With the kids stuck at home with nowhere to go, this may be the golden opportunity to insource.
As a busy mum, you're probably familiar with the concept of outsourcing, where you identify all the tasks you perform at work and home that you are prepared to pay someone else—an expert—to do because they will do the task faster, better and cheaper than you. Think groceries (online shopping), meals (takeaways) and even help with the homework (tutors). The reason you outsource the tasks you don’t want to do, or don’t have the skills or time to do, is to give yourself time for the things you do want to do.
However, getting help around the home needs to go beyond just you and/or the cleaner doing everything. And while COVID-19 social distancing measures means we're all staying home (which makes outsourcing slightly more challenging), the tasks—and opportunities—are endless. We may generate more mess and chores simply by being at home more, but mums, you have a captive pool of labourers right at your fingertips right now.
It’s time to "insource"!
The 5 basics of insourcing
Insourcing is the exact opposite of outsourcing: Where you identify everything you do around the house for the people you live with, that they can do for themselves and that you don’t have to pay them for.
1. Family is a team sport
Happily, you are the captain.
2. The younger you start your kids insourcing, the better.
Little kids are enthusiastic, compliant and they don’t back chat. If you leave insourcing until your kids are teenagers, you will be fighting a much harder battle.
3. You are not after perfection
You simply want to instil in your family the habit of helping out without a fight. The dishwasher may not get stacked exactly the way you like but that’s OK; the beds might not be perfect but at least the doonas are off the floor; no-one expects a six-year-old to vacuum like a pro, however by the time they are 15 they'll be a pro and what’s more, they won’t argue when you hand over the vacuum.
4. Everyone is responsible for their own stuff and their own room
They are capable of tidying away their belongings, hanging up their towels, making their beds, and cleaning their floor and wardrobes.
5. Identify the family-based chores, divide them up and rotate them
- Feeding the pets
- Walking the dog
- Taking out the bins
- Vacuuming the floor
- Packing and unpacking the dishwasher.
The 2 big traps to avoid
Let’s not kid ourselves here, there will certainly be traps with insourcing.
1. It's easier to solve the problem yourself than nag . . . again
"Gah! My kids have left their towels on the floor again! How many times do I have to ask them to hang their towels up? Honestly, I am not their slave!"
And then what do you do? You pick up the towels and rehang them. You know you do this. Is it any wonder that your family don’t pick up their own towels?
If you were living in a hotel where the towels you left on the bathroom floor were collected, washed, refreshed and rehung every day, you would probably leave your towel on the floor too. I am not blaming you. I am just telling you that you are a major part of the problem.
Stay strong and be consistent, because you are breaking two habits:
- The habit of your family who are used to leaving their stuff lying around because they know you will pick it up and put it away.
- Your habit of picking things up and putting them away.
2. It's faster to do it myself
No, it is not. It’s time for a reality check: The small stuff that you think only takes five minutes actually eats up hours and hours of your life. For example, if you spend 10 minutes a day tidying up all of the "stuff" your kids leave around the house, that’s 60 hours of your time a year.
Starting from now, when you see your family’s stuff lying around just begging you to pick up, clear, tidy or make magically disappear, take a deep breath, back out of the room and quietly shut the door.
Why you should insource
Insourcing is all about creating independent and resourceful human beings. After all, my sons are going to grow up to marry your daughters, so let’s do them all a favour.
This is an edited extract from Kate's fourth book, Me First: The Guilt-Free Guide to Prioritising You (published by Wiley), which is available in all good book stores.