DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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16 October 2014

When do you step away and say, that's it for today?

During the week I had a question from a young woman, Ms J, asking: As with all of us life tends to increase its demands at different times, whether it be work, additional family members, sickness etc. I was wondering at times like that, what chores do you tend to leave for when things settle down again?

Well Ms J, you're right. I doubt there is anyone who can say everything goes smoothly, every day. It might be something unexpected, like a family member being sick, it might be extra paid work, or it could just be that I just don't feel I have the energy to do the work I need to do.  When there is a spanner in the works, the first thing that goes out of my routine is making bread, and I buy bread from our local baker. I tend to drop the easy things that take up time - I don't water the garden, sweep the floor or make dinner. But it's easy for me because there's no one here to complain, except Hanno, and he doesn't.


Most things work themselves out. I just have to sweep more and water more the following day, but not making dinner tends to pose a problem. Usually I have a homemade frozen meal lurking in the freezer or I'll just whip up some herby scrambled eggs and toast. That fills the gaps.



Now I'm older with no children to look after I don't have a regular schedule for my household chores. I don't vacuum on Mondays or wash on Wednesdays. I don't set aside a specific time to tidy up. I generally do things when they need doing and when I feel like doing them. But I know Ms J, that you have small children and I'm pretty sure you'd have to do chores when you don't feel like it. I did when I had a young family.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to household chores - we should all do what works for us. The trick is to feel no guilt about leaving work undone occasionally. We all know that housework never ends, so if it's not finished, what's the problem? I wrote a post about that same subject, good lord, seven years ago! It might help explain how I go about leaving work undone with the blissful lack of guilt I wear like a cloak of honour. I'll add this one about organising housework too for good measure.


There are many differences between house work and paid work but I think the biggest difference is that when you go out to work, you can choose (or have chosen for you) a finishing time when you can walk away and go home. You know your work has finished for the day. You've been given permission to stop. You don't have that option as a homemaker. There will always be work to do, you know that, your partner knows it and probably even the kids know it. So you have to make the decision when to draw your own line. When do you step away and say, that's it for today. And how do you feel good about doing it?


It wasn't always so clear cut for me. In the beginning I struggled with knowing when enough was enough. I felt guilty about sitting down and having a cup of tea. When I started working in my home full time, I had to rethink a lot of the expectations I had of myself and those my family had of me too. I wanted my days to be meaningful and satisfying, and that didn't involve working like a robot. Now when I stop work, I feel satisfied with the work I've done and I know that it's okay to walk away. I know work at home is not one solid block of unrelenting work. It is up to me to find a balance, to find enjoyment in the work and meaning in my days. I have to establish healthy boundaries for myself, so I won't feel resentful about the work I do in my home. And if part of that is walking away, even though there is still work to be done, then that is what I do.  It was not an easy transition going from a busy-must-get-this-done kind of homemaker to a more relaxed one. Like all processes, it was one step at a time until I felt right about where I was. And I was surprised along the way that my more relaxed approach still got jobs done. A new start every day and an end point too, because housework never ends.


So, what chores to you tend to leave when things are hectic or when you don't have the time and energy to do what you normally do?


31 comments:

  1. I have beaten myself up with this in the past. I need to sit and rest sometimes at my behest sometimes my family has other ideas........what do I leave? Pretty much anything except preparing and cooking a meal, things would have to be really bad for me to give that one up. I am sporadic with my housework but I am good with that. I clean when it needs it but like you I have no routine for it, the one thing I do every week on the same day without fail is change the beds.

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  2. I just take a deep breath & if I can live with it,I leave it alone & if I can't, then I do it, so sometimes the floor will get swept later in the day (or the next), I usually just do what I need to when the schedule is tight (or I'm weary), & as you say, eggs for dinner is easy, but I too have a little stockpile of leftovers frozen for these times. As long as my bed is made I'm good for the day, but I don't have 'littlies' either, & my hubby & adult son don't see mess anywhere (boy thing). When the kids were little I found doing a quick sweep, sorting the washing & doing the dishes before I went to bed gave me a good start in the morning,-- mentally I was ahead for the day, & it had probably only taken 30mins to organise it the previous night.

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    1. Boy thing...yeah, men are great for our egos when it comes to not noticing dust - ha!

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  3. This post came at a great time for me this week. After a lot of sickness and stress in my family this last week it helped me reassess what had to be done and what could wait. Basically I made sure I washed up after every meal, and stuck to one load of washing a day which avoids a pile up of both those things. Sheets weren't washed, beds weren't changed, the floor wasn't vacuumed just swept etc. I kept to the very basics and it helped keep me sane without stressing about doing too much housework.

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  4. Good timing Rhonda!
    I have recently been feeling pulled in all directions.
    I am a perfectionist in many ways and a person who grew up instilled with this job ethic: If you are doing something then do it to the best of your ability. Finish what you start. Push yourself. Get it done.
    I find myself with so many things to get done, so many things pushing for their share of my time. I know I push myself during the week going to work and looking after the cares of my family, I know that I look forward to the weekend always with its promise of relaxation. But then Sunday's twilight finds me with the realisation that most of my weekend was spent cooking for the week or doing the week's laundry or giving the house a sweep and mop or cleaning the beds and planting the next crop in the garden or....the list doesn't end and I feel guilty and sometimes angry that I spend so little time on interests, like painting or photography or hiking, that used to be who I was. Don't get me wrong, I do so greatly enjoy pottering around in the house and in the garden, but I feel sometimes like a bit of who I am/who I was is slipping away. I also feel guilty about not spending more quality time with my kids and husband.
    I recently saw a movie: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and I discovered this truth in the movie - that sometimes you just have to put down the camera and live in the moment. Every bit of me wants to 'capture that shot' to 'do the job' and I am struggling to 'put the camera down' or should I say 'put the mop down' =) But I believe that it is time to take a look at my life and determine what is truly important and essential for me right now. There must be no regrets when the day is done.

    Vicki
    Trinidad & Tobago

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    1. Vicki you are not alone. Although I don't work outside the home, I'm the same as you. I push myself harder to get more done when I'm under pressure and really "should" take a break and take care of myself. This wasn't such a problem until 2 years ago when my teenage daughter got really sick with an eating disorder. It's a long term on going thing and I almost burnt myself out trying to do everything for everyone and be everything to everyone else. I'm very slowly learning to let stuff slide. The really funny thing is my family, I have 4 kids and a hubby, have much lower standards than I so they are comfortable, and no-one really comes here because we live out of town and I haven't encouraged it because I always thought my house wasn't tidy/clean/good enough and I was too busy cleaning/tidying and 'working' in my home, who was I doing this for? Perhaps for myself but mostly for my dead mother who instilled in me the 'do your work and then the day is your own', ha what a joke the work is never finished, the day is never mine! Hmm got a bit off topic now. But I guess I let my own mental and physical health go when I'm under pressure. Think this has turned into my therapy session, I have just had so many lightbulb moments while writing this.

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  5. Preparing dinner is definitely the most time-consuming chore which I can't let slip. Our standby is omelette and/or baked beans. We always have eggs in the fridge and a tin of beans in the cupboard. Luckily my son and husband LOVE beans, so it's really a treat for them when I can't manage to get dinner ready.
    I always put the compost, garbage and recycling out, because they take a minute each and I don't want any smell in the house. But everything else? It can wait!
    I think generally, if I've stayed on top of the cleaning, washing etc. we can cope for days without stressing over chores. And sometimes we've had to when colds have got us all.

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  6. I skip fiddly jobs like dusting light fixtures, picture frames or baseboards when I am out of time and energy. They will get done eventually. I keep a good number of meals in the freezer that are always ready to be pulled out and reheated. That saves my sanity on many a day. When I do have time and energy I cook extra to freeze so that I always have this option. I try to pace myself throughout the day by working for awhile and then resting or doing a sit down job. Sometimes I just do cooking chores such as peeling or chopping at the table so that it is work and rest, too. It will all get done at some point I do keep an organised list of chores for each day and list of long term chores. It helps to know what should be done each day without thinking about it whether I get to all of it or not.

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  7. Thank you Rhonda, a great post and I enjoyed reading your old posts again too.

    What do I leave? All kinds of things! I do try to keep the dishes done because our kitchen isn't big and a sink full of dishes feels very overwhelming. I sweep the kitchen floor for the same reason. My partner will often make dinner, which is especially welcome when I'm working late. Other than that, everything can (and often does) wait. Hoovering, dusting, washing...

    I've often felt guilty, like I was 'failing' if I didn't keep an immaculate (or even vaguely tidy) house. But really, who's judging? Who even notices? Why do I worry so much? It doesn't spur me on to action, it just makes me feel bad!

    So thank you. I will accept that right now, I'm young, have no children, and do many things outside the home (work, voluntary work etc). I enjoy being home, and enjoy pottering in the garden and knitting and sewing, but my house is dusty at times and often cluttered. I sometimes make jam, and soap, and I enjoy those things. I don't always make lunch to take to work, but we have no debt (not even a mortgage any more) and I'm not going to beat myself up over an occasional bought sandwich.

    I do love reading your blog though and having a glimpse into a life that is in some ways so different (and in other ways so similar) to mine. Hooray for accepting where you are in life I say!

    Jenni x

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  8. I keep the place as tidy and uncluttered as I can and that seems to be forgiving if I don't have time to dust/vacuum.
    I noticed your 'gadget' for lifting hot jars from the pan of boiling water sitting next to your jars of marmalade. I bought one of those from Green Living Australia down at Underwood. Brilliant gadget, a few dollars well spent. Makes the job so much easier, and safer.

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  9. Rather than what I don't do at such times can I mention what I do do? My general principle is make the bed, wash up and wipe down the kitchen, swish the loos and wipe down the sinks, hang out a load of washing and bring it in when it's dry. Usually I get a lot more done but when pressed for time those are my basics.

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  10. I find if we get sick or other stuff takes over I tend to just go into "survival mode" and just do the bare minimum until things are back to normal. I try and stay on top of dishes, but as far as washing goes I'll stick to clothes we need only as opposed to doing things that can wait, like sheets or towels, as we have enough to last a little while. Or I'll just vacuum instead of moping as well (unless the floor really need it!). Day to day though I just make a list and judge what needs to be done (ie cooking dinner) VS what can wait til tomorrow. It is a balancing act.

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  11. I felt I was struggling to find the 'perfect' balance between work (self employed) and home/family life. Then I realised that there is no perfect balance. Some days or weeks my work need more focus and I let things go a little on the home front, then it will change and I can focus more on the home and a little less on work stuff. For me the scales are not going to be equally balanced at all times, it more like a perpetual motion between the two, and now I understand that I'm a lot more content and don't stress so much about getting it all done every day.

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  12. I just came back from NY visiting my daughter. To help ease her mind I am planning to write about the same topic tomorrow on my blog. There's so much on her plate with three children five and under that my heart went out to her. All things can not be done every day. My mother in law once told me (she had 8 children) to wash dishes, do laundry and cook. Then everyone has what's needed. When I was a young mother to four, her advice was always repeated in my mind on those days that were hectic.

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    1. Hi Angie, I am in the exact situation as your daughter, 3 little ones! Dishes, laundry and cooking are also my 3 chores that get done everyday...everything else comes second.

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    2. I'm glad you realized early on what's important. I can remember days with a sick child just holding them all day and cooking (term used lightly) when they were asleep. Keep up the good work and don't forget to take time to decompress from time to time.

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  13. Great post Rhonda! This has touched on a topic that I am beginning to explore in my life as I have always been demotivated once I think about all the things that still need to be done instead of focusing only on getting the most important done and then working my way round to those things that are less vital at a slower and more steady pace.

    As a side note, what is the current temperature like in Australia with the current Ebola Outbreak news? Is it a subject being discussed at all or is it too far away to feel relevant?

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    1. It doesn't feel relevant to me but there was a scare last week when an Australian nurse who had just returned from nursing in an African country was thought to have Ebola. She was isolated but tests revealed she was clear. I don't take much notice of the news anymore. I'm more focused on what's happening around me.

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  14. Hello Rhonda , wonderful post today �� another thing that got me thinking about this post is when you do step back from the housework, it often motivates you to do more or tackle tasks that you've been putting off for whatever reason. This happened to me today....my wonderful Mum came over early so I could take my eldest to school on my own and have an hour or so to myself to do whatever I wanted. In the meantime she minded my baby and toddler. All I did was a bit of grocery shopping and grabbed a couple of things I needed from the op shop. When I came home I felt so refreshed from having some time out and I couldn't wait to sort out my babies wardrobe. I'd be putting it off for so long and now it's done !

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    1. Exactly Lou, it doesn't have to be much but if you get that little break, it makes an amazing difference. Well done to you and your mum.

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  15. I have been sick with a cold/virus for nearly 4 weeks. I am a mother of a 1 and 4 year old and have my husband home at the moment too. Today I pulled myself out of bed about 10 and my husband changed places with me. I was falling asleep on the couch by 12. My husband has just gone out to buy nappies as cloth has gone out the window for now, and takeaway as I feel I can barely stand to make the dinner. My husband is also sick but feels motivated to work on projects around the house while unwell. Unfortunately this leaves him exhausted. I push myself to get the kitchen done at least once during the day (I use a dishwasher for most things), and put a load of washing on each day if I can, which usually ends up in the dryer at the end of the day. I just feel like crying, but it is an encouragement to know that we all fall down from time to time and I mustn't feel guilty. I seem to get little pockets of energy every other day where I can tidy one room or fold some washing, that is about it for the day. Sigh! Thank you for the post Rhonda. My heart goes out to those living with chronic illness.

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    1. Oh you poor love....I wish I could come and do your washing and ironing for you at least...Isn't there anyone at all - family, friend, neighbour - who could come and give you a hand until you are both well? Perhaps your doctor could contact the council and get emergency home help. I don't know where you are, so it may not be an option for you.
      {{{hugs}}}

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    2. Thank you so much Gina for you kindness. Most of my family lives over an hour away, my sister who is local works full time so will be catching up on her own housework over the weekend. We are kind of new to the area and haven't yet established good friendships with the neighbours. I think it might be the flu because I have woken with aches all over and am utterly exhausted. We will get through, we have been through worse times. As I sit here typing my husband is humming and folding washing. This sickness can't last forever.

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  16. This is a timely post for me. I'm struggling to get a sensible work/life balance and trying to stay healthy. If I'm ill then I can't work (I teach but don't have a permanent contract) which means no income. So I have to prioritise work at home. Through the week I try to keep the kitchen clean and tidy but that's all I can manage. My weekends are full of cleaning, batch cooking and laundry. But I feel that's not healthy as we need down time to relax and just be. I'm currently on half term holiday and have spent the whole time so far catching up on housework and trying to decorate my kitchen on a tight budget. Must try harder!!

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  17. My heart aches reading the comments from women who are ill, or just plain tired...We make a rod for our backs with our standards in housework, don't we. Before I had a council carer to do my vaccuming and mopping, the carpets were left for a month or more sometimes before I had the energy to get the vacuum out. I would run a carpet sweeper over them to capture crumbs or fluff, but the rest could wait. As for the kitchen floor, it was dark coloured and I couldn't see the dirt (didn't look too closely anyway), so apart from a sweep once or twice a week, it got washed about the same time as the vaccuming was done. Dreadful! But we survived.

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  18. My heritage is Franco-American, and boy-oh-boy those Francos are clean freaks. Good thing they like to have fun, or they'd be real drag ;) Anyway, even though my mother and grandmother are dead, I always have their "shining" example before me. I've managed to set those standards aside---at least a little---and have become a fan of "good enough" when it comes to cleaning. When something isn't good enough, then it's time to clean. Still subjective, I know, but it does relieve the pressure, at least a little.

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  19. I follow my mom"s mantra...'If it isn't done by noon it probably doesn't need to be done'....works for me!

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  20. What is the orange stuff you are making in the one photo? It looks good...

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  21. Such a good post today Rhonda! I do struggle with the guilt but I am working on it. I realize that I am not as young as I was and can't get done in a day what I used to. You are so right we shouldn't feel guilty and say enough for today.

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  22. Washing clothes, dishes and dinner are the essential inside jobs and animals and watering outside, everything else can wait when needed. We have just been transitioning to have drip irrigation to veges and this is making a huge difference in how it feels to be looking after the garden. Mulberries and strawberries galore right now and silverbeet, broad beans, lettuces and more!

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  23. Just coming to read this post. So glad I did. I'm having some health problems right now--never a good time for that sort of thing; but the timing this time is the worst! We've been on a roll about down sizing and going smaller, without the debt we currently have. So having to take a break and rest-- not packing, or cleaning for that matter, pours on loads of guilt for me.
    Normally, if life gets overwhelming or as you say, there is a wrench in the works-- I let the cooking go. If you don't cook, there shouldn't be any dishes, right? So that is 2 things you don't have to fiddle with. I will also let the laundry go too.
    In a perfect world, I'd say-- when things get back to normal, all you have to do is catch up on laundry-- but no. For some odd reasons there is a pile of dishes waiting for me when I get back into the swing of things!
    glad I'm not the only one.

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