By Harriet Lowbridge | Head of Advice
Running a household can be a big challenge for many of us, whether you are starting out in your first shared accommodation, striking out into your own private housing, or buying your first home. Oftentimes we are expected to already know how to manage and organise our lives. This is something I have certainly struggled with since running my own household. With a little forethought, however, it is not hard to turn your home into an efficiently running household. Here, I have created a starting list of different steps you can take to help you run your own household.
Set realistic expectations
Be realistic and set your expectations to match the free time that you actually have. This has been the hardest thing I have ever had to learn. If you are employed, have coursework, sports, societies, or any other commitments, then it is going to affect how much time you can spend organising your home. Set yourself realistic goals and be gentle with yourself about them. Your house is not a showroom, and you are allowed to have evidence that it is lived in. Do not forget your home and personal time when organising events or extra jobs. You do not want to take on more than you can handle.
Make clear goals
Set yourself goals. What is it that you want to accomplish from organising your household? Is it to be pristine and tidy? Is it to make sure you just do one task a day to keep on top of your chores? Keeping track of why you are setting these goals will also help you sustain your efforts in actually keeping your home organised.
Keep track of your progress
Keep a tracker of what jobs you need to accomplish. Keep a planner, a schedule, a calendar, or even a magnetic fridge whiteboard to record what tasks need accomplishing and when. Planning your chores in, rather than constantly putting them off for ‘tomorrow’ will manage your expectations and allow you to plan around your tasks whilst still ensuring that they are done.
Structure your space
Give everything a home. Your house will eventually become cluttered and chaotic if your belongings do not have a home. Keep your cleaning supplies together, your clothes in a dedicated space. Do not forget to allow for spaces for dirty items too. If you do not have time to do your dishes or wash your clothes, then have a basket or dedicated space that allows you to work around them. Other jobs will thank you for this also. Hoovering or mopping is made so much easier when you do not have 30 items to move from your floor beforehand.
Set clear rules
Give yourself rules. One example of this is that once you have picked something up, do not allow yourself to put it back down until it is in its intended home. Another example is that you get your most hated jobs done first, like washing your dishes before you do anything else in your day. Unfortunately, rules do sometimes have a meaningful impact on how smoothly your day goes.
Invest in ‘Doom boxes’. These are empty baskets or bins around your house that are for the objects that do not have a space in your home. Alternatively, if you have things to go upstairs but do not need to go up yet, then they can live in a doom box at the bottom of the stairs. These can be emptied as you go, but a key rule to ensure they work is to make sure you empty them as soon as they are full. Doom boxes can help you avoid cluttering up your flat surfaces and still give the illusion of a pristine home even if everything isn’t properly away.
Clear out the clutter
Similarly, do not leave a room without something that should not be there. If you are moving from your bedroom to the kitchen, take out your dirty cups while you go. If you know you are passing your bin, pick up some rubbish on your way. This way you are organising as you go about your daily business.
Delegate with others
Delegate your jobs. If you live with others, ensure that the chores around your home are balanced evenly. Do not try to clean the entire house yourself, or expect others to clean up after you. A small amount of communication now will help keep your home and relationships happy. Do remember that work does not have to be split 50/50 to be an even share. If one of you pays more towards the bills, the other can pick up one or two more jobs. Find a balance that is healthy and balanced for your lives.
Keep track of your spending
Budget and re-budget often. Keeping track of your finances is a big part of managing your household. Create a list of all your outgoings- what you spend your money on like phones, food, heating, water, internet, to name a few. Then track how much money you bring in, this can include your student finance as well as personal earnings. Keeping track of how much spare money you have left over can be the difference between creating a nest egg of savings and living pay cheque to pay cheque. Ensure you re-draft this budget every month or bi-monthly to ensure that your spending is still financially stable for your income.
Prepare in advance
Prepping your life. Meal prepping is one of the most common ways of preparing yourself for the next day or week, but you can also utilize this for other aspects. Set out clothes and pack your bags the night before you go somewhere. If you know you are going to be late home from work, cook or prepare your food in the morning. When you find yourself with spare time, see what jobs you can get out of the way now so that future-you can have more time to relax.
Get your documents in order
Invest in a paper shredder and an organiser/binder. Protect your private information whilst avoiding that constant document clutter that accumulates around your house. Set aside some time occasionally, to shred unnecessary documents that contain sensitive information, like your address or financial records. For the ones you need to keep like passports, rental contracts, or medical information, keep those in a labelled binder. Everything is then kept together, and you will not need to search every drawer in your home to find that single letter that came in three months ago.
Stock up on the essentials
Keep overstock packs, if you can, with items that you might need for when you get caught out. A tub with spare toiletries for that unexpected visitor. A bag of spare clothes and non-perishable food in your car for that unexpected night away. A couple of quick meals to keep in the back of your cupboard, like soup tins, instant noodles for the nights that you are out of money and food, or simply late from work and need something quick.
Reflect on your successes
Be proud of what you have accomplished, this is another that I have struggled with. You have still accomplished one task, even if the only thing you have done today is empty the dishwasher. You do not have to clean the whole kitchen for it to count as one job. Be proud that you are independent and running your own household, sometimes that pride in yourself is the only thing pushing you forward to do more.