Immutable laws of housework

Grocery listWe all know there are certain natural laws you cannot defy – gravity, for instance, alas. The laws of housework are no exception. You can try, but it’s likely to leave you sobbing in a pile of crumbs and dirty socks.

There may be others, but here are those I know.

Immutable Laws of Housework

  • As soon as you finish cleaning the kitchen, someone will come in to make a sandwich.
  • For every item of laundry you wash, there will be an equal and opposite piece of dirty clothing deposited on the floor of the utility room.
  • The one item of laundry your child needs for the day will be the one you didn’t wash.
  • The amount of time you have to run an errand is directly proportional to how much gas is in your tank.
  • The crucial item on your grocery list will be the one you forget.
  • Your actual grocery bill will be greater than or equal to 125% of the cost of the items on your list.
  • A damp towel at rest will stay at rest until someone claims it, which is never.
  • No more than 80% of any given family will like what you’re serving for dinner.
  • The younger you are, the more cleaning product you will consume on a given household task, and the amount of cleaning product you consume is inversely proportional to how clean you get the actual surface.

Of course, housework is the ultimate Sisyphean task, only the mountain is laundry and the rock is the one you want to knock against your head repeatedly until you no longer see the dirty dishes in the sink.

And since I can’t avoid it, I’m picking up a new mantra: “Housework is a great way to start the week. And end the week. And fill those days in the middle, too.”

OK, what did I miss?

Productivity is in the eye of the beholder

On the days we clean, we follow an operational process – sort of. I have a list of all the tasks we need to complete and because I believe a little competition is healthy, my children sign up for them on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Feel like sleeping in today? Be prepared to scrub toilets. Didn’t hear me the first time I asked? Cat boxes for you. You snooze, you lose.

It’s a pretty long list but not as long as my pre-children days when I was apt to spend a Saturday morning cleaning out the inside of the fireplace or dusting the furnace (I know, I know). No time for those tasks anymore. My standards are considerably lower than they used to be.

Lest I leave you with the impression I am actually organized, I must confess that we do deviate from the list – for example, on the Saturday our mercurial dishwasher decided it wasn’t going to cooperate. The door kept popping open in mid-cycle and then guess what? It doesn’t run. After I’d closed and restarted it about twenty times, I assigned my youngest to sit on a stool in front of the dishwasher until the cycle ended. A productive use of time? It was that day.

We’re not cleaning today. Instead I’m enjoying the blissful silence of an empty house. But later, just for fun, I might dust the furnace.

Any great suggestions for accomplishing those mundane weekly tasks?

 

Feng shui for the amateur

As with most things, I know enough about feng shui to be almost completely ineffective. But I love the idea – in fact, am completely romanced by the idea – that I can change my life just by moving some stuff around.

My first exposure to feng shui was in a book I bought for a friend. She was only vaguely interested, but I fell for it – hard. Completely infatuated, I recruited my husband and we spent the better part of a day trying to figure it all out before he died of boredom. (RIP, dear.) Particularly mystifying was the concept of the four celestial animals. After poring over it, we determined we had too much tortoise. I can’t remember why it was a problem to have too much tortoise, but it seemed alarming at the time.

Too much tortoise?
Too much tortoise?

I eventually enlisted the help of my friend, Susan Nelson, feng shui consultant and trainer extraordinaire, to give me the run-down on my chi. Here is what I learned. Am I too caught up in the metaphor? You tell me:

  1. There’s too much kids’ stuff in our playroom, also known as our partnership and romance area. No kidding. Would that be the amorphous blob of toys that encroaches on the rest of the house like a lava flow? Or the fact that we can’t have so much as a 5-minute conversation without being interrupted by one of our children?
  2. The extension to our partnership area (usually a good thing) is vast, empty, and underutilized. It’s called our deck. Without much thought, we built this huge, once-lovely structure under a 300-year-old oak tree that drops about 5 million acorns a year, as well as branches, leaves and other crud. Not only is it dangerous to stand out there, but as I mentioned in a previous post, it looks like a shipwreck that’s been raised from submersion and plopped in our backyard, barnacles and all.
  3. Our career area is in the toilet. Literally. Which explains a lot. Not much I can do besides relocate the bathroom to another part of the house at great expense, or perhaps paint it red, ugh. There is something just fundamentally wrong about a red bathroom.
  4. The prosperity area of the yard is overrun with weeds. At the height of summer you can hardly get to it. Oh, and it has a compost heap in it. We all know compost is only one organic step up from garbage.
  5.  The power corner of the house is the place the cat sleeps. Enough said.

I’ve tried to correct some of these deficiencies. Heaven knows I’ve weeded my prosperity corner, but who would have guessed it? Weeds grow back. I’ve followed some of Susan’s easier suggestions – hanging bells, moving furniture. I’ve decluttered, washed windows, and changed lightbulbs. But I don’t think I’ve made any great strides. While I’d like to tell myself things are changing for the better, I’m not sure I don’t just have bad energy flowing through a much cleaner house.

I guess I should ask Susan to come back and take another look. Maybe she’d be proud of the progress I’ve made. Maybe she’d have more suggestions to keep me on track. Or maybe she’d just tell me I’m still a little heavy on the tortoise.

Are you a believer? What miracles has feng shui wrought for you?

Cleaning tips from a lazy, work-at-home housekeeper

If you frequently work at home, like I do, fall weather brings with it a type of claustrophobia. It’s nearly time to close everything up to keep out the winter gales, but after a summer of kids in and out of the house it’s grubby and cluttered. In my precious spare moments, I’m trying to get my house in order. Here are some of my shortcuts for tidying up – maybe you can use one or two:

  • When you’re cleaning the kitchen, fill the sink with warm water and the cleaner of your choice. Use it to wipe down the various surfaces around your kitchen. When you let the water out the sink will be clean.
  • Dust from the top of a room down. Start with the cobwebs in the corners and work your way down to the furniture and the baseboards. Then vacuum up whatever has settled on the floor.
  • Dust the lightbulbs in your fixtures. You won’t believe how much this lightens up a room.
  • Set the table while you’re emptying the dishwasher to save yourself a step, even if it’s early in the day.
  • If you have time for only one chore, vacuum. I don’t know why, but that’s what seems to “pick up” a room the fastest.
  • Fold laundry as it comes out of the dryer. Fold items in order according to their owner or storage location – the clothes that belong in the farthest location at the bottom of the basket, and those in the closest location at the top. Put them away as you walk to that farthest location. (And if your house is like mine, you can fill the basket up with dirty clothes on the way back.)
  • Take out a garbage bag. Walk around and fill it with either: 1)  items you can throw out; 2) items you can donate. Do this once a week until things are noticeably better.

And the best tip of all – if you can spare the money, outsource the cleaning – or at least get someone else to clean the carpets and windows. It’ll cast a whole new light on your work.

Any tips to add? I’d love to hear them – it’s still pretty dusty around here.