New Mama Musings

Monday, November 06, 2006

Blessed Are the Listmakers

Before having Henry I was known for my organizational and frugal ways. Now, well, people may still think of me as having these attributes, but like the tears of a clown, inside I'm a mess.

It's easy to blame the baby; heck, I think I just insinuated that it was his fault. But the truth is that I got lazy. Sure, having a baby is overwhelming, tiring, and all-consuming. But I think if I'd had a better plan in place to keep our household humming, things might not have fallen apart so much.

This is not to say my home is a hovel. My wonderful husband has become adept at doing laundry and using the dishwasher, and he and my stepkids clean the whole house every other Saturday. But things aren't going as smoothly as they used to.

Pre-Henry I did almost everything in regards to keeping our household running. A few years ago, in a fit of feeling under-appreciated, I actually made a list of it all. This is what I wrote (feel free to skim):

Birthdays and Holidays
• Do all gift planning, buying & wrapping.
• Buy all decorations (except tree).

Budgeting & Bill Paying
• Maintain list of all accounts with contact information.
• Create & reconcile monthly budget.
• Track short- and long-term financial goals (retirement, debt-reduction, etc.)
• Reconcile checking & savings accounts with statements monthly.
• Transfer money between checking and savings accounts as needed.
• Keep track of & pay all bills.
• Do all banking: deposits and withdrawals for all cash needs.
• Do quarterly financial statements.
• Do research to try to reduce costs & find cheaper/free ways to do things.
• Maintain supply of checks.
• Maintain supply of stamps.
• Research & handle mortgage loan and refinancing paperwork as required.
• Keep records of all financial transactions.

• Keep track of maintenance schedules.
• Take in for oil changes.
• Arrange for other repair or maintenance.
• Take through car wash every few months and vacuum interior once or twice per year.
• Do research on any potential vehicle purchases.
• Take in for emissions testing.
• Do title paperwork.
• Take care of annual registration.

• Buy all clothes – shop around for best price & fit, do returns when necessary.
• Do all laundry – washing, drying, sorting, folding & ironing (when necessary).
• Also wash all sheets, towels & blankets, including taking oversized blankets to Laundromat once per year.
• Do all repairs as necessary – zippers, buttons, sewing seams, etc.
• Put out fresh towels weekly.

Grocery Shopping
• Do all grocery shopping, including doing comparison shopping, going through weekly sales flyers, & keeping track of coupons and rebates.

Home Cleaning
• Do the majority of all cleaning, including dusting, vacuuming, washing floors, cleaning bathrooms and changing sheets.
• Do daily straightening (make bed, straighten throw pillows, run dishwasher, etc.).
• Empty vacuum cleaner bag as needed.
• Make homemade cleaning products (vinegar & water disinfectant spray, powdered laundry detergent, air freshener, etc.).
• Do occasional “spring”-type cleaning (cleaning ceiling fan blades, washing inside of medicine cabinet, etc.).

Home Decorating
• Do all painting, including searching for colors and doing tests.
• Shop for furniture, curtains, rugs, & accessories (throw pillows, lamps, pictures, etc.)
• Hang curtains, shades, pictures, hooks, etc.
• Refinish furniture.

Home Maintenance
• Change furnace filters monthly.
• Vacuum refrigerator coils as required.
• Defrost upright freezer twice a year.
• Arrange for furnace & central air clean & check once per year.
• Touch up paint as needed.
• Do all gardening & landscaping.
• Wash porch furniture each spring.
• Research & shop for new appliances when needed (blender, dehumidifier, vacuum cleaner, freezer, etc.).
• Do minor repairs (caulking, fixing holes in drywall, weatherproofing, etc.).
• Research, get estimates from, and hire contractors to do any work I can’t do (tree trimming, plumbing, floor refinishing, lawn grading, etc.).
• Take care of indoor plants: water, prune, pot, and fertilize.
• Replace water filters as needed.
• Shop for all hardware needs.
• Flip mattress quarterly (with help).
• Test smoke detectors quarterly.
• Oil paper shredder every month.
• Clean fans each spring.

Insurance (Car, Home, Life)
• Shop around every few years for best possible deals.
• Research what coverage we need.
• Make sure we have adequate & up-to-date coverage, including calling with any changes.
• Pay all premiums on time & file proof of payment.
• Maintain inventory of home and contents for insurance purposes.

Insurance (Medical)
• Keep track of insurance statements & medical bills to make sure they reconcile.
• Call insurance company when needed to clear up a problem.
• Submit medical bills to flexible spending account for reimbursement.
• Submit stepkids’ medical bills to their mom & keep track of what & when she pays.
• Maintain records of all insurance & medical paperwork.

• Keep track of "kid weekends."
• Keep track of kids’ school schedules.
• Keep schools informed of our interest, rights & contact information.
• Order kids’ school photos and frame & store them.
• Set up chore/allowance/banking system for the kids.

Miscellaneous Household
• Sort through mail.
• Maintain supply of videos from the library.
• Maintain supply of ink cartridges for printer.
• Take donations in to the Salvation Army.
• Take scrap paper to recycling center.
• Drain/cut open product bottles (lotion, shampoo, etc.) to get last little bit.
• Set up organizational systems (medicine, Tupperware, freezer, etc.).

Shared Chores
• Do dishes/empty dishwasher.
• Take out garbage (kitchen, bathroom, laundry area).
• Keep track of garbage day.
• Shovel when needed.
• Fill gas tank.
• Empty compost bucket.

Special Events & Situations
• Research and coordinate moves (three times in eight years), wedding, trip to Germany.
• Research things that affect our family (medical issues, tax audits & appeal, child support, etc.).

• Research tax law annually to keep up with changes.
• Do state and federal taxes each year.
• Keep track of paperwork needed to do taxes throughout the year.
• Make copies of tax paperwork & take to post office to mail.
• Maintain files of taxes.
• Calculate estimated tax liability for current year & do paperwork to have work withholding adjusted.

Excuse me while I go lie down.

Seriously, though, while I didn't do all of these things perfectly or all the time, I did them fairly well and at least some of the time.

Now? Despite my husband's much-appreciated contributions, things are spotty at best. And I've been thinking for a while now about how to get back on track.

This is what I'd like to tackle:

* Cook dinner several times a week.
* Update and maintain a price book.
* Keep on top of bills, the budget, paperwork, and the mail.
* Go through the house and de-clutter as much as possible.
* Have a routine for basic cleaning/straightening up/doing laundry.

And here I have to acknowledge what I'm sure some women are thinking: How sad that her goals revolve around domestic chores. Does she not have any higher purpose other than to cook, clean and take care of a child?

To that I would respond, I love my life. I love running a household and taking care of my family. I have other interests, sure, and as Henry gets older I'll have more time to pursue them. But for right now, I'm okay with where I'm at.

So stay tuned for more on New Mama's renewed zeal for housework in future blog entries.


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