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Sustainable Systems at Home for Teachers

Dec 29, 2020

I’m betting that when you’re in the middle of your week it’s not just your teaching responsibilities that have you stressed.  It is that endless teacher to-do list, but it’s that piled on top of all the things that need to be accomplished at home as well.  Whether you’re single, married, have kids or not, maintain a home or rent, there are things outside of your teacher life that are super important and can’t just be put on hold as you focus solely on maintaining your professional life.

In fact, your home-life will very much influence and even predict how your professional life is holding up. That is why we’ll focus on the home and how sustainable systems on the homefront can in fact help you be more present on the job as well.

At the time of this episode's recording, our family is in the heat of our first annual Christmas movie tournament.  We’ve got a bracket with the 16 matchups and are working our way through, watching each movie.  This has nothing to do with this episode’s topic except for Tim Allen’s awesome quote from Santa Clause 3 when Jack Frost is trying to undermine all of Santa’s hard work in the workshop on Christmas Eve… “A problem at work, that’s a challenge.  A problem at home, now that’s a problem.”

Man that’s good stuff - and it’s totally on my mind as I sit and write today.  This blog is all about helping you, our teachers, build sustainable classrooms so you can stay there longer, and to change the narrative around how teachers are supported.  For more direct help please visit our website here for specific guidance taking baby steps towards a sustainable classroom.

But a huge aspect of who you are as a teacher is your home life.  So in the spirit of supporting you, let’s chat about ways you can make your homefront a bit more sustainable so you can focus on what really matters - you, your family, and your students instead of that long to-do list.

We’ll take one overwhelming task at a time.

First up is groceries.

Based on my experience of being a yes-man in the classroom for ten-years, all while producing three children in a matter of 5 years and maintaining a home, there were quite a few things that I learned simply due to survival.  I vividly remember being on the edge of an anxiety attack as I considered going through our kitchen to make a grocery list, go shop for those groceries, and then put them away.  If anyone even said the words meal plan, I would freak out on the spot at just the idea of having to make one.

We were lucky to know what we were having for dinner by 4pm each day, let alone a week in advance.

I won’t even mention the supplies we let slip because our work and parenting tunnel vision was in full effect.  Toilet paper, paper towels, shampoos, deodorants - all the things that seem to just be there, but then all of a sudden, just aren’t.  Yea, they just ran out A LOT in our house.

And that’s when we heard about Subscribe and Save through Amazon.  Unless you’re driving, you should pause this episode right now and go sign up for Amazon Prime if you haven’t yet simply for the discounts and automatic shipments of these kinds of groceries you can get each month.

You know what else is a sustainable home routine for teachers - dry shampoo.  Yep - I even have added that to my Subscribe-and-Save list.

All you do is go to the Subscribe and Save part of your Amazon account, find the groceries you want to set up for automatic shipments, and set them for a routine delivery schedule, whether that’s one per month, or every 2, 3, or even 6 months. You choose.

Don’t forget to grab the ton of coupons they have available for first time subscribers, and if you sign up for 5 items or more you get an ADDITIONAL discount.  Not to mention, if you’ve got little ones in diapers still, you get a huge discount on those regardless of having 5 items or not.  Diapers is actually what got us onto Subscribe and Save in the first place.

If it turns out you don’t need an item for a bit, just push it back to the next month before your designated date to edit your order and you’re good to go.

Bam, you’ve got all your necessities like TP, diapers, detergent, deodorant, shampoo, feminine hygiene products, even makeup remover wipes, cleaning supplies, and more.  They just show up at your doorstep with very little thought on your part.  Did I mention shipping is free with an Amazon Prime account. 

Next up, cleaning the house.

Man, if anyone just read the categories in this blog they’d probably high tail it the other way, but don’t you worry - we’re here to make sure that all these stressors are put on autopilot for you, teacher friend.

After having our third baby, I remember waking up on a Saturday morning with the plan of getting the entire house cleaned.  My husband and I were going to tag team it and do our best to get it done.  All at once though, I remember looking at my kids and saying to my husband holding back tears that I couldn’t justify taking the 4+ hours it would certainly take to clean our home when I could be spending that time with them.

So we hired a cleaner.

Now, I know that hiring someone to clean your home is not doable for everyone, especially if a teacher’s salary is the main or only income for your family.  And, over the years, we’ve cancelled and rehired ours multiple times depending on how much time we were able to dedicate to cleaning.  

But I’d like to offer an alternative if hiring a cleaning service is not a viable option.  Other than our Amazon Subscribe and Save auto-shipments which sometimes include cleaning products, I’ve recently subscribed to Grove Collaborative, gotten the app on my phone, and can determine which cleaning and hygiene products we’d like delivered each month.  Their hand soaps from Mrs. Meyer’s and their Method toilet bowl cleaning solution are my most recent favorites.

Yes, I do clean my fair share of toilets even having a cleaner - did I mention I have three boys? - and I don’t have to worry about any of the products I need because Grove will send them my way as I need them.  To check out Grove and the products I use  here.

So when do you clean when you literally don’t have a waking moment to spare, and when you do you don’t want to spend it cleaning your house????  I’ve got a few suggestions:

  1. Clean that toilet when the kids are in the bath.  Keep the solution and brush right under the sink - yes get multiple.  
  2. Also keep wipes under each sink and add wipe down the bathroom sink to your kids’ chore chart.
  3. Speaking of which, add cleaning chores to your kids’ weekly chore list - for an example please see below this list.
  4. Do 15 minute Family Power Cleans - everyone gets a task that should take about 15 minutes, or a zone of the house that should take about that time to straighten or clean, you set a visible and loud timer for all - I like using Alexa - and you get after it.  All parties involved, and blast the music.  If a kid is mobile, they can help.

The last category we’ll chat about is a doozy - laundry

I don’t necessarily have laundry down to a science in our house, but here are a few things that I’ve made happen (or eliminated), again out of necessity lest I lose my mind.

  1. Dry cleaning is for the birds.  If a piece of my (or my husband’s) clothing requires dry cleaning I either don’t buy it in the first place, or ignore it - ha!  Seriously, delicate cycle and line dry is about as dry-cleaned anything gets at the Rice household. 
  2. My kids put their clothes away. They aren’t old enough to do their own laundry without causing more damage than it’s worth, so putting away is where it’s at for now.  Please know that designating this task to someone other than myself really flares my type-A tendencies, but it was accepting less than perfectly organized drawers or giving up my sanity all together.  I went with the former.  Sure they’re drawers are no longer pristine, but it’s their clothes.  If they can’t find a shirt they’re looking for, natural consequences should be able to take care of that, and teach them to take better care of their things than a lecture by yours truly could any day.
  3. Don’t fold sheets.  Seriously - get two sets of sheets for each bed in your home.  The sheets from Walmart are just as comfy as ones I’ve purchased from Bed Bath and Beyond, but way cheaper, so grab you some.  Then, when it’s time to change sheets, wash the dirty ones and as soon as they’re dry, put them on the bed, leaving the other set dirty and stored away in a basket in the laundry room.  No need to watch various Youtube tutorials on how to fold those god-forsaken fitted sheets.
  4. Last tip - if you have a newer washer you may have the ability to time wash.  This means you can load the washer, detergent and all, the night before and set the timer to finish the cycle when your alarm goes off.  Then when you get out of bed in the morning, the first thing you do is switch the wash to the dryer.  Depending on the length of your morning routine that means the wash could finish and you could fold it before it’s time to hit the road.  Or you can be like me and let it sit in the dryer all day, then let it sit in the basket for a few days before folding them and finally having someone else put it all away.  But, hey, that’s just me.  Now, if you don’t have a newer washer - no worries.  Just load it the night before, then when you wake up start the load.  Change it to the dryer before you leave and fold it some time later - maybe before the next load needs to be done would be good.

I’ve mentioned quite a few resources and tools so please be sure to click on the hyperlinked in this blog.  Between your groceries, cleaning routines, and laundry I hope that this blog has turned some of your home-problem areas into challenges that you’re now fully equipped to handle.

And remember, getting a handle of the homefront can sustain and support you as much as any classroom strategy, so you’re able to focus on what really matters - you, your family and your students.  And you, my friend, are worth it.

Until next time - go conquer the world, teacher friend.

P.S.  If the message in this post resonates with you and you'd like more directed guidance in building a sustainable classroom, then the Sustainable Teacher 7-Day Challenge is for you.  It's a totally free challenge that we'll send you with 7 daily tasks that help you take baby steps toward sustainability.

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