We all need more white space to ponder and pray and take care of the really important things, right? And how, we ask, do we make this space to be like Mary? The stuff to do keeps coming at us and it isn’t going to quit anytime soon. I have compiled a list of things I have learned about keeping house. These are tips for homemakers, okay? Don’t laugh if you have never been one and maybe you think we just sit and drink tea. You. have. no. idea.
- Never go up or down steps without checking if there is something that needs to be carried up or down. The same goes for room to room. Don’t step over the brush in the hallway 11 times. Scoop it up and put it into the bathroom while you are walking that direction anyway. It’s a lot easier than mounting a full scale search party when it’s time to brush your child’s hair before church.
- Throw away ALL junk mail immediately. If it’s a company with a website, don’t keep the catalogs. If it’s a Lego or American Girl catalog, let the children look at it until it is soggy with drool, then immediately bury it deep under the eggshells in the trashcan.
- If there’s a load of laundry, just do it. Don’t ever worry about running out of laundry. Keep your used towels and washcloths in a separate basket/hamper so you can do them often and avoid that stinky, musty smell.
- Do not put stacks of folded laundry on beds or on top of dressers. It might take 20 seconds to open the drawers and put them away. The same 20 second rule applies to hanging up coats instead of draping them over the nearest chair. Buy hooks until every piece of outerwear has a place to hang out when you aren’t wearing it.
- Do not store stuff you don’t need or have no sentimental attachment to. If your cupboards or closets are stuffed, sort through them and donate anything you haven’t used for a year to someone who will be grateful for it. (Or put it in storage out of sight.) Stuff can seriously bog you down, did you know that? If you have stuff that nobody would want, well… what are you doing with it?
- Buy a tote for each child to store their sentimental keepsakes in. Help them decide what they want to keep when you are deep cleaning their room. (Within reason. Some children cannot seem to part with anything! But they probably won’t ever look at those Sunday school papers from 10 years of childhood. Sometimes you just have to disappear things. Unless, of course, you have access to unlimited space for totes.)
- Keep your fridge organized. It is so much easier to find the ketchup if the ketchup has a spot to live in the fridge. This is not to say that the absent-minded child won’t stand there and gape for the longest time before they find the ketchup. Also, it is much easier to use up food before it spoils if it is visible in the fridge. Buy clear storage dishes. Odds are pretty high that leftovers stored in old cottage cheese containers will grow mold.
- Avoid ironing clothes if at all possible. Learn how to tumble-dry the permanent press clothes and hang them on hangers while they are still damp. If you forget to get them out of the dryer and they get sadly wrinkly in there, just give them a quick rinse cycle and try again. Life is too short to spend hours ironing.
- Mulch your garden heavily. And your flowerbeds. Mulch everything. Put newspapers under the mulch. Do not let those weeds come up and spread their noxious seeds.
- Invest in cleaning tools that your children can use, preferably tools they fight for the privilege of using! That mop with the little water tank that squirts out when you press the trigger?.. Those microfiber window cleaning cloths?..The fun feather duster? Even the Lysol wipes… All these things will make your life much easier than just scrubbing away with a rag cut out of old shorts. Seriously.
- Delegate. If a child can do it, then let them do it. See above. ^^^Learn to be okay with imperfection.
- Have a pair of scissors/gluestick/tape roller/sharpie that is verboten to all but yourself. So many motions are wasted while we scurry hither and yon, tracking down the missing household item that someone carted off to make a kite in the garden. I know this.
- Whenever it is practical, double up your meal prep and freeze the extra. If you are frying a pound of burger, you might as well fry 5 pounds and freeze 4 of them for later use. When you have chicken, make bone broth in the crock pot overnight and serve it with the leftover bits of chicken in a nourishing soup the next day. Make friends with one-dish meals.
- Keep a schedule, as loose or tight as you need to feel happy. If you know that Thursday is downstairs cleaning day, you can calm down about the mess on Wednesday because you know it will get hit the next day.
Of course, these things do not mean you don’t have to work hard to keep your home free of chaos. The goal is to work smarter, not harder. Ever heard that one? You can then discover a little pool of white space and just enjoy it. Maybe you can find a piece of paper, or if you are artsy, you can get some paint and a board and make yourself a motto:
“Smile! It’s life and you’re living it!”
And now, do tell, what are the ways you have learned to simplify your homemaking?
15 thoughts on “Efficiency Tips for Martha”
I always love to hear ideas from others! Seems we can never have too many tips! Thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I still have lots of improvement needed in the “avoid ironing” area. I know all about the fuzzy green stuff growing in cottage cheese tubs! I have switched to using my idle, empty mason jars as the best containers for leftovers. They are see through, and food keeps longer when stored in glass compared to plastic containers.
Your first tip made me think of the OHIO rule; Only Handle It Once. If you take the time to pick it up you may as well put it where it belongs instead of making a put – away – when -I -head-that – way pile.
Enjoy your Mary time in this Martha world!
Bravo on the mason jar idea! That’s brilliant!
I like the OHIO rule! Good one!
If I have a piece of laundry that comes out of the dryer an has too any wrinkles, I put it back in the dryer an add a handful of ice cubes, start the dryer for 5-10 min. Works like a charm! Haven’t ironed a dress in a long time!!
That is very smart! Does it make a horrible clatter?
I’ll have to try that! I keep a water sprayer in the laundryroom to mist any of those shirts that are still a little wrinkly when they come out of dryer. It’s amazing how much the wrinkles will hang out. Repeat if needed, misting and stretching the seams out.
I figured out who you are and am delighted to hear from you! 😃You would definitely know about shirts!
I’ve been pondering investing in more kid friendly cleaning tools…..you convinced me. 🙂
Dort… The cut up shorts comment. 😂 You just had too! Also, I currently have piles of wash on my dresser. I clearly am in need of a big sister pep talk 😉
I laughed out loud to myself when I wrote that. Always glad to amuse another. And you know very well how I feel about your housekeeping skills, so don’t even… 😊
This is so good! I especially liked the idea of having tape, sharpie, etc put aside as strictly mom’s, beings I was searching for the third lost roll of scotch tape this morning. My boys plead innocent with each disappearance. 😄
I applaud the effort of each house wife in decluttering. It really does make all the difference! Thank you, Dorcas for your candid lovely writing.
We have this person at our house who does everything, all the time. When I ask, “Who had my scissors?” there’s always a chorus from the troop, “Not me!” So then we know who did it.
I like all your tips. I could especially benefit from the ones that have to do with the refrigerator. 😐
My way of “working smarter” is to free up my brain by making lists. And not the paper kind that float around and get lost…the electronic kind! I have my grocery list on my phone. (Love the “my groceries” app!) Anything I absolutely have to remember goes on my phone calendar, with notifications set to go off at strategic times.
Lots of great tips! I may have to invest in those dusting mitts I’ve seen…, I love how you make those frustrating aspects of homemaking seem almost humorous, or at least just normal, in your writing.
I just need to figure out how to keep my scissors from running off!! Hey, I even clean when I am sitting in the pot!!!☺☺And am guilty of rerinsing clothes just to get away from ironing. We could be blood sisters the way this sounds!😉