Anyways, thanks for letting me vent. I feel a wee bit better.
I found 18-21 months to be the hardest period we'd had (apart from the sleep deprivation of the first year and a bit). Clingy toddler, whining (oy the whining!) and general unpleasantness. I'm sorry you're going through what sounds like the same thing (apparently, 18 monthsish is a thing :)
For the kitchen thing...try giving her a muffin tin or something, a large bowl with about an inch of water, and a small spoon. I could get my guy to sit for a really long time putting water by the spoonful into a muffin tin (I'd have the whole set up on the floor on a bath towel). A little water in a big bowl with a little non-toxic dish soap and a wire whisk is fun too (show her how to use the whisk to make bubbles).
Two moms and two boys enjoying the truth that love always wins!!!
It's actually nice to read about someone who is living with as much chaos as I am... Thanks. Sometimes I feel like I'm the odd-mom-- everyone around me has a perfect house and makes it look so easy.
The one thing that is saving me right now and letting me get *some* fundamental housework done is a kid backpack. Mine was 60 something dollars on Amazon. Where my son hates the front carrier, he loves the backpack and EASILY goes to sleep in that thing when it's time. Every day, I think to myself "this thing was SOO worth the money." Your shoulders have to gradually get used to it, though-- you won't like it the very first day you wear it. My son is 26 pounds and I can carry him for 2/3 hours per day (with breaks).
That thing is making me lose weight, too!
I am sooooooo there with the home frustrations playing into the toddler thing. I often feel like things would be easier if we could just move - and have a full kid-free week or so to organize the new home. We moved here when DD was 3 months old, and just never really had the time or money to put proper organizational systems in place. It's gotten marginally better, but there are just some problems we can't fix. Like...the fact that there's only one bedroom. And the entire house could fit into my friends' living rooms.
I also know the clingy toddler feeling, since my 2.5 year old refuses to leave my side most of the day. I'm guessing your LO wouldn't appreciate it if you popped her in a safe space and ran down to do the laundry for a minute? Or could you set up a pack'n'play in the basement? I used to just hold my daughter in one hand and the basket in the other and do the whole laundry thing without putting her down. Folding was pretty impossible, but by 18 months or so she could help put away.
For dishes, I would set a timer and do 5 minutes (or even 3) at a time, throughout the day, instead of trying to get it done in one go. I still find it useful to get chores done in very small pieces, and I buy DD's time with play beforehand.
Last bit of advice - pack up the toys in a few bins, and only have one set out at a time. After a few weeks, change it up. I find that fewer is better with toys. At that age, too, I would strictly limit my daytime clean-up efforts to "pathways only." Pop all the toys from the kitchen into a cart, and have your LO wheel them into a better area and unpack them there.
Hang in there, and feel free to vent. My IRL friends always make their lives sound perfect, so I kind of appreciate it!
Oh goodness, I so hear you on some of these issues!!
I'm not sure I have real solutions, but here are some things that I've had success with from time to time...
Laundry: Ugh. Ours is also in the basement. Three freakin' flights down. Basement really is not a safe place to let DS walk around in, and its just a pain in general. So I've done a variety of things.
I bought a laundry basket that was small, square, and really sturdy. I put one load in and he sits on top of the laundry. I carry the whole thing down the stairs. He thinks its awesome. When we get downstairs, I sit him on the dryer and he pushes the buttons.
Toys and dishes:
In general, it took me a really long time to figure out that I needed a safe space (as someone else mentioned above) to have DS stay in from time to time. On our top floor, that space has occasionally been his crib. I've been amazed at how happy he is to "camp out" in the crib for 10, even 20 minutes, if I set him up with his favorite stuffed babies, his favorite books, put a blanket over his lap and made a big deal about "snuggling up with the babies and read them a book, honey."
Downstairs, that space is his high chair/ booster seat. I make sure he is fully strapped in and give him either a stack of his favorite books, a sheet of paper and a bunch of stickers, or youtube on the laptop. I never knew youtube had such cool nature videos..... I've ended up creating very cool playlists for him in this process. There's a whole series of mama and baby moose videos, a construction vehicles playlist, a native american drum circle playlist, etc. He is totally transfixed, watching cool stuff, and is content to let me run about and get some stuff done.
The other thing that has been absolutely essential for us is out-of-reach storage. Husband installed shelves in every closet and stairwell that keeps "stuff" way up high. Helps a ton.
I concur on simplifying the toy situation. Purge, pack up in bins, whatever you need to do, but only keep out a small handful of the most well-loved toys and books. For the longest time I was so frustrated that DS would cling to me and not even glance at his toys all day, and would only play with them if I chose one and played alongside him, but then I read the book Simplicity Parenting (it's a game-changer) and it explained how too many toys to choose from can actually cause them anxiety and they are unable to choose from so many options. It makes your life so much easier with clean up.
We have a toy collection that is minuscule compared to his peers, but he actually plays with it now without needing me to pick something for him and play alongside. When we had 20 books on the shelf, he never touched them. Now he has 4, and he wants to read them all the time.
Also, we went through the same thing at that age. Toddlerhood is full of phases. There were phases where it could be ONLY me, and phases where he would want nothing to do with me (except to nurse) and only Dad would do. For us there was a big change around 20 months where he suddenly needed to be on my hip MUCH less (I can actually make dinner with two hands now!). He still nurses every couple of hours, but he doesn't constantly need to be in physical contact with me like he used to.
On the female help - I hear you!! Where have all the villages gone??
I had two months over summer vacation where I was the primary caregiver for my 25 MO DD. 11 hours straight with her and I went loopy. Downright insane. I LOVE her but need to be way more productive than that. I hired a nanny, this is her first week... I am SO happy. SO comfortable and SO productive. Maybe you need to find a class or something for your child to give you the time you need. Separation anxiety comes and goes and they learn that other situations are more enjoyable than crying on Mommy for hours. She may not like it at first but she will. Gotta take care of Momma first - the rest falls into place.
Skycheattraffic- I agree that that was also a hard age with my son. They want to do everything you are doing, are very mobile, etc etc. Many things have seemed to get easier as he got closer to 2 years old. We also live in an old house, so I can commiserate. All the rooms are separated so it was very hard to do anything in the kitchen when toys were in the living room, etc. Now that he is a bit older, I am comfortable with letting him play in the living room by himself (with regular check-ins) though he usually says "Mommy, come! Mommy- livroom!"
We got a learning tower and it is definitely helpful for doing stuff in the kitchen. I tend to give my son a bowl with some oats or flour in it and a spoon then let him smell, taste ingredients while I cook. They can even help to wash dishes (get all wet) while in it. I know a friend who found one at a Consignment store for less than half the price of a new one so maybe check Craigslist or a consignment store? I am a less clutter, simplify type of person and have been able to do that somewhat, at least in the areas that my son is in the most. His room has one 9-cube shelf from Target and a few bins of toys under his bed. We only have toys in one room downstairs except for a new play kitchen that is on our kitchen. I try and clean out the toys every month or two and he definitely seems more interested in them when there is less and they are more organized. When stuff is buried or behind it doesn't get played with anyway, really. I try to have everything that is available for play in sight, if you can't see it (on shelf or in basket), then there is no need for it. I am a big list-maker which helps me to feel accomplished. Maybe make a list of the areas or even break it into little jobs "bath toys" etc and try to do one a day/one a week, whatever is doable. Just getting something done (even if it only takes 10 minutes!) and being able to cross it off your list makes such a difference.
I have also found that it is often not toys that occupy my son, but other novel items where there tends to be more discovery such as pompoms and a muffin tin, dry beans/rice bin and measuring cups, multiple of empty boxes stacked in one another, a spool of thread, etc. There are great ideas on Pinterest but these can also get overwhelming- I usually try and find an easy one that I already have the stuff for or can easily get it and then do something like this every week or so. It really keeps my son's interest and can often lead into other ideas while he is playing.
Mariee- I also put my son on top of the laundry to take it down into the basement!
Hang in there, it does get easier! (though then the tantrums begin : )