How I Finally Figured Out Household Management

Molly Weasley #Goals

I’ve always wanted to be one of those women who kept her household in order. One of the ones who casually say, “Oh, I run a tight ship,” like household management is a character virtue and they were born with it. And while opinions on this vary, I do tend to fall into the camp that believes that cleanliness is next to Godliness. It’s just that I’ve spent most of my life a little far from that particular God.

I grew up in a house that was anything but carefully organized. I used to pine over the IKEA catalog, and its neat, bright white interiors, but my real home life didn’t look much like that. I mean, credit where credit is due. We had the basics: my dad always had family dinner on the table, my sister and I learned how to make dinner and balance a checkbook, and we were academic superstars. But our house was in a constant state of disarray and disrepair, and I had no idea what systems people might have in place to keep a household running smoothly.

Dreams of The Burrow

As I moved into my thirties, I knew what I wanted, even if I had no idea how to achieve it. I wanted to be like my great aunt, who raised four children in a just-enough-nonsense home. Now in her eighties she runs a bed and breakfast, midwifes the births of all the lambs on her sheep farm, and makes sure everything is ship-shape before settling in with her nightly sherry (even if the kitchen is always an epic disaster). I wanted to be Molly Weasley in The Burrow, orchestrating controlled chaos with a firm hand. I wanted to be the woman who casually commented that they ran a tight ship… and meant it.

But while I managed to plow onward with my professional life, the goal of Mistress of Ceremonies in my own home always seemed completely out of reach. But then one day, rather recently, in the middle of my thirty-seventh year, I realized it wasn’t.

Trying To Get Through The Days

The past few years of my life have been overwhelming… and not in the same joyful way of my late twenties and early thirties, where I was getting married, going full time on my business, and writing my first book. During my mid-thirties, things were overwhelming in a very different way. I had two difficult pregnancies less than two years apart, two small children, and two painful deaths in the family, and I wrote my second book right in the middle of that. Then, in fairly short order, we bought a house, invested in offices for APW, I grew our team at work, and we proceeded to have the most difficult year I’ve ever had in business.

Two kids just over two years apart would have been enough, but when you back a year of personal tragedy up to a year of political and business tragedy, you get a struggle. For the past few years, I’ve had the feeling of almost never getting a moment to myself. For years now, I’ve been up before dawn with small children, rushed around to get everyone fed and out the door, been first in the office for work, managed a team all day, rushed out of the office for daycare and school pickup, headed home for dinner, and playtime, and bed, and cleanup… and then if I’m lucky, had one hour carved out of my day to relax. Then I’d head to the weekend, with its constant cycle of chores, and naps, and toddler birthday parties. And until very recently, I haven’t been able to do something as simple as washing my face without at least one child at arm’s length, because babies don’t keep themselves alive.

Obviously, I signed up for all this. I had two kids back to back with the idea that it was more work up front, and less work later (when they could play with each other)… plus I couldn’t imagine getting to finally sleep at night, and then having that taken away again. I’m a “rip the Band-Aid off” kind of person, at work and at home. And while I didn’t choose to grow my business at some supercharged VC-funded speed, I didn’t take any of the wise advice I was given about slowing down when I had small children.

Beyond that, I’ve had help in the form of good childcare, loving backup caregivers, and sometimes even house cleaners. But even with all that help, there have been so many times when getting through the day has felt like gasping for air. And I got used to my life this way. If you asked my friends (and I have), many of them would tell you that they didn’t even notice, because I got good at covering it up. I tried to make things look simple, even when they were anything but.

And as much I wanted things to feel easier, I lost sight of the idea that at some point they actually might be.

And then my oldest turned five, my youngest neared three, and I got through the worst year I’d ever had at work. I spent my holiday break organizing my closets. I told our cleaning service (AKA, my life line) that we didn’t need them to come quite as often. And I suddenly realized that I was pretty close to feeling like I ran a tight ship.

Owning My (Organized) Truth

Some people don’t care about home organization. Some women want total freedom from the drudgery of running a household. Plenty of people want to not sink a good part of their life force into having (or bearing) children. I salute those people. But if I’m truly honest, I’m also not a member of that tribe.

I read Martha Stewart magazine for the obsessive (frankly somewhat compulsive) organizing tips. I delight in having a closet full of china and vintage glassware for (my currently very occasional) entertaining. New laundry shelves endlessly excite me. I want to have a vegetable garden, and an organized kitchen, and a stash of table linens, and make crafts with my kids for each holiday. I want to get up early… not because my kids drag me out of bed… but so I have time to be productive around the house.

And you know, I’m not that person… yet. But little by little, I’m making progress. I’m getting closer to living in the organized home that I dreamed of as a kid, as I read those IKEA catalogs that felt so far away from my world.

How I Managed Mischief

And I figured out the secret (and why those mom’s with six kids always seem to have the most organized homes). The secret is doing way too much… and then doing slightly less. I’ve been trying to run a household with one (or both?) arms tied behind my back. And now that I have wiggled one arm free, I’m able to accomplish twice as much as I used to be able to do, and my household management skills are Olympic level, compared to what they were when it was just the two of us.

And while it’s not super helpful to suggest that you have two kids two years apart and a few of the hardest years of your life to make your household management easier, here are a few of the things that I have learned. If nothing else, these tips may show you that you don’t want The Burrow as much as you thought you did, but hey, here we go.

  • Know why you’re doing this. My goal for my household is to give my kids a happy stable home, and hopefully a slightly magical childhood. But equally important I want to give myself a beautiful and clutter-free home, because it drastically improves my sanity. So when chaos ensues, as it always does, I prioritize based on those goals.
  • A place for everything, and throw half of what you own away. The reason I spent my holiday break organizing closets is that I know that if there is a shelf, or basket, or box for everything (and half of a closet doesn’t fall on my head when I open door), it’s easier to clean up, and keep the house clean. But beyond that, our life got decidedly better when I threw out more than half of the kids toys last year. For parents looking to do just that, I highly recommend the book Simplicity Parenting. (It’s not bad for adults either; simplicity everything FTW.) I go through our house pretty regularly and donate anything that we don’t need, because with kids, stuff piles up so fast.
  • If You Leave The Room Take Something With You. The rule of households is that there is always something (fifty things, if you have small kids) in the living room that needs to go to the bedroom. There is always something in the bedroom that needs to go to the bathroom. So if you leave the room, grab something, and put it away.
  • Don’t Sit Down Much (But End The Night Off Your Feet). God, I remember the many weekends gone by of sitting around, thinking about how much I had to do. Sometimes, I even get someone to watch my kids so I can recreate those moments. But most of the time these days I stay in constant motion. If I’m watching the kids play “the bed is a ship, the floor is molten lava,” I’m probably also gathering up dirty clothes. If I’m listening to details of a Pokemon game/baby doll care, I’m probably also clearing the dishes. But if the end of the night is upon me, you can bet that I’m on the couch, watching TV, doing cross-stitch, and maybe even having a tiny whisky. Yes, I could probably be sending one more email, but at some point you really do have to stop.
  • Tidy on Before the week starts. Nobody has time to clean the house during the week. Thus it will always be so. This is why I’ve created Scullery Maid Sundays (it has a ring to it… almost like #SundayFunDay, amiright?). That’s when the beds get stripped, the laundry gets done, and all of the things get put back in their rightful place. Speaking of which: get a box. I go around the house with a box, piling everything that needs to go upstairs into it, and then everything that needs to come back down into it next. Each item does not get its own trip.
  • Have A Routine. This works for both household business and pleasure. Things are more likely to happen if they have a set day of the week, whether those things are laundry, date night, bathroom cleaning, or movie night. Over time I’ve worked out a schedule for chores, but when I pair them with a schedule for fun (ballet on Saturday, soccer on Sunday, date nights… okay, we don’t have a day for this yet), things get more fun.
  • Set Standards (Even Low Ones). The key about standards is that they are universally recognized. If clearing the table means taking every last thing off it (even the placemats) and wiping it, make that the household decree. If cleaning the kitchen at the end of the night means sweeping the floor, let it be known. That said, if you don’t care if dishes stay in the sink three days, to hell with it. Make that the law of the land.
  • Plan on failing to plan. Meal planning legit saves you money, you guys. I know, because I’ve done it, and I often plan to do it. It also almost never happens, so we have a bunch of standby recipes that we pretty much always have food on hand to make. Dinner on the table is better than no dinner, right?
  • Know what works. Over time, I’ve slowly figured out that my kids do best on days at home with a little art time, a little outside time, a nap, and a little TV time (for my sanity). I’ve set up our home to have all of these things easily available (cheap play structure in the yard, craft closet right by the dining room table). The more I organize my house around things that work, the better.
  • Get help. One of my friends points out that men who work demanding, full-time jobs outside the home are expected to have help. Maybe it’s in the form of a stay-at-home partner, maybe it’s in the form of housekeepers and nannies. Society expects it, and men don’t spend a second feeling bad about it. So if you’re working a demanding job outside the home, you should get as much help as you can, pay living wages to good people, and not feel bad about it for a single second.
  • Break all the rules, and embrace chaos. What we all love about The Burrow is its charming disarray. Molly Weasley runs the tightest of ships, but she also allows for mess and mischief everywhere. Running an organized household is one thing. Running a sterile and pristine one is something else all together. Rules are made to be broken, and it’s key to break all of them, regularly.

Molly Weasley Is Earned

After reading that, you may now, more than ever, decide that running a tightly organized household is something you can’t be bothered with. And honestly, if life hadn’t given me a hard shove, I’d probably be happily sitting on my couch ignoring the dishes. But that’s not how it went down. I struggled, and then I struggled some more, and then one day when things got a little easier, I realized damn, I wasn’t half bad at all this. After all, Molly Weasley never made it look easy; she just made it look worthwhile.

I can only assume that most people learn how to keep their household organized in some simpler way. Maybe they learn from their parents, or are just naturally inclined toward it. Sadly, that’s not me. I’ve never done anything the easy way a day in my life. But through sheer dogged determination and overwork, I’ve finally gotten there.

I run a tight ship.

Maybe one day, I’ll even start that vegetable garden. (But I might wait till both of my kids are in elementary school for that.)

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  • Bless you Meg, for all of this. I’ve been struggling as we adjust to a family of 3, and all the STUFF that comes along with having a little person…a little person who has now discovered how to take things out of drawers/off of shelves but not put them back. Totally going to try to put some of this into practice.

    • OH MY GOD THE STUFF. I’m afraid you’re going to live in a stuff tornado for a few years, and it just… is what it is.

    • emilyg25

      The nice thing about being one and done is that pretty much as soon as we’re out of a stage, I get rid of everything associated with it. We’re always looking for friends who want free infant stuff, haha. Our neighbors just had a baby and my husband was like, “Maybe they need a crib!!” I had to remind him that they probably already chose one.

      • Lisa

        I wish we had friends who were getting rid of baby stuff! Unfortunately, we’re on the front end of my friend and family groups on most life events. My husband actually made some comment to me the other day about how maybe we could get our friends’ crib, and I pointed out that they’re planning on more than one kid so they’ll still need it.

        • emilyg25

          Hey, if you live near Pennsylvania, I have an Ikea crib and mattress, pack n play, and a pretty sweet hook-on high chair that are all yours! :)

        • Violet

          Plus a lot of cribs sold now convert to toddler beds, so…

        • Jessica

          Look on facebook! My town has a super active “My town Mom’s Buy and Swap” page that has baby stuff for sale all the time.

  • Amy March

    I love this because in many ways I have the complete opposite household situation (small apartment, no husband, no kids, naturally messy and clutter tolerant) but I feel very much the same way about running my household. Different standards and different details but ultimately my goal is to feel confident in managing my house according to my own standards.

    For me that looks like a housekeeper every other week, spending 15 minutes tidying before work on Fridays, laundry Saturdays, cooking Sundays. But it was work and time to figure out a routine that works for me, and to understand that having routines is something I really value.

  • Eenie

    My former roommates and I coined the term “clutter rage”. It’s where you hit the point that you can’t stand how disorganized everything is, and in a rapid fury organize the crap out of a room. It was an easy way to explain to other roommates that a box of stuff appearing in their room was not a passive aggressive act of saying put away your shit.

    I’ve actually found that hiring a cleaning service has been detrimental to the overall state of our house. They clean all the surfaces, but they don’t put stuff away. Our old self cleaning routine included that, and now it’s been missing for months. It has been really bothering me lately, but I didn’t figure out what it was until a couple weeks ago.

    Our master bedroom closet hanging system fell down about two months ago so I’m very jealous of Meg’s organized closets. We have a temporary solution which involves all but the very essentials being farmed out to every other closet in the house (four total). We want to fix it right, so we’re waiting until we can patch the walls, repaint the closet, measure and install the new closet system.

    • emilyg25

      When we had a house cleaner, we picked up before she came. It actually ensured we put every single thing in its place every two weeks.

      • Mrrpaderp

        I can measure when my cleaning service is coming by the amount of makeup spread all over my bathroom.

        • lamarsh

          Haha, same.

        • Lexipedia

          I was once told by an ex that my bathroom looked “like Sephora exploded” most of the time.

      • Anne

        Haha yep! I had a cleaner when I lived abroad and it was SO embarrassing how diligently she cleaned around my mess. Definitely shamed me into minimizing clutter.

      • Lexipedia

        We had a cleaning person come once a month when I was young (two parents with 60 hour/week jobs) and as a kid I could not understand why I had to tidy up first. Now I know.

        My mom used to say that the cleaning person wouldn’t vacuum, etc. my room unless there was nothing on the floor or bed. If I didn’t pick up then I had to vacuum/dust myself. Somehow I haven’t carried this over into adulthood…

    • Lawyerette510

      We built in the putting stuff away portion of the cleaning routine in the prep for the every-other Monday cleaning service. It’s on the calendar and usually Sunday evening Mr. Lawyerette and I go through the whole house putting shit in its place. We aren’t super tidy generally, so it’s good to have something that forces us to do it on a house-wide basis at a minimum of every-other Sunday. That said, it took a while to get into the hang of it.

      Also, my heart hurts for your closet situation, that sounds rough.

      • Eenie

        Ideally we would do that as well! Ours comes on Friday, and I’m out of town at least half the time during the week. Part of why the closet hasn’t been fixed by now! I think we need to work it in on the weekend like our food prepping and laundry. Those two things go really well.

        We typically just clear everything off the floor and put it on the nearest flat surface really quickly the night/morning before. They will move stuff around on counters and such to clean underneath. I know we’re not a horrible house for them to clean because we tip well! We could make it easier on them.

        • Lawyerette510

          Oh yeah, we would really struggle if it was on a Friday. By Thursday evening the wheels are coming off and the engine is out of steam in our house.

          • Eenie

            I know. I may call them and see if a Monday is available. I like Friday because I get to come home to a clean house after travelling… But it’d be much easier to pick up every other Sunday.

    • lamarsh

      It’s funny because I feel the opposite about our cleaning person. She comes every two weeks and it forces us to pick up everything and put it away at least biweekly. She has been on vacation for the past month and my husband and I were both a little surprised at how out of control we let the clutter get without that reminder. (Our solution was to invite friends over to dinner last week so we were forced to clean everything.)

    • kazeegeyser

      Oh god, this is me. I love being in an organized home, but the reality is that things pile up so much that every 6 months I go into clutter rage and clean my entire apartment. I think I turn into a different, less patient person, who orders around my SO and won’t rest until every speck of dust has been obliterated. Then, things stay neat for about 2 weeks, and slowly deteriorate…

    • Ros

      Hah. My husband and I coined ‘cleaning rage’ as an explanation for when the clutter/cleaning would pile up for about 6 weeks (standard pattern) because I was doing my agreed-upon chores and he was playing video games, and then he’d have something one evening and I’d be planning on going home, ordering food, having a nice dinner and bubble bath… walk in the door, see the state of the house, explode, and spend the evening tidying/cleaning/making it livable, mostly while ranting to myself about ‘why the F can’t he do this’, and he’d walk in at like 11pm to a sparkling apartment and an incandescent girlfriend.

      We’ve dealt with that since – mostly via addition of a house cleaner, which takes a lot of tasks out of the equation and forces basic tidying minimum every 2 weeks so it never gets that messy, and I can live with it. And he’s gotten better at doing his agreed-upon chores, and I’ve gotten better at being blunt AF when I tell him he hasn’t done them (subtly asking sucks – it makes me feel like I’m micromanaging and he doesn’t hear subtle). But MAN, it was the worst. (And, full disclosure: I wouldn’t have married him without fixing that pattern. It sucked.)

    • EF

      what!?? when I have a cleaner come, she puts stuff away (though admittedly, we are not a stuff household, so it’s mostly books and computer cords…) and anything she can’t figure out she puts in a specific box (though admittedly, as hipsters, it is a wine crate) and we take care of it.

      she’s never…avoided vacuuming or anything just because something is left out.

      huh. is this a european/usa distinction i wonder?

      • Eenie

        Idk. It’s spelled out in our contract that they won’t move anything over 20lbs. They will move stuff on a counter or table to wipe underneath it, but they don’t put it away. One time we had so much stuff on our coffee table and they just cleaned around it. I mostly like the cleaning for the bathrooms, kitchen, and floors. I’m less concerned that my coffee table is wiped off every week. But I feel bad when we just have stuff accumulating on all these surfaces.

  • Katrin

    I am surprised your husband doesn’t make an appearance in this article. For my family, running a tight ship means constant negotiations with my husband (and the children) over who does what.
    We follow most of your tips, and we have a cleaning lady – but I don’t run the ship by myself.

    • sofar

      It is the hardest part. Especially because, for a long time, “sharing the load” felt like me nagging. Husband grew up in a home with housekeepers and groundspeople. While he was expected to help with the family business constantly, he grew up with the message that, “Doing household cleaning and yard work is a waste of time, and you should hire someone to do that.” Which is FINE, but it translated to him not learning to clean up after himself at all, and we can’t afford to have a housekeeper come over every other day.

      We ended up having to assign him very specific chores and having him set reminders on his phone to do them.

      • ItsyBit

        This has been part of my struggle, too. Because as I’ve been trying to figure out my own journey of how to keep house the way I want to (bc I generally still suck at it) while also having a life, my husband occasionally looks at me sideways and makes some comment like, “we won’t have time to do XYZ, we have more important things to do in life!” And I get it to an extent, you don’t want your whole life to be wrapped up in things you don’t want to do at the expense of fun/health/career, but man. It drives me absolutely BONKERS.

        We’ve since settled into each of us doing certain things that we’re either inclined to do or can get done quicker/better than the other person. It mostly works fine, but I’m still trying to figure out how to “logically” (insert eyeroll) explain why I think that we should be taking turns cleaning the microwave (or why it needs to be cleaned at all).

        • Ros

          For us, ‘we don’t have time to do X, Y, Z’ is a thing – we both work demanding jobs and have 2 kids under 4, and enjoy having a few hours here and there to read an article or spend time together, y’know? So we prioritize it – do we need X more than we hate it? If we need it BUT hate it, can we outsource it for a cost that we hate less than doing it ourselves?

          In practical terms: this means we pay for a housecleaner every 2 weeks because otherwise the toilets would not get scrubbed and the floors would not get cleaned, but we tidy up after ourselves and do the dishes and meal plan and prep lunches… because 2 adults buying lunches costs about the same as a housecleaner every 2 weeks, and we hate packing lunches less.

          When your kids aren’t small, it’s also easier to agree to not care about basic housecleaning stuff. Like, sure, if you’re just 2 adults, you don’t need to sweep the floor every night. With a 9-month-old tossing food overboard, if you don’t want them eating 2-day-old chicken off the floor, it’s gotta be swept MINIMUM daily. Same with laundry – as an adult it can usually wait a few days and you’ll cobble something together. If your baby pukes enough that you’re both going through 3 outfits a day, either you buy enough clothes for that many changes of outfit or you do the laundry. When they grow older they’re less/differently demanding on their surroundings.

    • Jess

      SAME. Early on in my relationship I established that “if I’m working, you’re working.” That expectation has carried us far.

      • This is an excellent mindset – “If I’m working, you’re working.” Such a simple, yet elegant concept! Definitely sharing that!

        • Jess

          Go for it! Making it a clear expectation is awesome!

      • Do you guys have kids, curiously? Or I guess, small ones? If you do, I’m interested how that works.

        For us at this point in our lives it generally doesn’t work like that, because if I’m working, you may well be keeping the kids alive, and vice versa. It’s getting easier as they get older, but in recent years it hasn’t been super easy to work it that way.

        • Violet

          Not trying to speak for Jess, but I would think “keeping the kids alive” is working, right?
          Actually, we’ve found it easier if one of us is watching the kid (I wouldn’t say “keeping alive” at this point because there’s so little needed to keep them alive when they’re really young!) for the other to get a break. Because otherwise it does feel like there’s always *something* you could be doing. But to your point in the piece, sometimes you gotta just hand off the kid to your partner and put your dang feet up!

          • Jess

            Yes! Kid-duty is work to me. I think I really like @luckylovebug’s separation of when the kid is asleep, too. Because, kid stuff is work, but if neither of you is on kid duty, it’s not it’s cool for one parent to be doing all the cleaning while the other lounges.

        • For us, this is mostly applicable after bedtime. Like, the kid is asleep and if I’m getting her ready for the next day packing lunches (WHICH OMG BANE OF MY EXISTENCE) then he better be feeding the cats or tidying up from dinner or whatnot. We definitely fall into the “I’m working and you’re keeping the kid alive” when she’s awake!

        • Jess

          No, we do not. It’s somehing I’m wondering about in that context though! I think in a way, I see kid-duty as working?

          Even now, it sometimes ends up as I do certain tasks and then when R comes home he does certain tasks. Or vice versa.

    • That’s a whole other post, but I really wanted to write this about my personal journey. Because this process has been really about ME and how I want to feel about household management. My husband has frankly always been better at it than I have, so his journey/ our journey is a different subject.

      He also does all of the cooking and grocery shopping and I don’t touch it, so he does a ton of chores I’m not even privy to.

  • emilyg25

    I cannot emphasize enough how much having less stuff and a place for everything makes this so much easier. I call myself a reverse-hoarder. Plus my three year old actually plays more with his toys when he has fewer–it’s less overwhelming for him.

    I’m constantly thinking of ways to improve our housekeeping in line with our habits. Like I hate putting coats on hangers. I just do. So we switched out our front closet to be a bunch of little cubbies for shoes and coat hooks. Now I actually hang up my coat every day. I like a made bed but mornings can be a bit hectic here, so we just have a duvet and a top sheet. Much easier to pull up in one swoop! And no dumb little throw pillows. Acknowledge your habits and what’s important to you, not what you think you “have” to do.

    Housekeeping is groovy–I actually own an 800-page book on it that I’ve read cover to cover (Home Comforts), though I’m not always on top of things as I’d like to be these days. Home ec should still be a big deal in high schools.

    • Lawyerette510

      The idea of setting stuff up for how you “default” changed our tidiness in a big way! Always setting mail down in one spot? Put a little basket on that surface and a recycling bin on the ground. Shoes piling in one place? Put a shoe rack there. Hooks over hangers (always and forever yes)? Put some up! Also, we just use a duvet with a cover, not even a top sheet, so easy to make the bed and (somehow) harder for me to steal the covers.

    • Her Lindsayship

      Husband and I are also ‘reverse-hoarders’ and I’m so grateful for that similarity. I know couples with mismatched styles definitely can and do make it work, but it’s just one area of life where we didn’t have to learn to compromise, we were already totally on the same page, we both love getting rid of things. I’ve lived with a few different people who didn’t mind clutter or in fact *preferred* a bit of clutter around them, and it was such a constant source of anxiety for me that I didn’t even recognize it until moving in with now-husband made its absence conspicuous.

      • Abby

        For anyone with a mismatch, though, there’s hope: I used to be a serious hoarder, but my husband gently coaxed me into reverse hoarding/purge everything mentality and now I’m 100% on board.

        • AnneM

          I second this! Like, I have ADHD, and grew up in a super messy household (which included some hoarding, just don’t want to make it sound worse than it was). So, obviously, I never learned how to be organized, until I moved in with my semi-organized boyfriend. Seriously, it was so much easier for me to get/keep stuff organized, once I was the only one causing the mess, and I had a reason to be organized (other than “Ooohh, look, so pretty!”) I’ve honestly gone from “can’t keep any surface clutter free for more than a day” to “This thing doesn’t habe a place, that’s unacceptable!” over the past few years, mostly because I live with a mismatched partner. I actually wrote a blog post on how I organized messy areas (step by step, because it’s really not that simple), if anyone is interested in that.

        • Diverkat

          THANK YOU I NEED THE HOPE. My husband holds on to EVERYTHING, “Just in case.” I try to make it attractive to have a clutter-free home and it’s been slowly working, but I’m also battling his hoarder mother, who loves to give gifts to us all the time.

    • Basketcase

      We have cushions on the sofa because they make it more comfortable, but they are large and useful. Throw pillows for the sake of looking pretty don’t exist in our house – our beds have one pillow per person and we have two spare that live in the linen cupboard for emergency purposes.

      • Charley

        Our house is the same – once I moved in with my now husband we decided on the rule of no decorative pillows (or as we say it “no pillows not for bottoms or heads”).

        • sofar

          I am a throw-pillow addict I will admit (for our sofas and the beds), which my husband hates. We also have decorative blankets and runners for the beds that aren’t for sleeping on, which he hates even more.

          But somehow all that stuff motivates me more to make the beds every day.

          • AP

            Yeah, for me throw pillows and blankets are a cheap and easy way to change the look of a room. Maybe twice a year I either rotate out pillows or buy some new ones and switch up room accessories. My favorite decorating hack:)

          • Jessica

            Same!

          • sofar

            Like, I may be a total mess in so many ways, but my damn bed looks catalog-ready.

          • Kayakgirl73

            I like my decorative bed pillows, but man my husband hates them. I also like my couch three pillows, but the kids like to though them on the floor. Oh well they make me happy most of the time.

    • I have Home Conforts too! Though I have not made it all the way through yet… I will finish it though. I wish I had had home ec in school (or even better, a class that taught a ton of adult stuff including budgeting, investing, etc.). For some reason, home ec wasn’t required…

  • ruth

    I relate to this so hard! I recently hit the level of “clutter rage” mentioned in the comments below, lol and decided to try a Marie Kondo style decluttering. Pairing down my closet to only the things that I truly “spark joy” was indeed life changing magic. I think the same will be true with my books. But the thing I’m now struggling with is that most of the clutter in my home is honestly not mine – it is my husband’s. He is not bothered by clutter in the way that I am (my husband grew up in a household that quite honestly almost qualifies for the TV show “Horders” so lots of stuff in piles all around the room feels normal even comfortable to him.) I’ve shared with him that it bothers me, and he’s tried to make some efforts at reducing the clutter for my sake, but we have a long way to go. He feels genuine attachment to his possessions and has no desire to let them go. But I can’t get rid of my husband’s stuff just because it doesn’t spark joy in me! I’m curious how other couples have handled situations like this

    • emilyg25

      We’ve limited my husband’s clutter to a few defined spaces that I don’t regularly see–a drawer in the kitchen, a closet, a cupboard, and also currently the basement but that will change when we build a garage. It does honestly bother me even knowing what’s behind that closet door, but I’m training myself to direct my gaze to my clean living room instead. :)

      • Amy March

        Yes as a clutter-er I am never going to function without some space to live in my house the way I want! I will definitely endeavor to make things work for everyone, but I need a few junk drawers and a closet and some space for “treasures.”

      • AmandaBee

        Designated clutter zones are key. My husband has an office where his clutter can go. I have a separate, clutter free workspace. We’re both happier for it.

        Designated clutter free zones have also worked for us. Bedroom clutter bothers me a bunch so he tries to keep that to a minimum and I try to give him slack on other areas of the house.

      • quiet000001

        My SO has some very cluttery hobbies and is not a tidy person at the best of times. We haven’t gotten it right yet, but giving him his own space for the worst of it definitely made a big improvement, as did keeping some nice looking boxes around so if he gets distracted and accidentally clutters the dining room table, he can grab a box and shove his stuff into it and then relocate it to his space.

    • Jess

      Depends on the type of clutter.

      Magazines/Mail, I announced that we were only keeping one issue of any given magazine at a time. I throw out old ones without feeling bad, because I made that declaration. Mail – we have a file box that important stuff goes into, everything else can go in the trash/recycling.

      Small items, we set up a drawer that holds chargers and electronics.

      Clothes, I don’t look at his closet.

      Basically, we set up spaces for things that appear useful to go and pre-approved what it’s ok to get rid of.

    • Lagaviota

      Not in an identical situation, but in our last home (our first home together, where we combined two studio apartments’ worth of stuff, plus any “inherited” furniture from thoughtful family), my partner had several piles of things (mostly confined to the spare room annnnd the floor on his side of the bed). We reached a point where the basic agreement from both sides was the stuff could be kept if it was put away (even just thrown in a bin in the closet!). I would occasionally ask him if anything could be given away if I knew I was making a Goodwill run anyway, but just having stuff put somewhere out of sight was a big help.

      Then we moved in with family to save money and downsized massively, which required time and energy from both of us (and a lot of those things that were in piles just didn’t make the cut for things we cared to bring with us to a smaller home). The downsizing felt great and was also a huge eye opener in terms of how much needless stuff we had (and were throwing away). It’s definitely helped us be more intentional moving forward!

    • sage

      This is an interesting topic. My husband and I seem to disagree on what constitutes “clutter”. My husband says he hates clutter and prides himself on owning fewer things than most people (myself included) so as to reduce clutter. However, his system for organizing said few things is not a system so much as him just leaving the things wherever he feels like and never in a consistent manner. Which is my definition of clutter: it’s more about the stuff being in random piles and less about the actual amount of stuff.

      That probably does not help in your context where it sounds like the stuff is piled up because there is so much of it… but it could be that paring down the amount of stuff has less impact than instituting a better system for organizing the stuff.

      • Violet

        I agree with your definition. My husband’s excessive amount of books aren’t clutter when they’re on his bookshelves. But when there’s one on the window ledge, another two on an end table, three on the dining table, one on his nightstand, and one on the couch…. yeah, that’s clutter.

  • A.

    Any tips for how to throw things away when your husband saves everything because he has generally misplaced guilt? It’s more delicate than just telling him that it has to change because his mom is an immigrant and really instilled the value of keep everything because you never know when you’ll need it again or you’ll never see the person who gave it to you again. Morbid to a US perspective maybe, but the reality she lived.

    I’m an aspiring minimalist, but our apartment is just covered in clutter and nowhere for it to go. I’m also pregnant and reading Montessori From the Start with the focus on how important order in a household is for children…and now I’m feeling even more stressed and guilty because I don’t even know where to *begin* to create the kind of order their talking about without my husband’s tangible support in getting rid of the clutter.

    Ok, that was a lot more than I meant to throw out there but…help? I feel like I can’t just Marie Kondo my way out of this?

    • emilyg25

      Have you talked to him about it and been honest about the way the clutter makes you feel? Maybe he can choose one or two meaningful things from a person but not *everything*.

    • Violet

      A few tips from me (an organized person) in relation to my husband (a “sure it’s nice when things are tidy, but books and pens and papers everywhere don’t bother me” person):
      – He has the bigger closet. If anything is cluttered/annoying me, I just throw it in there.
      – We talk through purchases that will take up space in our small apartment before buying.
      – We’ve communicated to family and friends that while we love how excited they are about our infant, we can only manage a few toys and stuffed animals at a time, and we have no storage. This moderates how much comes in.
      – Any book that makes you stress about parenting is one to stop reading. Immediately.

    • Amy March

      Idk if this helps, but I’m definitely a cluttered person. The idea that clutter = disorder that will damage children is, to me, absurd and would also make me overwhelmed and shut down completely. What resonates with me is not big picture values driven concepts but practical considerations. I de clutter my hall closet because otherwise it is full and I can’t use it. I declutter my bathroom countertops because I don’t want guests to see my stuff. You definitely can’t fix this without his buy in, and for me something that would resonate is a partner having practical specific concerns in manageable sized projects.

      But your kids will be fine. If your parenting book is giving you guilt before your kids are even born throw it away.

      • Violet

        Yes! For anyone who doesn’t value the aesthetics of a decluttered space, you have to point out a practical reason for organizing/decluttering. Otherwise it’s like trying to convince someone to get a certain wallpaper just because you like it- the argument doesn’t really hold water.

      • Jess

        “If your parenting book is giving you guilt before your kids are even born throw it away.”

        Words to live by.

      • Katharine Parker

        Not entirely on topic, but I can’t help but think of Robertson Davies when someone is overly dogmatic about clutter (also, perhaps, to overly dogmatic parenting systems): “You like the mind to be a neat machine, equipped to work efficiently, if narrowly, and with no extra bits or useless parts. I like the mind to be a dustbin of scraps of brilliant fabric, odd gems, worthless but fascinating curiosities, tinsel, quaint bits of carving, and a reasonable amount of healthy dirt. Shake the machine and it goes out of order; shake the dustbin and it adjusts itself beautifully to its new position.”

        • lamarsh

          Love this. I was just thinking last night that I should reread Fifth Business.

    • E.

      I don’t have the same background as your husband, but I do have a hard time throwing stuff away and save way too many letters, postcards, pictures, drawings from students, etc. One thing I do that helps is I have a box in the closet that I just throw everything in. I still get to save all my things, and it doesn’t make clutter in our small apartment.

      • Jessica

        I helped a friend go through the student pile when she moved–I just held something up and said “do you really need this?” and half the pile was gone. Some things like that are more special than others.

        • Amy March

          I find this so helpful

        • E.

          So true! Some also get less special over time so going through it occasionally helps too.

        • Jess

          I love when friends come to help me pack/sort stuff. It’s really helpful to just be like, “No. No I don’t.”

          • Jessica

            It’s also great to hear some stories! She has had some hilarious kids in her classes. I also get to make sure every postcard I sent her gets saved.

      • Lisa

        My parents created a “treasure box” for us when we were kids of stuff like this. I have a large box in the closet, and once every few years (once it gets full), I go through the whole thing and see if there are items I can now part with.

        As someone with hoarding tendencies, this is helpful because it gives me distance from the thing and allows me to view it with fresh eyes every once in a while.

        • E.

          We had a “save box” :)

      • quiet000001

        Also – scan stuff in! Some things you don’t have to keep the THING, just a reminder of the thing. We’ve gotten rid of some stuff by scanning or taking a photograph. (Resident kiddo gets really attached to stuff, so taking photos has really helped get him to be willing to donate things when he’s too old for them.)

        • Lisa

          Omg, this! My husband thinks I’m crazy because every time we try to do a Goodwill run I need to take a photo of each thing that gets donated. A lot of times, I’m not attached to the “thing” but the memories associated with the thing, and I’m afraid I’ll lose them if I don’t have some tangible item to connect them with. Even if the pictures are just on my phone’s photo gallery, it makes me feel better that I could theoretically revisit them any time I want and allows me to part with the physical object.

        • rg223

          Agreed about the scanning – my husband has multiple “treasure boxes” and will just start a new one after one is filled, so that concept doesn’t work for us… but scanning does.

    • CMT

      I think it will probably also require some compromise on your part. If your relationship is one hoarder and one minimalist, you’re never going to end up at either of those extremes; you’ll have to find somewhere to meet in the middle.

      Also, I think it would be gracious to your husband if your conversations about this were about preferences and not values. I think it’s easy to conflate cleanliness with being a better person, or whatever, but it’s not really true. Clutter doesn’t necessarily equal moral failing. I grew up with parents who are legit hoarders and there was clutter everywhere, and I turned out fine.

      • Amy March

        Yes. Exactly.

      • quiet000001

        Honestly the order that is important for kids isn’t Stuff, it’s predictability. Are rules and expectations reasonably predictable? Are punishments and rewards fair-feeling and understandable or do things just happen randomly from the kid’s point of view? Dad’s desk always being a pile of clutter can be a predictable and unexciting thing, for a kid. The biggest issue is if the clutter causes issues for the kid – like school paperwork being misplaced. You have some time, but that’s the sort of thing I’d encourage future-Dad to be thinking about. We just stuck a 3M command clip on the wall in the dining room, and important kid papers should go there. (Sometimes kiddo forgets, but in general it works okay.)

        I will admit I’m a little leery of places that are too focused on order with kids, too. My SO’s son went to a Montessori school when he was younger, and it actually caused him impressive amounts of anxiety and stress when they moved and he went to a normal public school because he’d been taught that everyone in the class was responsible for everyone else following the rules, and the wild and wooly fourth graders who were his peers were not so big on lining up just so, etc. So he was worried he was going to get in trouble, or that they were and he was responsible for making sure they didn’t… Took us a while to get him to chill. (I mean, the kids weren’t bad, just lively.)

    • guest

      My husband is an immigrant and he is the same way. It is terrible. Before we got married, he dreamed I got rid of his stuff. He is very emotionally attached to it, cannot bear getting rid of even broken things, and feels guilty about environmental waste as well. Solidarity.

    • Z.

      I’m in a handful of different new mom/working mom groups online and IRL, and, in my experience, if an uncluttered home is a requirement for well-adjusted children, most parents and kids are screwed.

    • Ros

      So I just want to agree with the other statements that if your parenting book is inducing guilt before your kid is even born, another book might be better. Also, ‘order’, for me, would tend to be more of a general mental thing (knowing what’s expected of them, knowing what they can depend on, security in their environment kind of thing).

      That said, for your husband, you can’t necessarily make him happy about getting rid of things. In practical terms, though, my son was crawling around at 6 months and getting into EVERYTHING table-top height by 11 months. An argument along the lines of ‘we live here. We NEED this space to not be hazardous to a baby. For that, we need X.’

      (What do you actually need? To be able to physically clean the floor so they’re not putting things in their mouths? Things off the floor? Things moved to a different room? Things not on tables so they can’t be tugged onto heads? The ability to reach electrical outlets and extensions to plug them in and stop the kid from sticking their tongue in them? Concretely, what do you need to make a safe environment for a baby? And, conversely, understand that these items have a strong emotional/guilt pull – and that you won’t be able to just get it out of the house, minimalist style. What about suggesting places where it CAN go? Can things be framed/hung on walls/shown off? Can he have a treasure box/rubbermaid contaner(s)/bookcase/spare room/whatever for what he wants? You’re probably better off with saying ‘for the house to be safe for a baby, X space needs to be kept clean, which means *huge piles of stuff* needs to fit in *this closet*. Can we set aside a day to make sure we can store the things that you really value?’ than saying ‘get rid of all the things!’)

      Oh, final thing that worked for my husband: he kept saying things like ‘oh, I should keep this piece of embroidery, my grandmother made it’, and then it would sit in a pile and gather dust (for years. And some handiwork can’t be cleaned easily so…). So finally I said something like ‘dude, I get that you value your grandmother, but leaving her handiwork in a pile gathering dust isn’t convincing me that her work is beautiful. If you want to keep it, frame it, display it, VALUE it. Dusty and in a pile is not a sign of emotional value’. And so I now have nice framed handiwork (not my style but I can totally work with it) in the basement, he feels like his grandmother is valued, and the nicest, least-damaged-and-dusty things got framed and the rest of the pile he admitted wasn’t in a state to be kept and he was then ok with getting rid of it. It’s a process.

  • Jess

    These are all things I remember growing up doing, in my don’t-touch-anything-household.

    We had baskets at the top and bottom of each set up stairs – so when we were old enough we learned to put stuff in there as we were moving around. Even later, we would get assigned to bring the basket to the appropriate floor, and distribute belongings to each person’s room.

    Saturdays were cleaning days for us, and it was an all-hands event. When we were too small to help, we had a service come in.

    We also had yearly toy sorting – keep, donate/sell, or store – every spring when we cleaned our closets (with real buckets of murphy’s and water. No joke). Then we would have to review stuff we’d stored, to see if we still wanted to store it or if we were ok donating it.

    So yeah, these tricks? They work.

    • Violet

      I was thinking that the whole time reading this- 3 and 5 year olds are old enough to do a lot of chores! I’m assuming they help and Meg just didn’t mention it, but for anyone else: don’t discount how capable your kids are!

      • emilyg25

        Plus it teaches them good habits! I grew up in a very clean home and my brother and I had to clean and vacuum our rooms and the play room every weekend. Lo and behold we both grew into adults who keep pretty clean homes.

        • Jess

          Right? When we were little the rule was, “You can’t play with something else until you put away what you were playing with” and all our toys were in cupboards at a low height.

          When we were older, we were responsible for our own room (changing sheets, vacuuming, dusting, picking up) and either vacuuming or dusting the rest of the house – we traded off that job.

          We graduated to cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen when we were in like 5th grade.

          We also did the dishes every night when we could reach the sink, helped with dinner (washing vegetables, cutting things, stirring pots), did our own laundry when we could reach the washer/dryer (or helped fold and sort before that), and helped with whatever Big Cleaning tasks were every spring (you haven’t lived until you’ve hand washed your walls, folks).

          Kids are SUPER capable and trainable.

          ETA: Of course, I hated doing all that stuff. So…

          • E.

            Yes! As a teacher it is very clear which kids are expected to clean up after themselves and do chores and which are not because they are the ones who need constant reminders to clean up in the classroom! I have had parents amazed to come in the classroom and see what their children are capable of.

          • Sara

            I am constantly amazed at my nephew’s ability to clean up after himself. He’s only 3, but he knows where all of his toys go and he’s very thorough! Its so cute to watch.

          • Jess

            Kids picking stuff up on their own is very endearing to me.

          • Those kids are such a blessing. All kids are not those kids, but MAN those kids are legit. I have… one.

          • Lisa

            I disliked vacuuming and laundry as a kid, but those are some of my favorite chores now, and I find them very calming. Weird how that happens sometimes!

        • Her Lindsayship

          I have to say, I grew up in a pretty clean home and I ended up being a neat and tidy individual but BOTH of my sisters hopped off that train and developed into clutter lovers who don’t mind a bit of a mess. Maybe my parents weren’t quite tricky enough to really instill it in us?

          ETA: when I say it was a clean home I mean we all participated in keeping it clean and did chores every weekend, not like it was just magically clean around us all the time lol.

          • Anne

            Yeah I am a case study in falling off that train. My dad was at home when we were growing up, and he was incredibly diligent about home routines that we had to participate in (different days of the week for cleaning different rooms, we were in charge of picking up and dusting and then he would vacuum, bathroom cleaning had a very specific process with 6 different products, etc). The whole thing always seemed excessive to me and made me never want a big house – I really, really hate cleaning. I appreciate routines and organizational systems and I am pretty good at or at least continuing to work on developing those. But I’m just never going to be someone who cleans just to have it be clean. Husband reaches his dirt/dust tolerance limits before I do so he’s almost always the one who sweeps or dusts or vacuums and he’s thankfully ok with that.

        • sofar

          Clearing-the-table-after-the-meal (and loading the dishwasher) was ritual in our house. It is a habit that is now so automatic I don’t realize I do it. One of the greatest surprises in my adult life is how many people do not do this. One of my greatest annoyances is that my husband did not grow up doing this.

          • lamarsh

            Yes. I am not a tidy person, see, e.g., the piles of shoes all around my house and the fact that my folded laundry has been sitting on the coffee table since Sunday, but I would never leave dirty dishes on a table or even in the sink over night. For some weird reason, it is on another level for me.

          • sofar

            Yes! It makes me insane if they sit over night. Something about starting a new day with a table/sink covered in dirty dishes just ruins everything.

          • Violet

            Good for you for being so measured. I told my partner it “makes me die a little inside” when I see dishes in the morning. I can get a little dramatic.

          • topscallop

            It took some time for my husband to understand that a clean kitchen and an empty sink at the end of the night was very important to me, and actually it’s an “act of service” – to use love languages terminology – that I value heavily. In the past six months or so, I think he’s internalized it to the point where he enjoys it too and cleans up the kitchen to my standards when I cook (we swap so whoever doesn’t cook, cleans). Now if only I could get him to clean as he cooks like I do…

      • savannnah

        Living abroad in both West and East Africa has really broadened my understanding of what a 2-3 year old can do.

        • Violet

          Yes! I think there is a pretty strong cultural message to just throw your hands in the air and wail, “Kids! Amirite?!” But honestly, that does kids a disservice as much as their parents. Of course not all kids are the same (because they’re just people, and not all people are the same) but kids can do a lot more than they are often given credit for. And they will usually do their best to rise to your expectations.

      • It depends (as ever) on the kid. My two year old already cleans up, helps around the house, etc. etc. My five year old… we’re working on it. But no I would not say that he’s a “help,” I would say we’re slowly giving him good habits. So yeah, some kids are ACTUALLY helpful, other kids you just sort of beat it into them.

        • emilyg25

          In the interest of full disclosure, I was a horrible clutter maniac as a child, to the point that on desk cleanout day at school, everyone would finish and they’d resume teaching and I’d still be there organizing all my papers. But at a certain point in high school, it did finally click for me and I had the knowledge when I was finally ready to start using it. But yes, all kids are different!

        • And some kids REALLY WANT TO HELP and just end up making everything twice as messy and take four times as long.

    • Sara

      Ah the basket system! We had one too, but it sat mid stair. If you passed by it without taking your stuff out of the basket and put it away, there was hell to pay. My mom hit her limits of things laying around quick – if you didn’t put your stuff away, it might disappear forever.

      • Jess

        Yes! That’s exactly how the baskets work.

      • Jessica

        My mom did this too! I would get so mad when she put my brother’s stuff in my pile–it wasn’t fair!

        Now I look back and just assume I must have been a pretty adorable kid to be able to yell at my mom for cleaning up my stuff

      • Lisa

        Yes! We each had a step on the stairs where we were allowed to put things growing up. If you went up but left your book or sweater on the stairs… woe betide you!

      • Violet

        I try not to be sneaky in general, but when my husband’s pens and pencils find their way into the bed… they get disappeared. By me.

        • Lisa

          You are the witch. You make the magic.

    • Stealing all of these – thanks!

      • Jess

        Steal with abandon. They’re mostly expanding on Meg’s tips!

    • savannnah

      My mom had a game called live/give/kill with our toys with us when we were little. I think it helped her keep sane with twins and a baby.

      • penguin

        Wait what do those mean?? I’m so curious!

        • savannnah

          haha
          Live: keep
          Give: donate
          Kill: throw away

          • penguin

            Thanks :)

    • Sarah E

      YUP. We were tasked with “spring-cleaning” our rooms every year. While I spent a lot of time re-reading books when I was supposed to be dusting my bookshelf, it was a reset every year.

      And once we were old enough, Mom’s policy was that we got one week to do whatever after school ended. After that week, we woke up to a chore list every day, and/or a prescribed time to be at grandma’s to work on her chore list. At the start of summer, we could pick some routine chores, but we got assigned stuff beyond those, too.

      • RNLindsay

        My brother and I also woke up to a chore list in the summer! My husband finds this strange but he was spoiled. I woke up earlier than my brother so I’d pick the better/easier chores to do first

        • Sarah E

          Best sibling hack ever.

      • Kayakgirl73

        Yep the summer chore list. I hated that thing but I learned a lot and it gave structure to my day as a latch key kid,

  • Jane

    My husband and I are still working on this, but it still feels like our main motivation to get the place clean is that someone is coming over. We don’t have guests over that often . . . So things can pile up.
    But it’s also been really interesting to see which things we each care about. My husband cares a lot about clutter (he grew up on a boat, so his family literally ran a tight ship) but isn’t as likely to notice actual cleaning things except when the rugs need to be vacuumed. Which is all the time because we have a dog.
    I, on the other hand, care way more about cleaning the bathroom, emptying trashes, getting crumbs off the tables and counters, etc.

    I love the “take something with you” rule. Lots of good tips in this article! Also, Molly Weasley is just wonderful.

    • Violet

      Your balance sounds ideal to me- he can straighten up and then you can clean! I like things tidy but don’t really care much about cleanliness. So then like you, we’re both only really driven to clean when people are coming over. Now that we’ve got caregivers constantly coming in and out of our apartment, it’s way cleaner than before we had our kid!

    • MC

      “he grew up on a boat, so his family literally ran a tight ship” This made me LOL

    • ItsyBit

      This is us, too! Generally my clutter drives him bananas and the un-scrubbed bathroom (or the beard-hair in the sink) makes me nuts. When we each lean in to taking care of our own stuff and the “extras” we care about it works really well, but the pitfall is when we get busy and our bad habits come back. Like, when I’m busy & stressed I never put my clothes away (he says “it looks like your closet threw up”), but that’s not something he can really help with because he doesn’t know where stuff goes. Still a work in progress, I guess!

      • angela

        Beard hair in the sink! My biggest pet peeve.

  • I am not overly in the habit of comparing myself to others, and finding myself lacking (or, really, comparing myself at all), but when someone I admire has a life that I also admire, I look at their benchmark achievements and sort of inadvertently frame my own expectations around them.

    For example, my sister got married at 28, had her first kid at 30, bought a house around 32, so I wasn’t freaking out at 24 and 25 when friends around me were all getting married and I was terrified at the very thought of engagement, or at 26 or 27 when some of them started having their first kid, and I was STILL nowhere near wanting to be engaged.

    I knew I had time – or rather, I’d always known I had time, but I was CONFIDENT in waiting until the time was right for me, because I had watched my sister build a life I admired, and used that as a basis to build my own (a very loose basis – in no way did I hold myself to these ages or benchmarks…they just sort of ended up happening anyway).

    So I say lovingly and with amusement that I am SO GLAD MEG IS FIVE (OK OK FOUR I JUST TURNED 33) YEARS OLDER THAN ME. For some reason, I always thought we ACTUALLY the same age, and I suddenly feel VERY GOOD about where I am compared to where she is in terms of (Decidedly Not) Having My Shit Together (YET). I’ve got 4 more years to get there – what’s the rush :D

    As always, Meg, thank you so much for keeping it real. I remember once Maddie saying she looked at you like a big sister who tested the waters (get engaged first, get married first, have a kid first) and she learned from you and your experiences, and I think many of us in this community feel the exact same way.

    I know I do.

    • Girl, I’m almost 40, somehow, suddenly. I’ll be 38 in just over a month. (Watch for it, that “oh no one thinks I’m young anymore” thing will hit you in like… two years like a ton of bricks.) For reference, I started my business at 27, got married at 29, started working for myself at 30, had my kids around 32 and 34, and bought a house at 36.

      • Midtwenties freaked me out WAY more than midthirties does, weirdly? We celebrated the above-referenced sister’s 40th birthday 11 years ago now, and I remember very viscerally at the time thinking, “…she really makes 40 look young – I look at her and I don’t see ‘old’ so 40 doesn’t seem old to me now…” and that was so clarifying and took so much pressure off about heading towards my mid to late 20s at the time, when 30 seemed just ANCIENT.

        I started lurking on APW back in 2012, which I know isn’t as long as some have been around, but I think when you “meet” someone online, they sort of stay frozen in time? And stay that age forever?

        But anyway – you are an adult I admire very much, and I am so glad that while APW stays primarily wedding-focused, you continue to have posts like this peppered in too!

    • Sarah E

      Yeah, I do this a ton. And it’s very specific to the content here, because I became a reader about 9 months into what I consider my transition to adult life (moving halfway across country for my partner’s grad school). I’ve been working on, with varied levels of success, of reframing benchmarks as developmental check-ins. Do I want to be where that person is? Why or why not? How else do I see those developmental themes emerge in my life?

      For example, I can feel “behind” on my career, or I can put into perspective that I I did a lot of the marriage/household stuff early (child-free and staying that way), and now I’m turning to career stuff with a very stable relationship/household to enable that, and apply lessons in broader ways rather than in nitty-gritty details.

      • Yes! Reframing someone else’s benchmarks so they work for you is so important. Like, OK, my sister was successful at A by the time she was XX years old, but I don’t really care about A, so what is MY A equivalent?

        The APW interns they had going several years in a row were AMAZING for me as I got engaged and then married, because if Meg was where I wanted to be eventually, the interns were where I was currently, and it was comforting having access to both?

  • Jessica

    My goal lately hasn’t been to have every surface gleaming or neat like it used to be (hello, extremely clean house as a coping mechanism to not talk about what is wrong with your life), but rather to clean one thing every day, and more importantly to make sure everything has a place.

    Last week I decided I wanted to feel more ready for the day, and that means going to bed earlier with the water in the kettle, the cat’s food measured out, all the dishes done, lunch packed, gym bag packed, and my clothes for the next day already picked out. In the mornings I’ve been trying to take the dog on a 15-30 minute walk (rather than just around the block, subject to how cold it is), and do a 10-minute yoga flow. In order to do these things I need to not hit snooze more than once.

    So last night I de-cluttered a horizontal space in my kitchen, and decided that this weekend I will be selling my desk–all it does is collect clutter and take up room.

    • sofar

      Seriously. Setting my clothes aside (along with jewelry and shoes) for the next day has changed my life. Ditto for putting the packed gym bag in my car trunk.

    • AP

      “hello, extremely clean house as a coping mechanism to not talk about what is wrong with your life”

      I just totally figured out my grandmother.

      • Jessica

        Yeah, it’s amazing what a clean house is a cover for.

    • karyn_arden

      Doing one thing a day is my current attempt. I found the schedule I’m trying out on cleanmama.net (including home-brew cleaners (lots of white vinegar and microfibre cloths were purchased in this pursuit!) and tons of tips on homekeeping) and have added/adapted things to suit our situation.

      It’s been a rocky start (because mental health and EpilepsyHusband) but I love the idea of doing a little bit every day. I want to do this to keep our condo at a level of tidiness that would make me comfortable with having people randomly visit us AND as a cushion for when mental health and epilepsy (or just a cold/cough, migraine, stomach bug, etc.) decide that one or both of us isn’t able to keep up.

      I love this concept so much that I made a BuJo insert of the daily tasks and checkboxes for each item/week. Now I just need to get EpilepsyHusband on board (and find a day for us to just Clean The Damn Office Already!) and things will fall into place…

  • E.

    “So when chaos ensues, as it always does, I prioritize based on those goals.”

    I just had a lightbulb moment! We did this for our wedding (thanks to the APW planner!) and it was so helpful to come back to when we needed to refocus, but what a great idea to apply this to life as well! I may have to talk to husband tonight and start brainstorming our priorities.

  • Mrrpaderp

    It’s funny how these things change as we get older, even without the addition of a spouse and kid(s). In some ways I feel like 20 year old me was better at household tasks, and in other ways I know mid-30s me is better. For example, when I was in my 20s, my files were color coded and organized and so so pretty. Now? There’s a pile of paper that has taken over the floor around my desk. I get much less paper now but somehow it’s harder to manage. It takes a lot of mental energy to do something I’m not in the habit of doing.

    But I also never stare at my (full) closet and feel like I have nothing to wear. Or my fridge and think I have nothing for dinner. I’m much more intentional about what comes into the house. If I don’t know how I’ll use something – soon – then I don’t buy it.

    I’m also more sensitive about wasted time and energy. That 20 minutes I’m doing a sheet mask? Organize my makeup instead of playing on my phone. Or unload the dishwasher while I’m microwaving leftovers for dinner. And do things when I think of them, don’t assume I’m going to remember later. I also know I move very slowly in the mornings, so I do as much as possible the night before because it takes less time.

    • Violet

      I’m here for doing as much as possible the night before. (I practically live one day ahead of schedule, haha.) Going to work out in the morning? I set out my outfit the night before. When the alarm goes off my brain goes, “Fuck” followed shortly by, “Oh, I put out such a cute outfit last night! Go put it on!”

      • penguin

        This is something I want to start doing – more often than I’d care to admit, I’m searching the apartment for a wearable pair of pants and then trying to find a top that goes with it.

      • Eenie

        It took me six months to get my husband on board with doing stuff the night before. A lot of it is also about having the right tools. For packed lunches, we bought him five of everything he typically brings for the week, so he can assembly line it all at once. We got him clothes that all fit (and are identical except for color/pattern) so he doesn’t have to see what clothes are clean and which is most comfortable. Egg casseroles baked ahead of time for breakfast.

        • Violet

          I do the same thing for my work clothes! Once I found pants that fit me, I bought a bunch in different colors, and then I just pair with whatever sweater I’m wearing for the day (it’s either winter or air-conditioned where I live). Bam, done!

    • Mer

      “I’m much more intentional about what comes into the house”

      This is huge for me. I started saying No to free stuff and things got easier to manage. That mug and towel that my company gave employees at the holiday party? I didn’t take them. Free t-shirt at a conference? No thank you.

      • angela

        YES, me too! My mom is great at managing lots of STUFF and keeping it organized. I am totally not, and I always thought I was just an inherently messy person. Once I learned to stop taking, buying, acquiring, etc. things, my quality of life improved drastically. It turns out I can keep my house clean! But that looks different than what it looks like for my mom. The “no” to free stuff is hard but worth it.

    • Basketcase

      I absolutely can’t rely on remembering later. My memory has gone to shot lately, so I either write it down or do it now. Makes me much more efficient in some ways.

  • sofar

    I think the biggest problem for me was that cleaning prevented me from doing other more “meaningful things.” So I started listening to podcasts, audio books and even language-learning programs while I clean. Each Pimsleur lesson lasts half an hour, so I might as well be cleaning out the junk drawer while I do it …

    • Lisa

      I do this when I take phone calls at home. The house gets dusted anytime my sisters or mother call on the weekends.

      • Mer

        YUP YUP! I usually do some cooking prep when I’m talking to my mom, like chopping veggies or making a marinade.

      • penguin

        Yep my grandma used to do this on her house phone. She had one of those suuuuuper long curly phone cords that could go clear across the house, and she’d talk on the phone while vacuuming, sweeping, cleaning up, whatever.

      • emilyg25

        Yes, I do so much cleaning while talking to my mom! I just wish smartphones were easier to cradle on your shoulder. My mom’s always like, “What are you doing right now??”

        • Lisa

          I have a nice pair of headphones with a microphone on them. I just have to make sure whatever lounge wear I have on at the time has a pocket. :)

        • penguin

          I got a Bluetooth headset just for this – works pretty well, and I can keep my phone in my pocket or just set it down somewhere in the house.

      • topscallop

        I always want to multitask while on the phone, either cleaning or making dinner, but my parents are obsessed with FaceTime! So my husband and I sit on the couch and take turns holding the phone so my parents can see us (my laptop camera is on the fritz). It’s a bit frustrating sometimes, but I try to remind myself it’s sweet that they want to see us. And that later in life I won’t regret not cleaning up my living room instead of interacting face-to-face-ish with my parents.

    • Her Lindsayship

      This is a GREAT piece of advice. I almost only listen to podcasts to distract myself from a boring task to make myself do the boring task anyway.

    • AmandaBee

      I just started doing this at work. I have a host of professional development webinars for my field that I’ve been meaning to go through, and I also need to organize my office. I just recently realized that I can organize while i listen, which feels so much more productive than just doing one or the other.

    • YES, I do this too. Podcast LIFE.

    • Jan

      Audible 4 lyfe!

    • Christina McPants

      I watch Netflix or listen to podcasts while batch cooking or tidying. I feel like I’m multitasking!

      • Another Meg

        omg Netflix plus dishes just makes it so much nicer.

  • Kara

    During the week, my husband and I take care of dishes (getting them in the dishwasher, running dishwasher, and unloading it) depending on how full it gets and who sees it. Sunday’s are for laundry (we do our own clothes, but I do the sheets/towels/dog blankets/etc.) and vacuuming (thank god my husband does it, because I hate it). He handles most of (95% or so) of cleaning cat boxes and picking up dog poo.

    Dusting is always something that gets left for when company is coming over because we both hate it. Bathrooms are cleaned as necessary (guest bathroom is always held to a higher standard, so it’s cleaned more often).

    Other than that, we try to shred paper/junk mail more often, and my husband collects our recycling in the garage (since there’s no automatic recycling pickup).

    I’m very thankful my husband cleans and does a lot around the house, because he has higher standards of cleanliness.

  • Sara

    My mom’s secret tip for culling clothes in our house was to insist we store the out of season clothes. So when the weather got cold, we had to bring all our summer stuff to her, she would store it in bins and then we’d get it back when it was time to switch. Shockingly, every season things you swore you packed away were no longer there. My mom always said “if you gave it to me, it got put in the bin” and then we moved on. Recently, she said she’d go through them and donate anything that was getting too small for us, or things she didn’t like, or throw out the ripped stuff my brothers insisted was ‘fine’. It was easier than fighting in the moment.

    • Jessica

      Very tricky.

      • Sara

        My family was built on strict rules and passive aggressive tricks. :) We were a bunch that were always willing to argue.

    • Jess

      This always worked in reverse for me. I wanted to get rid of stuff *I* hated and somehow it kept showing back up…

      • gonzalesbeach

        not clothes but I once threw out the ugliest paper mache cat that I made. I’d been hiding it in the bottom of the closet for years by this point and was rather embarrassed (as you would be at 12/13). my mum took it out of the trash and displayed it in the hallway entrance instead(!) and when I argued she said finders keepers and it was hers now to do what she wanted. she still has the damn cat in her office

    • Lexipedia

      A couple I used to babysit for would take a couple of toys at a time and hide them in the closet – ones that were broken or ones that seemed like they weren’t getting played with. If nobody asked for them within a certain time period then they got donated or tossed.

      • MC

        My boss calls this putting things in purgatory – we do it in the office all the time, sometimes accidentally. If piles remain untouched for months, we probably don’t need them!

  • savannnah

    This is lovely. I came from a burrow household and I didn’t value it until much later in life. I used to watch the family next door sit down to dinner at 5:00 every night with their peas and rice pilaf and macaroni neatly placed on 90’s themed plates with seasonal tablecloths and parents who cared about if their kids had shoes on outside. This family did something called ‘after dinner activities’ where they would go on bike rides or to the park after dinner and they all had strict bedtimes and lots of rules and structure. I came from a household where both parents were on call 24/7 until I went to college- that had dinner on the table at some point, probably take out and my parents were often not home at the same time during the day. In middle school that perfect family went through a terrible and prolonged divorce and I learned an important lesson about beautiful chaos and what it means to be happy with the way your life looks and to be happy with your life.

    • Jess

      There is a lot to be said for letting things go and doing whatever you can.

      The household I grew up in was great at being clean. It was not always so great at being nurturing.

    • Sarah E

      Yup. Different families, different structures. My parents decided when we were school-aged kids that having dinner together was more important than when we ate. Considering after school activities, and my mom’s evening work requirements, a lot of times we ate at 8 or 9pm, and went to bed soon after. There were always snacks/mini-meals to fuel our evenings, but we had sit-down dinner together. (and then my parents split when we grew up. there are no shortcuts to forever)

  • I’m a little disappointed to see a post up on my favorite feminist wedding site which doesn’t meaningful engage with the way household labor is so unequally divided between men and women. It’s fine if there are some straight couples that happen to enjoy the gendered tasks that society assigns them, but we need to at least acknowledge that the first thing on this list should be:

    Talk to your partner, and tell them they need to pull their weight. Don’t assume it’s acceptable for you to be in charge of managing the household, doing a lot of the childcare and (probably) working outside of the house.

    Love you APW, but this piece is missing something really important.

    • AP
    • Hey Juliana! This isn’t my post, but I wanted to respond to your comment. I think the reason that conversation didn’t happen here (other than, can’t have all the conversations at once) is that it is our baseline standard assumption that you’re having these conversations with your partner at home. We’ve got great content around the subject too:

      https://apracticalwedding.com/chores-and-gender-roles/

      I also really love this one, which is a nuanced look at how we’ve elevated the domestic arts in the age of Instagram, and if that’s somehow more or less feminist than before: https://apracticalwedding.com/feminism-and-the-new-domesticity/

      Anyway, all of which is to say, yeah. Talk to your partner. The core values of APW are generally: 1. Marry a feminist and 2. Make sure they are living up to that standard.

      It’s a conversation we’re having allllll the time around here. We just didn’t dive quite as deep into it here.

    • AmandaBee

      I was hoping someone would mention this.. As a long-time reader of the blog, I would’ve liked to have seen some acknowledgement of that here. I’m aware of the fact that it’s been talked about before, but this particular article somewhat missed the mark in acknowledging the importance of working with your partner on household management. And I would’ve liked to have seen that acknowledged, even if only in a line or two. Particularly since the strategies that work for you may not work for your partner, so developing household management strategies is really a joint task rather than an individual one.

      • Yeah, I totally feel that. I thought about it during editing, but I really just wanted to keep this personal. This has been a really personal journey for me, and this particular essay really wasn’t about my partner. Feel you on this, it just wasn’t my editorial choice this go round.

        • AmandaBee

          I get that it was an intentional choice, now that you’ve explained it. But at first read, I felt like the lack of partner acknowledgement had the unintentional effect of implying that you were the only person managing the household, and assuming that other women are also the primary household managers who have to figure out how to do everything at home on top of having demanding careers and personal lives.

          I’ve been reading APW long enough to know that that definitely wasn’t your intent or assumption. But that’s also still very much the dominant message in society outside of awesome spaces like APW. If I just happened to stumble across this article without knowing APW’s stance on these things, it would seem to feed into that dominant message. You can take or leave that feedback obviously since this is your site, but as a regular reader I thought it was worth mentioning.

          • That’s totally fair, and I did think about it. But I made the choice to keep this one personal. At the end of the day you can’t do every thing with every essay, and I didn’t want to open up a whole different subject here. But fair feedback, and as an editor I’m aware. I’ve actually never written something about chores that was just personal, and not about gender dynamics, and after 10 years I decided to do that.

          • AmandaBee

            I guess I don’t really think of household management as something that could be purely personal or separated from the conversation about gender equity at home. But I appreciate you taking the time to explain your reasoning regardless.

          • quiet000001

            Agree. I was a little disappointed there didn’t seem to be much discussion about the issue of WHY having a tightly run ship was such an appealing thing in the first place. Socially, the answer is probably something along the lines of “because that’s a signifier of a successful woman/mother” but it didn’t seem to get touched on at all.

            Just based on general content here, I would’ve expected some discussion about first deciding if wanting a ‘tightly run ship’ was ACTUALLY a personal goal, or just something that we’ve been told should be important to us.

            (I know I’ve had some internal issues in the past about being interested in ‘old fashioned’ hobbies like needlepoint and knitting, and being the one in the house who cares about holidays and birthday parties being fun and interesting. Like, am I really into those things or is part of the attraction that women are supposed to be good at those things? Do I care if that is part of the attraction for me? Etc.)

            It was an interesting read but something just missed the mark a bit.

          • Amy March

            Huh that seemed like the bulk
            of the piece to me! Meg talked about how her house growing up was not run like this, how she liked her great-aunt’s house which was, how she is a person who genuinely loves more than a touch of Martha in her life. And acknowledges directly that some people take the opposite route and decide all of that is nonsense they don’t have time for.

            Anyway, just interesting how different parts resonate with different people.

          • quiet000001

            All those examples are women and it never touches on thinking about how much of the pressure she’s putting on herself to be that way is due to social expectations of women.

    • I’ve talked about that in other posts (Maddie has linked to a bunch), and I actually just really wanted to write about my personal journey here.

      The backstory is that my husband has always been way better at chores and domestic work than I am, so he’s had less of a journey in that regard, and our linked journey is a whole other thing. He does all the grocery shopping and cooking (my children are legitimately concerned about my ability to cook toast). That’s a pretty huge task on his own, but he also does lots of other things around the house.

      Gender and the second shift is a topic that’s hugely important to me, but that just wasn’t what I personally wanted to explore this time around.

      • Meg, I saw your instagram post over the weekend, and am so curious as to how your kids earn allowance and what that looks like (what amount/does it depend on the chore/does it vary by the week/etc?)!

  • AmandaBee

    In the past few months I’ve finally realized that the key to household management is outsourcing the task of remembering all the shit that needs to get done.

    I use Wunderlist to organize all our household tasks, setting up recurring tasks as weekly, monthly, or “occasional”. It includes everything from cleaning to paying the rent. This is SO HELPFUL because each week we just pull up the ol’ list and work our way through what needs to be done. And all those little tasks that need to be done every other month or twice a year are in there too, so we don’t forget them.

    It has also drastically reduced the time I spent asking my husband to do things (and then reminding him, on repeat). He forgets to check things off the list, but he can glance at it and k now what needs to be done that week, which is particularly helpful when he has days off and I’m working longer hours. We originally set up Wunderlist because we realized that I had become Keeper of the Lists and I just didn’t have the mental energy for that particular form of labor anymore.

    • Ohhh. I want a full tutorial on this!

      • AmandaBee

        I could do that! But probably only because I get a little too much satisfaction out of making and managing to-do lists.

        The steps we used for setting up the system was something like:
        1. Decide what needs to get done every week, every month, every three months, or whatever. Write it alllll down. I did this with my husband and we each plugged in the stuff we were already doing (which was…eye-opening in itself re: gender equality) and then added stuff we knew we needed to do but always forgot about.
        2. Create a folder on Wunderlist and plug all your tasks into there. There are other systems too, I just already use Wunderlist for work so that’s what we went with.
        3. Share the list with your partner, if applicable.
        4. For the weekly stuff: Decide if you’re a bulk cleaner who does it all on one day and like to spread it out throughout the week.
        4a. If you’re a bulk cleaner, pick a day of the week for things to be due (for me it’s Saturday). Set all the weekly tasks as due on that day and use the “repeat” function to make them reoccur every week.
        4b. If you like to spread tasks out, give each task a day of the week (ex: Tuesday is bathroom day) and set it up to repeat every week on that weekday.
        5. For the occasional stuff, figure how when it should logically be done next and set up a first due date. Then tell it to reoccur however often you decided. For ex: I just added window cleaning for a couple months from now when it will (hopefully) be warm enough to actually do that. Then I set it to reoccur every 6 months.

        (The way Wunderlist works with repeating tasks is that once you cross a task off, it will copy the task into your list for the next due date based on whatever schedule you tell it. The one beef I have is that if you get way off schedule, it will still remind you to do something X days/weeks/etc. from the day on which it was originally due, not the day you did it. Other systems work based on the number of days from when you actually completed the task – Regularly is one example, but it can’t be shared between two people)

        6. Adjust accordingly. If an occasional task is listed for this weekend and we can’t get to it, I just give it a new due date. If I realize that doing laundry every X days isn’t working, I adjust the frequency. And so on. Eventually you get to the point where it’s pretty automated.

        We don’t list daily tasks because we remember those (we are both creatures of habit). If you and your husband have regular weekly tasks that you each do separately, the weekly task list may not be that helpful to have those reminders. For us, the weekly reminders are mostly for my husband, who has less of an internal tracking system for those types of things (and, thus, before I was always giving him instructions and now I don’t have to). We both find the occasional chore reminders useful, because they remind us to do the stuff we’d normally put off or forget about until it was a crisis situation (like decluttering).

        • AmandaBee

          Adding: This all sounds super complex, probably because it’s easier to communicate visually rather than in writing :)

          Also, the super great part is that once it’s all set up, Wunderlist has smart lists called “Today” and “This Week” so I can click on it and only see what I need to do right now.

    • penguin

      Side note, what are the occasional or monthly things that people do in their houses? I’m realizing that we’ve never checked our smoke detector batteries, or washed our windows (or our walls, which I didn’t realize was a thing until my grandma asked me about it). I’m curious what else we’ve just… not done.

      • AmandaBee

        My list includes batteries and windows (though who cleans walls seriously?) plus a catch all “deep clean (room)” which reminds us that occasionally we need to REALLY clean the kitchen or bathroom. I also plug in reminders to declutter the basement and closets every few months.

        Recently I added descaling the coffee maker since we had…literally never done that (our coffee tastes so much better now!).

        • Jessica

          Lived in my house 3 years and never washed a wall. When I listed it for AirBnB, my mom insisted we wash all the walls and doorways and HOLY MOLY were they gunked up.

          Have I learned my lesson? Probably not, but it will not surprise me as much when I move out next time.

          • AmandaBee

            Ah, I’ve always lived in rentals so this might explain why it has never occurred to me to wash a wall!

        • Sarah E

          I like the decluttering reminders. I think about it as touching everything in the house at least once a year. Either to clean it, put it away, or make sure we still even need it.

      • Lisa

        I occasionally dust our baseboards or wash our cabinets. They’re both white, which means accumulations are easily noticeable.

        Also, I never washed my walls until I lived in a place with “brown tears”, which are caused by old smoke tar leeching out of the walls when it comes into contact with humidity. Fun times, indeed.

        • AmandaBee

          OMG wut

          • Lisa

            RIGHT?! My husband’s bathroom walls were COATED in brown streaks, which is what prompted me to look into it. It’s beyond disgusting, and there’s really no way to get rid of it except to put down a specific primer before you paint, which I’m not bothering with in my rental. Per the description in the link, it really did look like someone had opened a shaken Coke in the bathroom and not bothered to wipe the walls down.

          • AmandaBee

            hork

          • Eenie

            Ok, I looked into this more now. I think ours is due to it being so humid during our shower (there’s no fan) and NOT due to smoke. It didn’t start weeping until we painted last year.

        • Lisa

          *shudder*

        • Eenie

          You just solve my “why are there brown streaks in the bathroom” conundrum. I see them every time I shower and just think huh, I wonder what those are from?

        • Oh that explains so much and makes me feel much better about the brown spots in my bathrooms, actually. I mean gross, but not my fault!

          • Lisa

            Haha, I know the feeling! I could not understand WTF my husband was doing in his bathroom to cause them, and I felt much better once the mystery was at least solved, even if it is disgusting.

        • Whoa, I am glad to know what this was! I once had an apartment for about 10 months and that bathroom did this…. Yuck.

      • Lily

        Walls? I hardly wash my floors, I’m supposed to be washing the WALLS?

        • penguin

          Right we’re bad about vacuuming (no pets), and absolutely terrible about mopping. We sweep when I spill something or if I notice stuff on the floor.

        • I wash my walls only because the dog runs along them so many times that there was literally a gray dog-height stripe along his preferred walls. Before him, I never felt a need to.

        • penguin

          Also the “washing the walls” thing came from my grandma, who does indeed run a tight ship and cleans EVERYTHING.

      • emilyg25

        Apparently you’re supposed to pull out your fridge and vacuum behind it! I never did this stuff when I rented because I figured I’d just … move. But now that I own a place I need to get on top of it.

        • Lisa

          This! I also move all of the furniture in the living room about every 1-2 months so I can vaccuum under it.

        • MC

          I’ve owned a house for two years and… never done this or even thought of it? I DO know that I’ve been purposely avoiding thinking about cleaning behind the oven because I know it’s a mess.

        • AP

          PUT FURNITURE SLIDERS UNDER YOUR FRIDGE BEFORE YOU DO THIS.

          Signed,
          Someone whose husband, in a nesting frenzy, deeply gouged our hardwood floor last week by moving our fridge to vacuum behind it even though all I asked was that he help me dust the baseboards…sigh.

      • Sarah E

        I like to wash windows at least once a year, tho tbh, I half-ass it since we’re renting. This is ingrained from childhood washing all windows (every screen, storm window, and double-hung pane) in both our house and our grandma’s every single summer.

        Wash curtains (or at least air them outside)
        Wash mattress pad
        Take winter coats to dry cleaner
        Occasionally take stovetop apart to clean under burners
        Actually move stuff to clean (move canisters off counters, move furniture to vacuum, move everything off the dresser to dust)
        Dust moldings around doors and windows
        Wipe under all the oils and spices
        Clean inside of fridge thoroughly
        Maybe the freezer needs defrosted
        Turn the mattress (or just flip it over for more even wear)
        Clean inside of trash cans or recycling bins
        Clean inside of dishwasher (still avoiding this one, ick)
        Pour hot vinegar down drains whenever I think of it

        This is a list borne of a 1950’s homemaker passing chores on to a never-be-still-always-do-something working mom and then on to me. So, as I continue to work on it myself, I don’t think any of this is stuff you SHOULD or HAVE to be doing, but things to think about if you’re dissatisfied with the cleanliness around you.

        • sofar

          You just reminded me of the need to clean out the trash cans and recycling bins, which is the worst and which I’ve been “la la la la” about the past few months.

          • Sarah E

            I keep baking soda sprinkled in the bottom of my kitchen trash to combat smell. I usually clean it the whole way in the summer when I can use the hose outside, and leave it to dry in the sun. The trash can lid gets help every couple months.

          • sofar

            Smart! So doing this.

          • Eenie

            If you ever have a bag leak it can look like a gross mess in the bottom of the can. I stopped doing it cause it turns out just emptying the trash more often takes care of the smell issue.

          • JLily

            I put a dryer sheet in there for the same reason!

      • gonzalesbeach

        Re: Alarms… I replace the batteries for the non-hard-wired smoke detectors every “Fall Back’ time change. Just check (no battery change) at Spring forward. Both time changes, check of the carbon monoxide detectors (they’re 10 plug in) and test the alarm on the hot water tank.

      • jem

        Wipe down kitchen cabinets (I think this is way more necessary than walls because of grease buildup in kitchen) (we do this 1-2x/ yr)

        Reseal tile grout!!!! This makes it so much easier to clean and apparently should be done every 6 months… I just did it for the first time ever. Super easy but stinky so make sure bathroom is well ventilated.

        Which brings me to… clean vent fan in the bathroom! OMG IT HAD SO MUCH DUST. And then I went and checked the filters on my range hood… also disgusting.

        Also… reseal granite countertops. Makes them look sooo shiny and new and helps prevent stains.

        And we started getting our drier vents cleaned once a year— it’s definitely made our clothes dry faster (and helps prevent fire).

        • Sarah E

          The bathroom fan, YES. Our first apt was really well kept up and we had a nice landlord. Talked to him about the fan not working as well. . .turns out, he’s always cleaned it between tenants and never had a tenant stay long enough that it needed done in between. I keep that in mind and try to at least vacuum around it, if not take the whole thing done once in a while.

          And butcher block counters need to be re-conditioned probably quarterly, and I just do all our wooden spoons and stuff at the same time.

    • AP

      We started using Todoist for this recently! We’re still figuring out what works for us, but the fact that he gets a reminder (that doesn’t come from me) on Thursday to put the trash on the curb for Friday pickup is already game-changing.

      • AmandaBee

        Oh man, for some reason it never occurred to me to put a trash reminder on there. Doing that now! (we are the worst at taking our trash cans out)

      • I love Todoist! If only I could convert my boyfriend…. (who also takes out the trash…)

  • penguin

    The problem at our house right now is that I’m a bit of a hoarder. It’s mostly contained to our bedroom and primarily to our spare bedroom. We live in a two-bedroom apartment, with the idea being that the second bedroom is for seasonal stuff, and to have a spare bed and table spaces for sewing/painting/etc. That room also has our standalone freezer and some plants by the windows.

    The problem is that the huge closet in that room is overflowing, all the tables are overflowing, and there are piles of things everywhere. Some of it is leftover wedding junk, some is Christmas, and a lot of it is just stuff from other rooms that got dumped in there while we were cleaning the rest of the apartment.

    I want to clean it up and get rid of stuff, but it always sounds so exhausting and just… daunting. And I definitely can’t blame my husband, because it’s like 75% my stuff.

    • quiet000001

      Professional organizers. They walk you through all your stuff and what to do with it. We were totally stuck on reorganizing the kitchen and hired some for a session and it Got Stuff Done.

      • penguin

        Are these legit? I’ve always been skeptical, mostly because I don’t want to pay someone to come in my house and yell at me that I have too much stuff (which I do).

        • quiet000001

          You have to do homework, but proper professionals take it very seriously. They may tell you things you don’t want to hear (do you really need 17 of those?) but they shouldn’t yell or make you feel bad.

    • jem

      My DOC is also a professional organizer and she is like the nicest, best person ever— http://www.erindoes.com

      • penguin

        Thanks!

      • penguin

        Thanks!! I emailed her.

        • jem

          Yay! I cannot say enough good things about her.

  • Lexipedia

    Solution – have a house fire and only about a quarter of your stuff be salvageable.

    Bad joke, but actually I’ve become almost religious about not buying things just because we used to have one and it got destroyed. Christmas was challenging as we reiterated with our various relatives not to just buy us “replacements” of all of our stuff – which is what they all gravitated to doing.

    I’m actually really proud that I’ve only bought three sweaters, two pairs of dress pants, and a coat so far to replace all the work clothes I lost. My work outfits may be boring, but they are good quality and I can rely on scarves and cute accessories. Summer is going to be a challenge too, but I’m determined not to buy anything I don’t love and think will last.

    • I like your approach to what you’re replacing. I’m trying to do the same thing about new clothes or wardrobe things I purchase, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my wardrobe (largely guided by the approach in The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees). BUT….I still have all my clothes from the last years before that that still fit and I like them but I don’t love them and some of them don’t fit with my current style. So. I need to do a major spring cleaning in the coming weeks/months of my closet….and the whole apartment. It needs it, and we might be moving this summer…so added motivation!

  • MC

    I don’t have the same feelings about housekeeping (Husband and I are both pretty ambivalent and things get done when they need to and it’s fine) but I really love the theme of knowing what you want your life to look/feel like and working toward those goals. For me, I want to have an adventurous life, so I’ve been in therapy working on anxiety that prevents me from fully enjoying things like traveling, hiking, and biking. After lots of hard work on that front, I had a really good, adventurous, and non-anxious weekend without even thinking about it this past weekend. Work pays off!

    • Sarah E

      “knowing what you want your life to look/feel like and working toward those goals.” <– that's really the crux of it all, I think.

  • Mjh

    Is libanfe a word I don’t know or just a typo or something? I googled it (well, technically I ducked it as duckduckgo is my default search engine) after reading it here. The first hit was this article and I didn’t find a definition but I don’t know if it’s a regionalism or some such thing.

    • I was wondering if it was an Ikea product name! But I think maybe it’s just supposed to be “life” :P

      • mjh

        Ah, life makes sense! I was only thinking of words with the same number of letters that could have been a typo, and I also wasn’t sure because the sentence would have made sense to me without any word there (like “my real home didn’t look much like that”). But I never know when internetz will teach me a term that’s common in other circles that I’ve just never encountered, so I figured it was worth checking.

  • Antonia

    I’m genuinely curious what other readers consider “back-to-back kids”? I know a woman who gave birth to twins when her daughter was 11 months. To me, that’s back-to-back. Conceiving when your oldest is almost 2 seems pretty… normal? (Most women I know who have a second (intentional) child got pregnant when their oldest was in the 1 to 3 age range.)

    • Eenie

      Well, say your first is two when your second is born. Back that up nine months for the pregnancy, you’re just over one year old on the first. If you were breastfeeding for the first year, you just stopped breastfeeding three months ago. And this assumes you decide to try and immediately get pregnant. Sometimes it takes a few months. I think that counts a back to back for me. It’s not as extreme as your example, but I would but a 2.5 – 3 year age gap as encroaching on not back to back. Four years? Definitely not back to back.

    • Violet

      My metric is diapers. Are they both in diapers simultaneously? That’s back-to-back.

      • Antonia

        I guess for me it’s “two kids under 2.”

    • emilyg25

      I consider anything less than 24 months apart to be pretty close. It seems like more and more people (at least in my circle) are pushing it out to ~3 years between kids.

      • Antonia

        Yeah, that’s about what I think too. Two living, breathing humans (not pregnancies) 24 months or less apart. But I’m in my late 30s, so most of my contemporaries are spacing their kids closer together. Could also be a regional thing.

    • Jessica

      My kids are exactly two years apart, and my third is due when #2 is 2.5. So, relatively common spacing. But I nursed them both for two years, so I’ve been pregnant and/or nursing since 2012. It certainly FEELS back to back!

  • quiet000001

    We really want to hire some cleaning help, but I have a huge amount of anxiety about it because how do we make sure we’re not taking advantage of someone who isn’t being paid enough or… Basically reasonably-well-off-white-person anxiety.

    Any tips?

    • Eenie

      Give big tips!

    • GCDC

      I had this same thought process, and decided to go with an individual rather than an agency. I asked around for recommendations on my neighborhood listserv, and we ended up hiring a woman who comes every month and cleans. We make the check directly out to her, it’s always the same person (she sometimes brings one or two other people but they are always the same), and she does a great job.

      Also, I’m not sure where you are located, but I know a new cleaning service just opened in DC that bills itself as paying a “living wage” to its workers. I haven’t researched it, but something like that could be worth looking into.

    • emilyg25

      Yep, go with an individual. We paid our cleaning person $90 for about 3 hours of work, working out to about $30/hour. In our neck of the woods, that’s a good income.

  • Jan

    Cleaning (and being generally productive) is an anxiety reliever for me, and since I’m a suuuuper anxious person my house is usually pretty tidy and my stuff stays in order. I also work mostly from home and enjoy taking breaks to do the dishes or clean the floors or make a meal plan. And, my partner has grown to be a genuinely great co-contributor to household running type things.

    Of course, I don’t have any kids so I expect this all to go to hell somewhere down the line.

  • ManderGimlet

    Liked this essay a lot and all the different comments and tips! I really loved the “personal journey” aspect of it as it is a separate thing from negotiating household labor. Just wanted to give a shout out to fellow “hoarders” who have a lot of stuff but love it and keep it organized (or are trying to). I am big into my home, have a ton of stuff, but also consider it a tightly run ship. I think as many folks have stated, it’s not necessarily the “what” you have, it’s the “how” you care for it and store it. Minimalism has never been for me, but I have worked to develop systems and habits to keep my treasures clean, organized, and accessible so that they can continue to “spark joy” and not cause anxiety.

  • Ashlah

    Anyone else low-key freaking out that there aren’t any new posts today? Did I miss something?

    • penguin

      I keep refreshing!

    • Eenie

      I’m always mildly concerned and think about which holiday my company doesn’t give me off, but APW takes off for publishing (Which I think is great BTW. I know that even if APW doesn’t publish doesn’t necessarily mean they are not working.).

      I know Monday was Constitution day in Mexico. China is ramping up for their new year.

    • Lisa

      I did the same thing! I get twitchy when the posts are a few minutes late.

  • Another Meg

    I’m still recovering from PPD/PPP/PPA (So many Ps!) and we’re farming as much out as we can. We have a cleaning service 2/month and it has made my stress levels (which bring on symptoms, grr) so much lower. I went from shopping at 3 grocery stores with a color-coded spreadsheet for planning meals to using Plan to Eat and ordering groceries every week. I mostly tidy, and I’ve grown accustomed to pulling clean clothes out of a laundry basket instead of a drawer. We did a big purge of stuff before the baby was born, and that really helped. The house is pretty organized, and it’s easier to keep a house clean when everything has a home. I have to say, I kind of hope we keep this system even after I recover and the baby is older. My kid is clean(ish), fed, and happy, and he has relaxed and happy parents.

  • Chris

    For meal planning, use cooksmarts.com not free, but takes all the work out of meal planning on a weekly basis. Any meal can be omnivorous, paleo, or vegetarian (sometimes all three) so you can pick the strategy that suits your family. It’s all the meal planning of the meal kits, but without the packaging waste. (team APW should get them as an advertiser, they’re fantastic)

  • Julia

    Great post!

    One of my best strategies for keeping a tidy house with toddler + baby is just to get the kids out of the house. On weekend mornings I always take the kids somewhere — the park, the playground, the science museum, the library, someone else’s house. If they’re not in my house, they’re not making a mess that I have to clean up later. Bonus: they get to run around and exhaust themselves, which means they’ll take good solid naps later on.

    Another thing that’s worked out really well is having a row of wall hooks and at least one floor basket in every single room. Makes it very easy to hang up a jacket, a bag, or a towel; or quickly tidy up the random toys scattered all over the floor into the basket.

    And YES to the decluttering. My rule is if it hasn’t been worn or used in a year, it gets thrown out.

  • This was perfect! I’m in a less intense version of that at the moment where I’m planning a wedding (with multiple ceremonies Inc an international one) I’m doing my h2b’s bucks night, helping my sis with her baby shower, doing my best to do really well at work, run the apartment with my future husband and our two cats (we have too much stuff not enough space) and a demanding social life. It’s intense and I also have anxiety/depression. However, I’m handling it so well and I realise now I’ve become much better at handling a million things. A few years ago I wouldn’t have been able to handle even half of this. So I’m thrilled.