Fighting for a Routine

October 15th 2010 / 2 minutes to read

I am not an organized person. I crave a schedule and routine, yet fail to implement one.

Every single night is a struggle to figure out what to make for dinner, even after trying for MONTHS to attempt to menu plan. The only thing I do “right” when it comes to dinner is that we ALL sit at the table, no television, and have a family meal that I cook from scratch.

I am fantastic at coming up with wonderful ideas. I just seem to be unable to implement them. I can get obsessive reading homemaker and home blogs. I always think if I just had a bigger house like “normal” people. You know the kind, two stories, all wood floors, a huge kitchen, all filled to the brim with bright natural light… That if I had that I would be little miss homemaker extraordinaire. Starting with a fresh empty beautiful slate.

I get overwhelmed really easy when it comes to cleaning as well because even though I oddly enough enjoy the task itself, I tend to get very perfectionist about it. What’s the point of just picking up the floor when it needs to be scrubbed, the walls need to be painted, we can’t even afford paint, so why bother cleaning at all? It’s very fatalistic and I know that.

It’s hard too, meshing my “ideals” with Keith’s. I tend to lean towards wanting things more minimalistic because I figure, if I don’t have much, it will be easier to keep tidy. However he likes his stuff! I think my issue does come from never really having my own room (not even in the womb!), never having my OWN place from the start, (I always move in to someone else’s home, Keith’s father built this house), and I have a certain idea of how I want things to look.

So what advice do you have to offer someone in my situation? How can I get control over my life, my home, when I’ve tried in the past, and failed?

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I really only have one advice: Stop trying to do everything. Prioritize those things that really are important. If you need a menu system, set aside half an hour on Sundays and get it done. I’m pressed for time as well, so I know what you’re going through. I think it’s admirable that you’ve gotten as far as home cooked meals and no TV. That is a far away goal in our household, because I’ve got a lazy, spoiled, TV-addict for a husband :D.

Reply to Linda

It’s weird, I was MUCH more organized when I was a single working full time mom to one. Now that I’m a SAHM to two boys… I don’t know what to do anymore!

Oh yes. Granted now my oldest demands “stories” of our lives every single night and considering my crazy past, there’s not much I’m willing to share yet lol.

I LOVE television but not on all day, all night, just because, background noise, etc. I think after years of it with DS1’s bio-father, it really just grates on my nerves. I need quiet time lol.

As for dinners, I LOVE to cook and bake. I just have a hard time figuring out WHAT to cook/bake lol.


I was as well. Well, maybe not. But at least it didn’t matter, and I had more energy. Now I have a three year old daugther in addition to the husband :)

Reply to Linda

LOL I can understand that, my little one started walking at ten months so I feel like I’m busy chasing him around ALL DAY!

I struggle with this, too. Before the second baby came along last November, it was way easier – my house was mostly presentable (even on the bad days), I never slacked at the grocery, I meal planned breakfast, lunch & dinner. Then Ari was born and all that went to shit!

My house is a wreck (embarrassingly so), I’ve lost my desire to cook regularly. I look at the task at hand and tell myself that I’ll do it later (and it never does). I always come to the same conclusion: I can mop another day, but I can only spend time with my kids when they’re small, once. My toddler’s almost 3, the little guy’s a few weeks away from being 1. The past few years are blurry from nursing and birth and pregnancy and exhaustion. I want to enjoy them while I can, while they’re little!

I *do* try to find one new recipe a week. We may have old favorites or go-to meals the rest of the week, but I dedicate one meal for something new. It helps keep things interesting without falling into a huge rut. Even if it’s just a different marinade for the chicken, it’s NEW!

Oh yes. I very much want to enjoy my time with my boys, but I get so very overwhelmed by everything. I just want to be one of those super productive mothers and… I feel like I’m failing by NOT being that way.


A few years ago, someone in the family told me that my mother in law had recently been lamenting not spending better quality time with the kids, playing with them, enjoying them. She was always too focused on keeping the house sparkly clean, and my father in law traveled a ton for work and it was stressful. Again, she stressed that she spent too much time cleaning her house, and not enough with her kids. Then she paused (and I can picture her tilting her head to the side) and said, ‘Kathy? Kathy spends a lot of time with her kids.’ HAHAHAHAHAHHA.

Reply to FoxyKate

LOL Love that!! I don’t think I could even get to an ultra perfect home, but I do tend to feel that when the house is cluttered/dirty that I feel that way too.


I wish I could offer you some advice but I often do the same thing and it is so frustrating. I hope you find a way to get everything organized.

I’ve always been told to do one thing at a time and add things as I go along and become accustomed to everything. I think my biggest problem is that I take on too many tasks at once.

Also, nice picture.

Reply to Caity

It really is frustrating! Oh yes, I want to do everything at once. I am totally one of those “go big or don’t go at all” type!

Wow, Sarah, we are struggling with a lot of the same issues right now.
I just became a SAHM in April after being a workaholic mom for 12 years. I have been struggling to create some sort of routine for myself to stave off boredom and depression. I spend 1/3 of my day cleaning, 1/3 of the day on the internet, and 1/3 of the day just staring off into space wishing I was at work. LOL
I hear you on the menu planning. Before I quit working, we usually ate take out or went out to dinner. I have been trying to get a menu plan down and it doesn’t work…this month, I have tried to go grocery shopping with a plan. Each container of meat I buy, I think “what can i make with this?” and then buy the sides. For instance, if I buy ground beef, I go buy a jar of sauce and a box of noodles. If I buy chicken breasts, I buy a bag of potatoes and a package of carrots…that way, even if I didn’t plan what to make for dinner, I have choices and will have everything I need.
I recently bought the house my father grew up in – my grandparent’s first home when they got married. There are a TON of updates to be done and I am not quite happy with the layout…since I quit working, I can’t afford to do all of the updates we originally wanted to do, but I clean that sucker every day and it makes me happy. I might not like the stupid arches in each bedroom, but I’ll be damned if its not dust-free. LOL It makes a big difference.
You mentioned not being able to afford to buy paint. I don’t know if you have a lowes or home depot near you, but mine offers pre-mixed paints that people decided they didn’t want at a lower price than the normal paint. Sometimes they are nice colors, the people have just changed their minds.
Good luck!

Oh yes! I have grand ideas, I can even write them DOWN, however when it comes to waking up and going “what’s for dinner”, the “plan” never “sounds good”.

Yes I love quote marks “”””” lol.

OH our bathroom was an “oops” paint from HomeDepot I believe! Problem is the walls need repairing too especially in one of the bedrooms due to previous roommates Keith had after his father died.

Also, SO much of the condition of the house stems from when his father died. His mother shut down emotionally and it wasn’t until I moved in that he really started to process everything (it happened 12+yrs ago) and clean out the office and other rooms.

It’s a slow process for sure. I just wish there was something I could do in the meantime myself!


I don’t know that I’m a paragon of organization or anything but I have learned some stuff that has helped me if I STICK TO IT.

Sunday is my “re-organizing” for the coming week – I just take a few hours here and there to re-set: making sure everyone has enough clothes & underwear for the week, doing my meal plan (which isn’t a PLAN so much as it is just looking at the calendar and figuring out which nights need to be easy.) Thursday is always pancake night, and I’ve started just putting in “soup & sandwich” and “pasta” night – that just gives me a very basic idea of something to do without it being a laundry list of ingredients & overwhelming preparation. Then, that day, I can figure out if I have the time/energy to whip up something awesome and delicious centered around pasta or a homemade soup, or if I am just going to phone it in with grilled cheese & tomato soup. I also try to compare it to a preliminary schedule of my husband’s – if I know he will be home for dinner, I’ll prepare to make stuff for real. If it is just me & the kids, we’ll keep it simpler. And instead of worrying about serving the MEAL as all balanced & healthy, I just keep fresh fruit, smoothie makings, and the vegetables that they like raw & cut up on hand so that I can round stuff out if it needs it.

Grocery shopping gets done on Sunday nights after everyone goes to bed. I hate flylady, but from her I have learned that a load of laundry a day (or in my case, 3, but the fancy front-loaders we invested in and put on the 1st floor in the kitchen make that WAY easy) and that cleaning up the kitchen after dinner and running the dishwasher even if it’s not fully loaded (sorry, earth) are key to starting a new day feeling fresh & not overloaded by the previous day’s crap.

I straighten the counter & wipe it down in the bathroom once a day, which makes actually cleaning it much easier.

I think, though, and this is probably a HUGE point – that my kids are older than yours. This is the first year that my oldest three are in full day school this year, and that’s pretty revolutionary in helping me to get shit done. After they get on the bus in the AM, I pop on the electronic babysitter for my 3 year old and do my 2nd floor routine – just pick up any dirty clothes that didn’t make it to the hamper, make my bed, take my shower. By the time a show is finished, I’m back with her and can hopefully get something else done on the first floor. Being able to keep stuff relatively straightened up during the day makes a huge and noticeable difference in when I am able to get a deeper clean in.

I didn’t wake up as a SAHM knowing how to manage a household. Hell, eight years into it, I still feel like I’m making it up as I go along – but all that stuff that I just wrote up there is stuff that I realized helped me wake up not dreading the day or the mound of crap I had to face. I forget a lot. And then I do it, and I remember. Even now, I know that making the components to everyone’s lunch at night makes my mornings 110% better. But still, every damn night, I choose laying on the sofa with my husband in a heap of exhaustion rather than just plugging through those extra 10 minutes.

I don’t know if you can take any of that missive that I just wrote and look at your own house & your own situation & make use of it, but I hope you can!


Reply to FoxyKate

I had to laugh because having a two story house with all wood floors just means giant dust bunnies lurking in every corner and stairs to clean in addition to everything else. Heh.

My husband is more of all or nothing type cleaner and organizer than I am, but we still get caught up in never cleaning things out (like the garage or extra bedroom/storage room) because he can’t focus unless he can do the WHOLE thing. I try and focus on small, easy to accomplish tasks so at least I feel like I get something done.

As for menu planning, my mom was a strict menu planner when I was growing up and I asked her how she stuck to it and she said that she would rather fix and eat something she didn’t really feel like than go to the store all them time.

Reply to Amy

Some part of it is acceptance and and the other part is baby-steps.

I think by writing this you grasp a lot of the problem, duh, but seeing it and accepting it are different. You have to accept that there is a degree of dissonance between what your mind sees as acceptable (perfect/finished) and what is reasonable. Life demands that you live with it in any state, but cleaning up somewhat, even if not perfectly or with freshly painted walls, will help you feel more at peace with the surroundings. You have to force yourself to be okay with it, which is no small or easy feat! I’m a perfectionist by nature too and have had this very struggle myself!

The baby-steps are just the small milestones for you personally on your journey to acceptance. You see the problem and you know there’s a solution, but thinking about it with smaller victories along the way can make it easier to do. This week maybe you write a schedule for cleaning [short list really, like Monday: vacuum living room/hall, Tuesday: dust shelves in bedroom, etc] and loosely try to follow it. These shouldn’t be detailed lists or include daily required chorse like dishes; that would be a waste of time to write imo. Next week you make a schedule and make sure to follow it at least 1 or 2 days (depending on how you did before). Eventually you stop writing schedules and see how it feels to get the tasks done in what has become a routine way with acceptable results. The big tasks like painting are special one-off projects. Keep them off of the schedule and you’ll learn to accept that fact… or that is the idea anyway.

This is all just an idea and probably not the right solution for most people, but maybe it’ll give you any idea to help. You’re a really strong woman, that much is obvious by all you’ve been through and where your life is now (which actually sounds pretty nice compared to the past). You can do this. (:

Reply to Audrey

I don’t follow all the Flylady stuff but I do a little take on her 15 minute schtick.

I spend 15 minutes on each thing that I map out per day. No more. No less. I get what I can get done done and the rest has to wait. That way, I work on it a bit each day but no one thing overwhelms my day. You soon find that you can get A LOT done in 15 minutes.

I felt a little foolish at first timing myself (stopwatch on cell phone) but now – it’s how I keep myself sane.

Oh I totally agree with you, a lot of times I will set a timer for my oldest son or even for Keith when it comes to cleaning because otherwise they can get distracted quite easily lol.


Hello Sarah dear,
I felt the need to respond to this because I may (or may not lol) have some pointers or things that have helped my situation. I, myself, am a very organized person. I was born that way and have no clue where I got it from. Even if I really, REALLY, REALLY don’t want to do something because I’m exhausted or drained of all energy, I just make myself start doing it and, eventually, I won’t be able to stop. Example: I HHHHHATE cleaning the bathroom. Absolutely HATE it. It may take myself 5 minutes of mental convincing, but I will get up and start by spraying down the counters. The rest then gets done. I am the type of person that hates leaving things half done. Even if a job is supposed to take 2 days, I will deliberately try to get it done in one. I am also the type of person that will freak out if I notice things are getting cluttered. I’ll be fine for a couple of days, then BOOM, it’s like a one of those angry missiles from super mario flying around in my head.

ANYWAY, my advice, in your situation, is to try and get a room done a day. And when I say done, I mean things picked up, garbage thrown out, etc. This way once you get all the rooms nice and organized, you can easily maintain it, freeing up time. I know for me, coming home to a clean house is always relaxing, and encouraging, and makes me feel loads better.

It’s just a matter of doing what you know has to be done, and the longer you sit on it, the harder it will become to actually do it.

Okay, and scheduling, well, I don’t really have advice for you because my schedule is Work, Eat, Sleep, every single day. lol.

If you guys ever need help getting the house in order, I am more than willing to help you! I love cleaning lol.

Reply to Jenn

Once I have the time (aka nummies is napping) I can get things done. For example, today I redid the linen closet, which I’m sure Keith will be thrilled about lol. I also did two loads of laundry, got rid of a ton of expired food and such.

Hopefully I can get a lot more done today so I can enjoy tomorrow more.


I totally love the minimalist philosophy. I’m going to give you a bit of advice, and it’s based on nothing more than a feeling about what you wrote. I don’t know your habits but it sounds a lot like you are like my mom.

Don’t do that. lol. What I mean is, she spends an inordinate amount of time explaining why she hasn’t done X or Y or Z yet. She spends a lot of time feeling GUILTY for not having done the things on her to-do list.

To-do lists are long, and time is limited. This we know. It’s not about scheduling out your every moment, but it IS about making the conscious decision not to guilt trip yourself. It has been 23 years listening to my mom feeling guilty about the state of our house.

Do what needs to be done, do what you want to get done, and never waste time explaining to yourself where your time goes. If my Mom had spent half the time with What Ifs as she does Doing Things, she’d have absolutely NO STRESS she always claims to have.

Reply to Sara

LOL you sound like Keith. He’s like “are the kids fed and healthy? Then you were productive”.

I just don’t SEE it that way especially when I see all these other SAHM who seem to rise at 4am and go to bed at 1am and have jammed pack amazing days that are FILLED with chores, activities, projects, etc. I just don’t GET IT.

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