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Household Stress – Easy steps that guarantee a reduction in housework

islamic household

“It’s just not working!” you say to yourself. Getting the house clean, homework checks and children ready for the next day of school, a meal prepared, laundry done, and a full day of work (either with younger children or out in the world) – it’s just not happening. These are sentiments that many parents feel, affecting both husband and wife. You’ll be surprised to know that the burden of keeping a clean house isn’t as daunting as it seems. Trust me, it’s very feasible, but as with anything, it requires a bit of effort to make it a natural process. So let’s get right to it.

Step One: Create a system

I will try to refrain from saying the “O” word because it invokes a cringing reflex. Creating a simple daily system based on your family’s needs is one of the fastest ways of being organized (okay, there I said it; the “o” word). By creating a system, you optimize your time and limit those unnecessary little things that take up too much of your precious time and threaten your sanity (finding the other shoe, coat, or sock, picking up toys, etc.) 

1) Get a coatrack and a shoe rack and then introduce everyone to it. Once they’re acquainted, use the parental touch (normally it requires making big eyes) and let everyone know it must be used. The child that “forgets” to use it will have an extra chore (I like to call it “double duty” – you’ll be amazed at how quickly they’ll remember after their first round of “double duty”).

2) Add hooks behind the bedroom door. Let’s face it, sometimes we all feel lazy to hang up our clothes, especially after a long day. Allow the option of hooking clothes up behind the door so they can be dealt with later. A collective, one day a week “tidy-up” for these accumulating things would be necessary (with all family members active, this is a 30-45 minute task).

3) A toy shelf – agreed, toys are annoying! Most of the time kids don’t really play with them, but because we’re such loving parents we will continue to get them in the hopes that it might inspire some sense of passion for something (right?). In the meantime, we have to direct toys to only ONE location. A low shelf is better than a bin. Bins require the entire thing to be emptied to find what they need. Shelves will allow only sections at a time to be thrown around the room.  Toys on a shelf must have a designated bin or bins that can adequately fit ALL the toys you want to keep. If toys are overflowing then you have too many of them. You’ll need to get your children to pick three to four toys to keep and give away the rest, especially if they take up a lot of space.

4) Desk with a shelf/cupboard.  If papers, books and things of that nature seem to clutter the house quickly, be sure you’ve created enough space for them to be used while not driving everyone insane. A good option is a “family desk”, this should be in a common open area within the home. It’s best to have a desk with shelves inside since it works as a handy place to keep those lovely pictures, pens, colouring books, etc. This way it will also be easy and apparent to the children where their stuff needs to go when they are doing their homework or artwork.

Despite having a system in place, it can still fail to serve its organizational purpose because of one reason – too much stuff. There are too many toys, too many books, too many shoes, too many coats and nowhere to go. “Too many” IS the problem here, which brings us to step two.

Step Two: Use it or Lose it

We clutter our lives and therefore we have trouble coping. Purging doesn’t have to be a big issue, and you don’t even have to decide if you like it or not. If you use the item, then keep it. If anyone in the family uses it, then keep it. If it’s not being used for a year or two, especially if it’s expensive, then put it in a box and give it away. Someone else can benefit from it. Remind yourself that it’s better to give it to someone else who’ll benefit from it than to keep holding onto it knowing that no one uses it. Forgo the “what if” moment, and just let it go (don’t make me break out in the Frozen song!). 

Step Three: The Team Effort Effect

Many hands make light work. We know this, but for some reason we don’t utilize those little (or big) hands which often times are too distracted with electronic devices. There is no fault and definitely no loss of your own integrity in expecting everyone to pull their weight around. Too many parents, especially mothers, feel guilty asking their children to do something. I imagine it’s because children are great at whining and making their parents feel bad. Find your internal mute button, remind yourself of the need to nurture well-rounded, responsible children, and then let them do it. Picking up a few toys, hanging up their coats, putting away their shoes etc. won’t drain them. They’ll be fine, insha’Allah – in fact they’ll be great, and you’ll be too.  

From toddlers to teens, everyone can and should do something. As soon as your baby can understand the concept of putting something into a bin, then encourage him to do that. It should become standard practice for everyone to clean up after themselves. As I briefly mentioned in step one, the consequence for lazy, “I forgot”-ers can be the effective use of “double duty.” Double duty means your child gets another chore. Too much whining also gets them double duty. This means that you can play off other children’s chores on the one with the bad attitude. They will HATE this, and that’s exactly what you want. The consequence to a bad attitude and to acting entitled is to force your child to put more in (then they’ve earned the right to complain, but don’t tell them that). 

Step Four:  Perception of Self

Perhaps this should be step one, but then you wouldn’t be able to see the flow of it all. Your mental attitude should shift with expectations thereby ensuring (and enforcing) that everyone follows the simple day-to-day system that is in place. Stay-at-home moms are included in this mental shift. The idea that a stay-at-home mom has nothing else to do but pick up people’s socks, tissues, toys, shoes, etc. is the fault of the mother. (Sorry, but it’s true. We allow others to see us this way because we keep doing it.) Everyone plays their part. Think of it this way, parents are a guide for their children so that their actions will be constructive and benefit each other. Too many moms and dads fear the displeasure of their children, thus adding more to their workload while their children tinker about with no realization that things need to get done. You are more amazing for instilling necessary life skills in your child(ren), so don’t feel bad. Feel empowered, and feel motivated to take a few simple steps and change the flow of household behaviours. 

Step Five: Purpose

Nothing is more important in all these steps than to re-affirm why you do what you do. While I cannot be your source of purpose, I can offer a few suggestions. Firstly, intend to earn the pleasure of Allah. Cleanliness in Islam is exalted.  Of course, homes aren’t filthy or najas (impure), but keeping things in order also helps keep our Islamic goals in order (such as reading Quran daily, setting time aside to teach children about our beautiful religion, having time to beautify ourselves for our spouses which includes taking care of our health and hygiene, etc.).

“Truly, Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.” (Al Baqarah 2:222)  

With the intention of being a better mother, father, husband, and wife for the sake of Allah, actions will be considered a form of ‘ibadah (worship). Lastly, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that everything is in order and everyone did their part to get it there. They will feel good, and so will you. Now both mother and father can put their children to bed and sit down to relax without feeling the stress of chaos around them. InshaAllah, this will also allow for more time to nurture the marital bond without feeling suffocated by everything else. 

May Allah make all our homes a source of peace, comfort, and tranquility, ameen.