First and formost is coming to the realization that you will not get everything done. Because every time you think you are done, something else gets added to the list. I have a 2 year old and a 3 month old so I am working on realizing that myself.
So, to address each of your points specifically:
1. the "do it now" principle": I totally get that I need to do this; it just seems like there's always something "more important". Example: We get back from the grocery store. Even getting out the door as fast as I could, we get back late for lunch. So I put the cold stuff away and everything else stays out so we can eat ASAP. Since lunch is late, that means naptime is late too. If the baby is really upset, I don't even get lunch cleaned up properly. This kind of thing will continue all day long until I have a huge mess by evening. If we go out later in the day, we'll just be late for something else.
If you absolutely cannot "do it now." then work on really trying hard to "do it as soon as possible." Kids are antsy because they are hungry so you only have time to put up the cold stuff...fine. Make a lunch that's quick, but has some "lag" time. For example, grilled cheese. While you are grilling it, put a couple mroe groceries away. Get the kids in their seats while it's cooling off, then instead of eating with them, put the rest of it away while they are eating. Clean up afterwards...have the older one help clean up immediately after lunch. And, if you just can't do any of it until after baby goes down for a nap...then do it as soon as baby is down for the nap. It really is true that the faster you do it, the easier it is to get it done, the longer you let it sit, the harder it is to get up and do it.
2. While I'm cleaning, the kids are messing up something else. My 13 mo is into everything right now. She can empty a dresser drawer in a minute. But I don't feel like I should child-proof every drawer full of clothes. I don't remember this stage lasting that long and it keeps her quiet. But I'm still a bit frustrated with it.
A playpen is your friend, IMO for this. Not a Pack N Play...A PLAYPEN. Big enough for the child to move around and actually play in. They are hard to find, but they do make them. I have a Graco one that my youngest is practically living in to keep her out of the danger zone of the 2 yr old. Or you can get a play yard, those big fence things that link together to create a safe space for the kids. I am not advocating banishing the child to the playpen/yard all day, just when you absolutely have to get something done (ie you need to cook and can't have a 1 yr old underfoot, etc) and need the child contained.
3. Mealtimes are very messy. One meal and the floor needs mopped. Of course that never happens, but it needs it. How do I teach my 3 yo to eat neater?
Yep, meals are messy. I don't think that could be changed, I think that just comes with toddlers. But, you can have her help. And you could also try to head this off by trying serve stuff that's naturally less messy. If you are having an issue with spilled drinks, I totally think sippy cups are acceptable for thoes ages. For foods, chicken nuggests/chunks etc are less messy than say rice which leaves little grains all over. Grilled cheese is less messy than soup, that sort of thing.
4. I'm tired. Last night I fell asleep for the night at 8pm when I was putting 3yo to bed and missed my night-time pick up altogether. So this morning, I still had yesterday's supper on the high-chair (the "more important" problem in action. We ate late because that's when DH got home and the baby really needed to get to bed right away). I didn't get the diapers brought up from the dryer and had to make a special trip with both kids.
Incorporate the night time pick up into the 3 yo night time routine. My 2.5 year old picks up before getting ready for bed. And while she's picking up, I help and also take care of things that she can't, like cleaning up that high chair dinner mess. Also, you mention you missed your night time pick up, and the baby had to get to bed and your DH was home....is there a reason HE couldn't have taken care of the high chair mess?
5. It's hard to do much with an arm full of baby. And if I'm not carrying her, she's into everything. She's finally taking longer naps (about 1:10 or 1:30 -- for the 2 months prior we were at one 30 min nap a day). It's helped a ton, but I still feel like I need to figure this out.
Slings/carriers, playpens and baby proofing. My 2.5 year old is into EVERYTHING. Like, absolutely everything. And with a nursing 3 month old, it's tough to keep her out of it all. So, I remove it. She has recently taken to climing up the piano to get the stuff I was displaying on top of it. So I have moved it all so she can't get into it anymore. I can't keep her in the playpen because she climbs out, but a 13mo old you shouldn't have any problem with it. With a sling/carrier, you can carry the baby and still have your hands free. I still carry the 2 yr old in a ring sling on my hip sometimes.
6. Unfinished projects: I guess this could fall under the "do it now" principle. I notice most of my clutter is something I tried to start, but wasn't able to finish. Frequently, I'll start something that I can do with the kids around, but then they need something that takes me out of the room before I finish.
I think there are probably a couple tips to help with this, regarding time management. First, I think longer projects maybe try to do when your spouse is around so that when they need something they could go to him. Or perhaps deliberately breaking the project down and having a place put put it up while it waits. So for say...cleaning the bathroom...you plan to do the shower first, and then put the cleaning supplies IN the shower when you are done with the shower, with the plan that you will come back and do the tub in an hour after the kids are down for a nap. Also, I don't think it's a bad thing all the time to just have the kids wait. Obviously not if the 1 yr old is screaming and the 3 yr old tells you she pooped her pants or whatever. But if it's just the 3 yr old wanting something to snack on, while she can wait until you finish.
I have a daily chore list that helps me keep on track. The problem is I have trouble getting everything done.
I have a huge giant to do list, but what I have started doing, instead of trying to plan one big chore list every day trying to get as much as possible done. I have started asking myself, ok, what are the three MOST IMPORTANT things to get done. And I focus on those. I don't even always get those done, but at least I have my priorities straight so that when I do get a moment, I know exactly what to focus on first.
I do find that getting the house clean and just maintaining it is easier, but sometimes that's easier said than done. We do pick up toys at least once a day, twice if the kids have managed to trash everything. That helps quite a bit.
I agree. Daily maintainence is easier. Both mine take naps and if I can get them to go down at the same time, I pick up then too.
i really agree and can relate with your post and all of the responses. i just wanted to add that getting up before the boys (19m and 3m) in the morning and having a cup of coffee or a bowl of cereal makes my day seem *just that much* better. things flow easier, messes dont stress me out that much, i can handle crying like a pro, etc.
I also agree with this. My young one often has a really early nursing session, like 4 or 5 am. And then she is back down for another couple hours. Though I am tired, I take advantage of that time to fold laundry or empty the dishwasher so that I can rinse and load as I go during the day, etc. As soon as she's down, I have a real breakfast, then usually throw in laundry and try to get as much done as I can before my two little ones are really going for the day.
I have older-ish kids now, but when they were little I went through a very messy stage. I was always proud at the end of the day, that I had sat and read a book with them, or gone for a walk and I reminded myself that was more important to me at the end of the day than being proud of a vaccuumed carpet or no dishes in the sink. I was able to get things done by putting a kiddo on the floor in the kitchen with tupperware bowls, mixing spoons, measuring spoons- even a 1/2 cup of flour or salt- this was a good 20 minutes of time to keep the kid occupied,within my sight and I was able to get things done in the kitchen. yes, it's a mess, but 1/2 cup of flour isn't THAT hard to clean up after and you can get a LOT done in 20 minutes.I would also do things WITH my kids, play a chase game while vacuuming- they can hide under a blanket on the couch while I say 'where are those kids?" and pretend to look around and every 2 minutes slip the cover off and say "i found you!" Also- what about teaming up with another mom? If you have any friends in similar situations I bet you could swap two hours of your time for two hours of theirs?A
Yes to all of this.
I have a hard time knowing what "reasonably clean" is. I don't think I'm there. I think some issues with perfectionism and trying too much are keeping me from getting to everything.
"reasonably clean" IMO is clean enough to not be a health and safety hazard. No broken glass on the floor or table. No mold growing on the carpets. No massive amounts of bugs and spiders (I firmly believe that every house has one or two most of the time) That, IMO, is reasonably clean. A couple of dust bunnies in the corner, not affecting anyone's health and safety, so no big deal.
Some other tips...be sure to enlist your DH! If you can't get the grocery stuff put away all day, make him put it away when he gets home. Or make him keep the kids occupied while you put it away.