The day you bring your new bundle of joy home is a blissful one indeed. You are high off of the closeness you now feel with your partner due to the tremendous ordeal you just endured together, and the overwhelming love and affection you now feel for this tiny human you barely know, and -oh yeah- the high dosage pain killers they send you on your merry way with.
You walk into your nice, sparkly, clean home that you spent the wee hours of the night (when you were supposed to be sleeping) nesting all over during your final trimester, and think to yourself “Aaaaaah…. How nice. This is totally how my life is going to be now.”
Fast forward a couple weeks, and you’ve run out Vicodin, the snowball effects of sleep deprivation have kicked in, you haven’t showered in lord knows how long, and you are sleeping on the couch on top of a pile of cleanish laundry with one hand holding a pacifier in your -FINALLY- sleeping newborns mouth, surrounded by empty take out containers, water bottles and grocery bags. Burp rags and bibs litter the floor, and dust (and dog hair) bunnies have congregated in the corners. Light peaks through the shutters that haven’t been opened since about day three, and you awaken, attempt to straighten the Edward Scissorhands do’ you’ve been working on all night, wipe the drool from your face, and begin to survey the destruction.
Where am I? Have I been kidnapped? Surely this isn’t my house. Wait… is this my house? I think that’s my shirt draped on top of my television. And I’m pretty sure that’s my cat sleeping on that overflowing shoe rack. Mother of God… it is my house. What has become of my sparkling, lemony-fresh domain? What’s that smell? Am I going to survive this catastrophe?
This rude awakening happens to even the most OCD of new parents. So, if you have gone through this don’t beat yourself up. And if you haven’t… don’t delude yourself into thinking that you can avoid it (unless you are a rich celebrity with a nanny and a maid and a personal chef… In which case, I wasn’t talking to you). Believe you me (what does that even mean? Seriously.)… once you carry that little crying, eating machine disguised as an adorable, squishy, helpless lump (more like lumps) through your front door… your house will never truly be clean again.
The realization that what the nurses, family members, and baby literature call your “bundle of joy” is, in fact, a very miniature, lazy, unhygienic, gluttonous roommate happens relatively quickly. Once this happens, if you’re lucky like me and your husband gets a long(ish) paternity leave, then you can band together and tackle the problem head on. But once he goes back to work… Game over, man. Game over.
Not only that, but once the hubs’ go back to work and you are left juggling breast feeding (which is like… really difficult in the beginning), diapers, the (TONS!) of laundry, as well as all the rest of the housework, and trying to squeeze in a poor excuse of a meal here and there… Not only do you not have enough time, let alone energy, to keep up with the housework, but they seem to start to work against you.
I try to give Jess a break, because he is the bacon-bringer-homer… I really do. Still, his LWS (Lysol Wipe Syndrome. See below.) and inability to close cabinet doors (you know that scene from the sixth sense? Yea.) or put his dirty laundry IN.The gee-darn. Laundry basket! (I wish I had a dollar for every inside out t-shirt/wife-beater combo I have found on literally every surface in my house. I could probably pay for my own maid.) certainly does not help the sitch. Oh, look! There’s one now!
Then there’s, what I now call, LWS. Lysol Wipe Syndrome. It sounds clean. But I assure you it is quite the opposite. You see this here Lysol wipe?
Jesse was eating a fruit cup. Jesse dropped fruit (pears) from the fruit cup onto the living room floor that had just been mopped (in fact the whole house had just been cleaned). He looked back at me, eyebrows raised. We exchanged witty banter. He went back to what he was doing.
Perplexed, I said, “Uuuuh… I hope you’re not leaving those pears on my nice clean floor.” More witty banter. I asked him to pick them up and wipe up the spot with a Lysol wipe so it wouldn’t be sticky. He said he would (or maybe he didn’t… but trust me… it was implied) and I went about my business.
Later, I walked by that very same spot and there, on the floor, was the Lysol wipe. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, but I was amazed. I don’t feel like “A for effort” really applies here. ‘This is why I can’t keep the house clean,’ I thought.
It’s my own fault I guess, I’ve been picking up after him for years. So is the plight of the American housewife, I guess. I can’t complain too much. And though the above novel might seem like complaining, really it is an attempt at a clear picture of my situation. It’s just reality.
SO, what do you do when you have a husband, a baby, two dogs, and admittedly, most of the time, your own exhausted, baby-toting, lazy self working against you?
Room of the day.
•First, divide your house into rooms. Each room will have it’s own assigned day. For example, my house conveniently has 7 rooms; the kitchen and dining area, the living room, the den, the bathroom, and three bedrooms. Assign each room a day. Every day you will spend time thoroughly cleaning “the room of the day.”
•Make yourself a checklist. Checking things off can give you a sense of accomplishment and motivate you to keep up the good work! Here’s an example of a thorough checklist:
_Clean and put away dishes.
_Wipe down countertops
_Wipe down cabinet doors.
_Clean windows and sills.
_Take out the garbage
_Wipe off table top
_Sweep and mop
_Get rid of cobwebs
_Dust tv, furniture, window sills and baseboards
_Put away anything that’s out of place.
_Fluff throw pillows.
_Vacuum and/or sweep and mop
_Get rid of cobwebs
_Wipe down mirror
_Wipe down countertop and sink
_Scrub toilet bowl
_Wipe down toilet
_Sweep and mop floor
_Dust ceiling fans, window sills and furniture.
_Pick up and put away.
_Vacuum and/or sweep and mop
_Dust any picture/artwork/furniture in hallways and sweep/mop/vacuum.
_Disinfect doorknobs and light switches.
_Organize linen closet
Again, this is just an example. If there are other things you need cleaned. Add them to your checklist. Doy!
•Plan out things that you would like to get done in the morning, say, before the baby/kids wake up. Here’s what I do:
-Make your bed. I’ve heard it said a thousand times, and it is so true. If you just take the time (about 5 minutes) to make your bed in the morning, it improves your mood, gets you on the right track for getting things accomplished, and just makes the whole house feel cleaner already. I love walking by my bedroom when my bed is made. It gives me that warm fuzzy feeling inside. So do that as soon as you get up.
-Put away clean dishes (you will have loaded the dishwasher and run it the night before).
-Start a load of laundry.
-Spend ten minutes tidying your whole house. Throw away trash, put things away where they go, dust, whatever you feel needs to be cleaned. You’d be amazed how much you can get done in 10 minutes.
Plan little things that you can do throughout the day once everyone’s awake:
-Tidy rooms you couldn’t while the kids were sleeping.
-Disinfect doorknobs and light switches.
-Fold and put away laundry (technically you could do this while the kids are still sleeping if you have time. I’m just trying to evenly space things out.)
-Spend 10-15 minutes cleaning your room of the day (You can also do this in the morning if its a room no one is sleeping in).
-Check, organize, and file your mail.
Plan out things you can do in the evening:
-Load dishwasher and start (told you).
-Clean any toys/playpens etc that have been played with and/or slobbered/barfed on during the day and put them away.
Reward & Relax.
Once everyone is asleep and you have completed your routine go find your favorite comfy chair, or maybe it’s your bed, or a porch swing (or whatever!) and indulge in something. You’ve had a long day and you deserve a reward. Have a glass of wine. Eat some chocolate. Read a good book.
If you never take the time to pat yourself on the back then it’s not going to feel worth it. It’ll help prevent those internal kindergarden, tantrum, “well what about meeEEee?” moments. So tell yourself you are super mom, and let your nerves unwind before bed. You’ll sleep better, too.
If you’re too tired to do this at night and your like “I can’t even stay awake long enough to brush my teeth, lady!” try finding a few moments during the day to do something for yourself. Maybe when baby is napping or daddy is playing with him. Make the time.
You can’t clean all the things all the time.
Babies, husbands, life… these are very unpredictable things. Sometimes one of them throws you a fastball, or jokingly calls you “fatty” at juuuuuust the wrong time, or spits up on you one too many times before lunch, and you feel like if you do anything more than sit on the couch all day and breast feed (only because you have to) that you will spontaneously combust. That is okay.
So the toilet won’t get scrubbed this week. So what? Your body is telling you to take a break. So do it. Do like I do and nap with your baby all day. You’ll enjoy the closeness as well as the “laziness”, you’ll get some much needed rest, and you can pick up where you left off -feeling much better!- the next day. If today is a wash… I always tell myself “Tomorrow is a new day.”
This method has helped me keep my house reasonably clean while taking care of the mini-man and cooking. Sometimes I feel like giving up, and maybe for a day or two, I do. But taking an organized approach helps me get right back ontrack and keeps me from setting the house in fire. 🙂
Try it out! Tell me what works for you! I’d live to hear your stories.