What’s the answer: lowering standards or working harder?

Today’s post answers a back to school reader question. You can read previous answers to readers’ questions here.

What’s the answer: lowering standards or working harder?

I don’t think there are many parents who haven’t considered this question. As the family grows, the workload increases and you seem to have more to do within the same amount of time. How do you get it all done? Do you lower your standards or do you just put the nose to the grindstone and work harder?

My answer isn’t really an either or one. My answer is to eliminate, work smarter and to really value my time.


Eliminating the activities you do around the home that don’t really add any value is key to not spending all your time working in the home and instead actually spending time with the family. Yes this can be seen as lowering standards, but for me making a conscious choice to stop doing something feels better than just not getting around to it each week. By making the choice to not do something, I don’t feel the weight of the uncompleted task hanging around my neck.

An example of elimination for me is ironing. Many years ago after feeling so overwhelmed all the time by my ironing pile, I decided to eliminate ironing from my list of weekly tasks. Some ironing still happens in our house. My husband irons his work shirts, the kids’ school shirts and a few must iron items of clothing, but the rest of the clothes go unironed.

I use a clothes rack through out the winter months and the clothes line in summer months to dry the clothes and the dryer when neeeded. I make sure I hang the clothes so they will have the least amount of creases and drying marks on them and aim to fold the washing as it dries and don’t leave it piles where it will crease.

Making the kids beds was also eliminated from my work load and added to theirs. I would say they don’t make their beds about 80% of the time. It used to drive me crazy and I would end up making them myself, but now I just let it go and they will be unmade if the kids don’t make them.

There are many tasks that I have eliminated from my work load and have allocated to the kids. This isn’t just to reduce my workload, but it is also to teach the kids responsibility, life skills and to develop an understanding of needing to contribute to the upkeep of the family home. One teenager now cleans the main bathroom once a week, other kids dust and clean windows, while it has taken some time for them to be able to do these tasks reasonably well, it has certainly been worth the effort in the long run. (You can see the kids household tasks here.)

Work smarter

My aim is to spend the least amount of time cleaning and tidying the house while still keeping it at a standard that doesn’t drive me crazy. To this end I have a few things I do to help me achieve my goal:

  • Parkinson’s law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. With this in mind, when starting work around the house I set myself a realistic time frame for completion. I am sure we are all familiar with scenarios like intending to give the bathroom a quick wipe over only to end up spending an hour on it. If using 15 minute blocks, I will actually set the timer on my phone, so I keep myself on track.
  • Leave each room in a better state than I entered it – this is a super trick, takes very little time each individual time, but the combined impact is significant at the end of the day. It can be as small as picking up books off the floor and putting them on the shelf or wiping off all of the toothpaste from the bathroom sink and benches (how do they get it everywhere each day???).
  • Have the right tools – I have shared in this post the mop I use and vacuum cleaner, combined with my cleaning caddies and quality cleaning products, they all make the time I spend on cleaning more efficient.

Value my time

Some weeks I have more time for doing things around the house than others. It is in these weeks, I may do spot cleaning on the carpets, wipe down walls or dust the lights etc.

Other weeks there seems only just enough time to do the basics. But I value where I allocate my time; I use my goal and habits I have set for the year to help me make the best decision on where I allocate my time.

Some days given the choice of mopping the floor and sitting down with the kids to play a few hands of Uno, Uno will win. But if the house is in a state of utter chaos, Uno will need to wait for a bit, because it would not be possible for me to detach from the mess and be able to fully be present and play with the kids.

Over the last few years, I have really learnt the power of attitude and mindset. So while I could view no longer doing the tasks around the house as lowering my standards, I instead choose to view it as eliminating unimportant tasks.

This allows me to feel better about what I am doing, which then flows on to the attitude and energy I bring to the house. Working longer and harder, sucks the joy out of family life for me, so finding ways to work smarter and keep the house to a standard I can cope with is my focus.

What about you? How would you answer this question I would love to know?

This post was originally sent out via the Planning With Kids newsletter. So new readers can easily find the post, I have added it the blog too!

Photo by pan xiaozhen on Unsplash