratch at 11:01 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: From the side of someone who is a bit *too* relaxed/messy, I will say it sounds like you have very good sustainable habits right now. Be wary of getting rid of good habits that you already have established.

It sounds like your house gets "reset" (beds, dishes) to a usable state each day and you have weekly routines (laundry) to keep the entropy from taking over. It's laudable that you are giving little Llama the idea that it's an orderly universe where adults clean up after themselves.

Periodic cleaning service, or hired yardwork help, may be worth looking at.
Cooking ahead and freezing meals too.

About the cat/couch issue: do be sure there is a *tall* vertically-oriented scratching post in an attractive spot near the couch, so the cat has a satisfying and approved place to do his thing. Needs to be tall enough for the fullest height of extension the cat's arms get.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:02 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think one thing is that most of the people you see don't have kids under 5, so that all of that morning and evening rushing around gets a bit easier -- i.e., they can dress and undress themselves and get their own breakfasts, leaving the possibility of having a conversation or reading a book together. Also, I imagine when bedtimes are after 7:30 (or don't require an hour of ritual and logistics in advance), things like "game night" can enter the picture.

We let somebody else clean the house every other week, so that (1) we're just responsible for counters and tidiness, and (2) the inevitable piles of papers and clothes have to get shoveled up at least that often. We sometimes order dinner from a tasty ethnic alternative, so that we can cook when we have energy and enthusiasm, not all the time. But honestly, we also have a 4-year-old (and 3 cats) and we're always just on the razor edge between survival and exhaustion, where we're having some fun but are one illness or unexpected obligation from having no sense of humor. I can't believe that the people you know are really hanging loose as much as it appears.
posted by acm at 11:15 AM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: more time to concern yourselves with more important things, like sitting outside together on a fall day and having cider?

also, it's worth remembering that some of these Good Memories types of activities don't have to happen every day either -- maybe every year you go to a county fair in the summer, apple picking in the fall, a woodsy walk and picking out new flowers in the spring -- and doing (even if it requires scheduling) those things makes you feel like you Have That Life, because you *have* paused and done things you love, even if just that day. kids will give you the excuse for that kind of fun for many years.
posted by acm at 11:20 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Life with small kids is tough, really, specially if you have a demanding job. But I'm going to go against the common opinion here and say maybe you need to do this completely differently.
First of all, look at minimalizing your home, and that means clear out a lot of what you have (1/3-2/3). Then get storage for most of the rest. It doesn't need to look minimal, when I was married, romantic style was a deal-breaker for my husband, so our house looked like a space ship. When I was divorced, the first thing I did was paint my new walls yellow and buy antiques. But the minimalist approach, I kept.
Among things that I threw out was the TV, it takes much too much time.
I got help, two hours a week. The cleaning lady earned more than me, but it was worth it. And I made rules: if I or kiddy (or husband, before divorce) spilt something, it had to go right away. Wash up right away. Do some laundry every day, clean sheets and towels every week (when I was married, and could afford it, I got a laundry to do sheets). Wash the stuff that needs ironing during the weekend, so you can do it right away when the clothes are ironing-dry. Shop every day on your way home, one parent goes to the pre-school, another shops and cooks only simple recipes. Complicated is for when one has sweet preteens who love helping out in the kitchen (they do!). And one day a week, do nothing! Sometimes it's been Friday after work, other times Saturday for me. Eat out or take out, do something nice together, play, make sure you laugh (when my girl was four, we'd jump in the bed while listening to punk), see friends, but not at home; remember you are still the same as before baby.
This sounds like it's more work, but it's not, because it is only a little a day, and there is no
clutter or dirt to stress you, ever.
Now if you get child no. 2, this all becomes much harder. You need more money to get more help. But the principles are the same.
posted by mumimor at 11:23 AM on October 17, 2012

(sorry to keep adding, but I keep having more thoughts, heh.)

weekends are critical to Family Sanity as well -- make sure that those don't get engulfed with laundry and To Do lists (become multitaskers during TV time, etc.) but have frequent together time. also, there are enough hours there that parents can each carve out a bit for some work or hobbies or whatever while the other parent does some solo time. (this is also how we handle, e.g., bath time versus end-of-day dish clean-up, taking turns.)
posted by acm at 11:24 AM on October 17, 2012

Not only do I not sort laundry, I also put it directly in the washer when it's dirty. Then u just turn it on and add detergent when I have a full load in there. Hanging up stuff as soon as the dryer stops keeps things wrinkle-free. I never iron, and only fold shirts and jeans. Undies, socks, kids clothes, and dish towels just get thrown into drawers.

I have a supply of washcloths in the kitchen that I wet with hot water and wipe down the kid, the dining table and chairs, and kitchen abd bathroom surfaces after dinner, then hang it on the washer agitator so it doesn't mildew, knocking the previous nights washcloth which is now dry down into the washer. Takes approximately one minute and makes things much more presentable between true cleanings.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:31 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I second the recommendation to buy rechargeable batteries. Whatever time you spend popping them in & out of the charger will be more than offset by having to buy batteries far less often. As in, every five years or so. And no special trips just to buy frickin' batteries.

Same thing applies to either CFL or LED lights. Time spent shopping for & changing bulbs drops by 90% or thereabouts.

Dust only when it gets disturbed.

Make the bed sloppily, and not always.

Buy large containers of pantry/freezer foods (you can probably tell I dislike shopping...)

Use the post office's home pickup service to mail small packages. You just leave them at your door.

Do errands--and simultaneously get your daily exercise in--on a bicycle. I started biking a couple months ago, and while the bike is slower than a car, I don't have to do a walk or ride after the errands are done. Typically more than makes up for the slower vehicle.
posted by aerotive at 11:32 AM on October 17, 2012

One thing you want to do with the bed is let it air out: just flip the bedclothes neatly two thirds of the way off. Otherwise the moisture you generated during the night will take longer to evaporate and your bed won't feel fresh when you turn in for the night.
posted by Dragonness at 11:32 AM on October 17, 2012


Cleaning service. (even once every other week makes a huge difference)
Wash, Dry, Fold place for laundry. (cheap cheap cheap and feels like heaven)
Eating out. Ordering in food. (as needed)
Landscape people. (once a month, with mowing as needed)
Full service car maintenance. (as needed)

If you make more than 15-20 dollars an hour it is likely a waste of money to do these things yourself.
posted by French Fry at 11:34 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

N'thing cleaning service. It certainly won't get rid of all your day to day chores -- the dishes, the laundry, making sure mail doesn't pile up... but it will get rid of a lot of the serious house-maintence. I never have to think about dusting, and only vacuum if something gets spilled. Oh, ok, I dust-bust around the litterbox. But I never ever mop, or clean the bathroom, or the stovetop, or....

For us, it costs about $175 for a very reliable service to come every two weeks.

Honestly, one thing you're doing that many people don't is regular exercise. Mr. Kestrel and I recently had a baby, and it's clear that our beloved gym/run time not only *is* suffering, but will continue to for some time.
posted by kestrel251 at 11:44 AM on October 17, 2012

Best answer: With my wife commuting an hour and a half each way for school and having two little ones the single thing that has made my life easier is making meal/shopping list for two weeks every other Sunday. I simply look at the list the night before, pull/thaw things if need be, throw stuff in crock pot or maybe prep stuff for later and I'm good to go. That way if my wife beats me home things are started or if I get home first it doesn't take too much effort to finish cooking dinner. It also means we cook more often, save money, and I have more leftovers to eat at lunch time.

The stress of trying to figure out what the heck I'm going to feed two hungry little ones when we get home at 5:30 if my wife is not yet back is not a fun one. Even if the list says mac and cheese + broccoli at least I don't need to sit there agonizing what the heck to cook while two toddlers are getting grumpy because it's time to eat.
posted by Quack at 12:21 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Make things as easy as possible to accomplish. Set yourself up to win.

Example: I was in the habit of washing my dishes but never getting around to putting them away until there was a giant clutter of clean dishes and no room to wash any more... argh!

I realised that, for me, opening the cupboard door to lift the dishes up above shoulder height and put them away was, for some reason, just too damn much work. I also realised that I had a shelf in the kitchen that was slightly higher than waist height that I had been using for food items I don't often eat. So I did some rearranging and now it takes me two seconds to drop the clean plates where they belong.

The les frequently you use something, the harder it should be to access. That sounds obvious, but many peoples' kitchens and storage spaces, aren't actually set up that way. Pull everything out, if you have to, figure out what you actually use often and where things are most accessible, and arrange accordingly.

Making a meal plan seems like more work but it actually saves time and money.

Having a girl come in and clean once every two weeks seems like a lot of money, but it's not really that extravagent, and saves time.

I rarely clean the shower, I just spray it with cleaning solution, let it sit for a bit, then run the shower extra long before I get in. I polish the chrome now and then but rarely.

I don't have lots of fiddly shelves and drawers and containers and shit for things to go in. I have baskets. I have one giant basket in the bathroom that basically everything goes in except for the smaller makeup things that would never be found again and go in a set of plastic drawers.

I don't organize bathroom cupboards, nor the fridge, and kitchen cupboards are roughly divided into categories but I'm very, very lax about it. My mother organizes the items in her cupboards and even arranges her plates so that the patterns are all facing the same way. I do not do this. However, if there is a recipe I am planning to make and I don't want the ingredients to mysteriously disappear before I get a chance, I will put them all together with a note (or just hide them).

I own as few things as possible. Get rid of as much stuff as you can. Then, try to keep from accumulating more. This saves time, energy, and space.

I keep common areas reasonably tidy but what goes on behind closed doors... Well, it can get scary. But I don't always have time to make my room as nice as I'd like it, and I'm ok with that.
posted by windykites at 12:53 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Cleaning service was a shared-living-situation-saver in my experience. If you can afford it without the expenditure of money causing more stress than the time savings is worth, then I'd do it.

The cleaning service I use sends out 3 or 4 people every other week. They're in and out in less than an hour, but in that hour they do a better job than I'd probably do in 3-4 hours (mostly because I'd get sick of doing it halfway though and would probably halfass things). So the net result is that the place gets and stays cleaner, and there's no arguments over chores.

I also don't iron; the stuff that requires ironing goes to the dry cleaners. (Not everything that goes there actually gets dry cleaned, though; cotton shirts get laundered and pressed, which is about half the price of dry cleaning. Make sure when you go to the cleaners that you're not spending unnecessarily on dry cleaning for clothes that don't need it.) Wash/dry/fold service is awesome, but is prohibitively expensive in my area for some reason.

Also no litter-box scooping for the cats. It's gross and IMO a waste of time. We keep a garbage pail next to the litter box, with a heavy-duty trash bag in it at all times. When the litter boxes are dirty, they just get dumped in the trash can and refilled with clean litter. This allows us to buy really cheap non-clumping cat litter. The cats seem to be fine with it. YMMV depending on where your litter boxes are located.

Daily exercise is important and I wouldn't cut back on that (and one of the goals in my household-task-outsourcing activities is making time for exercise), but you can save a lot of time cooking if you plan meals out ahead and do the prep work and heavy cooking once a week. There are lots of meal plans that you could look at for inspiration, which give you a weekly or biweekly shopping list and save time both on grocery store trips and on cooking/prep time itself.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:55 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

My family decided to blow off cable, and our life is slower paced and more relaxed, plus we have more time to concern ourselves with what we feel are more important things.
posted by lstanley at 2:03 PM on October 17, 2012

Have you seen this previously, "How clean is my house?" The comments might be useful in terms of getting an idea of how others think of messiness in the home.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:44 PM on October 17, 2012

People are totally faking it. If we are expecting company, much of the day is spent making the house presentable; with a toddler around, it's just impossible to not have clutter as the normal state. We let things slide if they're not on fire (on fire: dishes, laundry, pets -- everything else is ignored mostly). Our bedroom door is closed when we have company, because it's just a disaster. Dinner is hot dogs or pasta more often than I'd like to admit. But we have quality time every evening as a family! Worth it right now, though I do sometimes think we are slightly more depressed due to the state of our house than we would be if it were cleaner on a regular basis.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:42 PM on October 17, 2012

I made my housekeeping MUCH easier by adopting a change in attitude: I re-defined what it means for my house to be "company-ready."

I like my home to look tidy and attractive when people come over, whether it's a surprise drop-by or a long planned dinner. But I long ago let go of the idea that things will always be as I like them to be. So what if someone sees that things are messy? If the someone is a friend, it won't make them think less of me. If they're not a friend, I have no reason to care what they think about my living conditions. Actually, true friends were relieved and grateful when I started letting them see a little more of the natural mess. If my house were consistently cleaner than theirs, that would make them feel bad, and I don't want to make them feel bad. Now, as long as there's no dirty underwear in the living room, dining room or kitchen, I'm ready for visitors.
posted by Corvid at 5:01 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Actually, true friends were relieved and grateful when I started letting them see a little more of the natural mess.

Oh, AMEN. I have a good friend who needs help with housework. Instead of sitting around, we work on a project that she needs done and we chat while working. Win-win.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:34 PM on October 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: ... I'm going to add to the list of cooking things, because it's something that's changed the way I eat. And I spend less time cooking.

I eat mostly food that I make myself, from scratch. Because every time I make food, I double (or triple!) the amount I cook, then package away single-serving or family-serving size containers of my home-cooked food. So my freezer currently has chili, tomato sauce, basil pesto, and cabbage stew, all packaged so I could reasonably thaw and eat them pretty quickly.

I make 2-3 times what a recipe calls for when baking- then flash-freeze cookies, scones, turnovers, pies, everything- as raw dough. In single serving sizes. Then, bag it up and write the baking directions on the bag, and presto- homemade cookies, anytime. Only one dish- the pan you bake them in.

So if I get home from work at 6:45, and then need to feed my whole menagerie, I still can eat something decent, and not create more than 1-2 dirty dishes to deal with.

For more specific info, Bridget Lancaster is a genius.
posted by Cracky at 5:46 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

nthing that the excercise/dog/cooking trio are what are really sucking up your time. It doesn't matter if you save 10 minutes if you have these big chunks of time spoken for. That said, have you considered restructuring your day somehow? eg, can you go in to work earlier and then leave earlier and do the workout/dog walk then? Maybe even letting little llama bike along with you? This way you get to have some relaxing fun time before you have to do the dinner prep gauntlet. Or exercising after work and going to bed and getting up later, so that you have one big chunk of time instead of two little ones.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 6:46 PM on October 17, 2012

We live in a city and don't have a car... we both hate grocery shopping, and walking home with it is the pitts. We cook a lot and eat pretty healthy... so we joined a CSA. They deliver veg & fruit to our doorstep once a week, and it's bliss. We each stop once a week at the grocery store to pick up odds & ends... eggs, peanut butter, cat food etc, but it's much more manageable. We can also order staples (bread, eggs, maple syrup etc) through our CSA, and I have seen/worked for others that allow you to opt in meat, dairy - all kinds of stuff. We also supplemented with Trader Joe's when we lived in the States.

Not only did it eliminate shopping, but it's elimatnated all the "deciding" - deciding what to buy, what to cook etc. Now it's just - "have kale, guess we're eating kale". Done. It's saved heaps of time. I've worked for a couple CSA's - if you want me to point you in the right direction, memail me and let me know where you live (ie "Chicago area" is enough). You could also try looking on

Also, we stopped having "chore time" on Sat mornings. Ugh - took forever. We split them (just husband and me, no kids yet), and do as needed. Maybe 5-10 min. each evening... max. We always make extra dinner so we have lunches/leftovers on hand. I disagree with Kadin2048 about the cat box - my mom does this, and it's disgusting. Please clean the catbox regularly... there's a difference between comfortable clutter and actually dirty. Our cats are allowed outside, and hardly ever use the cat box, so I only clean it once a week in summer (more often in winter).

...and for what it's worth, I put myself through college as a nanny, and yes - everyone EVERYONE is faking it (or they were really rich and had lots of housekeeping). Pick your battles, and don't worry about it. =) (I actually turned down a job because the house was TOO clean/manicured. It kinda freaked me out!)

I also vote for crock-pots and once-a-week takeout or frozen "cheat" dinners. If it were up to me, I'd almost never do laundry but my husband does it once a week. For a long time we cleaned the bathroom weekly, and took turns every other week... I never did my turn, and he never noticed. I lied about it for two years. Trust me, no one else is noticing, they're all saying "thank god she has toys on the floor too". Now it's my "chore" and I do it as needed (bathroom sink nightly, due to kitty paw prints; bathtub once a month maybe,, when it looks gross), and he has no complaints.

Oh the cat scratching... we got this duct-tape stuff that was basically sandpaper and covered the area we wanted them to stop scratching with it. Unattractive, but it worked... they don't like the roughness under their feets. We covered the carpet with the tape, and bought them a new scratching post the same day, and they took the hint. Good luck!
posted by jrobin276 at 7:08 PM on October 17, 2012

Cooking: I don't like eating the same thing day after day, but I don't mind if there's a little space in between, so I do a kind of rotation: if there are leftovers, they're served 3 nights after they were first served. So I usually make a leftover-y kind of thing a couple nights a week, to free a couple of later nights from cooking. On the other nights, I make fish or pizza or something else that can't be reheated, and hey, sometimes we have a breaded protein item from Trader Joe's with sliced cucumbers. And my meatballs have grown a 1/4-inch with each child.

It's really a lot more work to keep up a fixed standard of house tidiness (if that's what "rigid" means?) when you have small children. The rhythm of the day is so irregular; their needs are not evenly spaced. The messes do not come immediately before the free time to clean up the messes. So this morning for instance, the breakfast dishes were still dirty on the counter, and there were a lot of books and stuffed animals on the floor, and crumbs under the table, and shoes littering the entryway (even though everything had been clean the night before!), and I just said fuck it and went to my sister's house anyway, so the cousins could play in some of the last of the beautiful weather for the year. I do think that with small children, if you put off leisure for when all your chores are done and everything is sparkling, you won't have nearly enough fun. It's a cliche, but it always does put me in a more right-on frame of mind to reflect that someday the house will stay cleaner because they won't be in it.
posted by palliser at 7:56 PM on October 17, 2012

A lot of this is climate and house-dependent too. In the tropics, you do laundry almost every day. You can't rewear most of your clothes. I have five kids, and we do about two loads a day. We also live in a dense city, so there's a lot of dust which means mopping and sweeping is a daily job. The heat and humidity means you can't leave dishes overnight and mould grows quickly, so bathrooms and kitchens are scrubbed down daily, trash must be thrown every day or even twice a day. However, the living spaces are generally much smaller and as apartments, there's no outdoor maintenance to do, so - to keep my 110 sq m apartment with a family of seven minimally clean, laundered and fed, is about four hours a day. Which is why I have a part-time housekeeper.

I know people who do less housework, and frankly their apartments are noticeably worse, like sticky surfaces and funky smells. The levels described above would not work in our area at all.

Re: the cat, a good slipcover kept in a closet is nice when you have company over, the rest of the time it can be cat paradise.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:57 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

My groceries are delivered weekly.

We don't iron. Things come off the line and get folded as they're placed in the basket. They may live in the basket for a while or they might go back in the closet quickly, depending on what else is happening that week.

Socks are not paired. Underwear is not folded.

Our robot vacuum runs every day.

When I leave a room I look for something that needs to be put away in the room I'm going to. It keeps clutter down.

If I'm waiting for something in the microwave I (usually) put clean dishes away. Dishes don't ever get dried either; they air dry in the drainer.

However I do straighten the bed each morning (i.e. pull the sheets/doona up and make it look tidy). I like the appearance of tidiness!
posted by eloeth-starr at 1:15 AM on October 18, 2012

If you wear a pair of pants or a sweat shirt or sweater two or three or four times instead of once between washes, this cuts way back on washing, drying, and folding. It also puts less stress on your clothes and your washing machine, so they last longer and you save money. This is not possible if you're a very sweaty or messy person, or you live in the sort of climate that makes you sweat a lot, but I think most people in your part of the world can get away with multiple wearings of outer garments without looking or smelling bad.

Similarly, encourage everyone in the family to reuse cups. I drink tea all day. I use the same mug every time (my mug) and I maybe rinse it, maybe not, so that's a lot of potential washing that doesn't ever happen.

Another work-saver is to prevent messes from happening. Two easy examples:
1. Always cover stuff you put into the microwave so you don't have to clean the spatters out of the microwave.
2. Always take your shoes off at the front door and put on house slippers to prevent a lot of floor cleaning. Buy extra slippers for guests. Really. We do that in this country. It works.
posted by pracowity at 2:16 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Something I sometimes do when people are coming over on short notice: If I can't get the master bedroom completely tidy I just move the mess out of the sight-line of the hallway. This way, if they use the washroom, they can look down the hallway and see a nice tidy room. If they were to walk down the hall and step into the room, they'd see a pile of clothes on one side of the bed. But they don't do that.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:50 AM on October 18, 2012

Response by poster: There are a lot of great answers here. I best answered stuff I think applies most to our family in particular.

I am thinking that the things that people rightly pointed out have the most impact (the cooking, the dog walk, the run, having a four-year-old) are all things that we actively chose. These things do represent a lot of work and time, but at least they actually accurately reflect our priorities and things we're fortunate to be able to do--it's not that the time is sucked up by hour-long commutes or ironing underwear.

The worst part, as I'm thinking about this, is maybe less the frantic pace, than the feeling that it *shouldn't* be frantic and that if we were doing a better job somewhere it *wouldn't* be frantic--that maybe we're doing it wrong. I don't think, overall, that we're really fussing with all that much that doesn't need fussing with. I think maybe feeling frantic in the morning is a fairly predictable outcome, and although I'm sure we'll adopt a lot of the tricks above--as someone pointed out -- it's pretty hard to erase the time suck of a morning run.

Extra items: The dog walk is separate from my run--Mr. Llama usually does Dog, because Dog's not really into running with me. I do tend to make extra of whatever food I'm making so I can have more novelty with less prep later on. We have a basket at the bottom of the stairs that gets filled with kid stuff when we do quick clean-ups and that basket gets escorted to Little Llama's room every few days (it's not like we're escorting every stuffed hippo back to her room.) We wear many items of clothing multiple times (jeans can go weeks without washing) and we have things set up so we're not tracking mud all over the place.

I've never folded underwear (or ironed it) and I'm thinking I can keep that going for a lifetime.

Thanks everyone.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:10 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I sort of agree with you that it shouldn't be frantic, except that you have a toddler. Kiddies that age are agents of chaos. At the end of each day, you're lucky to be alive. And look how perfectly you manage to run things. You have an awesome system, which is working great. I am not sure why you would want to change things so that they work worse.

I would recommend that you try to treat weekends as being as non-work as possible. You should try (oh go ahead and laugh!) to have one day when no work is done beyond what you absolutely have to do given your constraints, e.g. You absolutely have to feed the kid, it's got something to do with the law. But you could have that day to order in or else double-prepare meals the day before. Not everyone in the household has to have the same no-work day, if it's easier to stagger them. And try to hang onto the idea that weekends are for doing as little work as possible, not for filling up with busy-work. If a big horrible chore looms up that you can only do on a weekend, try hard to find a lazy way around it so that it doesn't cut into your loafing time on Saturday and Sunday.

I realize that I'm saying this as someone with no caring responsibilities, but people even screamed at me about how impossible it is to do this and how spoiled and entitled I was and how out of touch with the real world. But when I was busting my ass getting stuff done during the week, I would get criticised for being compulsive and anal and OCD and etc, etc. Basically we all want household chores to just go away, and we all have an investment in pushing our own standards as the ne plus ultra of what's possible in the real world.

In general I have an OHIO (only handle it once) approach to as many things as possible. The thing about keeping stuff tidy as best you can is, it makes everything in life a lot easier and faster. People love to catastrophize about the enormity of chores like putting a dirty dish in a dishwasher instead of leaving it or dumping it somewhere halfway, or how hard it is to empty a dishwasher or make a bed or whatever. But I'm militant about emptying the dishwasher if I walk in and find the cycle is finished. It's a pain, but you know how long it takes? Four minutes. I stuck a load of towels in the laundry just now, and a bit later I guess I'll throw them in the dryer. Big hardship, right? It's not like I have to pound them out one at a time on rocks down at the river. Most of the chores I do can be done in the interstices of my day, when I'm not looking. The only things I do which really take time are stripping the beds and properly cleaning the toilet. I do these on Sunday mornings, along with testing the fire alarms, because despite my philosophy I can't do these things on week mornings because people are asleep. I procrastinate and moan about these things, yes, because I'm like that, but when I finally get up off my duff, they take about 30 minutes. The work doesn't take the time - just the whingeing about it.

What I'm getting at here is that basically I'm lazy, and I find that messiness is a way of making more work whereas being a hardass about doing a chore NOW means more time for slobbing around. While your kid is this young you probably won't be doing much lazing, but when kiddo gets older, you may have more time.
posted by tel3path at 1:46 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am a strong believer in bed-making because I have tied that specific task to decent mental health, so whenever I sink into depression the unmade bed is my first clue to me and my partner that something is going pear shaped. Also, as a pet owner with animals I love more than the allergies I've developed to them over the years I cannot leave the bed unmade unless I want to sneeze and itch all night. I guess what I'm suggesting is eliminate all the tasks that make specific sense to eliminate in your household. I like the no folding clothes idea, though.
posted by mcbeth at 11:58 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have had a housecleaner in twice in the past month. I feel like a Supermom now. I really agonized over it but I hope we can afford her forever. She's an independent businesswoman which I like and it has made all the rest of the keeping up so much manageable. But, like you, I have felt hopelessly behind and overwhelmed since the little one came along. From my point of view, you're doing a great job. Anytime we add something special to the week, like a gardening project or swimming lessons, the whole thing goes to hell. Nature of the beast, I think.
posted by amanda at 5:40 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

One more little note to add. I had 3 under 3 at one point (no twins either). What seems like frantic running around you will look back on fondly. My kids who are now 18, 17 and 16 love to hear stories about how frantic life was when they were young. Sometimes it is ok to just ignore it for a short while too. We once accidentally split open a bag of flour when making cookies with the kids and there was flour everywhere. The cats ran through it and there were what we termed ghost footprints everywhere in the house. The kids starting tossing it around the kitchen. Mrs Gunn and I just decided to embrace it and take pictures. It took us two days before we got up the energy to clean up the house. So what?

If you fight it, it will be a fight. If you embrace the craziness, it becomes routine and can even be fun. Know too that it gets easier. "This too shall pass" was one of our favorite mantras.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:25 PM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Making the bed for me literally just takes 1 second. I have a fitted sheet on the bed (which therefore never moves) and a duvet on top of that which is very easy to shake flat. It's a very warm duvet and so no other sheet is necessary.

I have never understood why people have lots of sheets on their beds and waste time doing hospital corners etc.
posted by inbetweener at 12:48 AM on October 20, 2012

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