I miss my full time house help: 8 hours a day for five days a week. She cleaned, washed clothes, prepared lunch, loved and cared for my kids. Oh… I was so spoiled! Sometimes I ask myself: Why did we move to the US?
It is culturally acceptable even for lower-middle class families to hire full or part time help in the home. For foreigners, it is almost expected. Labor is cheap in the developing world. Work is also scarce, even for highly educated people living in urban areas, not to mention people who live in rural areas. I needed to run a home in a hot, humid and dusty environment where floors needed to be swept and mopped daily and clothes and sheets got moldy – not to mention we did not have a dishwasher nor air conditioning, and had to hang clothes to dry on a line because electricity is really, really expensive. That was my “old normal.”
Transitions are all about getting used to the “new normal.” This means breaking away from from full-time house help to no house help at all. It hasn’t been easy. Even with all the conveniences of a dishwasher, vacuum, and dryer, and AC, I often have gone to bed exhausted. But with a little over four months under my belt, I have begun to learn a few lessons on keeping up a decently looking home while not becoming overwhelmed. Here is what has helped:
- I make my bed every day. It keeps at least one thing in order at home, every day. If I can make my bed, I can celebrate! I need to aim for small daily victories.
- I remember “everything has a place and everything is in its place.“ Two months ago, I really did not have a place for anything, so nothing was in its place. But little by little, things are finding a home. I do my best to keep things in their home and teach my kids to do the same. It made a huge difference once we purchased dressers for everyone.
- I Keep It Simple. Reading the book Simplicity Parenting has helped housework not be so overwhelming. My sister-in-law also told me, “You don’t need more room/storage. You just need less stuff.” I try my best to keep things as simple and predictable as possible from schedules, school routines (I homeschool), bed-times, food, menus and ingredients, toys, books, clothes, and the words that come out of my mouth (less is more).
- I do just those things I am responsible for on that particular day. I learned from the book, Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free, that I do have time to do everything I am supposed to do every day. That is, those things God has called me specifically to do. If I get to check-off some extras … well, that’s great! I can celebrate every small accomplishment. I keep my daily to-do list very short.
- I teach my kids to help. This is a process. Before it becomes a regular chore, I realize that I have to first teach them how to do the chore, especially since they, too, were used to someone else doing the work. Now they learn how to load and unload the dishwasher, sweep, vacuum, sort laundry, and scrub the toilette, etc. After a few weeks of practice with supervision from mom or dad, they will – I hope – be ready to help much more.
- Several ideas in the book Sink Reflections have helped. I do one load of laundry a day. I try to clean bathrooms weekly: master bath on Monday, kid’s bath on Wednesday, and guest half-bath on Friday. Once kids are trained, they will each take a bathroom! The Fly Lady doesn’t work for everyone; but it can be a good resource if you need some more practical ideas in keeping your home organized and clean.
How do you manage house work? Did or do you have house help? How often? What has been the most difficult thing for you regarding house work? I have experienced a lot of back-pain due to loading and unloading the dishwasher. The scripture below reminds me, regarding house work, that relationships should always be at the top of my to-do list.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”