A lazy mother’s guide to defeating housework drudgery

Why, hello there. It’s me again, The Lazy Mother. I am the reluctant housewife’s reply to Martha Stewart. The clutter-prone mama’s sign that she is not alone with her laundry mountain.

Let’s be honest, is there any mother out there who gets excited about cleaning pee puddles off the toilet floor for the 10th time in a day? Did any among us sign up to spend our lives making lunch boxes and picking up Lego? When we aspired to motherhood, did we get excited about being ‘housewives’ at the same time? Um, no. Not this mama, anyhow.

Read more

I love being a mother and I wouldn’t swap it for the world. But when it comes to the repetitive samey drudge of household chores and food prep? What I wouldn’t give to hand it all over to a housekeeper. Since I don’t have the funds to hire some help and the chores won’t do themselves, here are my three best ideas for defeating housework drudgery and maintaining sanity.

1. Get the kids to do it

This is my first and best strategy – get the kids to do it. Teaching our offspring to pitch in and share the load is a complete win-win.

It benefits us in the short-term by reducing the headless chicken routine somewhat. It helps our kids in the long-term by helping them gain life skills and a sense of confidence that they can do things for themselves. There are loads of things we can get your kids to do to help out with –

  • Making their own lunches
  • Making their own breakfast
  • Helping with the vacuuming
  • Emptying/loading the dishwasher
  • Putting on a load of washing/helping to fold the washing
  • Making their own bed
  • Making you a cup of tea/coffee
  • Taking the dog for a walk/feeding the dog/shampooing the dog/picking up dog poop
  • Taking a trip to the corner store to get milk
  • Taking out the rubbish
  • Cleaning the loo/wipe the pee up off the floor
  • Baking stuff

Of course all these handy helpful skills must be taught, which initially requires an investment of extra time and energy. We don’t simply shove them into the kitchen and hope for the best. It may be quicker to do everything ourselves instead of standing by and watching our offspring slowly struggle and learn. It will produce results that may not be quite up to par at first – but don’t give up! It is well worth the effort.

Once the kids get the hang of these new skills we’re imparting, all of a sudden we find ourselves with more time, less to do and less stress – as well as nice helpful kids (who will make decent flatmates) to boot.

Getting the kids to do stuff for themselves is even more crucial to my survival now that I’m a sole parent. These days they are awesome at putting on a load of washing, taking care of the dog and getting their own breakfasts and school lunches. Occasionally they clean their own loo. Teamwork makes the dream work or something like that.

2. Keep yourself interested

I do this by changing things up. I rearrange furniture, swap around some pictures, pick a bunch of flowers, paint a wall, some cupboards, a wooden chest – change something.

I trick myself into keeping things clean and tidy by decorating and making my house pretty. After all, if I’ve spent time and energy painting my kitchen cupboards, do you think I want my freshly-painted, pretty kitchen ruined by that pile of dirty dishes? Now that I’ve painted my laundry cupboard do I want the overflowing laundry basket to spoil the look? No, I do not.

I’ve always been this way, even as a kid. I get easily defeated by the boredom of repetitive drudgery, doing the same mundane tasks over and over. It’s especially demoralising when my hard work is quickly undone by the other humans who live in my home. I clean the kitchen, leave the room and walk back in 10 minutes later to find crumbs all over the bench and the sink filled with dirty dishes again. It’s just a little bit soul destroying.

Which is why if I can make a new cushion cover, frame a piece of my kids’ art, rearrange my bookshelves, I stay interested and feel like I’ve made progress – simply because it doesn’t look the same. Are you hearing me?

3. Play hostess

It’s amazing how we can go for months, even years, without noticing stuff about our homes that would be apparent to the first visitor that walked in the door. There’s a term for it – shop blindness. The way to defeat shop blindness is to invite people over. Playing hostess forces me to look at my house through another person’s eyes and then get off the couch to rush madly and clean up before the guests arrive.

After years of practice, I’m now a complete pro at the last-minute whip-around tidy-up. I can invite you over because I know that it will only take me 20 minutes to clear away the worst of the clutter, sweep up the crumbs, wipe the benches and open the windows to let out the smell of burned toast. I don’t want you stepping in a puddle when you go to the loo, or gagging at the toothpaste-spattered sink when you wash your hands. It’s amazing what the threat of imminent company will achieve in record time.

As a side note – the best approach is not to wait until our homes are spit-spot before inviting a friend over. If we wait till things are perfect before issuing an invitation, chances are we will never do it. We have to take a leap, pick up the phone and invite a friend over for lunch. Another note – you don’t have to clean the whole house. Focus on the main areas – kitchen, loo, lounge. Shut the doors on the other rooms, and invite a nice easy-going friend over, not a Martha Stewart wannabe. Baby steps, people, baby steps.

You may think cleaning the house to give a good impression is a bit duplicitous. But actually, this is one of the best ways I manage to motivate myself to do housework. It works, I tell you. Well, there you have it – my best Lazy Mother ideas for defeating housework drudgery. A few broad stroke strategies I use to keep myself sane and my house mostly clean. Stay strong, people.

Attend a Toolbox parenting course

Toolbox courses inspire and equip whānau. They are bursting with great advice, humour and encouragement, offering practical strategies and insights into developmental stages. Parents leave reassured that challenges are common to all families and that they’re not alone on their parenting journey. The courses are run over a number of weeks in a relaxed and conversational small group setting with a trained facilitator. The five courses – Building Awesome Whānau, Baby and Toddler Years, Primary Years, Intermediate Years, and Teenage Years. Find out more and register here.