Coping with a Housework Crisis, or How to Clean the House with No Sleep and No Time

by yooeel

I’ll make this brief, because as you can probably guess from my title, sleep has been a rare commodity in our house for the past few weeks.  OK, that’s glamming it up a little.  Sleep has been a rare commodity in our house for the past year.  But the last few weeks have been a doozy, with teething, throat infections (child-sized and adult), sleep regressions and “The Baby Yooeel Patented, Mesmerising, Jaw-Dropping, Logic-Defying 15-Minute Nap”.

I’m firmly in the school of thought that sees babies as unpredictable little things that can’t be programmed to fit in with the adult household, and occasionally need that extra bit of care and attention to see them through the rough spots.  I do still genuinely love snuggling Baby up on my lap twice a day and watching him fall effortlessly asleep, but it does tend to leave my kitchen looking like this:

And me feeling like my To-Do list is growing ever longer with the sole purpose of gaining sentient life and throttling me in my sleep.

To add to that is the fact that Baby still needs a lot of focus and attention when he’s awake too, and gets really pipped off if I have the audacity to load the washing machine on his time.  This means that although I usually have quite a smoothly organised cleaning schedule, that keeps us ticking over, roughly based on Household Management 101’s truly lifesaving tips, there are times like this when I have to resort to marshal law.

  1. Let it Go: I get really, really stressed out when I look at my to-do list and see that I haven’t cleaned my front door down since we moved in, but do you know what?  You really can’t tell.  There are some jobs that polish off a tidy, functioning house and make it something jaw-droppingly beautiful.  But on the No Sleep No Time routine, you ain’t gonna get anything jaw-droppingly beautiful.  Pare down your to-do list by chopping off anything that doesn’t make your life easier in the long run, that doesn’t drastically improve your kids’ environment, or that guests won’t notice when they come round for a cuppa.  When it comes down to it, we don’t iron, we don’t colour code our laundry loads and we definitely don’t dust the skirting boards.  You’ll have time for that when you get back on track with the sleep.
  2. Get Help: Every parent of newborns gets the sage advice to ask guests to do one job each.  Older babies and toddlers are just as much work, but in a different way.  Ok, don’t ask your book club members to wash your dirty dishes, but instead of panicking about what your Mum’s going to think when she walks in to see a pile of stinky nappies, why not wait till she arrives and ask her to play with the baby while you whip around for half an hour.  You can get so much more done in a short amount of baby-free time than you can in a whole day of half-heartedly trying to entertain littlies and clean at the same time.
  3. Use Your Weekends: Hubby is home with us all weekend, so we give all the surface areas (remember, no ironing) a good clean.  We get the hoovering done, the dishes out the way and the bathroom scrubbed.  That way on the weekdays, I’m starting from a fresh slate and I don’t have the same feeling of dread on Monday morning.
  4. What Can You Get Done With Baby? When I’m having to hold Baby for his naps I find it very easy to do absolutely nothing, and if you’re not getting sleep at night, there’s something to be said for resting.  But it can be really frustrating watching things pile up around you, and it can stop you resting anyway.  When it gets to the point that I can’t face another 2-hour Facebook session, I make sure to write a to-do list of things that can be done while stationary.  Internet shopping, menu-planning, banking and budgeting online can all be done over his shoulder.
  5. Decide on One or Two Essentials: Even when you’re run off your feet, try to set aside one or two moments in every day when you can get the essentials done.  This is stuff that if you left it for two days it would be too disgusting or unwieldy a job to manage.  For us, we need to get nappies, laundry and dishes done to even be able to function.  So I have to let Baby play on his mat for 5 while I put the nappies in to wash every day, and when hubby gets home I whip round and put clothes on airers or have a quick 10 minute surface tidy.  We’ve started a habit of getting together after Baby’s gone to sleep at 7pm to clear away at least some of the dishes, and it’s actually really nice to get time to ourselves to have a chat.

If you’re in a cleaning bind at the moment, like we are, the most important thing to remember is that it happens to everyone.  Literally everyone.  When your friend invites you round to her sparkling home for a coffee morning, you can guarantee she was fretting 20 minutes before you arrived because she’d run out of room in the cupboards for all the dirty socks.  Get things liveable, and try not to stress.  You can always release your inner domestic goddess next week.

What are your coping strategies for when housework goes down the drain? What are your ‘must-do’s ever day?