Monday, July 18, 2011

Housekeeping Help for the Easily Overwhelmed and Obsessive

I get overwhelmed. Easily. And when I get overwhelmed I lose all motivation to do anything. When faced with my house in a mess that seems too big for me to fix by myself in a matter of hours, I simply don't do anything because I think that I *know* I can't do it. And then, when the house is made spotless by a day of hard work that someone else has motivated me to do, I then feel like I have to keep the house perfect, and I have to deep clean it every day. I can work on the house for half the day, but if I go to bed that night and see clothes on the floor, or a dirty mark on the bathroom sink, I feel as if I have failed. Some might say I am OCD, and they could well be right. It's this feeling that stops me from doing anything, because it no longer seems worth it, and leads to my home becoming a wreck once again.

Does the first point, becoming overwhelmed, sound like you, or perhaps, more likely, your children? Children are more easily overwhelmed than adults, and I can fully appreciate why! Our primary response to being overwhelmed, generally, is to simply shut down and not know where to start. For the children that suffer worst from being overwhelmed, this often leads to lessons on lack of diligence, or obedience, etc. Not to say that those are not justified responses, regardless of the excuse the child did not obey, but sometimes we set our children up for failure in this area, just as I can make no excuse for failing in my housekeeping to this point, though I too feel 'set for failure', without the right tools or resources to cope with the task. Does the second point, obsessing and feeling failure when one element is not finished, sound like you or your child?

Recently I've NEEDED to get on top of it all, my husband is working again, and we are open to being blessed with a second child in the near future, which could mean a terrible few months of hyperemesis. Even though I am preparing and have options to make the hyperemesis livable (I am fortunate enough to have responded well to medication last pregnancy) I will still be in 'bare minimum' mode for certain periods. And after many tears and research, this is what I've come up with. I hope it can help you also.

Lets start with the first point, the point most likely to affect your children rather than yourself. Being overwhelmed. I see my house after a busy weekend. Clothes, paper, dirty dishes, rubbish, toys, lying everywhere. I see chairs out of place, bean bags not put back, clutter on benches. A few weeks ago I would have simply sat in front of the computer, wasting the day away, maybe motivating myself to pick up one or two rooms, but feeling a failure and asking for help when hubby comes home. Why? Because it seems like an impossible task. Clean the house. Where do I begin? With the rubbish in the loungeroom or the dirty dishes in the dining room or the clothes in the bedroom? It's too big, and I feel defeated.

But today was different, I broke it down into bite size chunks.

Neaten the loungeroom
Neaten the dining room
Do the dishes
Hang out the washing

When I finish each one, I have accomplished something. There is no more or less work, but lets say I don't manage to get the washing hung out today. If my task is 'clean the house', then I have failed. If my task is the above list, I achieved 3 things! It also allows me to break things into segments during the day, I can sit here relaxed writing this because I know I only have 5 items left on my list of about 20 things to do today, and I know I can finish those 5 items before the end of the day, instead of seeing the rest of one big task looming ahead of me and never really finishing it for the day. Another thing is remembering. It's easy to get sidetracked, but having this list and breaking it up I can remember what I have and haven't done. For example, instead of writing 'Do a load of washing' I have

Put on load of washing
Hang out load of washing
Bring in load of washing
Put away load of washing.

This means that, if the first 3 are ticked off, I can still look at my list, see I've accomplished some of the task, giving me motivation, and remember that I still have a basket of washing sitting on my bed.

Lets translate this into something more applicable to your child. You tell your child to go clean the playroom. He walks in and sees a huge mess, and doesn't know where to begin. You can't always give him a checklist of what to do broken up. But you CAN teach him to take bite sized chunks. Assess the room. There are blocks on the floor, toy cars on the floor, a blanket scrunched up in the corner, and assorted items that don't belong in the room. Teach him to recognise those tasks, and then set about finishing one task at a time. Eventually he will learn to break it up himself.

Now the second point, obsessing, feeling like you need to do everything everyday. Without a to-do list, I feel like I need to do everything. That isn't possible, or needed, and feeling like you have failed everyday because you didn't do everything is a problem. And then I say 'ok, I only need to vacuum once a week', but then that once a week never comes, and I never vacuum. And this is where my to-do list comes in. It's what I need to do each day. I need to do no less, but more importantly for me, I need to do no more. When I have finished it for the day, I feel as if I have finished my work for the day, I am done, and there is a sense of closure. It doesn't matter that I didn't vacuum today because I know I will do it thursday and that's when it needs to be done. Nevermind that there is still clothes in the washing basket, I did my load of washing for the day, and those clothes will be done tomorrow. It gives me a much needed goal, a finish line, and allows me to relax without worrying about a bunch of things that I think need to be done, that in fact do not. I can go to bed at night and not be bothered by the mark on the bathroom sink because that mark wasn't part of my jobs for the day, and I'm ok with that.

It's all a mindset, but this is what has helped me with my problems. If you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments!

And finally, here is my current 'checklist' that I try to follow each day, as an example. For the sake of this list, 'neaten' means make presentable, put away objects not meant to be there, etc, meant to be able to be done in a couple of minutes. 'clean' means organizing the storage spots, dusting, clearing out that corner that everything seems to collect in etc. See the difference? Also, a number of the daily chores are accomplished during my '20 minute tidy' where I set music to play for 20 mins and get as much done as I can in that time. It helps motivate me to knock a great deal off my list in a short amount of time and helps me keep focused for 20 minutes instead of doing one room then wandering off.

Daily Tasks
Neaten Lounge Room
Neaten Dining Room
Neaten Kitchen
Neaten Study
Neaten Baby Bedroom
Neaten Mummy Daddy Bedroom
Wash Breakfast Dishes
Wash Lunch Dishes
Wash Dinner Dishes
Put on Washing
Hang Up Washing
Take Down Previous Washing
Put Away Previous Washing
Unpack 1 Box
Take Out Bin

Weekly Tasks
Clean Toilet
Clean Lounge Room
Clean Laundry
Clean Computer Room
Christmas Project
Grandma Day, no extra tasks
Or get a head start on Monthly tasks
Clean Out Fridge
Monthly Tasks

Monthly Tasks
Change Bed Sheets
Clean Bathroom
Clean Linen Closet
Big Project?
Clean Out Freezer
Clean Baby Room
Clean Craft Room
Clean Bedroom

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