House Keeping Hacks for the Working Parent

08 October 2013

One crucial aspect of living a balanced life is eliminating the stressors and in my life, housework is a major stressor. Since I can't eliminate it by hiring someone to do it for me, then I have to make it simple and ensure it takes up less time. Hence the birth of my ever growing list of housework hacks. I must say, this is the post I've looked forward to the most from this series.

General Hacks:
  • Clean in bites of 10 - 60 minutes depending on your mood and time. I can't devote hours in the weekend to cleaning my home, but I can find time for the tasks that need to be done if I break them into little bites. e.g, I don't have to scrub all the bathrooms in the house. I can do each one separately.
  • Clean as needed, not on a schedule. Ties in to the first point. For instance, last time I washed my bathtub, it was 3AM. I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and felt wide-awake, so I washed the tub (took all of 7 minutes) and went back to lie down. I can clean the 2nd bath while the kids are having their shower. I sweep the entryway on the way out (or in). It'll seem haphazard but actually becomes effortless with time. "When it looks dirty, I clean it" is the guiding philosophy here
  • Keep cleaning equipment close to where they would be used. Chances are if you have to walk across the house to get something, there's enough distractions to guarantee that you won't be back. For example, I have a broom on every level of the house, one more in the patio and another in the garage. When any floor starts looking like crap, a broom is literally within arms length so I can get the task done asap
Laundry Hack:
  • Buy clothes according to your desire to do laundry. For me, I want to do kiddie laundry once a week so the girls have about a week's worth of play/daycare clothes. If they have more, I would procrastinate with the laundry. Same thing applies to beddings and towels. 2 sets per bed and 2 per person respectively. I know another mom who would rather do laundry every 2 weeks - so her kids have enough clothes to take them through 2 weeks. There's no one-size fits all. The trick is to plan the family wardrobe size around how often you want to do laundry so that laundry does not add to your stress. Looking for what the kids will wear on a morning when you need to be out of the house pronto and coming up with nothing? STRESSFUL!
Cooking Hacks
  •  Keep a list of easy effortless meals based on items you always have on hand. Consult this list for those times when you're running on an empty tank. I keep my list on a little whiteboard on the side of the range hood. I write the meals down because when I'm truly tired, my brain shuts down and I can't even muster the thoughts required to put together a simple balanced meal. On that list I have eggs, sandwiches, cereal, oatmeal, muffins, fried plantains and pounded yam. All are meal components that I can throw together and serve the girls something nutritious in under 15 minutes
  • Find your happy place in freezer meals. For me, some meals are ok frozen and some I can't stand the taste once it's been frozen and then defrosted. I've learnt to cook those items partially, freeze and finish cooking later after defrosting. 
  • In the same vein, it's good to know the defrosting methods that work for different items. Some do fine defrosted in the microwave and others are better off being slowly thawed to room temperature (baked goods fall into this category)
Cleaning Hacks:
  • I have not vacuumed since we moved to our new house and no the carpets aren't a dingy mess. I have an iRobot. I can't tell you how much I love this little robot vacuum but I can assure you if it breaks, I will shed tears. We program it to clean daily and it delivers clean floors - hardwood and carpet. These nifty robot cleaners are not cheap, but they're worth it in my opinion
  • Hate lugging a mop and bucket to clean wooden stairs? I do. Easier and more efficient to fill a bowl with soapy water and wipe down the stairs with a dishrag or old washcloth
  • Bathroom sinks, floors and surfaces? Clean with disinfectant wipes like Lysol. This is another 5 minute task that I can fit into any time of the day. May not work for you if you have really big bathrooms.
  • Bath and showers? Spray a 50:50 combination of vinegar and blue Dawn dishwashing soap. Go do something for 5 minutes. Come back, wipe the bath and shower and rinse. This is the most amazing thing I learnt on the blogosphere. (Thanks to Julia). Don't believe it works, see my evidence photo below. The top portion is not cleaned and has a yuck layer of soap and hardwater residue. The bottom portion was cleaned just as I described; didn't even have to scrub! As they used to say in the 7up ads, the difference is clear.

So, I showed you some of my hacks, your turn to show me yours. 

I'll be writing about being a working mother throughout October and sharing my personal experiences. Emphasis on personal. I realise that everyone's situation is different and what works for me may not be the best for someone else.

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