Wow, I totally get it. I am intimidated by even the shortest lists. DH and I are both slobs by nature, so it's tough.
I want to point out that housekeeping is a skill and only one part of taking care of the home and family. Being a SAHM incorporates a lot of different jobs. For me, I like the teaching and the cooking, which I do pretty extensively. I am really good at those. Housekeeping, not at all. It has become part of the job, but it's not the part I know how to do well, or that I like to do at all. I'll bake pies and homemade salsa and granola bars and 2-3 hot meals a day from scratch, dry herbs and can jam, sew costumes and knit clothes, but boy! the housework is not budging. My priorities clearly need refining!
Finally, for me, I have to say that the clutter is far and away the biggest problem. Every time I am psyched up and ready to clean, I actually have a ton of decluttering ahead of me in any given area. That's so discouraging. And with the kids and numerous other issues (not the least is lack of sleep), we find it hard to get to the decluttering (and then breaking the habit of it, and so forth)...
I feel you, mama. I was a terrible mess for my entire life. I remember a couple of birthdays where my mom and sister cleaned my room as my present, and it was the most awesome---until it was a mess again.
The inspiration for me to change my ways actually came from my mom. When my daughter was nearly 3 my mom was diagnosed out of the blue with terminal cancer. My awesome husband was super supportive of my daughter and me moving 3 states away for 4 months to take care of her at the end of her life, an experience I'll never forget or regret. Anyway, when friends and neighbors would come by to sit with my mom or bring food and be neighborly, while I was out running errands or keeping a 3 year old sane, some would pitch in and clean too and others would leave dirty dishes and tiny messes. The difference was like night and day--I guess since the house became more of a public space that needed to be kept clean and peaceful, there was such a different FEELING when it was clean, that I just internalized that and brought it home.
Here are a few tricks I've been learning to use in my own life
Start at the start. Pick one room or one corner of the room with your OCD self and get rid of a bunch of stuff and make it pretty to your eye. The less you've got, the less you have to clean. I organized my bookshelves by color (OCD fun!) and got rid of boxes and boxes of books that turned out to not be that important to me after all. Oprah or somebody had a thing about keeping kitchen counters clear. I like little challenges like that, where it's a set amount of space to keep track of, then you don't get overwhelmed about tackling the whole mess.
Play cleaning games. My daughter is almost 5, and we started with the clean up clean up song when she was little and we were putting toys away. Now we play '10 things', where she has to put 10 things back in their homes in a room and i do too. You could make it 5 things to start with your littlest guy and make the big brother feel important that he has more responsibility. With 2 or 3 people putting away that many things, you'll have an area clear in no time at all. Games are nice for grownups too. (c:
Look at pictures of clean beautiful houses. It sounds like a weird copout, but seriously, I've been checking out all these design books and magazines from the library and flipping through them at night or in spare moments, trying to train my eye to how the neater-half live. Of course, these interiors are styled and pro-cleaned, but for some reason it's inspiring to me. Also, since I'm not at 100% sleep since having a baby, it's nice to 'read' a book that i don't have to retain at all.
You can do it!
I used to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad house keeper. Now I'm decent enough. Two kids definitely makes it harder than one, because my infant cant help or even sit up on his own yet. I like lists. When I can remember to make them, they work. But I'm so ADD that I usually forget to even make a to-do list. Ten things that worked for me:
1) Dedicating 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon to straighten up
2) Sharing the dishes with my husband. I HATE loading the dishwasher, but I don't mind emptying. He's the opposite. I usually empty in the morning, and leave all of the dishes in the sink for the day. After dinner, he plays Dirty Dish Tetris while I play with the kids. He also does all of the trash.
3) Everything has a place. It's easy to put away clutter if you don't have to invent a new place to put it.
4) I keep a basket at the bottom of the steps. Things that need to go up, go in there. Then when I'm already going up for something else, I can grab the basket. It keeps me from running up and down forty five times a day.
5) Having a waste basket in every room is really helpful.
6) Having a small laundry bag in my kitchen is great, too. At the end of the week, I can just toss all of our dirty dish towels and rags into the wash. Then they are all clean again in the same load.
7)To get kids to help, it's gotta be fun. My son keeps his own room clean. I made a place for everything. Several small bins. One for matchbox cars, one for trains, one for crayons and markers, etc. Books on shelf. No brainer stuff. He cleans his room each night before bed and I put a sticker on his chart. When he gets five stickers, he gets a small prize. I've also been known to have dance party cleaning sprees with him (If you can put away all of these toys before the song is over, we can have more time at the playground!)
8) Two minute cleaning job at opportune times. When DS is playing in the tub, I wipe down the sink and the toilet. When he's in the kitchen doing play dough, I wipe counters or maybe sweep.
9) Kids clothes really don't need folding. And they can help put them away. DS has one drawer for each type of clothing. We just pile them in willy nilly. It's waaay faster than folding.
10) Keeping this mantra in mind: "An immaculate home is the sign of a life wasted." I'm not saying we shouldn't be tidy. It's important to teach kids how to clean. And for our own sanity, a clean house is better than a dirty one. But who cares if there is some dirt and clutter? I don't want to miss out on playing with my kids because I'm up to my elbows in bleach. I can have a perfect house when they grow up and move out. :)
I was a great housekeeper until I had a baby. I was the type that spent one entire weekend day a week listening to my favorite NPR shows and cleaning/cooking. Since I became a SAHM...yup. I have NO idea how to keep my house clean while taking care of a toddler. But I'm learning. My biggest success so far has been dividing chores into teeny tiny nuggets. I set the kitchen timer for 3 - 5 minutes at a time. I focus on one doable task (dust the mantle, sweep the kitchen, etc.), and one the timer goes off, it's done. DD can handle that amount of time, so she doesn't go haywire while I clean. I do this as many times as I feel is reasonable throughout the day, and just try to vary up the things that I clean so I can be sure that everything will be addressed sooner or later. Of course, this only works for things that need to get done on a weekly or so basis, but it's helpful.
I used to be soooooo bad, like really terrible, but I've slowly started keeping the house a bit better, though there have been set backs (that dratted second child threw me off for a LONG time, lol). I came to this forum to read last night because I'm hoping to take it up a notch. My house is currently okay, like I'd have *my* friends over, but not dh's (for some reason dh's friends all have a lot of nice stuff and they're neat freaks???). Up until now, I've been thinking that I want the level of cleanliness here to support good mental health. Whenever it gets below that level (ie, nothing just gross, no piles of clutter, no over-flowing sink full of dishes, there must be uncluttered space for my kids to play comfortably) I get freaked out and dig in again. But I guess I'd like to start keeping things *clean*, like grime around the fridge handle, ugh, the fronts of the cabinets, the corners of the floor. And I need to learn how to really dust. I have NEVER done it. Clutter makes me crazy, sticky makes me crazy, smelly makes me crazy, but dust under/behind the tv? I just don't quite get why I'd waste my time on that. But I know that other people see it when they come in and I'd like to be more sensitive about it and make that stuff more a more normal part of upkeep.
Anyhow, there's lots of great info in this thread! I read a ton of that mothers and daughters blog that someone linked last night and even ordered a book she suggested. I'm thinking of putting together my own motivated moms type list. My impulse is to schedule my cleaning for the next year, but I think it's something that maybe should be reevaluated once or twice a week -- keep the stuff that works and rework the others.
Jayne, sewing up a storm mama to ds1 9/03, ds2 2/09, and 2 sweet furbabies.