I think this has to be the most common question I get through emails and facebook and comments.
I will start by saying that I am no expert on this subject, I'm just a normal stay at home mom like so many others out there, learning as I go, experimenting, trying, sometimes failing etc.
But over the years I have found things that work for me, granted my children are now 13 and 9 years old which makes things so much easier, but to an extent my way of doing things still applies.
Just this morning I had another one of these questions on the facebook page, and instead of writing a huge entry on there, I thought it would be easier to put in a post, who knows, it may help someone else out there with some ideas. Again keep in mind that just because it works for me, doesn't mean that it's failproof or that it will work for everyone else, but it might give you a starting point to develop a plan for your family :)
Many don't follow a specific routine, and I will tell you that while I had an actual written out routine when my children were little, now I don't. I just have chores that I know need to get done daily, like washing dishes, tidying up, sweeping, cleaning the countertops, making the beds etc. It's just a part of my day and something I'm used to doing so I almost do it as if on auto pilot.
But if you need to stick to a list, then draw one up of the things you think need to be done every single day and allow yourself at least an hour to get them done. The key here is not to overwhelm yourself and do everything in one day, I've learned over the years that if I stay on top of the housework then I don't end up with tons of work on the weekend when I should be relaxing and enjoying time with the family.
In that routine, include an hour of mommy time. It doesn't matter what you'll be doing, even something as simple as just sitting on the couch with a book, crocheting or knitting, or watching a favorite show. Have that coincide with the kids naps, of course now that my children are older it's much easier because they'll read a book or watch a tv show quietly or play on their laptops etc.
I can't tell you enough how much menu planning helps, especially during the younger years with toddlers.
There's nothing worse than having a hungry child and standing there still trying to figure out what you're going to make for dinner. Plan right down to the breakfast and lunch, trust me, it makes all the difference in the world.
Before you go to bed the night before, pull out any meat that needs to be thawed and set in the refrigerator, in the morning you can just put it in the sink. If you can, on the days that you know you're going to be extra busy, use your crockpot.
Include your kids
If you turn cleaning and tidying up into a game, then you will get what you need done AND at the same time keep your children entertained AND teach them some valuable lessons.
I always made cleaning up the toys into a game. Each kid got a little basket and they would run around filling them up.
Doing dishes? I would pull up a chair and let them help me rinse them or even just play with soap bubbles, they got to splash the water around the sink, thought it was the coolest thing on earth, and I got my dishes done.
Cooking? Let them stir, let them add things to the bowl. As they get older you can teach them how to cut up veggies or stir a pot on the stove. But always with you standing right there.
Teach them how to make their own beds. Fight the urge to go in after them and fix it LOL Trust me, I wanted so many times to make it right, but it's THEIR bed and they're learning and therefore it should be left alone.
Doing laundry? Let them sort into colors, again, you're getting help but they're also learning :)
I think overall the best advice I can give you, is to not overdo it. You don't HAVE to do everything today, break your chores up into rooms, done one each day. Or do a load of laundry each day, wash, fold, and put away immediately.
Most importantly though, make some time for the things you enjoy, you have to nourish your own soul during the day or homemaking will turn into just unpleasant chores that make you feel unhappy.
Don't be hard on yourself. I remember in my earlier marriage years, if I didn't absolutely do everything each day I felt horrible, like I was failing, not doing my part in the home. Problem was that I was trying to do way too much and trying to create the perfect home according to society as opposed to creating the perfect home for your family.
A home is to be lived in, it's not a museum.
It doesn't need to be untidy and dirty, but there should be signs that human beings live, love and laugh daily.
Simple things make your home cozy, for me:
Crochet blankies draped over chairs
Beautiful books on the coffee table
What says cozy to YOU?
All images in this post were found through Google.