Monday, May 24, 2010

Minimalist around the house, or you be good to Mama, and she'll be good to you!

Above all else, the way to minimise your housework is....

...don't be the only sad sap in the house doing it.

Seriously.  The days when Mum dutifully dashed after everyone in the house who puddled piles of mess behind them are so over.  And about time.  Certainly, since my job is at home with the children, the bulk of the work falls to me.  But it will do no harm and the world of good for the other members of the house, so drag them away from the TV to do their share! 

They will learn
  1. valuable skills that serve them in later life (that includes DH, by the way) - please don't raise tomorrow's useless flatmate or partner
  2. how much effort it is to clean up and therefore gain some consciousness about making the mess
  3. that it isn't respectful for everybody in the house to be relaxing while Mum keeps on going and going and going and going....
 Suggestions for real littlies to get them in the habit
  • Setting and clearing the table - even tinies can carry an empty plastic cup or sauce bottle or some cutlery -  graduate them as appropriate.  They can even "wash" the table.
  • Doing laundry - handing me dirty clothes to put in the tub, help pouring soap, pushing the start button on the machine, removing small dry things from low bars on an airer, putting clothes in the basket, handing me clothes from the basket to put in drawers or even putting clothes in drawers
  • Cooking - I can have kids up on chairs while I do dangerous things like cutting, and they can put pieces in cookware and push some buttons on the microwave
  • Tidying their own toys, putting things in the rubbish...
I seek and seize opportunities to show the family that everybody contributes.  Naturally, each individual chore would get done more quickly and better if I did it myself.  But that's not a winning longterm strategy for anybody, particularly me.  If I always have to do all of those individual chores, it adds up to more time than I want to spend.

Often kids will have lots of fun joining in.  And sometimes not.  Wait for a natural break in their other activities, and if necessary, use the resumption of that activity (or something else) as motivation to get the job done.  When there are major dramatics, I remind myself that I am not asking them to walk long distances to the river to beat clothes against rocks, or pump their own water from village wells and carry the bottles back strapped to their foreheads.  And I persist until I get some measure of cooperation.

You won't be surprised to hear that I don't believe in the tidy-up fairy - and that I don't want my kids to either.  (The untidy fairies?  Of course they exist!)  So even when I don't enjoy the mess, I try not to spend my precious after-kid-bedtime tidying up their toys if we haven't managed to do it earlier.  Past a certain age, it's counterproductive to let them experience making a playful mess, and then another, and then another, and then make that mess magically disappear without any of their participation.  

Husbands are even less likely to get excited about household chores.  But if we agree on even one helpful task that he doesn't hate to do, we''ll all be better off.  And many husbands, including my DH, will do quite a lot if asked politely.  And will do even more if yelled at, but it's better to save that for emergencies.

Next, I'll write about specific things I do to minimise different types of housework around our house.

How do you get your family involved in the house business?


  1. I love your ideas.. for when I have my own kids of course

    BF hates cleaning and doing dishes.. and laundry.. but he handles EVERYTHING for when we travel (planning), when we move (packing everything but my stuff), and a lot of cooking when I am on contract & working.

    It's more like a cycle of give and take, when someone is not working, they help out more, and vice versa.

    As for having kids help around the house -- I love it. Helping clear the table, tidy.. these are all things they just learn to do from a young age and will turn into a habit.

  2. Thanks! I hope it helps when it's the right time for you... It's really hard work getting help :-) but it's worth it.