One thing people always say about me is that I am very organised. (Hopefully that won’t be what they write on my headstone). “Where do you find the time?” is a question I am often asked by colleagues and friends. My standard answer to date has been “Eh, I dunno”. Lately I started to take a closer look at my life to identify why I have time where others don’t seem to and I came to a couple of conclusions. The main ones are that
a. I am lazy about things I don’t enjoy
b. I work efficiently on the things that have to be done in order to allow myself time for the things I really enjoy.
Anyone who knows me a bit will have read a. above and will now be thinking to themselves “Liar. She is anything but lazy”. Anyone who knows me really well (The Bavarian, for example) will be thinking “Spot on”. I’ll give you a few examples to highlight what I mean. Our bathroom get cleaned when it is borderline filthy or when visitors are coming to stay overnight. Our floors get washed so little, that it almost has novelty value. My middle son has a toy sweeping brush. The only explanation I can find for him wanting to have one is that he thinks it is something you only take out on special occasions and hence must be very precious.
Here are my top tips for efficient running of the household:
Use separate laundry baskets for the different washes
I don’t mind putting a load into the washing machine but I detest rooting through dirty washing to separate colours, darks and whites. Since having children and discovering the joy of wee’d in jammies, pooed on undies and milk encrusted muslins I hate this task even more. So I put a stop to it. Our bathroom now boasts no fewer than three pop-up net laundry baskets – one white, one black and one blue. It is a quick, cheap and fool-proof way to organise your laundry and cut out unnecessary sorting. When the kids undress for bed, they know that vests go in the white basket, dark trousers in the black one and anything colourful in the blue one. At one glance I can see which basket is the fullest and know then which wash needs to be done next.
Use the night
I try to let the night work for me. From using the timer on washing machine to letting yeast dough prove overnight in the fridge, I arrange for all manner of things to be ready when I get up. Often I will set the table at night. Within the last five minutes before going to bed, I grab the plates, bowls, spoons, knives, glasses and cups and plonk them into the middle of the table. Then the breadboard, bread (covered), jam and cereal jar are placed beside them. Out with the light and off to bed I go.
The coffee machine wakes at 6.45 am, providing me with a nice hot brew when I drag myself downstairs at five to seven. The table is pretty much set. I just have to grab butter, milk and yogurt from the fridge before yelling up the stairs “Breakfast is ready”.
Once breakfast is done, I can unload the washing machine, having filled it the evening before and set the timer for the wash to be finished at 7.30 am.
Keep sports / hobby bags packed
We go swimming quite a bit, so we have one big swimming bag for the whole family. It contains a couple of €2 coins for the lockers, a hairbrush, a couple of nappies and swimming nappies for Number 3, water wings for Number 2, suncream (for the outdoor pool in summer), swimming togs for me, The Bavarian, Number 1 and Number 2 as well as five towels. After a visit to the pool, all the togs and towels go straight to the washing machine. After drying, they get put straight back in the bag.
We came up with this plan after spending several Sunday mornings searching for everything we need and ending up in foul humour when we were finally ready to leave the house. Now we use the same ready-packed bag principle for Number 1’s football gear and Number 2’s music class bag.
Forget about keeping the place clean
I am not naturally a person who keeps order and I feel that quite keenly since I live in Germany. I used to try to keep the house tidy and clean, but eventually I realised that I was just putting undue pressure on myself and irritating the family. There would be cries of “You tidied away the Lego I was building with” and “Where is the Star Wars battle I set up yesterday?” from the boys. The Bavarian could never find his sunglasses or work bag because I would move them from the highly unsuitable place he’d put them.
For the past couple of years I have been operating on the principle of cleaning up messes and only messes. Untidiness gets ignored. The level of satisfaction I get from taking a room from the looks-like-a-bomb-hit-it state to the did-we-hire-a cleaner? state is incredible. So mostly our house looks like this: