Thank you to everyone who participated in my time-tracking challenge last week (which included many of the 1000 people who signed up to receive emails during the week of January 4-10 but due to a MailChimp issue…did not). I heard from a few folks that tracking the second week of January made more sense than the first, since life had resumed its usual rhythms. That was certainly true for us, though it’s also true that there are no typical weeks.
In my time log analysis last week I posted about how I spent the 86.5 hours that I wasn’t working or sleeping. A reasonable number were spent on childcare; for instance I spent 6 hours up with the baby between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. Fun! (But I am typing this at 6 a.m. after both of us slept through the night. I went down before 11 a.m. and hence popped up on my own, feeling completely rested, around 5:30 a.m.) Some people asked about those categories — cleaning, cooking, errands, life administration — that can seem to eat up hours.
So today’s post covers that. I do spend some time on these things. I made one grocery shopping trip on Friday afternoon, which took a little over an hour. We get a Sunbasket meal kit each week, plus a produce box from Hungry Harvest. We tend to shop once a week, but if we have a lot of stuff on hand, which we did from past Costco trips, the grocery trip might wind up being a smaller one to the nearby Acme, rather than to the farther away (but nicer) Wegmans. That’s what happened this week. My husband and I tend to split the shopping; escaping the house to shop solo is not exactly the short end of the stick.
I cooked dinner three nights: Wednesday, Friday, Sunday. G (nanny) cooked Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday (the evenings she works a little later), and then for the kids on Saturday when she came for our once-in-a-blue-moon date night (my husband and I grabbed a dinner out). This week was somewhat unusual, as my husband tends to do more of the weekend cooking. He did cook a lot of breakfasts — often eggs and bacon. He made bread in the bread maker and cinnamon rolls at some point in there (pictured; this recipe claims to be a “clone of Cinnabon” and…indeed it is!). Lunch tends to be a fend-for-yourself kind of thing, with me eating leftovers, and the big kids pulling their own stuff together (the elementary kids are home for lunch; my middle schooler is home at lunch time three days per week. The 6-year-old goes to full-time in person school; G packs his lunch). The 11-year-old will often make Annie’s shells-and-white-cheddar mac and cheese for his siblings since he’s figured out that he can have it every day as long as he makes it himself, and if he makes it for his siblings I’ll be happy about it.
On the cleaning front, we have a cleaning service come every two weeks. They clean the bathrooms, floors, kitchen surfaces, etc. We all go sit in one room in the back of the basement while they are there to minimize contact. They come Friday mornings, so I rallied the kids to pick up their rooms and the basement on Thursday evening, so the floors could be vacuumed. I participated in this group pick-up. G, my husband and I all do dishes and general kitchen tidying at various points and I do wind up sweeping the kitchen daily (the baby makes his messes). G does the kids’ laundry (and they are supposed to put their own clothes away); my husband generally does ours. Since the baby sleeps in the master bedroom closet I will admit that the clean laundry often stays out in the room. This does save on time putting it away!
While my house is not necessarily neat, I do think it’s pretty well organized. These turn out to be different things. Most things we use frequently have a home. I hate wasting time hunting for lost objects. So I can see that I put a note on my time log when I spent half an hour hunting for the 6-year-old’s Kindle. It is still missing. Since I cleaned out the entire mudroom this past weekend — which took 2.5 hours — I can tell you it isn’t in there! (Though I did find an overdue school library book. As in, from March.)
Life admin is hard to calculate. I have one main inbox, so things related to the kids can wind up in that work flow. That said, I’ll note on my log if I’m spending more than a few minutes on such things (vs. working). Some weeks these things take more time than others. I spent 30 minutes signing kids up for spring sports this past week, but that’s not an every-week activity. The house renovation is a more significant time commitment…though not during the first week of January. I spent 30 minutes on the phone chatting with our contractor, and some time reviewing other documents. But then this past week I visited three show rooms and spent additional hours choosing paint and wall paper so that was more like a part-time job. During the first week of January, I spent time on the phone and then getting the 9-year-old to an overdue educational evaluation. This took about 1.75 hours; it could have been longer but during the waiting I went for a walk and played the piano at the new house (which was nearby) so I’m putting that time in a different category.
I spent 20 minutes on my phone during a karate class shopping for kid birthday presents. We shop online for most non-grocery things.
In general I aim to batch the little things, since the problem with them is not so much that they consume huge amounts of time, it’s that they need to get done, and they’re always options. So it can feel like we spend our lives filling out forms, and cleaning up the toys. When they’re batched, the time cost is more transparent, but also contained. I can’t say I have a perfect system, but I also just don’t mind basement mess or kid bedroom mess that much. There are toys all over the living room floor and I’m OK with it. Picking those up constantly would be a choice, and I don’t want to spend my time that way. If the kitchen counter stays relatively clean, then I’m fine.
Have you calculated how much time you spend on cooking, cleaning, errands, and life administration?