Monday, September 14, 2009

Not Suzy Homemaker

Make the popular choices. Then, you're allowed to complain as much as you want. If you've chosen to homeschool, you don't dare mention that you haven't vacuumed yet this week or to lament the state of your bedroom. Anti-homeschoolers will blame homeschooling for any problem you ever have. If you'd only send your kids to school, they reason, you'd have more time for housekeeping.

Yeah, but we'd have less time with our kids.

Still, a household with ever-present children presents certain housekeeping challenges. I'll admit to an occasional fantasy that involves watching my kids pile onto a school bus, not to be seen again until three o'clock that afternoon. My, how things would sparkle by the time they arrived home! Or maybe I'd just take a nap.

Over the years, I've stumbled across a few coping strategies that have made improvements in how this crazy household functions. One was actually an accident. My son's bed frame broke, and we were forced to place his box springs directly on the floor until I could get another. While cleaning his room in preparation for the new bed's arrival, I noticed something wonderful. Previous room-cleaning sessions had revealed toys, underwear, and a variety of unidentifiable attrocities beneath his bed. With that convenient hiding place removed, we were able to make the room presentable in a fraction of the time. To this day, all of my children sleep on mattresses over box springs, which sit directly on the floor. With some tugging, a second fitted sheet will just cover the box spring, and it all looks quite nice, even when the bed isn't made.

Speaking of sheets, my kids' bedding doesn't get washed weekly. The children are put to bed clean and their sheets are washed about once a month (bedwetters excepted, of course). If the sheets look clean and smell clean, then they ARE clean . . . aren't they? Most of the children use a comforter without a top sheet, so making their bed is just a matter of pulling the comforter up. The comforter gets washed when the sheets do.

I'm currently between dishwashers. I've been telling myself that since our dishwasher broke three years ago, because I don't want to admit that I might not get another. I detest washing beverage glasses, with their nasty little rings of dried milk. Unfortunately, cups and glasses made up the bulk of our dishwashing detail. I considered paper or plastic cups, but decided I'd rather put the money toward a new dishwasher. In desperation, I took my kids to the Salvation Army to choose one twenty-nine-cent mug each. I set a mug tree on the kitchen counter and instituted a "no glasses" rule. If anyone wants a drink, they use their own mug, rinse it, and hang it back up. Once a week, I wash all the mugs in bleach water. Voila! Fully half of our dirty dishes were eliminated.

Beach towels are cheap at the end of summer. Buy a bunch. Have a couple sets of decorative towels to make your bathroom look nice, but use beach towels for the serious business of drying wiggly little bodies and wiping up their splashes. Even adults appreciate using a really substantial towel, instead of the puny little rectangles marketed as "bath towels".

I've given up on chore charts and other methods that require assigning different chores every day or week. In my house, my kids are "specialists" ! If you think about it, the most difficult part of getting a child to do a chore is teaching them to do it correctly. At this point, my kids have had the same chores for years and they can do them more efficiently than I can. Of course we want to train our children to do a variety of household tasks, but there are a few things we just want DONE on a regular basis. Those daily, essential tasks make great permanent work assignments.

I've been riddled with guilt over my inability to plan menus. At one point, the moms on the Time4Learning forum were sharing their week's menus. I reluctantly admitted that I could usually be found standing in front of the refrigerator an hour before mealtime, pondering the possibilities. I had tried planning the week's meals, but something unexpected usually caused me to re-think the menu. Finally, it occurred to me that I could plan six dinners for the week, without assigning them to specific days. I try to plan two crockpot meals, two traditional dinners, and two quick-and-easy choices. This gives me a selection for any kind of day: a stay-at-home day, an away-from-home day, or a wild and crazy day. (We eat out or order in once a week.)

Maybe you don't have six kids like I do. Or maybe you have more. Regardless, you probably have some survival tips of your own, so please share. I can use all the help I can get!

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