Daily Maintenance is Key: Lessons From My Maternity Leave

posted by Andrea | 04/22/2014

mommy and kids

Dave’s Spring Break was two weeks ago — which meant we had 10 glorious days without a schedule. And although we rarely ever go anywhere or do anything special over Spring Break, I will often take some time away from blogging… but not this year.

Since I basically took about 5 weeks off from blogging (and life) to take it easy after Simon’s birth, I knew that I’d need to use Spring Break week to catch up and plan ahead.

No need to feel sorry for me either. I was actually REALLY looking forward to getting back to work, getting back to some sort of routine, and feeling like my normal productive self again.

However, I didn’t expect it to be so difficult to find my productivity groove again!

After 5 weeks of freezer meals and delicious food gifts from family and friends, I really had no desire to start cooking or baking again.

After 5 weeks of very limited grocery shopping and meal planning, I really didn’t feel like planning our weekly menus, clipping coupons, and getting my normal amount of groceries each week.

After 5 weeks of very basic house cleaning, I found it very difficult to get back to my more normal cleaning regimen.

After 5 weeks of pre-scheduled blog posts, I had some of the worst writer’s block ever and literally couldn’t think of anything interesting to write about.

Yes, I realize I just had a baby and that I was/am sleep-deprived, but I couldn’t believe how difficult it was for me to get back to all those routines I’d been utilizing (and loving) for many months and years after just taking 5 weeks off.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “Daily maintenance is one of the MOST important factors in living a simplified, organized life.”

Obviously I was never planning for things to go back to “normal” immediately after I got home from the hospital. I wanted that break, I needed that break, and I thoroughly enjoyed that break! I just didn’t realize how quickly I would slip away from my otherwise very structured lifestyle. Even for me (someone who definitely knows the benefit of working ahead and staying on track) I found that it was just much easier to make excuses than to get back on track.

After all, it wouldn’t hurt to go out to eat one more time.

It wouldn’t hurt to skip one more week of meal planning.

It wouldn’t hurt to put off a few of those household chores for another week or so.

It wouldn’t hurt to miss a few blog posts here and there.

But then where does it stop? 

After another week with no schedule, I’ll just want one more week, and then one more week. Because we all know it’s much easier to “do it later” than to do it right now.

I know all too well that without daily maintenance, my home and life can quickly spiral out of control and turn into an over-scheduled, cluttered mess. And while I didn’t totally let everything go these last 5 weeks (don’t worry, my house isn’t in shambles), I DID let enough go to get totally out of my normal routine — which is actually what I wanted.

I’m grateful for the time I had to rest and break away from my normal daily and weekly routines; but I also knew that eventually, I’d have to bite the bullet and get back on track. Otherwise I’d just continue to slip further and further behind, making it more and more overwhelming to get back on track again. Yes, it’s a vicious cycle!

So, I’m easing back into meal planning, freezer cooking, baking, cleaning, yard work, and blogging.

It feels really good to be productive again and have some sort of routine — I just wish it wasn’t so fun to be lazy :)

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27 comments

  1. mary willis

    04/22/2014

    If I let laundry go for a few days it becomes an enormous task I want to put off.

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  2. Jen

    04/22/2014

    This is SOOO true! People ask me all the time how I keep our home so clean and organized. My answer: stay on top of it. If you let it get away from you, it’s all downhill from there. It’s little things like: I literally walk in the door, look through the mail, recycle what I don’t want and put everything else in its place. I never leave dishes in the sink. If they’re dirty, put them right in the dishwasher (and teach your kids to do the same!). Have a place for everything and then put everything in its place. These things take just a minute but the results are so satisfying! It’s just a matter of DAILY maintenance! Hope your “reentry” continues to go smoothly!

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    Ashley Reply:

    So true, Jen! There are times when I literally think to myself “I’ll do it later. No! It’ll just take a second to do it now. Just do it now!” It has to be a conscious decision though, as it’s so easy to simply set things aside for later. Mail and dishes are a great example of things that take seconds up front, but end up being much bigger if put off!

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  3. LoriB

    04/22/2014

    This is helpful to hear. Its easy to think that some people just naturally and easily do everything right and never battle procrastination. I like hearing that you are finding joy in the relaxing after Simon’s birth not only in the doing. Its a good balance. On the other hand, I’m excited that you are looking forward to getting back to “normal” because I love your blog. You inspire this older mama.

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    Lisa Reply:

    Amen to this! It’s really helpful to know it’s about choices and not just how one is wired!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for pointing that out Lisa. I do think that people can be naturally “wired” to be more organized, scheduled, etc…. but I’m also positive that a lot of comes down to choices, self-discipline, and just “sucking it up” even when you don’t want to do something :)

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Lori… I’m excited to get back to “normal” too.
    I do think that there are people (myself included) who are naturally more organized — but I also think that EVERYONE battles procrastination on a daily basis. It’s easier for the naturally organized people to win the battle, but it ultimately comes down to the choices WE make. We all have the same number of hours in a day, it’s just how we choose to use those hours (and yes, I’m aware that sometimes other people choose how we need to use them too)

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  4. Amy O

    04/22/2014

    I am nowhere near as organized as clean and organized as you are, Andrea (I wish!). But I have had my home to the place of “daily maintenance” before, and it was great. Unfortunately right now I have fallen off the wagon (I especially have allowed my teenage boys to let their rooms go to chaos.) Anyway, now I am working to get BACK on track. Your blog is a constant inspiration to me. I know how much better I feel when things are under control, and I know I can get it there. Thanks for the encouragement!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Amy — if you had your home/life to the place you wanted it before, I’m positive you can get back there! I’m guessing teenage boys are pretty challenging to motivate to clean and pick up after themselves… maybe I’ll start now already with Simon :)

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  5. Jennifer

    04/22/2014

    This is so true. Especially after having a baby, when “real life” seems to stop for awhile, it’s hard to get back into your normal routine. Taking those baby steps back into it is key. You will get there!

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  6. Kristen @ Joyfullythriving

    04/22/2014

    Ha! I’m right there with you, Andrea. It is quite lovely (and fun!) to be lazy with no set schedules at times. I realized this morning that my maternity leave is already half way over which means I need to start settling into some routines again. Soon…

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    Andrea Reply:

    Half over already! Enjoy the last few weeks of your maternity leave Kristen!

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  7. Leanne

    04/22/2014

    I can totally relate! after this big move… I am now CRAVING a routine! and desperately trying to establish one… :-) thanks for the encouragement!

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  8. ShellyL

    04/22/2014

    Kudos to you for getting back into your routine so soon. It is so much harder the longer you wait. I have battled PPD and hormones with each birth and my house was a major indicator. I could not get motivated to get back into the routine. You are handling your second birth so well. I enjoyed reading today’s post and I love how you tell it like it is. It’s nice to know that “even you” had rather sit around for a few more weeks and do nothing. :)

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Shelly — I am finding that it has been easier to get back on track after Simon than after Nora.

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  9. Heart and Haven

    04/22/2014

    There are times when routines and home chores come easier to me, and other times when I have to “bribe” myself to do them. For example: 1. clean kitchen & start dishwasher, then read Andrea’s blog for the day 2. fold & put away laundry from dryer and start another load (if needed), then read another blog I enjoy :-)
    I do better with “routines” rather than “schedules”, cause with 3 little ones at home things come up daily that would totally disrupt my “schedule”!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Awww… so glad my posts are one of your “bribes” :) I also do better with routines versus schedule (especially now after kids)

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  10. Elyse

    04/22/2014

    This is so true! I find that once I “fall off the wagon” it takes a solid two weeks to really feel like I’m back to my old self. And then the feeling snowballs because I feel behind and overwhelmed in all of my typical areas of control. I think it’s a matter of finding that sweet spot between taking a break and not completely letting your routine disappear. Kudos to you for realizing this and for easing back into it. P.S. I’m pretty sure you have the cutest kids ever!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Elyse — we think they’re pretty cute too :)
    And yes, I also find that it takes a bit to get “back on the wagon” any time I fall off — even if it was an intentional break.

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  11. Sherry L

    04/23/2014

    “Daily maintenance is one of the MOST important factors in living a simplified, organized life.”

    I couldn’t agree more! You’ll get back into your groove, but sometimes it’s more important that we stop and smell the roses (or, in your case, the new baby)!

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    wiebke Reply:

    Hello Sherry, hello Andrea

    I`m glad to hear, that i`m not the only person, who thinks that newborn babies smell so good (without the diaper of course ;-)
    After a while that smell isn`t the same (like toddlers for example). So this is a memory you don`t get back. Therefore enjoy it, whenever it is possible.

    Greetings from Germany

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  12. Julie

    04/24/2014

    How do you start this when you never established daily weekly monthly quarterly annual routines? I need help and I cannot see the forest for the trees there is just so much to focus on and do.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I know it sounds cliche, but I’d suggest “starting small”. Just pick ONE area of your life to start implementing a schedule or routine. So for example, maybe you implement certain household chores on specific days of the week… or maybe you start meal planning again… or maybe it’s a simple as eating dinner at roughly the same time every night and then spending time with family after dinner.

    Also, don’t worry about having a routine or schedule for everything. Sometimes it really IS better and simpler to just “go with the flow” and let the day unfold. Sometimes schedules can stress people out — which is not the purpose at all. You can do this!

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    Julie Reply:

    Thank you for your feedback.

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  13. Linda B

    04/26/2014

    Such good stuff here! I have areas of my life/home that are running well, and I feel like I only have to keep them that way, and it’s much much easier.
    Other areas, I’m working to dig out of a backlog of unfinished tasks/unpacked boxes, and that is much harder.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Exactly Linda — it’s MUCH harder to crawl out of the clutter and mess than it is to just work at staying on top!

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  14. Ginny

    05/06/2014

    I knew I read this today for a reason. I’ve been having the first trimester “all I want to do is sleep” problem and my house is paying for it. Papers are everywhere and everything seems out of control. I have to get back into it before baby #2 gets here. I want everything to be as prepared as can be so I can relax a little as well. Meal planning is the worst when you get out of it! I dread getting back into it…especially with weird cravings and things that make my stomach woozy. Thanks for sharing and for your honesty.

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