About those lists...

As I check my email with your questions on lists, I thought I'd offer another thought or two. When you begin to assign jobs to your children, make sure that you assign yourself to be present in the room if they've never done the job before. You need to work alongside them and you absolutely need to inspect each and everything they do. Otherwise, you've just given poor work habits a free pass. And I offer you permission to tell them "You'll thank me for this someday." My mother wrote to me after the last post. Anybody notice that I thanked her--Monday was someday:-)
     While it's really important to stick to the list for the first few weeks in order to reap the benefits of a habit, the list is your tool, not your master. You stick to the list to be sure that it's a good list and to know how to change the list to make it better. We're not talking about household perfection here. And we're not talking about anybody else's house as a standard. The other house in the "Why Bother?" post is significant only in the conversation it began between my husband and me regarding our own home. Sometimes--often--when something seems wrong in someone else's world, that's the very thing that's troubling you, only you were so close to it you couldn't see. By the same token, if you know someone with a family similar to yours who has  knack for running a household, do ask her how she does it. Gather ideas, learn from each other, be open and honest and willing to learn.
    Several people wrote to say that after they read Why Bother?, they thought long and hard and then they went to their husbands and asked them if the state of the house affected them the way it had affected my husband. Those are brave women! Their husbands replied affirmatively and said they'd not known how to tell the wives their feelings were hurt. That's powerful stuff in the conversation of a marriage. It happened because these women were undefensive and humble. They were genuine in their desire to understand better what "home" meant to the men they love. So they approached them with an attitude that invited openness. Now, with understanding, a family can work towards a home that honors them all.
    My house is far from perfect, but it is serving us better than it used to. My list needs adjusting at least every season. As the sports season changes, so does my availability on any given day. I had to laugh at a comment someone pointed out to me. The commenter feared I was advocating so much house perfection that there would be no time to watch a child's  soccer game because I'd be too busy cleaning. I am fairly confident in assuming that my average week of games and practices (ten this week, I believe) more than puts that myth to rest. We're watching a fair amount of soccer here, but we're longer crying before the games because we can't find shinguards or water bottles with working tops. Truly, the greatest lesson I've learned along the way as I've dug into my own unit on keeping house is that this is all about priorities. For me, backing away from the computer opened up time I could spend in the midst of my children showing them how the good work of homemaking blesses us all. I am intentional now about how I spend my days. When we sit at the computer, we are absorbed in a world outside our homes and we are unavailable to some degree to the people who are actually in the house with us. I try to limit my "sit-down" computer time to the hours when my family is asleep. Any other checking I do standing up, so as to remind myself that I"ll only be here a moment. What I've discovered is that, as I tend to my home--cook meals, fold laundry, wash floors--I am in the midst of my children and we are connecting all day long.I'm available to watch a puppet show or listen to a disputed play. My hands might be busy but my head does not have to be drawn away from the screen. Intentional housekeeping has afforded me more time with my children, not less. But there are priorities still to be set and every day brings with it moments of judgment regarding how I spend my time.

Another trap to avoid is that of inflexible standards and unrealistic expectations. You need different goals for ordinary times and times of illness, stress, company, new babies, long working hours, or other interruptions of your home routine. People with large houses, many children or guests, active households, or invalid parents will have to spread themselves more thinly and should not expect to be able to keep house like the Joneses.  Also, the fewer your resources of all kinds--money, help, appliances, skills, time--the more modest will be the level of housekeeping you can realistically hope for.
When you cannot have everything, establish priorities. Health, safety, and comfort matter more than appearances, clutter, organization, and entertainment. A jumbled closet may distract you, but it is much less urgent than clean sheets, laundry, or meals. Excessive dustiness can be unhealthy as well as uncomfortable; smeary mirrors (usually) aren't. Clean the rooms you spend the most time in and those where cleanliness is urgent (bedroom, kitchen, bathroom); let everything else go. Polishing gems and organizing your photographs can be put off indefinitely.
When you fall below your ordinary stands of housekeeping, a backup plan can help prevent the fall from turning into a free fall. Planning how you will engage in a housekeeping retraction at such times and return to ordinary standards when the crisis is past keeps you in control. The goal during these hard times is to adhere, more or less, to some workable minimal routine. If you can still cook simple meals and food preparation areas are safe and sanitary, if everyone has clean clothes, if the bedrooms are dusted, vacuumed, and aired and the bedding is fresh, you are doing well. Home Comforts