How Do You Do Everything That Needs to Be Done?

Hi Heather,

I don’t recall when I subscribed to your site, but I do recall having found your site at a time when all my children would eat for breakfast was pancakes and I knew there had to be a way to freeze them. Lifesaver! Thank you!

But, anyhow, to the point. I know you recently moved. And you work. And you blog. So, how do you find time to do the non-essential things? We’ve lived in our house for 2 and a half years and I still have half-painted trim and the register covers have still not been replaced (from the few rooms that we had painted when we first moved in). How do you do it? I’m a new stay at home mom and had all these awesome plans to get things done around here, yet I find I can’t even handle the laundry anymore. What’s your secret. Please share!!
Seriously Slacking
Heather says

Drive comes and goes, at least for me. During the divorce and after my sisters’ deaths, I really had none. I barely could do the things I absolutely had to much less the things that were beyond the bare minimum.
It’s been well over a year now since these events happened and life’s a lot different for me. For the first time in a very long time I am truly happy.  Yes, I still get irritated and annoyed with my kids, especially when I have them for long stretches of time. I’m human and parenting is a tough, but wonderful gig.
That said, to get the things that need done around here, in this hot mess of a fixer-upper, I try to make myself accountable.

What motivates you?

I can’t do X until I do Y and if it’s something very important, but off-putting I tell someone who matters about my goal. I really stink at coming up with internal motivation. Over many years, I’ve learned I can get myself to face the things I don’t want to by placing that motivation and accountability somewhere outside of myself.
My therapist and I have gone back and forth about whether or not it’s the healthiest coping skill.  That said, for me, it works and I have done so many things I never would have had the courage, energy, or motivation to do on my own.
For you, consider getting the tools to do the job, before setting your deadline. This way you remove the excuse of, but I don’t have the right paintbrush, the correct size register, drop cloth… whatever it is that would prevent you from finishing the job you want to start.
Set up a reward for once you’ve accomplished the chore. I can’t have a fancy coffee, adult beverage (eh you may see a pattern with me) or nice dinner out until I’ve done whatever I need to do. It doesn’t have to be food, it can be I won’t start that book from the library until I clean up the house. There are many kinds of little reward motivators you can find for yourself.
When the kids are involved it’s more specific: we won’t go to the park until the kids help pick up the house. We won’t start the movie until the dishes are done. And sometimes? Sometimes I have to be firm and not go to the park or turn on the movie. House didn’t get clean in time to go? Sorry, guys, them’s the breaks.
Rewards and “bribery” only work when used correctly. You can’t give in to yourself or the kids and expect anything to get accomplished.
Yes, sometimes you have to be rigid even with yourself, perhaps especially with yourself. But getting the I don’t wannas done removes the guilt from the fun things.
Over time, the successes build on themselves and a sense of pride in the task itself can develop. To get the ball rolling set the bar low, don’t say I will clean the house and paint the laundry room before I have another cup of coffee… that’ll just lead to frustration.
Today I won’t let myself take a break for lunch until I actually call the contractor about the roof. (I don’t know why I’m dreading this, he already gave me the estimate).
This weekend? I have to paint the dining room and replace the light fixture before getting a Christmas tree. (Wait, I’m rewarding myself with more work, who is in charge here? Oh… me. )
If you’re curious, I’m going with the color on the right and whatever light fixture matches. I really want to set my dining room table up so we can all sit comfortably together for meal. I miss that and really, that’s the real reward, the Christmas tree is just a nice bonus.
Tell me, Home-Eccers, what is your motivation for projects you should, but don’t want to do?
Send your questions to


  1. cjeffery on December 10, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    I’m a stay-at-home mom and homeschooler for 14 years. My best advice is
    1) Set priorities. What is really important right now? When the kids are little, there really isn’t time for much else.
    2) Let go of perfection. Just sweeping in the middle is fine for today.
    3) Get your kids involved. They can do the laundry, the dishes, the vacuuming, etc. (Did I mention “let go of perfection”?) Even the littlest ones can have a job.
    4) And who cares? Find a level of messiness/unfinishedness that you and your family can live with. When your kids are grown you will be glad that you did. There will be plenty of time to paint the trim when they are off to college!

  2. Jen Arrow on December 10, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Terrific post. So sorry to hear about your sisters. Sending general thanks and peace and joy vibes to you from out here in California.

  3. Windy on December 10, 2014 at 11:36 am

    1. Recognize and eliminate time-sucks. For me, this means the TV stays off during the day, period.

    2. I use a free app called to keep myself organized. If I see something that needs to be done, I put it on the list. Otherwise I’d spend all my time doing little five-minute projects and chores all day.

    3. Don’t be a slave to someone else’s system. Use trial and error (and error, and error!) to find what works for you.

    Good luck!

    • Heather Solos on December 10, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      1. That’s a big one: I took the facebook app off of my phone. I can still get to it through a browser, but now it isn’t beeping / harassing me all day.

      2. I’ll check that one out.

      3. Amen. I started HE101 because other people’s answers weren’t ringing true for me. HE101 certainly isn’t the answer for everyone, but I’m glad it works for some 🙂

  4. csleh on December 10, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Maybe to go along with the rewards is to try out a time chunking schedule similar to the weekly chore schedule. I like examples:
    Monday/Wednesday = 1 hour chore and 2 hours at the park, that evening is set aside for online research or planning (permission to check out pintrest decorating!) Tuesday/Thursday = shopping (one day groceries, the other home depot, etc), followed by the kids have an afternoon playdate or get to watch/play something special and mom can do laundry.
    Friday = short productive something and family movie night.
    Weekends = 1 big project (painting trim), then a picnic or outing (date night reward!).
    Sunday evening dad plays with kids and mom can plan out the next week and have time for some other reward by herself.
    The schedule can be anything any day obviously, but knowing that is there is a time set aside for going to home depot on a future day, you can relax and concentrate on what’s happening today. And you can make plans knowing that meeting with a contractor would work best on M/W mornings but not T/Th afternoons.

  5. Nancy on December 10, 2014 at 9:58 am

    I am not good at self motivation. For me its easiest to have routines that get me through the day with not much thinking. (free!) is where I found the routines all ready planned so all I do is follow her lead and things get done!

    • Heather Solos on December 10, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      FLYLady was what I looked at 11 years ago, when I had my first kid. I’d been a chef and full time student and suddenly I was home, alone with a colicky baby.

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