That laundry basket seems to travel around the house and never gets emptied. Do you know that basket? Families don’t have time to finish the laundry. It looks like cleaning up the kitchen is another problem for most people. It seems as if the most significant pitfall in home management is not using those skills that make us succeed at work, at home. A lack of systems and time management at home might be to blame.
I started thinking about this the other day when I counted over ten car trips in a single day. These many trips were not an exception. I have three children, and I never had a chauffeur, a maid, a nanny, or a cook. There was a time in our lives that the average was fourteen car trips a day.
I have worked outside the home during most of my children’s lives, developed my business, and worked with clients. But through it all, the house always looked and felt like the ideal place to rest and recharge.
My life is no different than yours when it comes to time demands. Unfortunately, I have no magic or external help. What I have are good time management skills and systems. These are things we can all learn and apply in the home environment.
I have identified a common pitfall among household managers — not acting as managers at home. Many people do not apply the skill set that makes them successful at work in their homes. Why not?
If you work outside the house, you have managed to keep your job. However, doing so has probably required staying on top of things, not allowing anything to slip through the cracks.
Regardless of the type of work you do, there are out-of-the-ordinary projects and day-to-day ones. And those routine tasks most likely comprise the backbone of your job. Whether you supervise those tasks or execute them, the responsibility is yours. If you stopped ensuring those processes were thoroughly performed, things would go south rapidly.
Why can’t we all plan and execute like actual managers at home? One might think it is because home is where we rest. We don’t want to think of chores and duties at home.
But the irony here is that the less attention you pay to chores and duties, the more chaotic your home environment will be, and the less you can rest and relax at home.
Looking for the million things you can’t find in the home, buying duplicates, wasting time, effort, and money, forgetting essential family commitments, or not having a dining room table available to gather around.
Each time we neglect our home duties, we add a new layer of chaos to our most intimate environment. We invite in the energetic shift that such chaos brings. Are you sure your home is where you want to rest and forget about the stress of your job?
Running the home like a well-oiled machine requires planning what needs to happen. Remember that what gets scheduled gets done. You would not leave it to chance or rely on “when you have time” to make client appointments at work or to write that report for the boss, right?
So then, why not schedule house chores and involve everyone in the household? This way, everyone contributes to the home and learns to execute these domestic chores. This knowledge is essential. Your kids don’t want to go to college to realize they don’t even know how to boil an egg.
Much of our household stress would decrease if we could transfer some of the management skills we proudly display at work to the home and start planning and scheduling the many menial household tasks.
Planning allows us to control when and how these things happen, while scheduling means that those chores will stop interfering with our lives — they will be part of it.
I discuss the concept of mindfulness quite often. Mindfulness is about being in the moment, each moment, noticing our actions, reactions, and feelings toward others and the environment. Mindfulness puts seemingly ordinary, routine, everyday life events under a magnifying glass for close inspection – the things few people notice. Under this mind-frame, we can’t help but see how “when” matters. The timeliness of things matters.
You have probably heard that clutter is, at its core, a bunch of postponed decisions. So let’s put the concept of timeliness under that magnifying glass to illustrate its importance and consequences.
Clutter, Mess, and Chaos Creep In
If a drop of tomato sauce falls on the floor while you cook, one of two things will likely happen: you take four seconds to wipe the area clean at that moment, or you keep cooking undisturbed because you can always clean it later (Oh, later).
You continue with your culinary endeavor. Then either you or someone else inadvertently steps on the spot one or several times. As a result, the inoffensive tomato drop that could have taken four seconds to clean is now significantly spread on the kitchen floor.
Also, mixed with shoe dirt, it has transformed that four-second job into a floor moping task that adds five minutes to your schedule. But that is just the time. Consider the effort of prepping the mop, mopping the floor, and then cleaning that mop afterward.
The Toxic Build-Up
It is your choice to postpone taking any action – of course! But understand that the timeliness of actions does matter, and when we delay decisions, consequences usually follow.
Often, those consequences come in the form of additional time and effort required to achieve the same goal. That extra effort needed to accomplish the goal grows with each passing minute, while the likelihood of taking any action decreases. However, the situation (now compounded) will still be there for you to resolve later. Ignoring the situation won’t make it go away.
The tomato drop example might seem insignificant. But unnecessarily postponed tasks and decisions bring more impactful consequences.
Life constantly provides us with opportunities to neglect or delay actions and decisions of all kinds. And the consequences related to ignoring them might not bother us, especially if we don’t immediately notice. But sooner or later, we’ll find out that the consequences accumulated due to neglected or postponed decisions and actions are such that we no longer feel capable of bringing back balance or control to the situation, home, life (whatever it is).
Neglected Actions Create Chain Reactions
Let’s suppose that because dad is an early riser, he gets assigned the chore of emptying the dishwasher and feeding the dog in the morning. There is an understanding that these activities should happen before the rest of the family gets up.
But dad starts wasting precious morning time doing anything but those two chores under his responsibility. As the rest of the family members get up and want breakfast, the equipment they need is still inside the dishwasher. Therefore, everyone tries to get what they need directly from the machine. Dad tries to complete his unfinished tasks at that (very inopportune) time.
Everyone trips over the dishwasher’s open door and steps over a wet kitchen floor. It turns out the stuff coming out of the washer is still wet because the dishwasher is a piece of junk, and no one has bothered to replace it or call for repair service. So, the floor is now a mess that will require mopping with cleaner instead of a piece of towel paper to dry some water.
Do not forget the dog that has not eaten. The poor thing is in the middle of it all and pretty hungry. Dad knows he should have fed the dog and starts mixing the stuff into her bowl. He takes up considerable counter space to complete the task while others deal with their breakfast in the reduced counter space left.
But everyone has responsibilities and places to go – delaying breakfast is not an option.
Each person usually rinses their things and puts them inside the dishwasher. It takes about one minute to do so.
On this day, however, since the dishwasher is still partially loaded with clean items, dirty stuff cannot yet go in the machine. So, the first person to finish breakfast puts dirty utensils in the sink without rinsing (because rinsing is an action associated with placing things inside the dishwasher, and this is not the case this time).
The action taken by the first person is the cue for all others to do the same, even when the dishwasher becomes available in the next three minutes. (You know, “so and so did not do it, why do I have to do it?” syndrome).
Dishes are piling up in the sink and on the counter, with food remains, making them crusty (yeah!).
The day goes by, with the pile of dirty stuff over the kitchen counter and in the sink. It will take more time and effort to rinse those dishes and to place them inside the dishwasher now.
Also, the process will require someone (as in mom) to have the extra time and willingness to do so. Unfortunately, that one-minute job has turned into a ten-minute ordeal (with resentment!).
And who will happily volunteer to take on the task at the end of the day when everyone is tired? Let’s not forget that the kitchen needs some cleaning up before dinner cooking starts. Hello, kitchen clutter!
Often, we do not take action or make decisions because we forget- not necessarily because we purposely run away from it. But that is yet another consequence of delaying or postponing.
Take that alarm on your iPhone that reminds you of your noon pills, for example. Can you count the times it has gone off, and you have ignored it, thinking you will take care of it in five minutes? Then, hours later, you realize you did not take your pills.
A Nourishing Home
When you live in a household, you are part of a system. Everyone’s actions and inactions directly impact the unit function. If you are relied upon to complete specific tasks, please understand that such chores are tethered to a time frame and not subject to when you “feel like it.” “Feeling like it” might never come, and it is not a reliable time frame.
When all household members understand and accept the home systems and perform their duties on time, no chore becomes too big to accomplish. As a result, such a home efficiently keeps the chaos at bay, improves family relationships, and enhances the positive energy flow. It is a nourishing, supportive, and efficient place.
Does this ring a bell? Observe these patterns in your life for about a week – on the big things and the seemingly insignificant ones. You will probably see the cause/effect of delayed decisions and observe their ripple effect in your life. You will make amazing discoveries!