Housework - the never ending task

23 April 2009

I am sure you all know that what I write about in my daily post is a small fraction of what Hanno and I get up to each day. If we continue to make a commitment to this way of living, we will be busy every day for the rest of our lives, and that's fine, as long as we enjoy it and pepper our days with rest and variety. I like the idea of us looking after ourselves and not surrendering ourselves to age and time, allowing others to cook and clean for us. While we are in good health, we are fine to do for ourselves.

However, I sometimes feel a bit fragile when I am particularly busy and have more things to do that I feel comfortable with. Sometimes, when I have a deadline to meet, house work to do, voluntary work, gardening, cooking, cleaning and my family to tend to, I feel a slight panic - how will I ever get it done! At those times I've taught myself to step back, think about my work and be mindful of the kind of life I am living. When I do that, when I take a step back and don't race headlong into it, I get a clearer picture of how I can carry out my work efficiently and plan for the day ahead. Above all else though, I have to tell myself that it has to be broken up into chunks and it doesn't all have to be done. That saves me every time.

This was the view from my writing room yesterday afternoon.

I have written before about how housework never ends and I always keep that in mind, especially when I'm very busy. The best way for me to work is to divide my work into time periods - this, for me, is usually morning and afternoon, but it could be any time that you're prepared to work. So in a typical day, if I had the following chores, this is how I would organise myself:
Bake bread, clean kitchen, make bed, tend garden, check worm farm, feed worms and chooks, pick and blanch vegetables, make tomato sauce and process it in water bath, laundry, sweep floor, wash up, make dinner, write, answer emails, mend and knit.

Plan of action
First I would decide which I would do in the morning and which in the afternoon. So, morning chores are:
Make bed
Feed chooks
Load the washing machine
Make bread and set to rise
Make tomato sauce and process - leave jars to cool
Bake bread
Clean kitchen
Wash up
Hang out washing
Collect eggs
Sweep floor
Write until lunch - this last one is restricted by the amount of time I have


Feed worms
Tend garden and pick vegetables
Blanche vegetables, set to cool, then freeze
Two hours writing
Knit for 30 minutes or so
Bring laundry in and fold
Make dinner, while it's cooking, answer emails
Eat dinner, clean up kitchen and wash up

If I felt like it, I could mend after dinner, but usually by then I'm pooped, so it can wait till tomorrow. If I was falling behind, or feeling tired, I could leave the tomato sauce or blanching until tomorrow as well. I could spend more time writing and not knit. As you can see, I do a fair bit of juggling and I think that gives me a bit of leeway. The important thing is to do the work in chunks. Don't toil for hours on the one thing. Do a bit, do something else, then come back to your long job. It does make it easier.
  • I can move chores around
  • I can put things off till tomorrow
  • I don't have to finish everything.
  • It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be the best I can do on that day.
  • I'm not living in a showroom, this is my home.
And you know what, sometimes I don't do any work at all. I give myself the day off. That day off is a powerful thing. If I've had a really busy time at work and here at home, I give myself time to recover. I want to look after myself and I want to enjoy my work. I'm in this for the long haul, I don't want my housework to become a burden. I'm sure many of you think it's an absolute luxury to have a day off but I am at the stage of life when it is possible. If you can't give an entire day, make sure you take some time for yourself - it's important.

I know there are many of you who struggle getting everything done. I know there are some who don't do much at all, feel guilt for it, but can't seem to find the motivation to do what they feel they should. I hope that by sharing how I work, and my insecurities about it, that it may help you with your work. Try to work with an open heart. You are your own boss in your home, be kind to yourself and take the pressure off to be perfect. If you work towards how you want your home to be, you will get there.

We all need to work, and it is good for us to work. It gives us a sense of achievement, we make our homes the way we want them to be, we look after our assets and when we go to bed at night, we feel proud that we worked so well that day. We made a significant investment in our family and our future.

All through the day I think about my work, how and why I do it in that particular way and why I value the experience of it. Building my home into the comfortable place I want it to be makes it all worthwhile, even if I don't enjoy every job I carry out. The work is made better when I think of the reasons why I do it. And imagine the alternative - imagine if you had no work to do, nothing to plan, nothing to invest your time in. I think many of us would love that for a day or two, then I know for sure I'd go a bit wonky if I had nothing to do.

We are workers, we are built to work. We may not get it all done in one go, it may need to finished off tomorrow, or the day after, but we are doing it. So to all you homemakers out there, to all the mothers who are trying to get the dinner on and tend to a crying baby, to all the career women who work away all day then go home to a family waiting hungrily for a good meal, to the dads who come home from work and help get dinner on or bath the children, to all those older women and men who have lost their spouse and struggle getting work done when strength is fading, to the newly weds who are learning how to keep house and to live with each other, to those of you who are not well and yet you get through the chores you set for yourself, to all the students who are learning for the first time to take care of themselves and their home, to all those workers who read this, I say, well done! It's not always easy but the work you are doing is valuable and important. If you didn't do that work, your family would be poorer for it.

Thank you for visiting me this week and taking the time to connect through comments. Welcome to all the new readers; still they come. Amazing! I hope you are all able to enjoy some time off after a week of work. Take care of yourself.