How to be disorganized & unproductive, #5: overcommit

My book writing’s halfway point is September 1, which means I have a LOT of scribbling to do so I can get the manuscript in to my editor by deadline. So I’m going to be reposting some “classic” Simple Mom posts for the next few weeks.

First up is a series that ran last August, called How to be Disorganized and Unproductive at Home. I wrote about six keys, and this week, I’ll republish five of them. The sixth key is found here — since we recently discussed this topic of taking care of ourselves here and here, I didn’t think it necessary to review these ideas again.

So here’s the fifth key. Enjoy!

Photo by Corey Bond

Are you Wonder Woman? Probably not. But you might be living like you were given superpowers, and you go to bed frustrated that those powers didn’t kick in when you needed them.

This is a pretty common problem, so that’s why I’ve made overcommiting the fifth key to being disorganized and unproductive.

What are you in charge of? What’s on your Daily Docket? In your family, is the definition of “home manager” the house cleaner, cook, chauffer, teacher, hostess, errand runner, entertainer, diaper changer, and banker – all without any help?

Those things are good things, and most of them need to be done. But perhaps someone else can do some of those things. And perhaps some of those things don’t need to be done at all.

Evaluate Your To-Do List

Get out your Home Management Notebook, or even just a scrap of paper, and quickly jot down everything you do in a normal day. Then think about your week, and add those weekly commitments you have as well (such as driving Billy to baseball practice on Tuesdays).

Part of my list looks like this:

  • Make breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the family
  • Menu plan (either monthly or twice monthly)
  • Balance the checkbook
  • Create the monthly budget (once a month, obviously)
  • Grocery shop
  • Study and learn the local language here
  • Laundry
  • Dishes after each meal
  • Clean the bathrooms
  • Help my preschooler do her chores
  • Keep up with correspondence – faraway family and friends
  • Teach and create with my preschooler
  • Nurse and feed my baby

And this is just scratching the surface — there’s about 20 more things. Does this list look a bit like yours?



I’d argue that all of those things are valuable, and that they need to be done. If you’re Superwoman, you can do all these things by yourself, on your own strength, without any help. However, if you’re not Superwoman, like me, then you might need to delegate.

Delegating is a common business practice, so our homes shouldn’t be too different. Let your kids learn some of these tasks. Ask your husband to possibly take over some of these responsibilities. Consider outside help, such as close relatives, friends, or your church fellowship. And finally, maybe some of these things shouldn’t be done at all.

Go through that list you made, and make some notes about how each responsibility could be done better, so that you don’t have so much on your plate.

Here’s some highlights of mine (this is from the list above):

• Make breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the family

My hubby makes dinner on Wednesdays, and sometimes more if my week is busy. He’s also in charge of breakfast several times a week (he works from home, so we have this luxury, and I don’t take this for granted!).

• Menu plan

I still do this, but I set aside a specific evening once or twice a month to decide this. It doesn’t take long once you have a system that works.

• Balance the checkbook

I still do this, but I’ve asked my husband to do some specific things with receipts that make this a lot easier – I’ll share more of this soon.

• Dishes after each meal

We’ve learned if we do this together as a family, it’s much quicker, it’s more fun because we talk to each other, and in general, it’s just not as painful. My daughter brings her dishes to the kitchen, puts away the silverware, and helps do basic pick up. My husband and I do the dishes together. And we use that time to talk. It takes me much less time.

• Keep up with correspondence

I ask my preschooler to “watch” the baby – and by watch, I mean entertain him while they sit next to me. They’re both fascinated with each other, so when I give her the important job of helping me with her little brother, I’m able to get an email or two in. It’s not much, but it’s something. I’ve also decided how email works best for me, and it’s still a work in progress. But it takes much less time than it used to.

• Teach and create with my preschooler

I still do this a few times weekly, but I don’t feel the pressure to be her entertainer all day, every day. Young kids do well with creative free time, and as long as I’m filling her cups a little every day, I find she’s much more adept at playing by herself.

• Nursing and feeding my baby

Nursing is still in my domain, obviously. But my husband is happy to feed the baby his pureed and finger foods at least once a day.

Photo by Koka Sexton

What I’m writing about today is different than how you spend time on the things you do. This is simply questioning the things you have been doing.

If you mow the lawn, consider if it’s worth it to pay the neighbor boy to do it. It costs money, but it might be worth your sanity and your schedule.

Are your kids old enough to do their own laundry? Have them start.

Can your husband make dinner or breakfast once a week? Ask if he’d be up for the task.

If your definition of being the home manager is doing all the important tasks that go into a well-run household by yourself, there’s a chance you’re overcommitted. And when you have a ton on your plate to do solo, your home is probably more disorganized and unproductive.

Are you doing too much? Is there anything that can give? If not, can your responsibilities be done by your kids, your husband, a friend?

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. I am queen delegator! I LOVE to delegate and I think it is vital for a work at home mom.

    That said, I do over-commit… but not in the typical mom ways of volunteering at everything… no I neglect lots of that stuff… I over-commit online and in my businesses.
    .-= Susan (5 Minutes for Mom)´s last blog ..5 Minutes for Books: Extraordinary Teens =-.

  2. It’s amazing how easy it is to think that we have to do so much. Sometime we don’t even realize that’s what’s wearing us down. Over the weekend my husband had a health scare, which put a lot of things in perspective. I have started crossing things off my list without even doing them. Life’s too short.
    .-= Shannon´s last blog ..Why Grains May Not Be Necessary for a Nourishing Diet =-.

  3. I’ve got it pretty good right now since my husband helps me do little things like doing the dishes and making the beds. But once our little one is born (we’re pregnant with our first) then I have a feeling things will change a bit! 🙂 But I agree that delegation is key when it’s possible because we usually do try to do too much.
    .-= Tabitha (From Single to Married)´s last blog ..That Was Then… This is Now =-.

  4. I was just telling my husband yesterday that I’ve scheduled too many things to do at night (after kiddos are in bed) and I’m TOO tired to do them.

    So I’m spending today figuring out what things are most important, and is it possible to fit them in during the day and put more mindless work (not requiring creativity) at night….

    Thanks for the great series! Good luck with your writing.

    .-= steadymom´s last blog ..If You Don’t Do Anything Else This Weekend…. =-.

  5. terrific post.
    i have always struggled with saying no for some reason – and always end up in over my head. and i never delegate! i just grumble about how much i have to do 🙂
    .-= melissa´s last blog ..the dreaming begins… =-.

  6. great suggestions. i’m pleasantly surprised at how much my 4yo can do on her own. when she asks me for something, i ask her if she thinks she can get it by herself IF it’s appropriate… for instance if it’s a piece of paper for coloring- her paper is in the cabinet at her level, she can get that by herself. she can set the dinner table, put away laundry, even clean windows and mirrors [the bottom halfs, anyway :)].

    letting her have the responsibilities not only takes the jobs off of my to-do list, but it gives her a sense of pride, too.

    .-= MamaHall´s last blog ..that night =-.

  7. I think it was Dr. Kevin Leman who said “Don’t do anything for your child that he can do for himself.”. I’m not quite that strict on things, but I do enlist my children to help. Surprisingly, they love to help. My problem lies with consistency in this area. Chore charts are a must because I forget what everyone is responsible for and they tend to slack off if they don’t have a reminder too.

    What I love about this post is the picture we get of how your family takes responsibility together and shows us a team effort. Thanks.
    .-= Stacie @´s last blog ..How To Make Books Come Alive With Your Toddler =-.

  8. This has been on my mind for the past week. I was waiting until tomorrow to work on it because 3 of my 4 kids will be in school starting tomorrow. Gives me a little more time to figure it all out. So yes I definitely overcommit myself over and over. But, I learned a few months ago about the Home Management Notebook and have worked on it little by little. This is one thing I really need to just make time to do! Thanks for the encouragement, as usual 🙂
    .-= Chele´s last blog ..Speaking from the Heart =-.

  9. What an excellent post! The art of delegating is something that becomes easier as we learn we do not have to do everything. As a Mom you feel you have to do everything, but saying no helps us to prioritize family and the important things in life. Great reminders.
    .-= Ruthie´s last blog ..Toddler & Family Friendly Weekly Meal Plan =-.

  10. I definitely over commit and wind up stressing myself out. My hubby is great at helping if I give him specific tasks to do. I just need to learn to let him do them and then not complain that he doesn’t do them my way.
    .-= Holly´s last blog ..Menu Plan – Week of August 24 =-.

  11. Great post! I missed it the first time around. I do overcommit, but most of it has to do with my standards. My husband is quite helpful and my children are learning to do their share. It is my silly standards that keep me doing more and more when I should really just say “good enough.” Our children are 4, 3, and 1 so some things will simply not get done and that is okay!
    .-= Lizz @ Yes, and So is My Heart´s last blog ..The Messy Ministry =-.

  12. A lady after my own heart for 11 years I did every thing on my own EVERY THING (husband worked away a LOT!!!) New job yipeeee I have not touched the garden or ironing since my list is still full but boy do I have time now to run my on-line business that was once a dream now its reality & my husband shares the load, I am sooooo lucky, loved your post & I am definetly going to do a one day job to do on my list (well might be more than 1 thing) to be more organised thanks for the motivation 🙂
    .-= Elaine Power´s last blog ..Pewter Bottle =-.

  13. Thanks for the reminder to get going on a Menu Plan. I was supposed to have this done before school started TODAY! I know I am WAY LESS stressed out when I have a plan.

  14. Thanks so much for everything you do! I recently found your blog and I am loving everything about it! I think it’s fantastic that you are revisiting some of your past articles!

    One request for a future topic if you can get around to it: I’d love it if you could elaborate a bit more on how you use Google Calendar for all your calendar needs?

  15. Oh, I’m really looking forward to your book!
    I think it is very important to allow yourself some breaks in the daily work. It is okay, just sitting down for a moment drinking a good cup of tea (or coffee).
    .-= Micha´s last blog ..Markttreiben / country fair =-.

  16. Great post! I wish so badly that I could see your visuals in your Home Management Notebook (but I get errors everytime I click on daily docket, weekly checklist, etc.), they look like they would be excellent examples to follow!

  17. Great list! I think making the list is half the battle… It’s calming to know what needs to be done and then seeing some success when it gets down.
    .-= PS~Erin´s last blog ..Favorite Quotes =-.

  18. I think we need to be careful about asking our husbands to do to much especially when they’ve been at work all day too. However, getting the kids involved in the daily tasks of life is invaluable for getting more done plus teaching them important skills!

  19. I can soooooo relate to this! I’m new to your blog and so glad you reposted it! Thanks.
    .-= Ashleigh´s last blog ..The Beach is Closed, eh? =-.

  20. Hi krystal,
    I have a happy husband we are both living in the home both working so I think the load should be shared, our 2 children make there bed’s & keep there rooms tidy, with a bit of promting I might say 🙂 I do agree however if the wife doesnt work then that’s a different matter & when I didn’t work I did it all. And was very happy to do that 🙂

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