Friday, October 5, 2012

31 Days...Day 5...Chores for Mom

The theme behind my 31 Days of... posts will be "31 Days of Homemaking". It will be 31 posts about anything related to homemaking, you know, making a home. Whether it has to do with parenting, housework, organization, crafts, whatever. As long as it falls under the definition of making a home, it counts.

Day 5 - 

Today is Friday, October 5th, 2012. Today's topic is "Chores for Mom."

Yesterday, we discussed the concept behind my kids' chores. As such, you may be wondering what my chores are. My chores go into much deeper cleaning than the kids' chores. Their chores call for them to simply pick up a room (or areas of multiple rooms), but does not actually require any cleaning.

That's where my chores come in. And trust me when I say that the kids' chores are going to start incorporating some of this stuff as well. I just want them to get to a mastery point with their current chores, if that makes sense. You know, the point where they can look around the room and know for certain that it is done, as opposed to coming up to me or Hubby and asking, "Is this done enough?" or some similar question.

So today, we are going to talk about MY chores and for a little bit of time management, we'll also talk about when I do these chores.

Now, with the above list being my Daily Checklist, it is the list that I refer to when I am at home, working on tidying everything up. This is what another blogger I know, Rachel Anne refers to as Minimum Maintenance in a home. It's the least amount of work you can do in your home to just keep it maintained and looking neat and welcoming. Ideally, by the end of each day, every single item would have been done on this list. You notice that I say "ideally." Let's face it, life happens and there are days that I don't even go into certain rooms to do any work. It happens. I don't stress over it (too much) and make an effort to make the skipped room my top priority for the next day. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. 

This next list is my Weekly Checklist. I also have a Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly Checklist (all on the same page) but I'm not going to get into those right now. Similar to the Daily Checklist, in an ideal world, I would hit on each and every item each and every week from this list. But when life happens and something comes up, I just suck it up and try to get the missed items done first the following week.

For the weekly schedule, I generally try to get the items accomplished one of three ways. Everyone has a process that works best for them.

Way numero uno is the way that I was taught to clean when I was growing up, going room by room.

Option numero dos is the way that I was taught to clean by my grandma when I was growing up, doing all of a certain chore type throughout the house.

The third option is to just attack everything on the list in a particular room that is either in the most need or the one that is about the be in the most use. I learned this method on the fly as an adult when the other two methods didn't work (or rather, when I didn't use either of the other two methods!)

Actually, now that I think about it, there is a fourth option. It's actually a combination of options one and two and to be honest, one of my more favorite approaches to cleaning. First of all, it requires the minimum maintenance to be complete. Next, you do all of the dry work throughout the house. Dusting high and low, dusting surfaces, vacuuming furniture and carpets, organizing areas, emptying trash cans, etc. All the so-called "dry work" throughout the house. Then, you move on to the "wet work", cleaning and disinfecting in the kitchen and eating areas, the bathroom and the laundry, then sweeping and mopping the floors.

Things like washing windows and cleaning mirrors are negotiable. They can be done as dry work or as wet work. I personally would be doing them as wet work, but that's just because the cleaner itself is also wet. Oh - and carpet cleaning. My Hubby does that chore (which is why it isn't on my list) would be considered wet work to me.

And even though, the fourth option is my favorite, most of the time, I use option one. I feel like it doesn't all get done nearly as quickly though if I use this method. Using the fourth method, I can clean and disinfect my 1300 square foot home from top to bottom in just under four hours by myself. That being said, usually the minimum maintenance isn't done enough to be able to do it in that time frame. And I get stopped by kids or activities or appointments or whatever. 

The one piece of equipment that I highly recommend for cleaning is actually not a cleaning tool or supply and you might be surprised to learn what it is. I think the number one product that helps me get the most done around my house is my bluetooth. I can leave my phone on the top of the armoire in my den. It's the most central location in my home and from that spot, I can walk throughout my home and talk on the phone, hands free, while cleaning. The only thing that I can't do with it on is go around to the far side of my bed in my bedroom. I can go up to the far edge of the bed, but if I stand up on that far side of the bed, I lose the ability to have people hear me speak. Highly, highly recommend it! (I got this idea from Bree as well)

Let me know if this has helped you at all or if there is anything you are wondering about that I might be able to answer. Til tomorrow....

Thursday, October 4, 2012

31 Days...Day 4...Chores for Kids

The theme behind my 31 Days of... posts will be "31 Days of Homemaking". It will be 31 posts about anything related to homemaking, you know, making a home. Whether it has to do with parenting, housework, organization, crafts, whatever. As long as it falls under the definition of making a home, it counts.

Day 4 - 

Today is Thursday, October 4th, 2012. Today's topic is "Chores for Kids."

It is my strong desire that when my children are grown and move out of our home, that they are able to keep a home. I want that for my boys as well as my girls. At this season in our lives, while we are getting this housework monster under control and I am getting back to teaching them how to clean and maintain a house, this is the end goal that I have in mind. I want them to be able to keep a home.

At this point in time, I am not even working on the actual cleaning of a home. At this point in time, my goal is simply for them to learn what it means to just thoroughly pick up a room. And to teach them the responsibility to do it well, with a sense of pride in having a clutter-free home. Or at the very least, one where it is kept in check. That's been a long road on my part and I'm still traveling down that path to a much more clutter-free home.

Anyhow, to instill the idea of what a clutter-free home should look like, to gain some assistance around the house, to give the kids some ownership over our home, I have given them each a series of chores that reflect their ages.

Cephas is eleven. So he has eleven chores. They are all in the living room (well, I guess one is on the front porch) and they basically just cover keeping flat surfaces from getting filled up and to keep an eye on the hotspots that occur over time. One in particular, the space under our sectional. I don't know what it is about that area, but it constantly has to be cleaned out.

In addition to his chore room, he also has five regular chores to do in his bedroom (as do all of the kids). I expect them to do these chores, in their entirety, every single day, with only a rare exception. For the most part, it happens as planned.

Now, you may wonder what chores I would give to an 11 year old in a single room that would just include tidying it up, but not actually cleaning the room. I'll show you.

Clear off side table
Clear off TV stand
Clear off cedar chest
Clear off couch
Clean under couch cushions
Clean under couch
Clear off entry table
Straighten entry area
Pick up floor area
Straighten shoe area
Tidy the front porch
* * * * * * * * * * *
Tidy bed
Clear off bookshelf
Clear off dresser
Pick up bedroom floor
Take dirty laundry to bathroom

I'm sure you can guess, but the five chores at the bottom are the ones for his room.

You may be asking yourself why I have such a laid out and detailed (when it is a no-brainer) list of what to do to merely pick up a room. But you see, this is where the ADHD comes in for Cephas. It is where the Aspergers comes in for Jeriah. And the possible Aspergers for Cephas. And the slight OCD tendencies that Koren shows. For Cephas, it helps keep him on track and keeps him from asking me very couple of minutes, "Is this good now?" I can simply redirect him to the list and ask him to look at the list, then look at the room. If there is something that is not neat and tidy, it still needs to be done. He is eleven. By all means, he should be able to look at a room and tell what needs to be done to it on his own. But he doesn't., because he can't.

For Koren, this kind of list helps him to reduce his OCD tendencies. He needs some kind of guideline to know that okay, this is enough. He doesn't have to continue working on it indefinitely. He doesn't have to get it all perfect. As long as the items on his list are neat and tidy, even if the vacuuming isn't done, the windows aren't washed, the frames aren't all dusted, the books on the bookshelf aren't perfectly lined up, it is still okay. He needs this. Jeriah needs the list as a visual idea of what he has to do. It's a motivational thing for him. For Oralee, it keeps her on track most of the time. Which she needs, because her chores are spread out. She has two in the kitchen, three in the dining room and one in the hallway. She can easily lose her place. This is a tool to help her.

I will post later on "Motivating Kids" and tell how we use these current sets of chores to motivate our children.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

31 Days...Day 3...Time Management

The theme behind my 31 Days of... posts will be "31 Days of Homemaking". It will be 31 posts about anything related to homemaking, you know, making a home. Whether it has to do with parenting, housework, organization, crafts, whatever. As long as it falls under the definition of making a home, it counts.

Day 3 - 

Today is Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012. Today's topic is "Time Management."

As a work-at-home mom, I find my time to be a difficult area to, well, manage. I think the biggest issue with this is simply in the fact that I have a hard time with "at home" portion of my role. I feel like I am gone more than I am at home, and some weeks, that is definitely the case. Other weeks, it may not be the case, but the house still suffers due to lack of time management while I am here.

So, this is what I have done to combat that issue. It has worked for me, it may or may not work for you. I'm sharing so that if there is something in this that might work (or that might work with some tweaking of what I do) that it could help you.

One of my issues lies in the fact that during the week, I have a number of places that I need to go. In the morning, I need to take my children to school, three mornings a week, I pick up the little girl that I take care of from her mom. And on a fourth day, I drop her off at the same time in the morning. This does not line up with the time my children go to school, however. It happens two hours later. So I have a two hour window where I can either run errands alone or come home and work on the house. My problem was that I often would run a few errands and then waste a little bit of time, just sitting in the lot at her mother's work, waiting for them to show up.

Instead, I have changed that to coming home and cleaning up what I call "the four outer rooms", which would be our living room, our den, our kitchen and our dining room. They are all open to one another, but don't exactly have the whole "great room" thing going on. They are very separate rooms, except for the den and the living room. My goal most mornings is to come home and do a quick pick up in these rooms. Doing things like, clearing off flat surfaces, unloading/reloading the dishwasher, picking up the floor areas (somehow, they end up with random things on them during our morning routine that don't get picked up before we leave - I know, I'm still working on that), starting a load of laundry, wiping down the table and counters, sweeping and vacuuming. Things that are quick and easy and that don't take much effort but make a huge difference.

On Thursdays, though, I often meet my best friend, Bree, at the grocery store in that time frame to do our weekly shopping. It's a stolen moment during the week that we have together. But there will be more on that in another post (Friendships).

After I pick up the little girl, two days of the week, I have to run her to school. This also happens to occur almost two hours after that point in time. So on those days, between the time I get her to my house from her mom's work and the time we have to leave to take her to school, I have about an hour and a half. I have been using that time to do baking projects with her. She enjoys it, I enjoy it. The kids have afterschool snacks that way and it also gives her some valuable lessons on working in the kitchen. Plus, it's just plain ol' fun.

In the afternoons, if I have used my mornings well, I have very little that I need to do and can spend that time on projects around the house, handiwork, craft work, planning, blogging, reading, or even occasionally, taking a nap (on the days the little girl isn't here in the afternoon). And once a week, having lunch with Bree (another stolen moment - also in "Friendships")

After school, Hubby is usually the one to pick the kids up from school. They come home and we spend time on homework, snack, chores, dinner, then our evening activities (of which until next week, has been mostly sporting and scouting - this is our last week of sporting for about a month) then getting ready for the next day. Some of this will be touched on later as well, in posts entitled "Chores for Kids," "Chores for Mom," "Meals and Menus" and "Family Activities."

So our basic daily routine runs like this:
  • Get up and get myself ready
  • Get kids up and get them ready
  • Take kids to school and drop them off
  • Go home and do some quick, light housework (or Thursday grocery shopping with Bree)
  • Pick up or drop off the little girl (Angel)
  • Go home, work on baking or housework
  • Make lunch, eat and clean up
  • Take Angel to school
  • Come home, continue to work on housework or home projects or personal projects (once a week, have lunch with Bree)
  • Hubby gets off work, spend some time with him
  • Hubby gets kids from school
  • Homework, snack, chores
  • Make, eat and clean up dinner
  • Evening/family activities
  • Kids' bedtime routines (also a separate post "Bedtime Routines")
  • Personal time
So hopefully, that will give you some idea of the importance of planning and making the most of the time you have available. Right now, I have four kids, I take care of six additional children throughout the week. All four of my kids are in sports. We have two different sports at three different fields and life is just busy. I also Visit Teach once a month (or twice, depending on how scheduling works out with everyone) and I am Primary teacher in church. Needless to say, my plate is full. But it is all do-able and every so often, I find that something isn't working and that I have to adjust it a bit. So I do and it works again until it doesn't and then I readjust again.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

31 Days...Day 2...Friendships

The theme behind my 31 Days of... posts will be "31 Days of Homemaking". It will be 31 posts about anything related to homemaking, you know, making a home. Whether it has to do with parenting, housework, organization, crafts, whatever. As long as it falls under the definition of making a home, it counts.

Day 2 - 

Today is Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012. Today's topic is about Friendships. Now you may wonder what Friendships have to do with Homemaking, and I will tell you about a couple of mine and how it relates to this month's chosen topic.

This is a picture of my Grandma K (on the right) with her best friend, Granny T (on the left, looking at something going on in another area). Granny T is the Great-Grandmother of my best-friend, Bree. These two ladies were incredible on their own and their friendship was awesome! They were great role models for Bree and myself.

These two ladies were a huge support to each others and to their families and to each other's families as well. As such, Bree and I learned a lot from them about doing this as well. At the point in time when these two fine ladies were best friends, their grandkids were having kids, so they weren't at the same stage in life that Bree and I are but the same principles apply.

You see, my Grandma K would call Granny T every morning and they would chat for a few minutes before starting their day. Granny T would call my Grandma K and they would chat for a few minutes every evening before calling it a night. No day was started or ended without this phone call. Now, Bree and I aren't quite like that, but rare is a day that goes by without us talking on the phone. (And I don't even like to talk on the phone.)

Our grandmas would have lunch together 2-3 times a week at one of the local senior centers. My Grandma K would stop by Granny T's house and pick her up and off they'd go to the senior center, where they'd enjoy their meal and good conversation, cards and (on Fridays) Bingo for prizes. It was just what they did.

Bree and I don't have the opportunity (most weeks) to get together 2-3 times, but we are also in a completely different season of life than our Grandmas were. However, we do make it a point to get together once a week for a lunch. We rotate weekly where we eat. One week we eat at my house, one week at her house, one week, we eat out at a restaurant. (Rinse and repeat all year long.)

My Grandma K would also pick up Granny T and together they'd "get along to town to do their trading" aka go grocery shopping. And just for the record, we live in a sizable city. There was no "getting to town" involved. They lived one mile from the grocery store. Actually, one mile from multiple grocery stores, just saying.

Bree and I often meet up and do our shopping together. Most of the time it is after we drop our kids off at school and we will each drive to the grocery store and do our shopping. We visit while we shop and it is wonderfully zen time for us. No kids, no husbands, just us. And I suppose there are other shoppers there as well, but for all that we notice, we are the only ones around.

We also have our kids in some similar activities and we see each other there as well (though we usually have kids we are busy corralling or trying to keep quiet or something similar) and that is a total bonus. As is the fact that her seven year old and my six year old are becoming quiet the pair of best friends themselves.

But the nice thing about all of this - and how it relates to homemaking - is that we have the chance and opportunity to share our lives with each other. We share the good and the bad. We comfort and are comforted by the other, we bounce ideas off each other, we meal plan, we share cleaning tips and tricks, budgeting ideas, parenting helps, marriage stuff. It all works together to help mold us into better wives, mothers and homemakers. I think everyone should have someone like this. My Grandma K had Granny T, I have Bree, Oralee has S (Bree's daughter). It's great.

Who is your best friend? Do they help you to become a better wife, mother, homemaker or person? How?

Monday, October 1, 2012

31 Days...Day 1...Budgets

The theme behind my 31 Days of... posts will be "31 Days of Homemaking". It will be 31 posts about anything related to homemaking, you know, making a home. Whether it has to do with parenting, housework, organization, crafts, whatever. As long as it falls under the definition of making a home, it counts.

Day 1 - 

Today is Monday, October 1st, 2012. First of all, today is Jeriah's fifth birthday. Happy Birthday, Jeriah! Secondly, today's topic will be "Budgets," as it is an area of our lives that I have been working hard on.

I am going to share more on this subject than I have ever planned to share online about such a private matter, but here goes.

Our monthly income is $2641.00.

This is how we break our income down:

-765.00 food

- 500.00 savings
- 240.00 fuel
- 335.00 lot rent
- 200.00 electric
- 200.00 cable/internet/home phone
- 125.00 phone
- 125.00 student loans
-   60.00 household supplies 
-   30.00 gym membership
-    10.00 netflix account

Now, you may notice that I have taken this line by line through our budget. But there are a few notes I want to add in about.

Our food budget is high. We have six people in our family and the budgeted amount is based off of "Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, August 2012" guidelines using the thrifty plan. While those guidelines put us at an average of 915.30 for our family of six, our budget is $150.00 less than that. I still think that $765.00 seems like quite a bit as well, but we just carry over the food budget from month to month for when the price of food increases (last year from flooding, this year from drought, so on and so forth). We also have additional people that eat with us as well. In a typical week, we have at least 11 meals shared with at least one more person, but most often, it is more meals and more people.

Next up, is our savings plan of $500.00 per month. This is a recent addition to our budget. I think this is a nice even amount to deduct each month. We have it divided up though. Part of it (40%) is long-term savings, part of it (20%) is short-term savings (for big ticket items), part of it (20%) is savings for gifts and such, and another part of it (20%) is for unexpected expenses or infrequent expenses (insurance premiums, home repairs, car repairs and maintenance, etc.)

We both have vehicles (paid off) and our only monthly fee for those are for our fuel. I based our fuel cost on roughly $4.00/gallon. Lately, it has been closer to $3.75/gallon so we are keeping the excess reserved for those times when the price may increase to more than $4.00/gallon. We roll the excess allotment over from month to month, when there is one and we use the excess when we take road trips to visit family or friends here and there throughout the year. If we accumulate a fair amount of money in this area, we will use it toward a down payment on a newer vehicle when we need one.

Our home is paid for free and clear. The only housing payment we have is for the land our home sits on, which runs us a mere $335.00 per month, which I think is pretty reasonable.

I over-budget for our electric bill as well. We roll this amount over from month to month as well. When we have enough excess in this area, we will use it for things like new windows, new appliances, new HVAC unit, etc. to help with our energy efficiency. I'd love to use it for solar panels, but not sure if that is realistic.)

Our cable bill is also over-budgeted. We do have basic cable, digital cable, DVR service, internet service with a faster download speed and home phone. And even with all of that, our budgeted amount is still almost double what our actual bill is. I really have no plans for the excess amount in this area, unlike the other areas, but it's nice to know that it is there. I suppose that amount would eventually be used toward the purchase of new electronics (TV, computer, audio, etc.)

Our cell phones (two of them - both smartphones) run $125.00 a month, with no contract and unlimited everything. We love our plan!

Student loans. What can I say? Blech.

Household supplies is a small portion of my monthly budget because we really don't spend all that much on this department. I buy in bulk as needed and usually, I don't have to replace big bulk items all at once. Some of our household supplies come out of our grocery budget (things like baking soda and vinegar) and I can get many personal care items for free or next to nothing by watching the sales and the coupons and pairing them up together.

Our gym membership is SO worth it to me. Between the activities for the kids, the fitness and activities for us, the free childcare, etc, it has well proven it's value far beyond the cost.

We have a netflix account. This has been a lifesaver! We stream mostly through our Wii or our computers. I love being able to go in and watch complete seasons of TV shows. Tonight, we used it for a show that we don't have recorded on DVR to settle down a toddler that was going to be staying the night here for the first time. It worked very nicely!

And that leaves us with just a small amount unaccounted for. Hubby and I use that amount for our rare date night dinners out or things like that.

I think the key to budgeting is to get an idea of what and where you spend your money each month, by tracking it for a few months and then make your decisions based off of that. You can see where you need to trim your budget and where you should just cut things out of it.

I also make a small, varying amount of money each month, but since it varies, I don't factor this in to our budget and just stick it into savings or use it for extra things that the kids need or that we want but don't want to take it out of our regular budget, etc.

The hardest part of a budget isn't really so much of coming up with it or setting it, it's sticking to the budget that is really hard. I don't have any real tips for that. I still feel like I get to shop quite often, but I tend to really watch for sales, buy used from other people (which saves money and reduces waste) and once you get started trying to save as much as possible, it becomes almost like a challenge, trying to save more and more each month. I love it!

If you have any questions about my budget or about making or setting your own budget, feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to help you out as well.

This post is part of a series hosted by The Nesting Place. You should go and see what others are posting about this month as well!