Robert Earl Keen has a song called The Road Goes on Forever and the Party Never Ends. My husband and I like to say, “The dishes go on forever and the laundry never ends.” So when I saw this picture on Facebook, I laughed out loud.
Long before we said “I do” my husband said, “I’ll do the dishes if you’ll do the laundry.” Deal. Keeping the house presentable as newlyweds was manageable. Then we had kids. Then we had Near-O Waste. Cleaning is actually easier now because we’ve adopted minimalism and developed a routine for our chores. But (as much as I’d like to deny it) we have more laundry and dishes than we did before. I’m okay with washing hankies, cloth napkins, Bee’s Wrap, surface wipes, water bottles, and reusable food containers… normally. But when I tweaked my back and couldn’t hold up my end of the bargain for an entire week, there was bound to be a breakdown.
It came when my son peed his bed (and there was already a load of laundry in the washer… and the dryer… and three more on the rocking chair, desk chair, and extra freezer. Can’t you just picture the chaos?). I lowered myself *very carefully* to the floor and broke into sobs, head in my hands, as my little one kept running up to me saying, “It’s okay, Mom.” It took ten deep breaths, and my husband saying he’d take care of it, for me to settle down.
During my my “week off”, I was on my ass icing my back, instead of kicking ass around the house. I though a lot about the (organic cotton) bag of tricks that helps this busy bee do the latter as quickly as possible…
1. Reuse reusable containers (as in more than once before washing) if the contents allow. I bring my kids papayas and pretzels for an after school snack once a week. I can refill that jar with more papayas and pretzels for the next week without washing it. The same rule applies to other dry snacks like muffins, pretzels, or nuts.
2. Avoid the sink and the laundry hamper. When I get home from school, I’m taking about a dozen containers out of three lunch bags. If I put them in the sink, they could potentially remain at the bottom for days before making it into the dishwasher. I try to rinse them and load them right away. It only takes a few extra minutes. Same goes for laundry: clothes at the bottom of the hamper can end up staying there for way too long. So I like to put dirty clothes straight into the washing machine, then when it’s full, I’m pretty much forced to run the load.
3. Don’t wash clean clothes. If my boys put pajamas on after showering, get into bed, (read stories), go to sleep, wake up, and take off their pajamas to get dressed, the pajamas are not dirty and can go back into the drawer for a couple more days of wear.
4. Empty the compost bowl every evening. Our journey with composting is a long story, but currently, we use a metal bowl on the counter top. The compost in this bowl gets taken to the pretty silver “kitchen composter” that’s actually on the front step. When that fills up, my guys transfer the contents to the larger bin under the deck. If ever I forget this daily task, the ants and fruit flies (which appear out of nowhere) are happy, but I’m regretful.
5. Designate a chore for each weekday. My husband and I work part time, so we’re both able to do a specific chore each day. Then on the weekends we can chill, and it’s so worth it. I know this might be unrealistic for full-timers, but anything that can get worked into the weekday routine will make Saturday and Sunday more relaxing.
6. Stick to one water glass. Our family (well, mostly my husband) is infamous for leaving water glasses all over the house. One day I came home and found four of them scattered about. You can use the same glass several times, magically creating less dishes. Just leave it in a designated place, like on the counter near the Brita. (Yes, Babe. I’m talking to you!)
7. Don’t make the car the discard pile. I use a milk crate for toting things to and, most importantly, from the car each day. Sometimes it seems annoying (and heavy), but making sure everything is in its place at the end of the day puts my mind at ease.
8. Opt for washable lunch bags. They’re not green or made in the USA, and I sinfully bought them online, but these lunch bags are machine washable. And I’m always glad about that at the end of a long week.
Thankfully, my back is slowly but surely getting back to normal so I can get back to my tricks. Bzzzzz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .