24 February 2010

Some practical Gen-Xing on keeping it all together

My kitchen and I have come a long way. When I first started this SAHM thing, my kitchen was little more than a badly-lit set for some laughable B-rated action: breakfast snarled and clawed up the toaster in its impatience to begin; lunch slapped me together in a crumby sort of frenzy before yielding to the drippy sneers of an incorrigible supper that slumped out of the oven slightly cold in the middle; and snacks followed me around at all hours, a score of moaning undead with barely-hinged jaws that clacked restlessly as I trembled around with crackers and cheese.


Welcome to homemaking. I'm going to eat you.

It was all I could do to stumble, trapped and incompetent, from stovetop to table all day long. The struggle was too insistent and necessary for a person like me—a person whose home making IQ is well below average—to manage with ease.

But now, three years after taking up full-time homemaking, I can say with some degree of certainty that my kitchen is fine. The dishes are done! The floor is swept! I cook edible things! People vocalize yummy sounds over what I serve!

Wanna know how it happened? One freaking dead mouse under the refrigerator at a time.

But more about the dead things later. If I were savvy and svelte, I might gloss up the story of my Cinderella kitchen and sell it to you at $15 an e-copy. As it is, I’m just going to spill my secret: persistence. That’s it. I don’t have a cleaning schedule, a meal plan, a codependent crock pot, or a magical soap scraped from the left flank of a dragon. What I have is a family that needs to eat and a brain that learns from its mistakes and enough time in a day to plot the fastest route between point A and point B. I still have some distance to cover before I’m “yummo,” but I’ve got the beasts in the kitchen tamed and at my heels. Down, Dracula, you ridiculous idiot; I’m baking here.

So what’s it to you? Well, if you’re already some incarnation of Hestia, nothing. But if you’re a homemaking refugee, I’m here to tell you that if I can make my own tortillas, keep the sink from smelling bad, and do preventative scrubbing behind the refrigerator, so can you. And you really don’t need to buy a book, apron, or indulgence from that woman who insists, with probably truth, that she has it all together. So what if she has it all together? If Mrs. Together was apprenticed to a master homemaker in her childhood, if homemaking is in her blood, then her daughters are in luck but that’s about it. Or if Super Woman managed to fight off her personal household demons hour by carefully scheduled hour, then good for her; she killed her own slothfulness and ignorance with so many silver bullets. Of what use is her packaged system to you? You aren’t going to be working in her house. You knead, scrub, slice, and cry in your own house, and you are smart, strong, and sensitive enough to figure out how to keep that house in order on your terms, to your standards, using your own methods. With every failure you learn, and with every success your household becomes that much better.

Forget all those imposed ideas of Happy Home. Build your own happy home, and do it this way:*

  1. Pray for strength, patience, and perspective. And when you want to dump supper directly on the floor and yell, “Good luck eating THAT! I’m going to drink a few mimosas . . .” pray again.
  2. Eat. For crying out loud.
  3. Take each day as it comes: break what needs breaking, boil what needs boiling, punch what needs punching, and you’ll be fine.
  4. Laugh. The exercise of homemaking is really funny, when you stop to think about it. Don’t take the dust balls so personally.
  5. Take it one room at a time; you don’t need to have every corner free of monsters in order to get through a day. If your kitchen is out of control, forget the kids’ closets for a year and work on the kitchen. If your laundry room gives you the creeps, forget about the basement and work on the laundry room. Take it easy, and keep your focus. The neglected rooms will still give you fits, but bide your time, examine your methods, establish your criteria, and you’ll get around to rooting out your troubles.
  6. Remember that the cheapest option is the best option; i.e. don’t buy new storage bins for all that junk, get rid of the junk. Or go ahead and buy the storage bins. What do I know about it?
  7. White vinegar. Wow, that stuff is versatile.

Stakes at the ready, girls—it’s time to kick some homemaking tuckus. Now that my kitchen is secure, I feel like giving some laundry the stink eye. Talk to me in another three years, and I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

*Or don't. Now send me $15.

15 comments:

Bikermom said...

I think I need to post this list on my old blog Karin's Chickens. I see things that way too. Happy my 9 year old cleared the counter this morning and maybe we might wash the stove top down.......or not. Off to grade papers.......

Glenda said...

Nice.

Melrose said...

Wanna come kick MY laundry's tuckus? :D

Off to make some bread...if I can get past the piles of TY notes that need writing.

Rebekah said...

One room at a time? Why didn't I think of this? And how does one scrub behind a refrigerator?

Elephantschild said...

That's what the skinny arms of girls under the age of 10 are for, Rebekah --reaching into small, cramped, disgusting places.

If needed, use large solid color sheets covering the stuff that simply makes you angry while you deal with the stuff that makes you apoplectic with rage.

Untamed Shrew said...

I like #2. I used to value a clean kitchen to the point that I'd get mad if someone ate and dirtied a dish. Now I don't give a rip. Dishes and laundry will NEVER be "done", and that's okay.

Dakotapam said...

amen...

Kelly said...

Gauntlets, I love you!!

If we hadn't have been dealing with unemployment for 6 months, I'd totally send you $15.

Gauntlets said...

Rebekah: Fury makes us strong.

Melrose: Yes, but I would have to bring all my kids with me. You and I both know how that would turn out. :D

Kelly: Aw, gee. :) How about I send you back your baby wrap and we call it even? :D

Marie said...

I still want to know about the mice under the fridge, or maybe not!

But seriously, I've tried to make my own tortillas with no mentor, and it hasn't worked. Please mentor me, Gauntlets, tortilla-style!=)

MooreMama said...

Gauntlets, The Mister still talks about your pizza crust and hamburger buns, and I still can't make either... now, you're making your own tortillas? I want to know how, please. I love me some homemade tortillas...

Rebekah said...

EC, :D

Jody S. said...

Great! But you forgot the best one...namely, have your mom come and clean your house! Mom's been here for 24 hours, and all the laundry is folded (if not entirely put away), all the dishes are done, the kids' room is clean, the bathroom is clean, table's wiped, etc. And she plays with the kids all day, too. Amazing. Hats off to Grandmas.

Reb. Mary said...

Doors. Doors are very important to #5.

And this post is very important to me :)

Anonymous said...

My daughter is studying at college and majoring in English. She is reading an assigned book called Housekeeping (I don't think the book actually has much redeeming value) anyways the professor asked today what housekeeping means. Several in the class said keeping the house tidy/clean - one person spoke up and said housekeeping is taking care of the entire house - it is more than just cleaning it is taking care of the entire emotional needs of the people who live in the house- gosh ladies we are really good at that definition - as mom's we are really good at taking care of the emotional needs of our families - the rest(cleaning) will come eventually - but when we are so good at this one area who cares about the rest? We have the definition down pretty well already. Debbie S.