Y’all are making this series everything I dreamed of and more, so please, keep chiming in! To catch up any new gals: Nancy Ray and I are writing an eight-part series every Tuesday in January and February covering “how we do it” in eight different areas: the rhythms, habits, and routines that help us get things done and make the space and time for what matters most. You can read more of the backstory here.
Today’s topic is organization in our homes. With each post so far I’ve shared a few general thoughts before diving into specifics, and today, I wanted to start with the concept of emotional labor. Have y’all read some of the essays that have circled in the last few months? (This was a big one.) They’ve seemed to really resonate with people. Here’s an excerpt in case you’re not familiar:
Then I tried to gingerly explain the concept of emotional labor: that I was the manager of the household, and that being manager was a lot of thankless work. Delegating work to other people, i.e. telling him to do something he should instinctively know to do, is exhausting… He restated that all I ever needed to do was ask him for help, but therein lies the problem. I don’t want to micromanage housework. I want a partner with equal initiative.
Bearing the brunt of all this emotional labor in a household is frustrating. It’s frustrating to be saddled with all of these responsibilities, no one to acknowledge the work you are doing, and no way to change it without a major confrontation… It is difficult to model an egalitarian household for my children when it is clear that I am the household manager, tasked with delegating any and all household responsibilities, or taking on the full load myself.
Here’s the thing: I am unequivocally the household manager in our home. I also don’t find this to be particularly onerous, unreasonable, or unenjoyable. To me, it makes sense that one person would be the point person for information, household organization, and task assignment. And in my marriage, it makes sense that it would be me — because I naturally enjoy it more than John (one of my StrengthsFinder strengths is Input, so I like knowing all the things!); because I work fewer hours than he does; and because I mostly work from home (so it’s easier to do things like call for an appointment over lunch without needing to find a private space from coworkers).
Perhaps I’m happy to be the manager because my work in that role IS seen and appreciated. Perhaps it’s because my husband not only willingly chips in whenever asked but also takes initiative. Perhaps it’s because I’m a realist. Mostly, though, I think it’s because I consider it a privilege. I have exactly the family I’ve dreamed of, and I feel so lucky to be able to take care of them in a million small ways every day. It’s a privilege to help our family run smoothly as a wife and a mama. In a way, it’s been what I’ve been waiting for all my life.
I also want to acknowledge that if you are the household manager but DON’T enjoy your role – perhaps because you’re not appreciated for it, or you’re working more paid hours than your spouse – I hope that you can find a solution that works for your marriage! Just because women most often take on this role doesn’t mean that they HAVE to by natural law or that it can’t be split more equally. The most important thing is finding a solution that works for everyone.
Okay! Enough with the philosophical :) I thought I’d start my tactical tips with cleaning and a few basic household routines, since y’all were intrigued by my claims in my first post! As you’ll see below, we do clean, just perhaps not as often as most people? I don’t know, y’all tell me how we stack up! :) Here’s our typical schedule:
Unload and load dishwasher
Wipe down kitchen counters
Tidy main rooms, including processing mail (after June goes to bed)
Pack lunches for the next day
Wash sheets and towels
Sweep and mop floor (with our Braava!)
Make menu and grocery shop
Deeper kitchen clean (microwave, stainless steel, cabinet fronts, etc.)
Various deep cleaning chores
John and I split these chores — we sat down and divided them up together equitably, based on our preferences, and we are always responsible for the same ones. I think knowing firmly who does each is key, because (in general) we just do them without nagging each other.
Other than sheets, we do laundry collaboratively during the week on an as-needed basis. I know it can be a headache for some people, but it just doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal for us – we just throw it in at some point in the evening whenever needed and tag-team moving it through the cycle of folding and back into the closets.
Another big part of keeping our household running smoothly is FOOD! I’ve written about meal planning before, but thought I’d offer an update since things have changed a bit since that 2013 post.
On Friday evening or Saturday morning, I sit down and plan out our meals for the week. Since our default is to make dinner at home, we first look at the calendar and figure out whether there are any days we know we’ll be dining out (maybe dinner at a friend’s house, or a day where we’re running around and don’t have time to cook). We also check to see whether we’re expecting guests any night. Once those are marked on the planning doc, we start filling in meals for the other nights. We pull ideas from Pinterest (meal boards here + here), from our collection of cook books, family recipes from my Kitchen Diary, and from my master recipe list on Google Docs.
Once we have our meals planned and they’re on our Lindsay Letters calendar, I put together a shopping list with any ingredients we need plus anything we’ve added to Alexa’s shopping list during the week. Though we used to shop at various stores in pursuit of the best deal, we’ve opted over the last year to only shop at Publix, which is maximally convenient but a bit more expensive. (We also were just gifted a Costco membership, and so have tentatively dipped a toe in there.) I usually shop during June’s nap on Saturday afternoon, though not always, as you can see below :)
Aside from these two big systems, what about the little random things that keep our household running smoothly? Here’s a list in no particular order:
1. I purge my clothes regularly while brushing my teeth. Yes, you heard that right :) While brushing my teeth, I choose my and June’s clothes for the next day, and that gives me time to consider what in my closet I haven’t worn in a long time. I know this sounds weird, but it works better for me than wholesale purges every few months! Less pressure if I’m only retiring one or two things at a time :)
2. We keep a donation box readily available. It’s in our bedroom, and any ready-to-be-retired clothes go straight into it, as well as any other unwanted clutter that needs to head to Goodwill. Once the box is full, I put it in my car!
3. I’m not afraid to re-gift things. This is not a source of guilt for me! It’s possible to genuinely appreciate a gift and also genuinely know that your home is not the best home for it. I only want to keep the best, the favorite, and the necessary (in the words of Emily Ley!), and to help do that, I freely let things flow to other loved ones. We have a spot in an upstairs closet where we keep these items, and regularly shop it for birthday, baby, shower, or “just because” presents.
4. With our cars, everything that goes in must come out. John is far better at this than I am, but the goal is that every time we get out of the car, everything that’s not supposed to be in there comes out with us: trash, water bottles, receipts, gloves, etc. This is an easy way to keep our cars clutter-free!
5. Our air filters come automatically. FilterEasy sends us two new filters every quarter at prices and quality comparable to buying at the store. We’ve always bought the super strong ones to keep dust and pet hair at bay, so this is an easy hack for something we were already doing. Bonus: they’re a start-up based in Raleigh! :)
6. Our frequently-used products are on stand-by. In addition to Alexa mentioned above, we have a few Amazon Dash buttons placed around the house for easy reorders: razor blades in a bathroom drawer, rinse aid under the kitchen sink, and Chlorox toilet wand refills in the bathroom. This is the future, people.
7. We store lawn care info in a Google Doc. It’s an easy way to track things like when we reseeded our lawn, how many bags of mulch we used, and when things germinated. I’d love to start another one where we can keep snapshots of the info cards that come with each of our plants!
As with all of these posts, I feel like I’m just scratching the surface – so if there’s something you’re curious about, don’t hesitate to ask! Otherwise, I would love to hear your thoughts on our cleaning rhythms!! I have the sense that other people clean more often, but perhaps that’s not accurate!
P.S. Don’t miss Nancy’s post here!
Where we’ve been and what’s coming up:
Time: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Finances: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
January 30: Personal Life
February 6: Work
February 13: Relationships
February 20: Spiritual Life
February 27: Kids
Affiliate links are used in this post!