Do you have a schedule?

Dear Chris,

I feel like every day in my house is Complete Chaos Day. There’s not a
time for meals, heck, sometimes we’ve been known just to snack all day
not eat a set meal. Laundry? It piles up. Cleaning? Man, I need a maid.

So my question is this: Do you have a set schedule? Is it better to
that laundry day is Monday and Clean the Toilet Day is Wednesday?

In need of a really good maid and the money to pay her

I think the way to start getting a hold on things is to develop a routine, a sort of lose schedule that isn’t neccessarily based on the time of day, but rather event based.

Certain things always happen in the same order, and while I find this predictable and boring, my younger children especially like it. I suppose that so much is unclear to them in their lives that they like knowing what is going to happen and when. Think of it as expanding the brush your teeth, read a story, and then go to sleep routine.

If you are working from home be honest with how much time you need to accomplish your work. trying to squeeze it in around other things means that you never feel “off” work is always in the back of your mind and you are mentally ruishing through things so that you can finish up. Much better to have a set time and then walk away. Kids can tell when they are being brushed off, and much the same way as adults, they don’t like it.

I have written about children and charging up their neediness batteries before:

Yes, I write down spending time with my children on a list like it is a chore to be accomplished. because, c’mon let’s be honest how many of us really want to play another game of Candy Land in our lives? Yeah, I thought so.

I have found that if I spend some time upfront with my children they are more accepting of giving me some space so I can do work later on uninterrupted. It’s like charging up their neediness batteries. After spending some quality time with me they are charged up and ready to play independently for a while. If they know that they will have their fun time with me at some point they are also willing to be somewhat accomodating if I have to say not now.

Mealtimes are pretty set in my house, and might be a good place to start developing your own routine. It doesn’t have to be something intense that you write in half hour increments and you are a slave to it. A routine is guide to get you through the day.

Here breakfast is at 8:30am, lunch at 1:15, snack at 3:30, and dinner at 6:00. Everything else works around this. These times are somewhat flexible, but they happen within 15 minutes on either side. The other marker here is naptime for my youngest which is from 2:00-4:00. During 2:00-4:00 is when anything that is messy or not for a one year old is done. Things like painting, playdoh playing, or knife juggling.

Think of the time around these events as blocks of time in which you have things to accomplish. You have needs, your children have needs, and all of you have, sometimes conflicting, wants.

What do you need to do in the period of the morning before breakfast? Write them down. Are there things that you wish you could accomplish during this time period but never seem to get around to it? Write it down also with a little star next to it. Do the same for the period after breakfast and before lunch. And so on. Are there things that are time dependent that you need to accomodate? Such as a nap, or bon-bon eating while watching Oprah, or for my 1 and 3 yr olds watching that insipid Caillou. write those times down where they go on the list where they would go.

Since, I assume, you do not have seven children like I do and therefore need to do laundry round the clock, make it part of your routine. Have two laundry baskets for your entire family to share. One will have clean clothes and spend it’s day in the laundry room. The other will be wherever you keep dirty clothes. And then the next day they switch. Right after breakfast pop a load into the washing machine. Right after lunch switch it to the dryer. Right after the kids go to bed fold the clothes and stick the stinky cloth diapers into the washing machine. Bring the basket of clean clothes to your room. In the morning put it away when you get everyone dressed. As a bonus you can just bypass the drawers and have everyone wear the same outfit again. AT the end of the day you should have a basket filled with your dirty clothes and dishtowels for the day, and one filled entirely with clean stuff. And then you begin again.

Obviously this is only an example. Change it around to fit your own needs. Can’t leave the kids unsupervised to toss the laundry in at breakfast time? How about before they get up.

Take two minutes when the children are in the bathtub to wash the toilet and sink.

Doing little bits at a time means that the job never gets so big and so out of hand that it is overwhelming.

So to recap, you do not need to schedule out every moment of your day into five minute intervals. Having a routine allows you and your children to know what is comoing next, plan for it, and hopefully get everything done that you need and want to get done on any given day.

15 Responses to “Do you have a schedule?”

  1. LynnElizabeth Says:

    Laundry used to be my Achilles’ heel. I HATED doing it. And then I realized I hated it because I spent all weekend doing it. So I developed a new routine for it. I do sheets, towels and underwear on Monday, whites and colors on Tuesday and darks and denims on Wendesday. Everything gets put away on Thursday, except for the sheets and towels which I fold and put away as soon as they are out of the dryer.

    I used to spend the weekend doing laundry, but now I never have to do that. And laundry has become much more of an automatic thing that I never have to think about or think about how much I hate doing it.

  2. Jaye Says:

    I have to comment because I LOVE to do laundry (yes, I am in therapy and on medication). Anyway, I too used to spend all weekend doing laundry, and it took me an exceptionally long time because I am rather anal retentive about my laundry (see the therapy & meds). But my husband devised this ingenious plan to get me out of the laundry room and I swear it was the smartest thing the man ever did besides proposing. We now have 5 wicker baskets in our bedroom (yes, we have a large bedroom, but you could do this on the floor of your master closet too). One for light colors, one for dark colors, one for reds, one for nylons & other things that get a dryer sheet, and one for towels. Whenever we undress we automatically sort our clothes into the appropriate baskets. After the children bathe at night their clothing also gets sorted. At night if a basket is full (which one always is) it gets thrown in the washer. The next morning it goes in the dryer. That evening when I get home from work I fold that load of clothes while watching tv. I timed it and I now spend about 10 minutes a day doing laundry.

  3. chris Says:

    I used to be an anal laundry doer too. But I got over it a few kids ago. All my laundry goes in at once, no seperating out by colors.

    Unless it is something special that needs extra care, it all goes together. That alone has cut out so much time from the laundry mill.

  4. Tiffany Says:

    Since you have seven children and have that expierence what is a good naptime routine for young children(ie 3 month old) Im really struggling with this as to try and set a bedtime

  5. Christina Says:

    Around here laundry is an every other day event, that way I get some days off, but the “on” days are only 2 or 3 loads that are easier to get done than a once a week big day with 8+ loads. I also don’t sort that well, if I need to do laundry and it sorts into 3 loads but I can re-sort to not be as picky and make it 2 big loads I do it, I just don’t tell my dh as he’s pickier. But since he’s not here all day…..

    I also try to do cleaning in 5 minute intervals. If the house needs dusting, I do it one room at a time with the baby following me around, we turn it into a game of follow the leader or peekaboo, and before I know it the house is dusted and the baby is happy! And the older kids always help clean if they are here, no one gets to just sit and watch mommy work!

  6. T in HD Says:

    Jaye, you’re not the only one who loves to do laundry. Well, in that I mean, I dislike that chore less than any other I have to do. Well, no, I really do *like* doing laundry. Oh dear. I am anal about our clothes and I know I need to make them last. And last. And last. I just set up a new system, similar to yours and it makes the whole job so much easier, particularly with the sorting, which I really dislike. Dh built me a tall, skinny shelf next to the laundry basket, which is always overfilled. Everyone in the family puts their laundry in the laundry basket and each day, I pull it out and sort it into one of the collapsible crates that are sitting on the shelves: dark, light, white, reds, jeans. I spot treat it and turn anything inside out that needs it at the same time. It only takes a minute. The hamper is never overflowing anymore and I can just glance at the baskets and see which is full (a full basket is one washer load) and throw it in the washer. Clean clothes then go back in the basket and get set next to the couch to be folded while watching telly (I can’t watch telly unless my hands are busy, so I get a lot of folding, mending and ironing done this way). It’s simple and feeds my anal tendancies towards our laundry. And no, no one else is allowed to do laundry unless it is the white load or diapers. Laundry stopped stressing me out the day I realized that it was a chore that would never be done (I only have three but they and dh create enough laundry) and trying to keep the laundry hamper empty was pointless. Now I just do a load or two a day and I know there will always be dirty laundry waiting to washed, clean waiting to be folded and put away. And that’s fine. It just sits in its respective basket and awaits processing.

    Chris, I can’t stand Caillou (or however you spell his name). I became acquainted with these children’s television characters while I was back in the U.S. and I realized that watching children’s television makes me want to gouge my eyes out and rip my ears off. I’m not critisizing the children’s line up on PBS (that was all the kids were allowed to watch, so can’t comment on the other stuff) just saying I HAD to leave the room when it was on. Drove me mad.

  7. Brigitte Says:

    Oh, thank you for saying you don’t sort the laundry, Chris! I always thought I was the only one throwing everything in at once to save time, and I felt like I was a bad, bad wifey for it. Yay!

  8. Susanne Says:

    I’m all for the routines nowadays. You know, I always was the chaotic and “artistic” one. Then I realized that I actually love having a clean and tidy house. When we had our son, I thought we didn’t need any routines, but I was so wrong.

    For two years now we’ve had designated meal- and bedtimes. Every morning after breakfast I go through the house, pick up and clean a little. Every Friday is big cleaning time for about an hour. It’s marvellous. The house looks good, I feel good, work time is work time and playtime is playtime.

    (Oh, and with laundry it’s “when the basket is full do one or two loads in the morning”, sometime later in the day hang up, and one or two days later I fold it right there on the drying rack, put inot a hamper, put away immediately. Each laundry step takes about 5 to 10 minutes. (No ironing around here. Sorting is diapers, light and dark.))

  9. yannayoga Says:

    Hi. I enjoy your blog. I have a question. I only have two kids now (10 months and 3.5, both boys), but I hope for a large family. My main problem now is with naps for the 3.5 yr old. He wants to give them up, but I feel like we both still need them. I don’t really know what is normal, as I have little experience with kids. I don’t want to keep making him have quiet time (which is sometimes scream time) if it is gonna traumatize him, but I need that time so the baby can sleep. What do you do when your children are this age? When do you get to have a cup of coffee and read the paper? Am I wrong to need this time to myself?
    Oh, and I noticed that you cloth diaper. I am doing it with this one and love it. Do you have any previous posts discussing it?
    Thanks, Johnna

  10. LynnElizabeth Says:


    Please forgive me for jumping in and posting this in response to your question about naptimes. You are not wrong in needing that time to yourself.

    My sister faced the same dilemma with her oldest. She went to the library and got some stories on tape and CD and assembled enough to last 30 minutes. Her son now has to stay in his room for 30 minutes to listen to the story or stories on tape. When the story or stories are done, he is allowed out if he is still awake. Most libraries have a lot of this kind of stuff, so you can assemble several tapes, etc. for a very low cost.


  11. yannayoga Says:

    Thanks Lynn. I love that idea, and I’ll try it.

  12. jean Says:

    So all this and cloth diapers …. crazy … No I have five and love the cloth too! I love your practical approach I think to many mom’s over think stuff and If they just realize they signed over there life for the next 18yr and jsut get over it things would go much smoother (I am kidding of course)
    But I applaude your down to earth realistic advise
    now I have to go take on the next 5minutes!


  13. jean Says:

    I don’t think I meantioned the fact that I have a maid who comes everyother month and I consider the cost as part of our homeschooling expenses.
    I am still way ahead of private school cost and alittle happier!

  14. Joanne Says:

    Some great suggestions! I found that I could unload the dishwasher in 3 minutes if I was quick. I could squeeze that in while I was waiting for the bread to toast. Like you said, little tasks such as your suggestion of the sink/toilet while the kids are in the tub. I kept a book in the kitchen and while waiting for water to boil, I’d read a page or two.

  15. carrien Says:

    Since that post you quoted here about putting time with your kids on your list, and having a list, life has gotten way better around here. I had no idea how much it would help me to write things down, and decide what would happen during certain blocks of time each day. I’ve even written out which days to get which never ending cleaning tasks done, and it helps me to feel as though I’m getting something done, instead of justing treading water in a mountains of endless reptitive tasks. The best though is that I”m actually enjoying the time I spend with my kids, because I’m not thinking about the other things I need to be doing, I know I have time for them later.