How I Do Everything


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The title of this post is supposed to be a joke, obviously. No one does everything, and if you think they do, you are very confused. It's easy to look at the perfectly decorated table and forget that we aren't seeing anything outside the square: like the messy floor and open cabinet drawers and piles of laundry.

I have in the past gotten a few questions about how I get things done as a full-time working mom. I leave in the morning at 7 and don't get home until 5, so I can't throw in a load of laundry at noon or start dinner during nap time or run errands in the middle of the day when the store isn't packed with crazed rush-hour shoppers. I'm not saying everyone can do that even if you don't work full time, but the point is: I have limited amount of time at home to get all the household things done, and it can be very tiring and overwhelming sometimes.

Also, because I'm away from R all day, I have a limited amount of time with her--only about 2 hours every evening. That's not nearly enough for me, in case you were wondering. Because I want to be intentional about the time I have with her and maximize it as much as possible, I really don't do any chores (other than some dishes and making dinner) until after she's asleep, which gives me even less time to get other things done.

I don't have it all figured out, and there are things I'm not good at, at all (ahem, cleaning the bathroom and dusting), so I'm not in any way trying to act like I have it all together. Read: I DO NOT HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER. However, I thought it might be interesting and/or helpful to some of you, especially fellow working moms, if I shared a few insights into how I get things done on a daily basis.

Do things efficiently.

The best way to get things done for anyone, mom or not, is to not waste time. I decide I'm going to do a chore, and then I do it. Or, I decide I'm not going to do any chores and I'm going to make cookies or do a workout video (or both ha!). Whatever it is, just do it, as Nike says.

Sometimes I set a timer for myself: for example, eight minutes to pick up the living room, and at the end of the eight minutes I stop no matter what. I also don't waste time looking at social media until after the chore is done. I find that because I know I have a limited time to get things done, I've become a lot more efficient at time management as far as deciding what chores to do when and getting them done quickly.

Do things in shifts.

A lot of the time, I find myself doing the same chore over a period of time. For example, it doesn't work for me to wash and fold an entire load of laundry in the same day, so I usually wash (and dry) a couple of loads of laundry one day, and then I fold all the laundry the next day (or, let's be honest, a few days later). Or, sometimes I don't have time to unload the entire dishwasher at once, so one morning I'll unload the top before I leave for work, and when I get home I unload the bottom. I find myself doing random chores at random times when I can squeeze it in quickly, and somehow it all adds up!

Do a sweep at the end of the day.

This doesn't always happen (like last night, just being honest), but I like to run a quick sweep through the house before I head to the bedroom for the night and put away any random items, clean up a few things, and generally leave the house looking generally picked up for the next day. It just makes me feel better and makes it so things don't pile up on me.

Meal prep/plan.

I haven't seriously meal planned in a couple of months. I used to write out a weekly plan, but I have gotten away from that lately. It's mostly all in my head. But I try to plan out meals that will be the quickest/easiest to make on days when we have things in the evenings, and I try to prep the ingredients the night or a few nights before if I can. Like chopping veggies or thawing chicken or whatever. On the weekends I make healthy muffins for R and freeze them for quick grab-and-go breakfasts and snacks for her. I'm a tad obsessed with muffin making, but I swear it has helped me feel just a little bit on top of things. They are easy to make and they are a healthy way for her to get fruits and veggies, so it's a win-win.

Ask for help.

I have Jordan to help me, which I am so thankful for. I know not everyone has someone around they can easily ask for help, but just don't be afraid to find someone to ask if you need it. This is an area where I admittedly struggle. What I tend to do is do everything myself, refuse to ask Jordan for help, and then get overwhelmed and storm into the other room and get mad at him for not helping me. I'm trying to be better about asking him for help when I need it, and of course he helps me out when I ask!

At the end of the day, do what you can and don't sweat the mess.

My house is not going to be picked up all the time. My sink is not going to be empty. My counter is not going to be clean. My floor is not going to be vacuumed. This is just a fact, and learning to be okay with a little mess is a good thing. I try to do all the things that need doing (not all in the same day), but sometimes it doesn't always happen. 

Sometimes the laundry is so full I can barely lift it and the sink is full of dirty dishes, and I just go to bed because it will be there tomorrow. That can't always happen, of course, because eventually you need clean underwear and forks, but even so, choose to focus on the chores you were able to get done that day instead of the ones you weren't, and just do those tomorrow.

No one can do everything. When we choose to do one thing, we are choosing not to do something else. Because I have such limited time with R, I often choose to play with her over anything else, and that's time well spent in my opinion. But sometimes I do both and sit her in her highchair and talk to her while she's eating a snack and I'm unloading the dishwasher, and that works too.

Sometimes I choose to do laundry instead of read because the laundry needs to be done, and sometimes the laundry needs to be done and I choose reading instead anyway. I really have to be intentional about when I get things done and how quickly I get them done, but I also try to be intentional about listening to my own desires and sometimes not doing anything else but whatever it is I feel like doing in that moment. Having such limited time at home during the week to get household things done and spend quality time with Jordan and R is really, really hard. I know this phrase is often overused, but honestly I really do feel more often than not like there just are not enough hours in the day.

If I'm trying to teach myself anything, it's to not worry too much about making everything look perfect or getting all the things done and just do what I can with the time I have.

How do you "do everything"? What does "doing everything" meant to you?
Heather @Lunging Through Life said...

I'm also guilty of being able to do everything and then storming in and getting mad at Aaron for not helping. I think these are all great tips. I am home most days, but I love these tips for full time working moms. I don't know how you all do it!

Laura J said...

Thanks for posting this! It looks like so much of my life! And I'm with you -- we don't do any chores or any house things until after the kiddo is sleeping. And I totally do the one last sweep of the house before hopping into bed too!! I love seeing how other full-time worker mamas get everything they need to get done, done!

Becster said...

It's the cleaning and tidying that gets to me. I try to at least get the living room looking good before bed which for me just means I pickup all the toys! I really need to start sorting the kitchen out before bed as well.

The Lady Okie said...

It's so hard to get all the chores done when you work full time. We don't have the ability to do stuff during nap time or during the day! It can be overwhelming, I try to do a sweep but sometimes (like last night!) I just read in bed and then go to sleep and everything is still a mess :) That's real life!

The Lady Okie said...

YES. The cleaning is hard because I'm just not home very much to keep up with it, and when I am home I don't want to do MORE work, you know? Doing a sweep helps, but sometimes it doesn't happen and that's okay too!

The Lady Okie said...

It's hard to get all the chores and errands done when I have such limited time during the week, but I just try to do what I can!

erinhzauner said...

This is so familiar to me. Yes to all of the above. And thank the Lord for helpful husbands.

jaime said...

My husband and I alternate weeks of meal planning (and also grocery shopping - so this weekend is my weekend to do the shopping.) When I plan, I choose as many slow cooker recipes as possible. I'm out of the house at 7:15 and I get home between 5:30 and 6. I work 30 minutes from my house. My daughter's bedtime is 7 pm and my son's bedtime is 7:30-8. So during the week, 5:30 to 7:30pm is a madhouse. And then I clean, prep the next evening's dinner (if possible), maybe fold clothes, occasionally blog, and fall into bed. I start it all over the next day at 5:15 am.

I also haven't really slept in about 6 years (because of pregnancy insomnia and then kids.) :)

Carolann Chambers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carolann Chambers said...

My mom likes to tell a story about when my brother and I were little. My parents both worked. My dad has always been a neat freak and he was upset that the house was always messy. My mom told him, "They are not going to remember dust on the floor or dishes in the sink. They are going to remember me spending time with them." And that's true, even though my mom always worked a lot I have so many memories of doing things with her. She would take us all over or play with us or let us watch movies in her bed with her. I always knew that time with her would be special. I have no idea what the sink looked like!

Right now I have hardly any time with Nick. Maybe an hour, or two if we are lucky, each evening, and he works about 50% of the time on the weekends. So I do a lot of meal prep and I have a lot of meals just ready to be heated up again in the oven so that we don't have to cook and clean up a lot during that hour we have together. It's been a struggle to get him to help me with things that I really do need help with or things that only he can do, so we started setting aside a certain time each week to work on those things together. I think it's going to work out well for us and it will help us use our time more efficiently - instead of me nagging him 5 times during the week we just know it will get done on Saturday.

Kayla MKOY said...

I'm with you on doing a "quick sweep at night" before bed...that really helps! Just putting away a few dishes or clearing the table so it's clean when I wake up make a huge difference! :)

AnneMarie said...

This is so neat to read! I've been learning a lot from you about intentionality-I'm a stay at home mom, so you'd think that I'd automatically have it figured out with quality time, chores, etc., but I've found that I have to be super intentional about how I'm spending my time, so that when I'm playing with my baby it's quality time, and when I'm working in the kitchen I'm actually working and not halfheartedly throwing things around while playing with my baby and checking social media and doing a bunch of other things. I'm definitely more efficient when I try to intentionally focus on one task at hand.

Jenny Evans said...

I have often wondered how you do everything. I guess the answer is: you just do. Necessity is the mother of invention, I guess.

For me, it's absolutely critical that after I get the last kid in bed I don't stop moving. Even if I just sit down to check my email for "just a second" before doing my nightly sweep, it's over. Sometimes that's fine. I just have to be honest with myself about what's going to happen.

Robyn B said...

so this post was super relate-able to me even though my life is completely different from yours! but my schedule is very similar - i have classes/internship 8-5 during the week and then on nights and weekends i fit in all the course work and my part time job... and spending time with my husband. and i often feel like there is not enough time in the day too! so these tips were great - doing a little bit at a time really does add up and i have noticed it helps me... even if i feel stressed that i can't clean the entire house all at once. i see the difference in doing small parts when i can!

thanks for sharing posts like this and being open about how you feel. i know you would prefer to be able to stay home and see R a lot more, but you have a healthy look on your current situation and you're doing the best you can! :) and playing with your child is so much more important than folding all the laundry ;)

Rachel said...

Awesome! In many ways, like with the strategies you mentioned, it really comes down to 'working well' instead of 'working harder.' Granted, a whole lot of it is hard work! Good thing Jordan helps and's much smarter to just ask for help than not ask and then get mad that helping doesn't occur to them. I have faced the same temptation myself, though.

Katie @ Live Half Full said...

I think the best time hack is becoming a Mom- I'm so much more efficient because I have to be! I've also had to learn to ask for help- I can be totally stubborn and then get mad at Rich for not helping. So I have learned to ask.

Rach said...

One of the great benefits of working from home (with photography in my case) is that while yes, I am working... I'm also still at home to throw stuff in the slow cooker at noon if I want or I can do laundry throughout the day as needed while editing (a five minute break to go toss the laundry in the dryer is simple). It has been a long time since I worked full time at an office job (5 years now), but I well remember how hard it was to come home and try to get things done when every night of the week we had a different organization we were volunteering with (so no baby to spend time with, but still something that was taking up our evenings). For us we learned to pick and choose only a few organizations and to guard at least 1 night at home per week. Like you said, acknowledging that it's okay to not be able to do all the things. These days, working from home (especially with times of the year that aren't busy with work like Jan-March) makes getting stuff done around the house much easier. So I won't pretend like I'm a rockstar for being able to easily keep up with stuff around the house. ;) Now when Baby V arrives this summer... I imagine we will be in survival mode so dishes may stack up and floors may be unswept and that may just have to be okay. :)

Julie @ Just the Joy's said...

Prioritizing my tasks is my way of getting things done. If the kids are sleeping I have to think to myself, okay what can I do right now that I can't get done when they are on my hip or awake? Such as go outside to get the trash can or the mail. I definitely agree with doing a sweep before I go to bed. It makes me feel better in the morning when I don't wake up to a mess. Especially dishes. I loathe dishes! I love that your intentional and strictly enjoy your time with R. The house chores will always be there, but R won't always be a little girl. :) Keep up the good work Mama, your doing a fabulous job at doing EVERYTHING! ;)

Laura Darling said...

I love your tips! No kids yet but we both work and my husband has really long days. I try to do the same thing as you with generally straightening up before I go to bed. I also try to do easy things when I cook dinner - like sweep the floor, empty the dishwasher, pack lunches for the next day, etc. I also heard a tip on a podcast once where they suggested setting aside one hour every few weeks for little things you should do but put off, like changing a light bulb, returning something you need to return to the store, etc. This has been really helpful for me too!

Amy @ A Desert Girl said...

You impress me! I think the way you intentionally seek to strike a balance between efficiency, effectiveness, and mindfulness is inspiring. I feel so lucky to have at least a half day at home each week day - it is the perfect schedule in my opinion. I think back in admiration to my mom. She was basically a single mom for a good portion of my childhood, raising two kids, working full time as a teacher, and running a 3000 acre ranch. Superwoman! I don't know how she did it. I feel so lazy when I think about her experience. One of the best side effects of becoming a parent is that I appreciate mine so much more.

Victoria said...

Your tips are spot on!!! My favorites/go-tos are the set a timer and don't stop until you're done options. I do both depending on what it is I'm working on. Also, I love that you've realized that there are certain seasons when doing certain chores will look certain ways (ie the laundry in shifts and unloading the dishwasher one shelf at a time).

One thing that I've started doing is keeping our grocery list on my phone. I love grocery shopping, but I despise having to make a million trips. I have shopping days, but keeping the list on my phone means that if I happen to be in that part of town, I can swing in and get anything PRESSING (ie milk, bread, lettuce, etc.). That has saved me soooo much stress.

Tell me more about your muffin craze!!! I know what you mean about feeling on top of things by having them on hand! I do the same thing with waffles and pancakes and muffins too when company is coming.