Tips for a SAHM
I’ve been a SAHM (that’s Stay At Home Mom) for about 3.5 years as of this writing. I do not have it all figured out, but I’ve gotten a little better at maintaining some order. I cook most nights, keep a fairly tidy house, and do my best to teach my two kids through games and activities every day.
This is a practical sort of post. I considered including a lot of vague-yet-encouraging tips: Do your best! Show yourself kindness! Take care of yourself first!
Those are true, and I fully believe in supporting and encouraging other mothers. I do that regularly on my Snapchat account. I’ll include a little of that at the end of this post. But I am a super practical, left-brained gal, and I like suggestions that are straightforward, set in stone, and not hard to interpret. I like specifics, things I can take right now and implement in my day/life. The interpretive life hacks are just not useful for me. I’m not great with “drink more water.” I need to hear “drink 1 glass of water before each meal, between meals, and an hour before bed.”
So this is a list of actual tips that can be implemented now.
I’m not a home organization guru; I’m not a pro chef; and I certainly don’t have it all together. I’ll include the tips that I actually use and that work for me. Some are suuuuper elementary; I don’t want it to seem like I’m belittling anyone or assuming you’re all dummies… I just want to be super thorough!
If you’ve got other ideas that have worked for you, shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some quick bits of relevant info!
(1) I am 32 years old. My two kids are currently 3.5 years old and 10 months old.
(2) My house is pretty small, about 1300 square feet: 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1 large room that we’ve sort of split into a living area and a play area, 1 dining area, and 1 kitchen.
(3) I get asked almost daily how I keep a tidy house, how I find time to do this and that, how I get food on the table, etc. This is a big ole response to those questions.
(4) I’m a SAHM. I don’t know how well these would work for a WAHM or a working mom. I can really only speak from my own experience!
Here are all my tips for the SAHMs out there:
1. KONMARI. My first tip is a pretty big suggestion. Read the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. We have purged at least 50% of our “stuff” in the past year. Less stuff means less to clean up!
2. My motto for keeping a tidy house is “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” It works for everyone in the house. Alexander knows where things go. I know where things go. When something new comes in the house, it immediately finds its home. That way, when I’m going through the house and something is out of place, it doesn’t just get moved to a random pile. It goes back to its home.
3. Turn off the TV. Put away the computers and tablets. It takes some getting used to, especially if you’re used to “background noise”. But turning everything off (music, too, for us, unless we’re listening to it for a specific reason) is incredibly calming. Super young kids don’t yet have the same filters we do, so they actually process all the sights and sounds in their environment. We adults can tune stuff out; kids can’t really do that for a while. If you want your kid to concentrate on an activity, get rid of all the media and screens. It’ll help (after a while) with attention span and certain wild behaviors. Try it!
4. Every morning, I grab dirty clothes from the night before, and I put them in the laundry basket (which is by the laundry machines). If the basket gets to about 3/4 full, I run a load. Full disclosure: I wash everything (lights and darks) together. I’ve always done that, and I’ve not had any issues with colors bleeding or anything shrinking. Granted, nearly all of our clothes are cotton or cotton/spandex. But yea, that saves time. Now, if I DID sort, I’d just have two baskets, and I would sort them every morning. It would take an extra 30 seconds, maybe, but it would be easier in the long run.
5. Meal plan. Just do it! After a few months, it’s just second nature. Having an idea of what you’re going to make each day makes life easier.
6. Always have a backup plan for a stressful day. Have a few quick, go-to meals that you can whip up for lunch and dinner on a particularly long day.
7. Every night, think about what you’ll make for breakfast the next morning. If there’s anything you need to do ahead of time, go ahead and do it.
8. Prep your veggies! Take an hour or two on Saturday or Sunday and peel/chop the veggies you need for the week.
9. Get a pretty container or two for the annoying things that clutter up your counters. We have a pretty ceramic container with a lid that holds our phone and computer chargers. In the bathroom, I have a tiny woven basket that holds my makeup and fits perfectly in the one bathroom drawer.
10. Don’t worry about what a drawer/closet is supposed to be used for. For example, we keep our puzzles in the linen closet. And in one of our kitchen cabinets, we have a little basket where we put our car keys every day. (In the same cabinet is where we have an old metal can filled with writing utensils.)
11. Enlist your kids to help. There are a few toys that are quick to scatter (stacking cups, plastic balls, trains), but they’re also easy to put up. The balls go in a plastic storage box; the cups nest into each other; and the trains go in a large plastic storage box. The plastic storage boxes stack. They are always in the same place, and they always hold the same things. If I happen to find a random ball under the dining table, I can hand it to Alexander and say, “Can you please go put this in the ball box?” And he knows which box holds the balls and where it is because it’s always in the same place.
12. Save jars. Coconut oil, pasta sauce, jellies/jams, and more, often come in glass jars. Save them! I use jars to hold markers, craft supplies, and seashells, as well as leftovers.
13. Label things! If you use glass storage containers like we do (for food, anyway), you can use a dry erase marker to label what’s inside. If you don’t use glass, you can use a sticky note or piece of tape to mark what’s inside. That way, you don’t end up with a bunch of containers of random stuff that end up just getting thrown away.
14. Do chores in spurts. Start a load of laundry. A few hours later, dry it. A few hours later, fold it. A few hours later, by the end of the day, put it away.
15. Speaking of folding, keep a pretty basket next to your laundry area (if you’ve got the space). As you fold, just stick things in the basket. When you’re done, you can grab the basket and take it to the closet(s) in one trip. I’d use two baskets if I had two closets. We all share one big closet, so I just use the one basket.
16. Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher when you’re done with them. An overflowing sink is overwhelming, and you’re more likely to put it off. (I’m not sure what I would do if I were to wash by hand. We used to wash by hand, when we lived in DC, but I only had Alexander, and I didn’t cook that much back then.)
17. Open the shades on the windows when you wake up. Letting in the sunlight makes the house feel brighter and happier.
18. Go slowly. Let your kid(s) help do stuff with you, and if it takes 3x as long? Who cares? Usually it doesn’t matter. They have no agenda. You do. So as long as you’re not in a huge rush that day, let him or her peel the carrots.
19. Make your own all-purpose cleaner: about 1/2 cup of white vinegar, a couple drops of dish soap, a couple drops of peppermint essential oil (or lavender or… whatever else smells nice), and 5-6 cups of water. Put all that in a big spray bottle. This works for all surfaces, including glass. I spray it on the mirrors in the bathrooms, then wipe it off with a wet rag until I don’t see any of the soap bubbles anymore. Then I use a dry towel to wipe off the excess moisture, and when it dries, it’s totally streak and smudge free.
20. Clean the kitchen as you go. If you spill something, don’t just leave it! Spray it then wipe it down right then and there. And if you have an extra 5 seconds, move stuff off the counter and wipe down the whole counter.
21. Put stuff on the walls or shelves that make you happy. Fun frames. Goofy sculptures. I don’t worry anymore if it’s “adult” enough. If I think it’s cute or fun (and Cameron doesn’t hate it) then we put it up! You can (almost) always fill holes and repaint. You can always change a frame. Just give it a shot.
22. Hang an inspirational quote somewhere prominent. I’ve got a chalk board I keep in the kitchen area. Right now it has a Disney quote that I like: “People make bad choices if they’re mad or scared or stressed. But throw a little love their way, and you’ll bring out their best.” I rotate the quote (quotate!) to be something encouraging, usually about patience or love.
23. Babywearing. Some days Annabelle just does not want to be put down. So I stick her in the ring sling, and she just cleans the house or cooks with me.
24. Have a couple of tricks up your sleeve if you’re just at your wit’s end. If I’m about to lose it (or, cough cough, I already lost it), I have a couple of last resorts that I use. For Alexander, that’s either the iPad or Magic School Bus. For Annabelle, at her age, it is either the ring sling, nursing, or a snack.
25. Go somewhere. Even if the idea of getting everyone dressed and in the car or stroller sounds like a nightmare, it always makes things better for me. We go to the park or the library. It breaks up the day, gets us all a little sun and fresh air, and just changes the whole mood.
26. Stop talking, stop doing, stop having so many expectations. If you’re in the middle of saying or doing something you shouldn’t be saying or doing, just stop. Sometimes I get so frustrated, and I start saying something mean. As soon as I feel it coming out, I just close my mouth. And I leave the room. If I’m eating something crappy, and I realize I should not be doing that (for whatever reason), I just put it down and leave the kitchen. That goes for anything. We all have rules for ourselves, and if you notice you’re breaking your own rule, that’s cool – just STOP right then.
27. Here’s a vague one: really try to enjoy your kids. My 3.5 year old has a weird, 3-year-old sense of humor. Sometimes it’s just… strange. But I see how funny he thinks it is, and that’s hilarious. So I laugh with him. And when he tells me about how the train is riding over the paper, but the red one can’t because it’s red, and oh noooo it fell off the table and hit its head, and how it’s sad, I listen. And I ask questions. And I engage with him. At least I try to do that. Forming relationships with your kids is the most important part of being a stay at home mom (or any sort of mom!).
28. I walk around barefoot in my house. If I feel like there’s sand or dirt or something on my feet, I grab the broom and deal with it! Otherwise, I’m dragging it all over the house. Haha.
29. Alexander loves using the vacuum. He can get it from the closet, plug it in, set up the hose, vacuum, put the hose back, unplug it (and put the baby-proof cover back on), wrap up the cord, and stick the cleaner back in the closet. The whole shebang. So if I need something vacuumed, I just ask him to do it now.
30. Dance breaks. Pretty much every day, I just start singing and dancing. Both kids stare at me like I’m crazy usually, but sometimes they’ll join in and dance too. It might be Whitney Houston, or it might be the Hokey Pokey. Either way, I get as silly as I can, sing as loud as I can, and just have fun. It’s good for all of us.
I try to pray every morning and read my Bible when I think about it.
I try to stay calm and gentle with my kids.
I try to be encouraging to my husband. We chat throughout the day.
Some days are awesome. Others can’t end quick enough.
I ask for help (and prayer) if I need it. Some days I’m just so tired, so I let Cameron know before he gets home that I didn’t make dinner and that I’d like to go to bed early. He either makes dinner or picks up something for us. And most of the time, he’ll take over with Annabelle the next morning so I can get a little extra sleep. (I know not everyone has those little luxuries.)
Basically, I’m just doing the best I can, and I hope I didn’t come off as arrogant or uppity or better-than-you. I just wanted to share what works for me, and maybe it gives you an idea or two that will help you!