I had always planned to stay at home full time after my commitment to my friend (to care for her children while she was in Family Practice Residency) ended. This happened in June 2008. I knew it was coming and I really wanted to make my time at home worthwhile. I hoped to have a clean house, clean kids, "real" dinners, and no more guilt! I started to read!
I went back to Flylady for some inspiration. I didn't sign up for her e-mails this time. I simply read all that she had to offer on her site. Again I found her to be inspiring!
I also re-visited a book that I had really enjoyed several years back. The book is More Hours in my Day by Emilie Barnes. This book had helped me get a few things in my life organized, but it was a bit overwhelming at the time as I was working full-time. This time around, though, with me staying at home full time and having a child, it really made sense!
I worked on figuring out my rhythm as I went through my days. I knew that I would be up around 7 if I got up with Eden. I knew I didn't care to get up any earlier than that. This made the mornings a bit slower than if I was already up and showered before she woke up. I learned that I can deal with that! I also found that Eden wanted to eat right away when she woke up, so there would be no making of beds or getting out of PJs before heading downstairs. This was also fine with me, but I saw some danger in this. It is really easy to stay in PJs all day if you start your day without getting dressed. I made it my personal goal to be dressed, have Eden dressed and the beds made by 9 AM. Some days it happens earlier than this and some days it happens later (and yes, some days we still stay in PJs until naptime).
I learned that I don't work as efficiently in the morning as I do in the afternoon. We try to run our out of the house errands and to do our playing in the morning when Eden is fresh and we can enjoy each other. I learned that if we don't get out before lunch, it will have to wait for the next day! I start the "chores" later (usually during naptime, so I am alone). I also learned that I like being at home! I try not to plan to be away more than 2 days during the week.
I learned that there are things that MUST be done daily (clear clutter, read mail, make beds, feed dogs, dishes, etc). If I let any of these things slide, the consequence is everything else slides! How can I dust the living room if last weeks mail is sitting on the end table? I can't until I read all that mail, then I get sidetracked and the living room doesn't get dusted!
I learned that if I stay on top of my daily tasks, then once a week is all I need to really "clean." I learned that I can divide my rooms between the days of the week, making them quick and easy to complete. I learned that I can also divide up my daily tasks into time slots where they make the most sense. This was revolutionary for me! Making the beds at 5PM seems senseless! This should be a morning task! Starting Dinner at 8AM is too early (usually)! This is a good early afternoon task! I run the dishwasher before I head to bed, so Brandon can unload it for me before he goes to work. This way, I clean as I go all day!
All of this learning was great, but I didn't know what to do with all of this information to make it usable for me. I took the idea of the Flylady's Control Journal and read all of the instructions for making one. I took the things I had learned and put them down on paper. Once I had everything down in a notebook, I began organizing the information so it would fit into my life. I really think this is the key. If you haven't made a plan that you can actually work into your life, you aren't going to do it!
I got a 3 ring binder and put my plan into Word documents, so I could change them easily when I needed to. I printed the sheets and put them in clear plastic sheet protectors. Since the book would likely sit on the kitchen counter most of the time, I needed the sheets to be wipeable! I named it the Family Home Operator's Manual. I organized it according to what I felt would work, and it has been through 2 revisions in the past year. It is always a work in progress!
At a friend's suggestion, I am currently working on the next phase of the manual. Now that I have a pretty good grasp on what I need to do on a daily and weekly basis, I am compiling a list of those tasks that need to be done less often (once a month and once or twice a year). I plan to spread them out over the year so I don't forget to do something (like changing smoke detector batteries) and so I don't have to do a bunch of things in a short period (Spring cleaning).
I am hoping that the new little person who is coming in just a few weeks will not rock the boat too much where the housekeeping is concerned. The wonderful thing about the Home Operator's Manual is, when folks come and offer to help, I don't have to figure out what needs to be done! I can say, "Today is Tuesday, check the Manual!" When Brandon needs to help out more than usual (he helps a lot anyway!) he can just open the Manual! It makes life easier for all involved!
In Adventures in Homemaking... Part 3: Real life?, I plan to share how To-do Lists fit into my day and the specifics of my Family Home Operator's Manual.
Until then... ;)