How to be disorganized & unproductive, #5: overcommit

This is the second part to a six part series here on Simple Mom.


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 overcommitting 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 can I suggest some thoughts?

Perhaps someone else can do some of those things.
And perhaps some of those things don’t need to be done at all.

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, but I don’t want to use valuable blog real estate here. 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, perhaps some of these things shouldn’t be done at all.

Here’s what I’m suggesting – 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 Nalini Asha

What I’m talking 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.

All I’m really saying is this – 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? Tell me what you think.

Start the series How to be Disorganized & Unproductive at Home from the beginning:
Introduction | Key #6 | Key #5 | Key #4 | Key #3 | Key #2 | Key #1

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. Great post! I have a difficult time passing things off to others, and saying no to others’ requests.

    Kelly from Almost Frugal’s last blog post…Frugal Entertainment in France

  2. Hit the send button and then thought of something else! One of the reasons that I have a hard time letting others do things for me, I think, is because I am too critical and picky. My husband loads the dishwasher and I go along behind him and reorganize it. Why? Is this a constructive use of my time? No.

    So I’ve been learning to let go and delegate, emphasis on learning. Maybe I can squeeze three more plates in, but it’s not an efficient use of either of our time. Not to mention that I am devaluing him and myself.

    It’s a process!

    Kelly from Almost Frugal’s last blog post…Frugal Entertainment in France

  3. @Kelly – I’m so with you – it’s hard to delegate when you struggle with perfectionism. I’ll be discussing that later. 😉 I had to let go of the towels being folded the way I wanted them, because in the long run, it’s more important to have my daughter introduced to the concept of folding laundry. They look ridiculous when she’s done, but I’ve learned to be okay with that.

  4. Overcommitting is an issue as the kids get older. Now not only do you have your own outside obligations but the kids have schedules too. Everyday is a juggle and planning ahead is a big help – but finding the time to plan is another story!

    Neena’s last blog post…Overstock Coupons

  5. I believe to start them young with helping with the household chores. The baby (20mth old) helps to bring in the laundry n sort. The elder boy (4yrs old) is in charge of putting the clothes to wash and vacummning. They really help me a lot

  6. @Neena – Do you feel overcommitting as your kids get older is something you just have to deal with? Or is there a way this could be remedied? I don’t have older kids myself, so I can’t speak from experience – but I have some friends who have told their kids they can only be involved in one afterschool activity each. This cuts down on the “Mom Taxi” issue, and it helps unify the family because they’re home more.

    Just a thought. 🙂

  7. This is one area of my life that is overwhelming yet improving at the same time.

    The improving part – I am truly a blessed woman, and my partner cooks dinner. I get the family breakfast and lunch, but he takes care of the most time consuming meal 5 – 6 days a week. Sure, he trashes the kitchen when he cooks but as long as I keep up with the dishes during the day cleanup isn’t too bad.

    The overwhelming part – pretty much EVERYTHING else is my job. My partner takes out the trash but all the cleaning, laundry (we have no washing machine at home), grocery shopping, organizing, EVERYTHING else falls on me. That can be especially frustrating as a law student who over commits in that area as well (for example, the paper I have to edit for a Prof, the paper I have to edit for publication, the topic I have to choose for my next paper, the paper I have to finish – this week. And school hasn’t even started yet!).

    I know I need to ask for more help in other areas, but being controlling doesn’t help. I have learned to ease up and let our 8 and 9 year olds do some chores even if the end result isn’t just what I want, and that helps.

    GREAT post! Excited for #4!

    Lucie’s last blog post…Mom Seeking Mom Advice: Simple Birthday Gifts for a Little Boy

  8. Saying “NO” has been the number one thing that has helped me simplify my life and take back my time. I am not always good at it and try to do too much for too many people because I like to help people and I hate feeling like saying no is confrontational. But it really doesn’t hurt people that badly to say no occasionally and I find it’s just astonishing how much it does for my sanity.

    I am loving this series!

    Emily’s last blog post…Less is More

  9. Emily said it – say NO! 😀 Just because someone asks us to do something does not mean we have to say yes.

    My niece if heavily involved in her church, does the books and organizing for her husband’s business and has 5 kids 8 and under. No, she does not do it all, she’s burnt out half the time.

    The other in-house thing you can do is wait. “Mommy can you get..?” “Mommy can you help me find…?”

    Wait just 30 seconds before jumping to it, don’t say anything. Half the time the kids will get it / find it themselves.

    Other house rules were:
    – breakfast is fend for yourself time. Yes, 4-5 year olds can be taught to get their own cereal.
    – for older kids, one outside activity. This totally does work and helps in all kinds of ways. Plus, only one lesson/class per kid is more frugal than 3 per kid. 😉

  10. I try to do all those things you have listed plus work twenty hours a week from home, while supervising children. The extra money is really nice. Ten hours is way more feasible. But I feel guilty for saying that only working ten hours is much better for me. I just lose my sanity when I try to do more. I don’t get my me time, and even when I’m organized, I feel like I’m having to go full-steam all the time, and you can only do that so much.

    Tana’s last blog post…Imagination

  11. I work from home and have a 15 yr old son, with a hubby that travels. I do most of the grocery shopping, most of the cleaning (but honestly I don’t do much – it’s not high on my list), take out the garbage, take care of bill paying, general “child care” (i.e., Mom Taxi, school paperwork). Hubby does the most of yard work and will cook as well. I have found that sharing our son’s activity – karate – has brought us closer as a family. We all go to classes at the same karate school, and now my son and hubby have the same class.
    My big problem area is my volunteer work at church. I am the treasurer, stewardship chairman, and run several fundraisers each year. That is the part that tires me out the most, and that’s where I need to say “no” more often.

  12. I can completely relate to overcommitting myself and so I am constantly monitoring where I can streamline and get help. I’m a military wife and my husband deploys yearly. In fact, he’s currently deployed right now. We don’t live anywhere near family who I can ask for help so I’m very observant of what I can ask neighbors to do, who I can hire to help, what I can ask my oldest kid (9 y/o and 14 m/o) to help me with, and what I can just let slide.

    I use to be very choosy about how things got done and I would not delegate or ask for help at all. After I realized that I, indeed, am not superwoman, I felt better about asking for help.

    This post reminds me to be wary of what I commit to and not to overload my plate or else I burn out way too quickly! Thank you!!

    Allison’s last blog post…4

  13. This is such an issue for women, and something I have struggled to learn to do is delegate. Simple Mom is soooo right- kids can pitch in and some things just aren’t important enough to stress out about. Sometimes as SAHM’s and WAHM’s people just assume that we have the “extra” time (ha ha what the heck is that?) to do the various volunteering and babysitting, etc that they don’t have the time to do. My grandmother taught me that “NO” is a complete sentence. And that has been the saving grace of my sanity many, many times!! Great post!

    Melissa, Multitasking Mama’s last blog post…Where are my… ?

  14. This is not looking good. You have posted 2 ways so far how to be disorganized and unproductive – AND I have both traits! I’m scared for the next few days.

    I guess I like things done my way – I know that if I want some help I’m going to have to let some things out of my control. I have sort of felt that since I don’t work full time my job is to do everything else. Anyone else feel that way?

    Dana’s last blog post…Ameture Gardener Declares War on Local Wild Life.

  15. @Dana – I do sometimes think that way. However, ask yourself this – what is your main job? Is it to do all those cooking, cleaning, etc. things? Or is it to provide a haven for your family and to shepherd your kids? If it’s the latter, then perhaps it is more important to let your kiddos do something than to have it “perfect.” They’ll be more likely to take ownership in the family’s home, and you’re teaching them that chores are part of life.

    Just my $.02. 🙂

  16. Great reminder! I always end up doing things myself, forgetting that my kids are certainly old enough to pitch in!

    Mindy’s last blog post…I Could Get Used To This

  17. Wow. What a great series. Painful, though! 🙂
    I actually feel like managing relationships can be tough, too. How do you say “no” to relationships? (I mean outside of your family, of course) Right now I have the blessing of meeting lots of new people and have to figure out which current relationships to maintain, which ones to let go of, and which new friendships to invest into.

    Carole’s last blog post…the tremendous two’s

  18. So enjoying your blog at the moment and how it is really making me think about my family and my roll as a Mom, this can only be a good thing…thanks

    Suzie Sews’s last blog post…Summer sun… long may it last…

  19. This one is hard for me because I stay home and my husband works full time and is about a year away from finishing school, so a lot of classes and balancing schedules and stress. I guess I feel like I don’t (can’t) help him with his job, so why ask him to do mine? My 4 year old is learning about chores and doing them, but it feels like more work sometimes as far as time management goes because I still have to be there to observe and guide. I know practice will help with that! Luckily my 16 month old will just grow up watching her sister’s example and even now kinda helps pick up and all that. So that is hopeful!

    We tell ourselves that once graduation comes and goes that it will be easier for him to help around the house- so I wonder if I am just in a kind of survival mode until then? Or using that as a scape goat for being unorganized and sometimes in downright chaos. Lots to think about here…thanks!

    Hannah’s last blog post…Stuffy

  20. “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?”
    – err yeah? And be pres of local camera club, help at church, want to volunteer in classroom again this year, learn Japanese, and I know I can’t add lead my kiddo’s school good news club on top of it. (Am I in trouble? Yes I am getting the kiddos to do chores to help – that’s sane atleast.) Your post really hits home.

    Avlor’s last blog post…Uhm, yeah…hamsters and goggles don’t mix

  21. wow, being a parent looks like a full time job!
    I’d get knackered just on the job of making the list of jobs 🙂

    Andy Bailey’s last blog post…My life in (other peoples) pictures

  22. Great post! This is an area I’ve focused attention this summer. Mainly to train my children to do housework they are big enough to do. They can do much more than I give them credit for! Right now the 5yo boy is learning to vacuum the hallway once a week, the 3 yo boy is swiffering our hardwood floors and the 2 yo girl is feather dusting the living room tables. I’m finding a little effort on my part in the beginning yields great benefits in the long run.

    stephaniesmommybrain’s last blog post…Splish Splash Now I Need a Bath!

  23. This is one process we are constantly working on but that came to a head our first few months of marriage. I was working 12 hr night shifts an hour and a half away and trying to do everything at home myself. It’s not that my husband did not want to help me, it was that I never gave him the opportunity. Now he does laundary, I do the dishes. We clean the house together most weeks. My husband cooks the nights I work (I work locally now and on dayshift) and gets up and makes my breakfast smoothies and coffee before taking me to work. Not everything is exactly how I want it done, but I’ve found I have a wonderful husband who loves to help me when I let him! 🙂

    stacie@hobbitdoor’s last blog post…Creativity in Marriage

  24. This is really the kind of common sense that I need to hear. I end almost every day frustrated that my ‘superpowers’ didn’t kick in! Ha! That line really caught my attention. Keep it coming, ’cause I’m listening!

  25. I am enjoying this series and appreciate your helping us all simplify our lives in order to have more time for what matters. One book I’d like to recommend for the Christian women out there is Breathe by Keri Wyatt Kent. It is all about cutting back on the superfluous to mak room for the meaningful. I need to read it again!


  26. I have struggled in this area, too, because I have a habit of trying to do it all myself and then get irritated that my husband doesn’t do more or take the initiative and start in on projects and chores without being asked. One thing that has helped us is showing appreciation! It sounds like a minor thing, but when my husband sees that the dishwasher needs to be emptied and just does it, I focus on the awesome fact that it’s one less thing to do and that he did a job that he knows I really dislike. I used to focus on the fact that all the dishes did not end up in their proper spots and some random items were on the counter because he didn’t know where they went. This, however, did not make him real thrilled about doing chores. When I let him know how much I appreciate him (and I do!), the daily load is lighter because he’s happier to pitch in. He doesn’t feel like I’m nagging and I don’t end up playing the martyr by just doing it all myself!

    Amy WB’s last blog post…lucky enough

  27. Love this post! and also I really really need your help. I swear I will pay you. Really!!! please please. I need to do some things in my thesis template that you already did, I need to know how to do them!!
    I know youre a busy mom, so, how about technical payed help???? please please please!! 🙂

  28. @Amy WB – Thanks so much for the excellent reminder! It’s so important to show appreciation when we do delegate things around the house. Particularly in the right love language!

    @So – Go ahead and contact me using the form above with your question(s). I’ll see what I can do. 🙂

  29. I think it’s important to remember that these things change and need to be reevaluated (for me yearly). It made perfect sense for us to pay someone to mow our lawn when my husband was a home builder working 65 hours a week. Now that he’s a teacher, he has time to do it himself and it helps out our “teacher budget”.

    We go through different stages in life.

    I think I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately doing things the same way when this post showed me that there are quite a few things that can be modified to help me be a better manager.

    World’s Greatest Mommy’s last blog post…The Lady Across The Street: Part I

  30. Best investment ever was hiring a lawn guy. Never having to worry is so worth the $30 each visit. We don’t have call, he just comes when needed.

    Also, teaching my kids how to clean and help with housework by making it fun has a great outcome.

    I keep a separate calendar for computer time. I have deadlines and goals on it that keep my priorities in check.

    blogversary’s last blog post…I will be bringing the watermelon

  31. Stephanie says:

    I can see this from 2 sides. Delegating is hard for me to do with my kids. We have 5 and 4 of them are “able bodied” (we don’t give the 5 month old any chores yet. 🙂 ). Recently I spent about 4 weeks in the hospital with a complicated pregnancy and a baby in the NICU. My husband had to do EVERYTHING at home and keep working too. But he had a mom who took time and gave up control so she could train her kids in the basics of everyday living. So I was first hand the benifits of training our kids even though it is hard to do.

    My struggle lies with balance. A good schedule where my kids know what comes next, along with the flexability of “rolling with the punches”. Since baby 5 I just can’t seem go get things back to a good routine. I am not sure what I am doing wrong but I am looking forward to the upcoming posts. So far they have been very encouraging.

  32. I am so grateful for simple mom! What an eye opener this is for me. I am realizing that I have been a super hero around here and didn’t even know it. I have a 2 year old and 10 month old & work 16 hrs outside the home 2 days/week. My husband helps most evenings with baths/bedtime. It feels like everything else (everything on the list plus caring for 2 high maintenance dogs) falls on my shoulders. I’m learning (since I started reading this blog!) to breath, let go, to not stress so much about not having the whole house clean at once or whatever task I’m not able to start or finish. When I feel overwhelmed I say the Serenity prayer over and over and I look at my kids–I smile and I take it all in, remembering that this will all go by in a flash. I will look back for certain and wonder where did the time go? I remember the whole reason I wanted to be a stay at home mom–to be with my babies. Enjoy them, be present with them. It’s all very simple then to just smile and be thankful. Everything else is minor. The other thing I have found extremely helpful is focusing once a day-even if for a minute on doing something for me. It’s made me more present for my husband and my boys! I’ve tried the getting up at the crack of dawn, putting coffee on, and getting on the treadmill for 30 mins- 3 time/ week routine for a week and I am AMAZED at the peace I feel. I can’t say enough how much this has decreased that “spinning my wheels” feeling I seem to always have. I am setting a better tone for OUR day
    as a family. I feel empowered just knowing that I can do that AND everything else on my list. As far as help, I am going to schedule someone to help clean the big things in my house that I never seem to be able to get done. That should make a difference. We’ll see!! I am loving this series and feel like I have a new best friend.

  33. You’re giving really good advice with this series!

    It’s hard for me to delegate, because I want to be in charge and I get a charge out of doing it all. But. I have two teens living at home. They already help a lot, but I can see some areas where I could delegate more, and they need to have more responsibility.

    Meals – my 15 yo daughter could make breakfast; both of my children do the dishes, one meal each, and I do one meal (this is working fine); I need to teach my daughter to plan meals.

    Cleaning and laundry – both of my children know how to do their own laundry, but I had taken it over a year ago due to moving into a shared-laundry situation – reconsidering having them do laundry now that our system with the neighbor is established.

    Church responsibilities – I play piano and teach Sunday school – my daughter can share in both, if my husband (the pastor) approves. My son can also help with Sunday school (he’s a natural with kids).

    You’ve helped me see the importance of delegating, to take some of the pressure off myself. Thanks!

    Susan’s last blog post…It Never Fails!

  34. no please don’t make me hire a lawn guy. 🙂 That is my get away…..I don’t want to delegate this chore…it wears me out, but the satisfaction of it being done is so worth it to me.
    That being said I have 4 kids 12 thru 9 (one set of twins), and my delegations start out great…but they (kids) begin to wear me down….
    they are excited to do chores (kinda TomSawyer mom here), so motivation isn’t the problem. But I usually have to remind over and over to complete the job.
    for ex: Wipe down bathroom (have neat little wipes). Bathroom is wiped down, and the neat little wipes are left open to dry under the sink? I growl and try to keep from just throwing up my hands, “forget it I’ll do it”. I am SO SO SO open to any suggestions. They are great kids and so want to help….
    we have done checklist. They will do great for a few days then their brains just stop? lol
    Thank you again for such a great series! I saw the super heros and cringed! lol

    Anne’s last blog post…What is your vision?

  35. This is my pitfall and it always has been. I actually have a little sign by my phone that says no. I need to put it on my computer though because that is where I really need to start saying no 🙂

    Amy’s last blog post…CVS Shopping & Savings 08.11.08

  36. I’m so exited !! i am summarizing the key points to stick it on the wall in my kitchen !! Thanks so much

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