Running a household is hard work.
The days flurry past, bringing their own lists and requirements… washing seems to magically multiply when placed in the basket and crumpled pieces of paper make their way home from school with unanticipated requests and demands. Now referred to as the ‘mental load’, the myriad of necessities clamouring within one’s mind can often lead to a constant feeling of being overwhelmed, the uneasy niggle that you have missed something important, the overcoming desire to sink into the couch instead of facing the heaping (and seemingly neverending) collection of ‘things that must be done’.
I do not pretend to have it under control.
By writing pieces such as this one, there is the danger that you think my house is always spotless, whipped into shape and ready for any unsuspecting guests that may happen to drop by. More times than I can remember, I have surveyed our rose-washed oak vinyl floorboards and been overcome with gratitude at their uncanny ability to hide most of the crumb and stain filled existence that is life with four children. My natural (or perhaps my nurtured) state is to prefer streak-free benchtops, an uncluttered floor and a stack of freshly washed dishes drying on the rack. This rarely happens, or at least, never at the same time, and I have been forced to reconcile my fierce desire for control and cleanliness with the realities of having to share the space with little humans.
Nevertheless, this drive for order has allowed me to pick up and discover some solid tips along the way – lessons that cut down the work, free up some time and quieten the buzz… leaving us all just a little bit more sane in the process.
1. Always bake double
This has served me inordinately well over the past few years, with school and kinder lunchboxes quickly claiming baked goods. It can feel like you only just whipped up a batch of muffins, to find they have suddenly disappeared. It takes a tiny bit of additional energy to do the mental math of doubling quantities, no extra dishes and the satisfaction of pulling two cakes out of the oven for the effort of one provides me with a little shot of dopamine every time.
2. Freeze anything you can
Closely linked with the previous tip, I have found that there is a strange reaction that occurs to the sight of cake on the bench. It inexplicably vanishes. Transform that cake into individually wrapped pieces and relocate the booty to the freezer and remarkably- it lasts. I usually wrap half of the pieces for lunchbox use and package the other half in batches for taking along to play-dates or as an emergency stash for when people drop over for coffee. The freezer is my firm friend – storing a vast amount of helpful things such as additional meals, leftover gravy, rice, pre-cooked meat and pizza dough. We actually have a stand alone freezer as well and it works tirelessly, drawers packed to the brim.
3. Menu plan
I’m a firm advocate of this system. It takes an hour or two each fortnight and I use a google document that contains links to the recipes and a grocery list that I can easily bring up on my phone when I reach Aldi. While I may not look forward to the towering trolley and the exhausting lugging of what feels like an entire store’s worth of food through the front door, there is such beauty and simplicity throughout the ensuing days when I need only glance up at the chalkboard to remind myself what the plan is and know that each ingredient I need is waiting expectantly behind closed doors. To take it up another notch, menu planning in cuisines allows you to use up ingredients (like that huge bunch of celery or selections of fresh herbs). The similarities between the meals also allow for batch creating of dishes such as accompaniments, such as chutneys or rice dishes in Indian cooking. I probably could talk about this for hours so I’ll mercifully move on.
4. Put on a load of washing every night
Every single night. Whether you have half a load or a backlog, I found my washing anxiety significantly dampened when I began going through the motions daily. It becomes part of the routine – spraying the stains and chucking on a load after bathtime. By the time the kids are in bed it is ready to be hung on the waiting racks, the dry clothes folded into sections within the clothes basket- heaped in piles according to ownership.
5. Create a present box
Whether it is that kindly given gift you have little use for or a sale you stumble across while out shopping one day, investing in a space where you collect items that can be used as gifts saves a lot of time where it counts. Having to dash out the morning before dropping off kids at a party is rarely the stuff of dreams, and being able to comb through the box’s selection for an appropriate present is ridiculously easy. It saves money too, always a bonus.
I should admit that writing this post carries a hidden motivation… I’m always on the lookout for tips about how to do life better and would love to hear what makes your life easier! What secrets have you discovered, tricks you put into practice that make the day to day grind a little smoother?