When work and home are in the same space, separating the two can be tough to do. Eying piles of dirty dishes while trying to work is bothersome at best and at its worst keeps you from getting any work done. The two need separation like two siblings in the middle of a squabble. One of the best ways to separate work and housework, especially if you don't have a dedicated office space, is to maintain a schedule that slots out time for both. Here are five tips for balancing both work and housework in your schedule.
Set realistic expectations.
When I was first married, I used to clean the apartment all at once because I loved being able to sit down afterwards and relax in a clean apartment. Fast forward to two kids, a new work-from-home position and moving from a tiny apartment to a three-bedroom house and that's just not a realistic expectation anymore. Even if I had a stretch of time long enough to clean top to bottom at once, it wouldn't stay that way long with my 2.5-year-old tornado. I've changed my expectations—and I find it's much less stressful that way. Sure, the whole house isn't entirely clean all at once, but I'm (usually) able to keep up and I can still relax when I cross everything off my list for that day.
Determine what tasks are best done when kid-free.
My toddler is at the age where he loves to “help,” so there is a lot of household tasks I can easily tackle while he's awake and my two-month old daughter is napping. He'll do the dishes beside me, has his own toy vacuum and gets pretty excited when it's time to mop. He doesn't actually help, but he stays occupied and where I can easily keep an eye on him. Working while he's around is more challenging, so I save my work for when he's visiting his grandma or napping. How you arrange your work and cleaning schedule will depend a lot on your kids' age and the type of work you do. Finding tasks you can do while they're going through their daily routine helps too—for example, I straighten up the bathroom while he's brushing his teeth.
Decide how often each cleaning task needs to be done.
Depending on how many kids and pets you have and where they spend the most time, you probably don't have to clean every room, every week. In our house, the upstairs is pretty much off limits to the toddler and the dog, and the dusting can usually be done every other week. Vacuuming, on the other hand, needs to be done at least twice a week to keep the dog hair under control.
Make a plan.
Take a few minutes to sketch out a rough cleaning schedule—that will prevent you from wasting any free time deciding what to do first and help you know when you've done enough to prevent spending all weekend cleaning. I have childcare for two days out of the week (yes, even work-at-home-moms need help!), so that leaves three weekdays when I can get my household task accomplished. One day is reserved for getting the groceries, leaving two days for weekly cleaning. There's a few things I try to tackle daily as well—like the dishes and picking up toys. If you have any cleaning that doesn't need to be done weekly, alternate them—for example, I dust one week and Windex the next.
Make a back-up plan.
Both telecommuting and parenting come with a lot of unpredictability. So while it's good to have a plan, it's good to have a back-up plan, too. Scheduling housework or work on the weekends leaves me burned out, but I don't mind catching up on the weekends sometimes when things don't go as planned, or simply when the weather was nice Wednesday but called for rain all weekend.
Work-at-home moms often need a cleaning schedule just like moms who commute to work every day. Separating the cleaning from work by determining what times should be dedicated to each helps prevent dirty-house-guilt from taking over your work schedule. And remember to give yourself a break sometimes—no one has a clean house 24/7; and family should take precedence over those pesky cobwebs anyway.