New Stay at home Dad -AKA- Domestic God - needs helpful suggestions on managing a home.

Hello, I'm a new Mr. Mom and finding it difficult to go from being in charge of several dozen people to being in charge of just a home with no one to boss around. The biggest problem is clothes. We have 3 kids and my wife has clothes everywhere. They usually go from the dirty hamper to the washer/dryer to the couch, never to be put up. This seems crazy to me. My problem is that I'm a pack rat and over the years I've acquired a lot of stuff - mostly useless - that I cannot bare to toss out. I'm trying to toss it out if I have not needed it or used it in over a year, but it is hard. Any suggestions? Maybe a book on house keeping for dummies?
Thanks RC
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Ah welcome to the wonderful world of being a SAHP!! First off, I'd recommend the group: alt.recovery.clutter VERY helpful for me, anyways, and obviously others as well. I'm currently a SAHP, and DH is working. I stay with the kids as well - DS(5), DD1(16 months) DD2(5 weeks) and DS1(6) is visiting often, but he lives in the suburbs of the city. Oh, and come the time when it gets warmer, I find I pick up other random neighbourhood children, sometimes as many as 4 or 5 at a time, and yes, all boys. As far as the laundry goes... Yuck. I absolutely hate doing laundry. It gets backed up like there's no tomorrow. With 2 babies, there's more than enough laundry to go around... I found a fairly simple system for doing laundry... I picked up 6 laundry baskets at the Walmart (and at the time, there was 6 different colors to choose from, so I went with one of each lol) I then moved a big, unused computer desk into the laundry room. I normally haul all the laundry down to the basement into the laundry room... I dump it all on the floor - all mixed and out of sorts. I then toss the laundry baskets on the desk and go through the laundry one item at a time, tossing them into whatever basket. Sometimes I do it on colors (darks, whites, lights, sheets, baby blankets, pinks/reds, etc) and sometimes it's so out of control that I just sort it in order of what it is - shirts, jeans, pyjamas, socks/underwear, etc. I then leave the baskets where they are and toss a basket in the washer. Wash that, put it in the dryer, grab another basket off the desk and throw that in the washer. I leave the empty basket at the door of the dryer, just for convenience. I then fold the clothes downstairs before going up, and then head straight upstairs to put it away before it can get mangled by pets or kids (or spouses!!) This seems to be one way that actually works for me, once I get it going. The problem is getting it going, however, but it's something that has to be done. I'd rather do something I dispise - like laundry - than send the kids to school in grubby, dirty, disgusting clothes!
As far as being a pack rat... I could really go on about that... The first step is to see and admit you just might be a hoarder! For me, if I haven't used it in 6 months (with the exception of holiday type stuff - like the giant roaster that isn't used except maybe Thanksgiving or Christmas, or Christmas themed dishes, Easter cookie cutters, whatever) it goes and I sort through everything. Here's where I really would recommend alt.recovery.clutter... VERY helpful with ideas, as well as offering much inspiration and motivation!

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We have a three-compartment free-standing mesh hamper from the Container Store in our closet, so we divide our clothes as we take them off. Easy for us, but we have no children at home anymore.
If it were up to me, I would never fold the clothes. We would just use them out of the laundry baskets. But my husband can't stand that. He puts away his and then shames me into putting away mine.
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"Donna in Texas" wrote

from the dryer. The kids tote their laundry to the basement and take their hangered clothing from the rack when it's finished.
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Mind if I ask at about what age you started this with your kids? I know ours are still a bit young for carrying and putting away their own stuff, other than socks and underwear, but I will get them doing their own laundry - or at the very least, helping out with it - as soon as they're tall enough to reach the dials and soap without making a huge mess! I just don't know when would be a good time to start getting them into the habit.
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6. They are now 13 and 11 and I have taught them how to use the washer but haven't yet insisted they do it. Won't be long, though :-)

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Heh... With all of us in this place, 3 compartments would never be enough, unless, of course, I was willing and able to do laundry every 2 days!

If it were up to me as well, I wouldn't fold either. There are times when I've grabbed clothes right out of the baskets, but I find that they get full of wrinkles, and... if I catch that darn cat in another laundry basket, someone might get a pair of kitten-mittens for Christmas ;) lol
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Congrats; go rent the movie, it's a fun brain-drain.

How'd you pull that gig?!
==> Laundry woes <= Take it as you make it; that's the only way I've been able to handle the Laundry Monster of Apathy. All three of my daughter-units will happily keep clean clothes strewn about their rooms' floors (often trampling it under foot for days), rather than put it away in the correct drawers or shelves. Gahdz ferbid actually hanging anything up!
I tried to outlast them but they proved that going to school looking like they were one giant wad-wrinkle wasn't a strong enough deterent. I've chosen to fold the clothes as they come out of the dryer and put them away.
Toys are much easier to control. I bring out a 44-gal janitorial-strength neon orange garbage bag. That single snapping noise as the bag opens is enough to bring even the most-entrance girl running to clean her room of toys.
You don't mention how old your kidlets are but since you're at home alone, I'll assume they're older. Perhaps off-loading some of the more-regular chores-domestique (dishes, table setting, vacuuming, or even folding that clean laundry) would allow you to focus on that clutter problem (said another packrat). Caveat: The kids probably won't do any chores like you. (Just like you don't do chores like your wife.) Allow the different methods of cleaning as long as the job gets done to your satisfaction.
Finally, doing an entire house in one day is overwhelming. Take a room at a time and then take a break (coffee shop, run at the local park, volunteer at your local school) to come back and take on another area. Pretty soon the clutter will have disappeared and you'll be setting up a routine of your own.
Lastly, find some other SAHP in your area. You'll find that becoming a hermit is VERY EASY. Nothing tanks a SAH experience like isolation.
The Ranger
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Although we are now two, we were once four (kids are grown) . I also had 6 clothes baskets, one for each of us, one for towels/linens, one to take things out of the dryer. There are several things I do to help me get the laundry done. I always set a timer on the stove or a portable timer for 45 miutes to get the wash load into the dryer and the clothes out of the dryer when it is done. This keeps me going all day and I get it done as fast as possible. The second thing is I NEVER leave clothes in the clothes basket. NEVER. I even fold socks as they come out of the dryer so they don't end up in a pile. I have a basket I put the socks in as they come out of the dryer, when the clothes are all folded I also fold what socks I can. And the third thing I do is I never leave the laundry room without a handful of clothes from the line I hang them on or a clothes basket to put away when I get up to the main floor. If I know I will not be able to get it all done I stop and don't put anyhing else in the washer. I hang clothes up immeddiaely, and with the timer I get there on time to get things hung up before they are all wrinkled. I also begin each day making the beds and picking up dirty clothes. I do wash two days a week now, but when there was four of us I did it three times a week. being organized like this with it makes it less of a chore. A least that is how I feel about it. When the kids were older they were required to put thier basket away and carry up their own clothes.
Hope this helps.
Autumn
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Regarding children's clutter::::::
I had a friend who had three children from pre-teen to 16.
They left their belongings all over the house and had to be repeatedly reminded to put them away.
The system just wasn't working. Nothing was being put away in a timely manner. Constantly a soccer ball in the hall, shoes under the kitchen table, etc.
Finally, wise woman, she cleared out a closet and installed a lock ---- the real thing, not flimsy. It was only opened with a key, which only she had.
After reminding the kids to pick up their things a reasonable number of times, those things that were still lying around in the "common areas" of the house were taken up and locked away in the closet. No arguing. The things just disappeared.
I don't know how the kids got the errant items back, or how long the items were to stay in the closet. I just know that her method worked for her family and changed the landscape of the "common areas" of the house.
That is a beginning---getting kids not to clutter up the den, etc., where others in the family have to live. Getting them to clean up their rooms is another topic, and much harder, I'm sure.
I don't remember having a big problem with my boys (who are now in their 30s) with this, but I'm sure it did come up with regularity---I just don't remember.
Today, kids (and adults) have too much stuff. We are good little consumers, just as Madison Avenue wants. We have stuff that isn't needed. Loads of stuff--multiples that you could never get around to using. Toys that they won't ever get around to playing with because they have so many. Too many toys is a distraction---I firmly believe. A few high quality toys that they really like and benefit from makes for better play and less clutter.
I am amazed, for example, at the number of expensive doo-dads that young parents have been convinced that are necessary for one little baby. Special this or that---multiple pairs of shoes for an infant who mostly wears sock booties anyway. Three weeks worth of dress outfits, etc., etc., etc. Three different kinds of strollers. A jumpy chair that hangs from the doorway, and also a windup swing that plays music and also a leaning seat that vibrates and can play music. A dome sort of thing for the infant to lie under and play with these hanging toys. And a windup thing above the baby bed that plays music and a box thing at the side of the baby bed to play with and look at. And not three stuff animals-----but 30. All of this for one bably.
I am speaking for boys here----I never raised girls, except the grand-daughters who come to stay for long visits. To me, a boy needs the following: a tree to climb, a bicycle, a dog, a swing or something of the sort, a bat, a baseball, a glove, a soccer ball, a basketball, a basketball net, a football, a few board games. Things like block sets and Lincoln logs and things to build and imagine. Simple supplies for drawing and coloring. Books of different types----animals, biographies, good classic children's fiction, and a few pop culture type books (Star Wars, etc.). And they need the books and stories that correspond to their family's religion (if that is appropriate for the particular family). And silly old-fashioned things like Mother Goose (when they are young) and classic fairy tales. But not so many books that there is clutter. ***Use the library. It is free. They will love it.*** That is pretty much it. I am leaving some things out, I'm sure, but those are the basic kinds of things boys need.
I have come to believe that a good toy is one that doesn't have a battery and doesn't plug into the wall. Don't sit them in front of the TV to see a dumbed down kid's movie----read them the original book instead. Read to them a lot, a lot.
Last year I special ordered an old fashioned kaleidoscope---tin with a thing to turn to make the patterns. These were great when we were children--making the patterns and watching how they changed in shape and color and imagining what the patterns resembled. Then I saw that two of my grandchildren have a kaleidoscopes that not only turn automatically, but also play loud peppy music. Isn't silence and thought and imagination and at least turning the pattern-maker yourself okay?
Kids (and adults) have too many pieces of clothing. Our boys had enough school clothes for about 7 days, play clothes, and one set of church/dress clothes (suits with tie and dress shoes). That was it. They shared one closet. And they were always some of the best dressed, most good looking kids around. Too many clothes means more storage space, more things to keep up with. I bought quality, not quantity.
Our boys did not have a TV or a telephone in their room. There weren't portable phones in those days, but if sneaking a portable telephone is a problem today, then the adult can take up all the phones at a reasonable time.
These days kids do need an internet connection and a very few well-screened and somewhat educational computer games. We had a computer in those days, but it wasn't the time drain that it is now. But if they were young today I would do two things::: the computer would be in a common area of the house (not in their bedrooms) and time on the computer would be limited to something reasonable.
The parent is in fact the head of the household and can regulate time the children spend watching television and on the computer. After one of my boys began watching too much television, I set a rule for school nights:::::after they got home from school, they could watch 30 minutes of TV as they had their snack. Then they usually went out to play, possibly for an hour or two and came back for homework and a real meal where we all four sat down together. That evening, they could choose to watch one hour of television or, if the choice was a movie, the entire movie.
This worked. I enforced it. We had the weekly TV schedule from the newspaper, and they would decide ahead of time what the evening program choice would be. **** Something interesting happened. Eventually they saw that there wasn't an evening program that was really worth a choice. So they didn't always watch the evening program or movie.
The house was our house, but under certain parameters. For example, Farrah Fawcett's poster came out----you might remember the very popular one where she was wearing a one-piece bathing suit, but it was very thin, and what she had under it was very evident. They wanted to get this poster. I said no. No. It was not suitable to hang in our house. Nor did they display anything else that didn't match up with our family's values. Their sports trophies were out, etc.---it was a very boyish room that they liked and that their friends liked. (Their friends were often at our house.)
One time one of the boys put up the "do not enter" sign. I sat down and quietly explained that we were the adults, and we wouldn't be told not to go in the room of a house we owned. Before we opened their door, we knocked---they had their privacy. And I neither of us ever went through their belongings snooping. We respected their need for individuality and privacy.
They had music. However, one day my younger son---a teenager by then---was playing some song by AC/DC. Again, that kind of music did not fit with the values of our household, and I went right in and took the tape out of his boombox. I said, "We will not have that kind of music in our house." My son said, "Well, I could just play that in my car." I said fine-----I had no control over that---but I did have control over what came into our household. And I took the tape. It was not a loud conversation. Just matter of fact. In fact, we didn't have much arguing in the house. They never saw my husband and I in a real arguement, although we had plenty of disagreements in private.
It is good to have activities and have the children involved with the church (or community or whatever suits you instead of religion) and with hobbies like sports, music, art, etc. But they really need time, a lot of time, for free play. They need to be able to play with others, decide for themselves what they'll play, how they'll play it, and what the rules will be. They need to collaborate and structure their own play. They need to decide for themselves how far apart bases will be, whether it's scrub or four bases, and who'll play what position. They learn so very much from this process---good communication, imagination, and a process for planning their time and decision-making. They need to get dirty, to play in mud puddles, to jump in piles of leaves.
I talk to parents today that have "play dates" and enroll their children in "gym classes" just to do ordinary physical play. I don't really understand that. Why be so structured as to have "play dates"? Whatever happened to a phone call or a knock on the door and the "Can Johnny play?" In today's world they would need to play in a fenced back yard or supervised playground or in the house. But they could play when it suits them rather than when an appointment book dictates.
We had a TV antenna with an electronic booster, so that we got several channels and good reception. Cable wasn't available in the area. I found out one day that cable television was coming to our neighborhood. I looked into it, found out what would be on the cable, and then I didn't say a word about it, not even to my husband. I just unilaterally made the decision that we would not have cable, because it had MTV, which was unsuitable for our family. That was it. And it was the right decision.
Well, I don't even know why I started writing all this. Occasionally I just like to remind parents that they are the parents and can set the standards and guidelines for their home.
Our boys were popular in school, very good students, reasonably good in sports, and had a balanced life. They both have wonderful wives today, are deacons in their churches, and have beautiful children. And they set standards in their own households.
I had a full-time job. And part of the time I was also in college getting an advanced degree. And for about nine months one time I had a rough part-time second job, with a flimsy little third job. I really don't know how we did it. I was lucky to have a good husband. We both had grueling jobs with lots of reposponsibilty. ...... It takes so much energy to raise kids ---so much energy to set the tone and then be consistent, consistent in seeing that they and we follow through.
They have thanked us over and over for the way they were raised. And other people all these years had asked how we did it---how we got such good boys. Part of it was luck and part of it was hard work and remembering that **we were the adults**, not their friends.
We have a group of young mothers (MOPS) who meet weekly in our community. When they decided to invite in a father who could give them pointers about good child-rearing, they asked my husband.
Our life was not perfect. We had illnesses and setbacks and disabilities and pretty much the normal run of things in American life. And we didn't always make the right choices. If we did something in a wrong way, we said "I'm sorry" to our children and tried to back up and re-think the situation. We were not perfect people--me least of all. But we were the parents, and parenthood was the most important and hardest job either of us ever had. Even though we all made lots of mistakes, we also told them we loved them a lot. We always hugged and said "Be careful--I love you" when they went off to school --- to college -- to marriage. We still do, although my husband and the boys shake hands instead of kiss.
When my younger son went to first grade, I took him in to his classroom for the first day of school. I got him settled a bit with his school supplies, told him bye, said hello to the teacher, and left. As I pulled the car out of the parking lot and got into the street to go to my own job, I realized that I had not kissed him. I drove around the block, parked, went to his classroom. The kids were still coming in, etc., and I went to my little boy and quietly kissed him, told him I loved him and that I hoped he had a good day. Then I left, feeling that I had helped get his day off to a good start, and knowing that I had gotten mine off to a good start.
I'm sure that I have offended just about everyone who reads this. But maybe a thought or two might be of help to someone. **Like I said, luck probably played a big part in our lives. I have known very dear and good parents who did all the right things--- probably more than we did-----but who still had children that were difficult and even had serious problems as adults. So I am not patting myself on the back. "I'm not tellin'---I'm just sayin.'"
I appreciate your patience if you have stayed this long to read.
Warmest Regards,
Donna
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==> Parenting responsibilities elided <= While there are many of the ideals I strongly agree with, the OP wasn't asking for parenting help.<G>
ObTopic: Don't try and be a super-dad Stepford wife. No one cares how organized or clean your house is unless it's your own mother. Clean a couch off, the clear the coffeetable of mail and newspapers, and provide the guests with hot coffee or tea. They're there to visit their friend, not compare cleanliness ratings. (Unless, of course, you invite the HOA president over for a visit.)
The Ranger
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The Ranger wrote:

You are right on both counts! Your advice is great for being self-confident enough to be yourself. That's the kind of person that people really feel comfortable visiting. We had a new CEO in my organization, and we were all concerned from rumors, etc. But I heard that his wife's house was always messy, and I immediately loved her. Ditto our pastor's wife.
I have a magnet on my fridge that says, "An immaculate house is the sign of a mis-spent life."
Donna
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On Wed, 29 Nov 2006 07:49:18 -0500, Ron Cliiborn

If you can afford it, Sir Pack Rat, hire a well-recommended professional de-clutterer. Could be the best bux you ever spent. They are trained to deal with your kind <g> where emotion dominates rationality.
Not that you're generally *irrational*, as your take on wife's clothes stream indicates the contrary.
A Google search with keywords like "household de-clutter" yields many hits.
Also these professionals may be listed in your phonebook or local newspaper.
Make it easy on yourself; relating to the kids is most important.
Aspasia
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