When I was a little girl, my parents took really good care of me. I had chores - but they were the obvious ones like make your bed, pick up your clothes, vacuum, and mow the lawn. I had no idea that there were so many more responsibilities that came with owning a home or running one. I liked cooking and I had watched my mom clean house - so I knew the basics. My dad even taught us to do our own taxes. But what I had not been trained to do was to manage it all. The behind the scenes stuff (at least it seemed that way to me) like changing batteries in smoke detectors, replacing lightbulbs, cleaning gutters, fixing sprinklers, troubleshooting electrical issues or basic plumbing - well, my daddy did those things, quietly and without fanfare. That was his job as the man of the house and it was his way of taking care of us. I didn't know it then, but as an adult, I would have the opportunity to learn many of those skills on my own.
Now, let me back up a bit. I was not always grateful for that opportunity. In fact I spent most of my adult life, even as a very responsible mother of 5 wondering, when a certain household maintenance issue came up, “Where is my daddy?” I would seriously have a little pity party - a full blown, “I shouldn’t have to learn these things! I don’t have time for this!” hissy fit inside my head. I wondered when someone was going to show up to fix things. I would ignore the broken sprinkler or the leaking toilet and wallow in my feminine helplessness. Completely overwhelmed, I would convince myself that it was impossible that I should have to be skilled in all of these things when I was already the homeschooling, cooking, planning, shopping, coordinating, chauffeuring, business owning woman of the house. “Isn't there a man around who will take care of these things for me?” I would wonder. “Certainly I’m entitled to that!” I would pout internally for days, disgruntled that I didn’t have household staff to do these things for me, until inevitably that voice inside would finally say, “No one is coming to save you, dear. It’s just a broken sprinkler and you can google how to fix that. So figure it out. You’ve got this.” And there is something that happens in the moments when you are digging a muddy hole or reaching into the toilet tank to replace a broken part. You realize that you CAN do it. It’s NOT that big a deal. The guy at Ace Hardware is your friend, the internet is your helper, and you are more capable than you think.
So I’m grateful that I’m not the princess of my house - I wanted to be, but helplessness is not as empowering as fortitude and resourcefulness. I still want to take care of these things behind the scenes so my children feel secure like I did at their age. But I’m also aware now that they need to know these things by the time they leave the nest. I need to show them a little at a time, so they don’t have to figure it all out as adults, when the list of responsibilities can feel overwhelming.
To remind myself and to teach my children what needs doing, I’ve made a list and a schedule of household maintenance tasks along with the how to, tips, and tricks I’ve learned over the years. It’s probably missing a lot of things and I’ll be adding to it over time, but I hope it will help those who are perhaps new to home ownership, or those who are ready to take care of things themselves. It’s not as hard as it seems. Our education is not over after schooling is complete or when we settle down to raise a family. There is always more to learn, more skill to gain, more resourcefulness to develop - we never really arrive. And isn’t that a good thing?
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What else we could we add to this list? What have you learned about taking care of a home that you could share with us?