I work from home and have 2 children under 2-years-old. I own a cinematography company and we have been so blessed to be so booked, BUT our house has been put on the back burner. I am really struggling keeping up with running a home — between daily chores and cleaning our home and feeling like we have SO MUCH CLUTTER — I have no idea where I will find the time to start decluttering.
Do I hire a cleaning service? Professional organizer? What can I be doing differently for long-term results? It feels like nothing is sticking and being home in chaos is starting to become more of a burden than a blessing.
— Molly, Arizona
Wow, you have your hands full! Mom entrepreneurs get stuck with the uncomfortable feeling that we’re supposed to be overjoyed about the fullness of our homes + businesses all of the time because we get to work on our own terms (often in our homes).
But, you’re right, being a work-from-home mom entrepreneur can be more overwhelming than your average outside-the-home work situation and here’s why:
The blessing of working for yourself is that you have freedom and flexibility to come and go as you please. You’re not forced to stick to a routine by demand, so you likely don’t.
And while that’s a great freedom to have — and why most people start their own businesses in the first place — it’s not a sustainable freedom 24/7 because the not-so-fun tasks get pushed to the side and accumulate.
When you’re working from outside of the home on a predictable schedule, you have more structure that blocks out a window of time for you to get the “ugly but necessary” done by default. Knowing you have a finite amount of time to achieve something like housekeeping makes it more likely to happen.
So knowing that, my first recommendation is to list your top 3 pain points for everyday chores.
List Your Top 3 Pain Points for Everyday Chores
For example, let’s take:
1. Starting the laundry but forgetting to switch it over, then having to run the wash twice.
2. Leaving dirty dishes in the sink for too long.
3. Tripping over toys in a messy family room when the kids have gone to bed + you finally get alone time.
Then anchor one solution to something that happens everyday.
Set Pulses for Consistency
I call these solutions “pulses” because they keep the beat of our house consistent — and you need consistency to maintain equilibrium at home.
My pulses with a 1.5 year old look like this:
Pulse #1 — Laundry
I have a coffee every morning without fail, so I anchor my laundry routine to that. Coffee in one hand, laundry in the other. Maybe you have coffee in the morning — that could be your time to start a load of laundry. Then when you have your afternoon drink (maybe a green juice?) — that’s your reminder to switch the load over to the dryer. Before you have your evening drink (tea, Natural Calm, wine?) — that’s your reminder to pull the clean clothes out of the dryer and fold.
Now, I got to feeling like no matter how I anchored laundry routines into my day, I felt like I was doing laundry my entire life. So, laundry was actually the second thing I outsourced (after landscaping/yard work/plowing).
To give you an idea of how that works: My laundry guy — Andy — drives past my house every Monday and Thursday morning without fail. If I leave laundry bags outside my front door on Monday, he’ll swing in to pick them up and if he has any cleaned laundry ready for me from the Thursday before, he’ll leave it folded at my doorstep in it’s place.
Then the same thing happens on Thursday. He’ll pick up any dirty laundry bags on Thursday morning, and leave me Monday’s clean delivery in it’s place. So now I’m only responsible for putting the laundry into the drawers. So every Monday and Thursday morning, I have my coffee and put the laundry outside and that afternoon, I just put the laundry into the drawers.
Pulse #2 — Dinner Dishes
You will likely eat dinner every day and you’ll likely have dirty dinner dishes as a result. Anchor your dirty dish cleanup to the pre-eating. I found that I was so much less likely to clean up the kitchen after a busy day when I waited until after dinner to tackle them. But I would be incentivized to clean up quickly if I had food waiting for me. So there’s 2 rules I go by for this: a) a good chef always cleans up, and b) empty sink/full belly. Whoever cooks is responsible for cleaning up as they go. Sometimes pans are too hot to throw right into the sink, but we have the kitchen otherwise completely wiped down + the sink emptied + dishwasher nearly ready to go all before we sit down to eat. We speed through this process because we’re hungry + want to eat. Even the toddler helps!
Pulse #3 — Toy Clean-Up
Our family room is the center of the house. This means it gets the most use, the most love, and, therefore, the most mess. Most days, I’m able to clean up the first activity before taking out the next, but there are days when that strategy just gets away from us.
On those especially messy days, my husband + I each pick an upbeat song to be the soundtrack + “timer”. Our silent goal is to finish before the music is over. If we’re making a snack, we’ll preheat the oven, etc. and then he puts away as much of the visual toys as possible, while I speed vacuum the cleared surfaces. We end with one of us bringing in our adult snacks as the other one finishes wiping down the coffee table with cleaner. It’s like a little pregame dance we do before sitting down to a movie or conversation or reading. And it makes for such a peaceful setting that we especially deserve after those chaotic days!
If the baby takes much longer to fall asleep, my husband will start on this routine while I’m still in the bedroom with baby. Ask your partner for that tag-team approach. Consider what rhythm or dance you can get into with some assistance and make that a prerequisite to any sit-down or snacking you’re looking forward to. That single decision can help you wake up to a clean slate every morning — and that’s priceless! If your kids are older, then make this routine part of their bedtime prep for an even faster result.
Purge During the Pulse
As you go through your daily pulses — the more efficient routines of what you’re already taking time to do anyways — purge the items causing more chaos than convenience. Do you really need the pieces of clothing with the “special” washing instructions? Do you actually use the set of 40 kitchen knives on the counter, or do you spend more time dusting around it?
You’ll be surprised how much headway you can make everyday by asking yourself “how is this serving me?” and keeping a donate/sell box by the door. I personally follow Marie Kondo’s advice in The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up and highly recommend if you haven’t tried that yet, too!
Purging takes no extra time. In fact, it’ll likely take the same or less as the days pass. It’s worth “dealing with” another 2-4 weeks of controlled chaos before introducing the professionals who will beautify the space.
Invest in Quality Help
Only once you have these pulses in place, will you find your return on investment in a housekeeper + home organizer worth it. Otherwise, you’re just going to undo what they’ve done so much faster than you’d have intended.
Keep in mind: most housekeepers set your rate based on the amount of “stuff” they have to work around, because it takes them substantially more time to navigate the disorder.
You might find hiring a Mothers Helper — a high school student who can be at the house while you’re working — might be a great option for helping you with maintenance chores between the professional organizer + housekeeper, too.
I love that you are stepping up to outsource and ask for help, and I hope that this suggested order helps you to get the most long-lasting results for your hard-earned dollar.
And one more thing…
I had this deep-seated in my head that if I asked for help, or — God forbid — paid for help in homemaking, that I’d be a less-than homemaker. The women in my family could pull off being Betty Crocker without the assistance, why couldn’t I?
The reality is that not doing asking for and paying for help made me a less-than version of the homemaker I wanted to be… I could’ve put this strategy into practice a long time ago with ease had I identified my mental blocks to doing so in-advance.
Take some time to get out in front of your own personal judgments about homemaking to make sure you don’t self-sabotage partway through.
And now you’re well on your way!