Making Sense of Madness


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This post was inspired by my daughter Sarah and her family, but really I think many of us can relate.


I got a text from Sarah the other day talking about how stressed out she is. She is working full time plus overtime, her husband is on midnights, they are moving into their first house, and then there’s that little guy up there. Robbie, my grandson, who just turned one.

She never gets to see her husband, he’s sleep deprived from coming off a midnight shift and watching Robbie all day, and then of course, there’s the house.

Maybe you’re not in that situation right now, but maybe you have been in something similar. At the very least, maybe some of my advice to her will help you, too.

There’s not much I can do about the work situation, and I could only help with the baby if I lived there, so let’s concentrate on getting a system in place that helps manage the house without too much time.

Years ago when my kids were small, I got a job to help out with finances. I worked a minimum of 40 hours a week – suits and heels – the whole corporate thing. All 3 kids were in either day care or after school care.

What saved my sanity was a card system developed by Pam Young and Peggy Jones a.k.a. the Slob Sisters. At the time, they had written a book called Sidetracked Home Executives which I love to this day.

I don’t know if either of them has ADHD, but they truly get us. My favorite quote from the book – because it’s SO true – is “We were never on time, but we always made a point to be late earlier.”

So, in a nutshell, here is how the system works.

This is really old school – using index cards and a card file – but you could update it to an electronic version if you’re handy like that. The My Homeroutines app (Apple only) is very similar to this system and Flylady’s which also seems to be based on the same idea.

The old version had you assign a theme to each day: a heavy cleaning day, a light cleaning day, errand day, even a baking day(!).

Then you list each cleaning task for each room, one per card. So the kitchen cards might be: unload dishwasher, lead dishwasher, hand wash as needed, wipe down table, wipe down stove, sweep floor, mop floor, clean out fridge, etc.

Then each card gets marked as a daily, weekly, or monthly task. Tasks that take ten minutes or less are also noted. Then each card gets filed under the proper day. Daily cards get filed in today’s file. Weekly ones get filed according to your heavy and light cleaning days.

It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t.

I had 3 kids, a full time job, and a house that was spotless and orderly, including the basement.

Here is a video I made explaining the process.

For Sarah and her family, I would suggest something a little bit easier.

Weekdays are mostly about taking care of the baby, seeing the hubs when you can, and keeping up with daily stuff. If the kitchen and bathroom are clean, you’re good to go.

I think doing a load of laundry daily is a good way to keep up. Sarah’s family is small, so they may not need to do laundry that much. It’s super easy, though, to get into the habit of throwing a load in before work and then putting it in the dryer when you get home.

If you get it folded and put away, cool. We’ve lived a good deal of our lives living out of laundry baskets and I’m OK with that. Sanity first, folded laundry later.

On the weekend, when she and her husband are home, they can work on unpacking and heavier type cleaning. We’re not looking for a house Martha would approve of, just one that’s reasonably clean. If the laundry gets done during the week, then mopping, vacuuming, and dusting should be all you need on the weekend.

As for dinners, simple is best, especially during the week. I’d suggest she keep a few pantry meals on hand, plus some simple things like chicken cutlets that are quick and easy to prepare. Add a salad or veggie and call it done.

In general, it’s all about taking care of the basic needs. A clean kitchen and bathroom, clean clothes, and food to eat. Oh and spending some time on Sunday to look ahead and prepare for the coming week.

Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle is the writer of and the Podcast host for An ADD Woman.

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