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The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

By Robert Koger

Published by Wild Plains Press An imprint of Cyberwizard Productions 1205 N. Saginaw Boulevard #D PMB 224 Saginaw, Texas 76179 Author: Robert Koger Editors: Kelly Christiansen, Lucille P Robinson Interior illustrations: Anne Stone Front and Back Cover Photographs: Curtis Pitchford, Pitchford Photography Back Cover Models: Tony, Sarah, and Lexi Alonso Front cover Model: Lexi Alonso Title: The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents Š Robert Koger 2008 ISBN 978-0-9815669-2-4 (paper) Library of Congress Control Number: First Edition: Printed and Bound in The United States of America All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher and/or the author, excepting brief quotes used in connection with reviews.

Acknowledgements The very best help an author can have is an editor that can take a good book, make suggestions and create new ideas to turn it into a great book. I was fortunate. I had two editors that made the process enjoyable, and informative. To my outstanding and simply wonderful editors, Kelly Christiansen and Lucille Robinson, thank you for putting your knowledgeable touch on the book. You made it better, word-by-word and idea-by-idea. Also a big thank you to Curtis Pitchford who took hundreds of pictures to get just the right cover photo. You are a true professional. I would also like to thank my Literary Agent, Chamein Canton, who takes care of me and watches over me so I have the space and freedom to do what I enjoy the most: writing and spending time with my family. Dedication: Nothing I do would be complete or as enjoyable without my confidant, best friend, and wife. Mary, thank you for being with me every step of the way.

Foreword This book is written from experience. I worked in the role of a stay-at-home parent, and househusband. I also had a period of time that I was a single parent. I provided my children with this information when they started out as a new head of their own households. Everything you’ll find in this book will help you, no matter what role you are in. Although this book was written primarily for the stay-at-home parent, much of the information is also applicable to other people. If you want to take steps to simplify your life, this book can help. Whether you are a single person or a couple just starting out on your own, if you don’t have skills such as setting up a schedule, establishing a budget, shopping, cleaning, cooking, washing clothes, making your budget stretch, making minor home repairs, or doing yard work, you will find the suggestions and counsel within these pages to be of great benefit. Many people think that they can just quit their outside job and instantly know everything they need to know to start taking care of a house or children. They believe the move can be made without any preparation or guidance. For most men and women that’s simply not true. Taking care of the house and family requires learning new skills. You didn’t learn to drive a car by riding in one and you won’t be able to cook, clean, shop, and do many other tasks for your new job by just being around the house or the children. There are numerous books on the market designed to assist you in your new endeavor, but most do not deal with the basics. Do you know where to start vacuuming in a room? Do you know where to start in a store when you are grocery shopping? Do you follow the “right hand rule” when you are doing your errands? If your answer is, “What are you talking about” then you can definitely use this book. Trial and error is a hard way to learn anything. Properly running your house, and your life, can be rewarding and fun, and everyone will benefit from your hard work if you do the job right. Start right by following the guidance in this book, and welcome aboard! Cooking is part of the job so although this is book is not designed as a cookbook; it includes many easy-to-prepare recipes and contains extensive sections that explain how to prepare a variety of meals.

Table of Contents Chapter 1: Making The Right Move___________________________________________ 1 Chapter 2: Getting Started __________________________________________________ 5 Chapter 3: Establishing Your Schedule ________________________________________ 8 Chapter 4: Home Jobs and Scams ___________________________________________ 11 Chapter 6: Establishing A New Budget _______________________________________ 18 Chapter 7: Childproofing Your Home ________________________________________ 24 Chapter 8: Children In School ______________________________________________ 27 Chapter 9: Life Outside of the House_________________________________________ 29 Chapter 10: Avoiding Burnout and Meltdown__________________________________ 32 Chapter 11: The Evening __________________________________________________ 35 Chapter 12: Cleaning Your Home ___________________________________________ 38 Chapter 13: Home Organization ____________________________________________ 55 Chapter 14: Washing Clothes _______________________________________________ 63 Chapter 15: Shopping _____________________________________________________ 71 Chapter 16: Stretching Your Budget _________________________________________ 79 Chapter 17: Cooking Preparation ___________________________________________ 83 Chapter 18: Meals and Recipes, Breakfast ____________________________________ 98 Chapter 19: Meals and Recipes, Lunch ______________________________________ 102 Chapter 20: Meals and Recipes, Dinner______________________________________ 106 Chapter 21: Recipes for Drinks, Desserts, and Other Items ______________________ 116 Chapter 22: Home Repairs ________________________________________________ 121 Chapter 23: Yard Work___________________________________________________ 128 Chapter 24: Activities, Inside And Outside ___________________________________ 130 Chapter 25: Gift Certificates_______________________________________________ 136

Chapter 1 Making The Right Move The Decision There are many reasons why this book can help you. No one fits inside a neat little box. Everyone has different family situations that dictate what they are required to do. You might be a parent and you find that the income you can make working outside the home doesn’t offset the costs to have someone else take care of your children. You might be a newlywed that has no experience in managing a household. You might even be single and out on your own for the first time in your life, hunting for something that will assist you to become proficient at housekeeping, shopping, cooking or whatever. No matter what your personal reason, the information in the book will help you do a better, and easier, job.

Economics If you are managing the household, or are a stay-at-home parent, then it must be because your situation necessitates it. Guess what, you are not alone. You may have enough money coming in to live comfortably, or you might be living from paycheck-to-paycheck. To determine how you can best afford to do the job, make a list of all of your expenses. Get out your checkbook or bank statements and go back about six months. List everything in two categories: 1. Must Pay


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

2. Extras Under Must Pay, list bills such as house or apartment payment, credit cards, car payments, gas for the car, food, etc. Under Extras, list things such as eating out, movies, house cleaning, renting DVD’s, buying books and magazines, and other expenses you can live without if you had to. Write down all income currently available to you on a monthly basis and subtract the Must Pay bills from it. Circle the difference. Now go over your Extras list and eliminate all expenses you won’t incur while working from home. Decrease or eliminate fast food spending. Also decrease car expenses and such things as clothing purchases or dry-cleaning. To the adjusted total, add in a few meals out, a few movies, and occasional special food or desserts. Subtract this estimate from the amount you previously circled. If there is enough left over so that you can put away money for emergencies and savings, then the economics will work. If not, you will have to supplement your income in some way.

Misconceptions Many people think that staying home will allow them to sit around and drink coffee, take long naps, play golf or go shopping, and participate in many other enjoyable activities. Another misconception is that managing a household doesn’t require any special skills. Both assumptions are wrong.

Facts This could turn out to be the hardest job you have ever had, or it could become the most enjoyable. How it works out depends upon your attitude. For a stay-at-home parent, it’s a job that starts early in the morning and continues until late at night. For other people,


Making the Right Move

maintaining the household is mostly an after work job that takes some time. There is no pay, you don’t earn any retirement or social security benefits, but done right it’s rewarding in other ways. It’s also a necessity. You will probably have to learn new skills as most people are not raised doing domestic chores. You will have to learn to cook and clean, do repairs around the house, do the yard work, and many other things. If you become a parent, you will also have to learn specialized skills such as changing diapers, bathing babies and feeding children of all ages. Don’t despair, things are not as hopeless as they seem. For example, to cook breakfast, lunch or dinner for your family, you don’t have to be a chef. To clean, you just need to learn the proper sequence and techniques. With the aid of this book, you can become successful quickly and highly proficient after some time.

Perceived Loss Of Status Many men and women are so oriented into the world of work outside the home that they consider doing housework or cooking a loss of status. They feel it is beneath them, making them less important and seeing themselves as having a loss in status. These people miss out on a lot of life. Maintaining the household is not a step backward in your life. Every job, no matter where you work, is important. Pride in what you do is not limited to what job you perform. It is based upon how well you do the job and the benefits and satisfaction it brings to you and the people around you. Doing any job is a matter of setting priorities and putting your job in the correct perspective. Making the house a home is a hard job that when accomplished right gives you a great feeling. Your mental approach is every bit as important in this job as in any other. You are a very important and a significant benefactor to your family. You are the CEO of your household. Never forget that your performance at home makes a big difference in how successful you, your children, or even your spouse, are in life. Tackle the new aspect of your career with all the gusto you can. The rewards are something that is tangible. You will see the results of your actions in the faces and actions of those that are the benefactors of your work.


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

Final Decision After you have looked at your finances and discussed the issues surrounding working at home with your spouse (if you have one), you will know if it is feasible. If staying at home is a necessity rather than an option, the financial breakdown will let you know exactly where you stand. If everything looks like it is the job for you, the next step is determining what will be done and how you are going to do it.


Chapter 2 Getting Started Job Agreement Since you have decided to become a stay-at-home parent, or are taking on the role of managing the household, now is the time to sit down and work out the details of the job. If you are married, you need to know what your spouse expects, and your spouse needs to know what you perceive as your job. If you are single, then you must clearly define your new role. A list of must-do chores or tasks, along with deciding which days to accomplish them, will structure and simplify your time. Efficiency is as important at home, as it is at work. This doesn’t have to be set down on a typewritten, signed, and notarized document, but it does need to be clearly defined. Author’s Note: My spouse and I came to a very quick agreement because I had already thought about what I should do and what she would do if she was in the job. Here is what I proposed: I would get up with her in the morning and we would have our first cup of coffee together without any interruptions. When she finished her coffee and went to get dressed, I would prepare her breakfast. If she didn’t want breakfast, I would read the morning newspaper. We would then have another cup of coffee before she


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

headed out to work. My next step was to prepare breakfast for our grandson. I would get him up and sit with him while he ate. When he was finished, we would both head off to get dressed for the day. During the day I would do the washing, cleaning, and whatever else I had on my schedule for that day. When our grandson returned from school I had an after school snack for him. He would then go and do his homework before going out to play. When my spouse came in from work I had a cup of coffee ready for her so she could sit down and decompress from her day. We would talk about her day, my day, or whatever came up. When she was ready, she would go change out of her work clothes and I would set the table. When everything was ready for the evening dinner, we would sit down as a family and enjoy the experience. After eating everyone would place their dishes on the kitchen counter and I would start cleaning them. My spouse would go read or tend to her plants. We had decided that the garden was mine but the indoor and hanging plants were her responsibility. Our grandson would head out to play or go to his room if the weather was bad. We also agreed that I would get everything done on Monday through Friday, leaving Saturday and Sunday free so that we could do whatever we wanted. Most often, we went out to eat on Saturday evening. Usually it was an inexpensive family restaurant or take home pizza, and sometimes it was just a burger and fries. This was what we agreed on and it worked well for both of us. My spouse was able to do her job and then come home and relax. I got everything done before she returned from work, allowing me to spend the evening relaxing with her. Our grandson had time for sports, television, video games, and play. There was one other big item that we worked out before I started the job. She agreed to always call me when she left work so I knew how much time I had to finish getting dinner ready. She also called as early as she could if she had to work late and


Getting Started

wouldn’t be able to make it home at her normal time. This made things go much smoother.

Your Agreement When you sit down to work out your agreement, be honest and straightforward. If you have a spouse, roommate, or partner, remember this is a negotiation between both of you. If you dislike doing something, let the other person know. If you suggest something that your partner wants to do instead or dislikes, they need to speak up. Make sure the agreement states that everyone will pick up after themselves. Many people believe that the children should be involved in establishing the agreement. A house is not a democracy where everyone gets a vote. You and your spouse are in charge, the children are not. Once the agreement is set, let the children know what is expected of them. Explain what you want, and then lead by example. For young children, show them how to pick up their clothes and put them in the clothes hamper, how to hang up a towel, how to straighten up their toys. For older children, simply state something such as, “Here is what we need you to do to help out.” This is especially important if there are financial adjustments to be made. If there is something that you can’t agree upon, take a break and think it over in private. How important is it? Ask yourself, is the task something that must be designated, can it be shared or can it be ignored? Example: You might not want to fix breakfast for everyone on the weekend and neither does your spouse. Perhaps everyone can get their own, take turns, or go without. Be honest in your response to the question and remember, if there are children they must be fed regardless of what you, or you and your spouse decide to do. The point is, the more details you work out ahead of time, the easier the transition will be, then plan to address any issues you missed as they arise. This is a job that will change over time and you have to be adaptable. The agreement will get you started but can’t be carved in stone.


Chapter 3 Establishing Your Schedule Now that you know who is responsible for what, it is time to establish a schedule. The more organized you are, the easier and better you will be able to do the job. Don’t try to keep the schedule in your head, put it on paper. You will also need a calendar and a weekly pocket size planner and plan to schedule the coming week on the weekend. Then you will know ahead of time what events you, your spouse, or children have that will impact the schedule.

Schedule You will need find a routine that works for you, however to help you get started, an example schedule is provided below. Move items around, remove or replace them, to suit your timetable and needs.

Monday 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Wash Clothes Change sheets on the beds and wash Change the bath towels and wash Prepare Dinner (Meatloaf, vegetable, potatoes, fruit, and desert) Parent teacher conference at school, 7:00 PM

Tuesday 1. Clean house


Establishing Your Schedule

2. Dust, sweep, vacuum, mop 3. Prepare Dinner (Stuffed peppers, vegetable, rice, fruit, and desert) 4. Dance lesson, 4:00 PM

Wednesday 1. Children’s Day 2. Prepare Dinner (Leftover meatloaf, vegetable, bake potatoes, fruit, and desert)

3. Soccer Practice 4. 5:00 PM, (reheat dinner for child after practice)

Thursday 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Wash clothes if the family size dictates more than one wash per week Light cleaning of house (sweep, vacuum and mop) Weed flower beds or garden Sweep front stoop area Dust blinds Prepare dinner (fish sticks, macaroni, salad and fruit) Gymnastic practice, 4:00 PM

Friday 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Mow yard Grocery shopping (see shopping list) Pick up videos for the weekend Drop off and pick up cleaning Balance checkbook Prepare dinner (chicken, potatoes, vegetable, fruit, and desert)

Saturday & Sunday 1. 2. 3. 4.

Must do children’s events Manicure or pedicure Window shopping Whatever you want to do


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

By establishing the exact menus ahead of time, your trip to the store allows you the purchase the necessary ingredients so you will have them on hand. By buying only the specific food you need to prepare you will cut down on having a lot of items in the refrigerator or pantry that aren’t used. Eliminating waste enhances the savings you achieve with your new stay-athome job, and there is a real satisfaction in preparing just the right amount for your needs. Your schedule can be as detailed or as general as you want. You may wish to list routine items you do each day like breakfast, lunch, or reading the paper, or you may choose to leave those activities off. It is your schedule. Make it as simple or complex as necessary to assist you in getting the job done. The original reason for staying home was to provide a service that you, or you and your spouse needed, but were not getting. If it seems like the schedule and emphasis is more heavily slanted to you and your spouse, you are correct. The children need good loving and productive time with the family but in eighteen years they will be gone, living their own life. Then it will just be the two of you. If you are married and spend all of your time as a Dad or a Mom and spend no time as a spouse you are making a big mistake. You are putting the emphasis in the wrong place. You have to be able to be a parent when needed, and yet be the spouse also. A calendar can be a great asset. List celebrations for family and friends, any other events-- such as vacations, start of school, and so on-that you know of well in advance can also be listed. A weekly planner is a must. Purchase one that slips in your pocket or purse so that you can keep it with you and check dates for appointments, social events, or whatever else comes up. This gives you a quick reference for the events you already have scheduled. As a result this will save you time that would otherwise be spent looking it up and then having to call back to confirm. You may have to readjusting your schedule to make the appointment or event fit but most of the time it gives you a clear vision of what is already scheduled. Put every event and activity in the planner that you can think of. Electronic planners, PDAs, or limited cell phone planners can be a real asset. These items keep you connected and allow you to stay up to date with the information just a touch away.


Chapter 4 Home Jobs and Scams Working At Home If you decide to run a business, or work part time from home, you will find that staying on top of household chores while doing other work requires a real juggling act. In addition, if there are children, they won’t always cooperate with your schedule and you can’t tell them to be quiet for hours while you work. You may be forced to schedule work time early in the morning, during nap time, or late at night. Author’s Note: I limit my extra work to mornings, and reserve the afternoons for laundry, house cleaning, cooking, etc. I discovered that writing books and writing a newspaper column was enjoyable and relaxing, and because I am a morning person, I start writing as soon as everyone has left and usually stop around noon. This keeps me from feeling rushed to get everything done.”

Scams Be aware that many of the “work from home” jobs are scams, designed to do nothing more than take your money. Many of the ads are very appealing and on the surface appear to be perfect job for someone unable to seek work outside of the home. Such ads are everywhere. Television, newspapers, the internet, and even the corner telephone pole. Proceed with caution. Beware of ‘jobs’ that require you to pay for things, whether those


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

things are cheap fliers, expensive credit card machines or anything else. Also, understand that you may have to work many hours without pay, run your own newspaper ads, and buy all of your own supplies. Many of these companies require you to buy a book, pay a set-up fee, or purchase a computer guide. You should consider taking any “job” such as these as “starting your own business”, and make sure it’s a business worth devoting time, energy and money to. In almost all cases, you’ll see that it’s not. If you want to find out the latest information on work-at-home scams go to the Federal Trade Commission web site at Type “work-at-home schemes” or “work-at-home scams” into the search function. You will find information that will help you avoid getting caught. You can also check out companies by going to the Better Business Bureau web site at You can easily check out a business or even find a Better Business Bureau accredited business. You should also check out the company with your local consumer protection agency or state Attorney General. Find out information from agencies not only where the company is located, but also where you live. These organizations can tell you whether they have received complaints about the work-at-home program that interests you. Be wary, the absence of complaints doesn’t necessarily mean the company is legitimate. Unscrupulous companies may settle complaints, change their names, or move to avoid detection. The following information covers many of the most popular scams that are on the market.

Classic Work-at-Home Schemes If you go on the computer or even look in the newspaper, you will find many different types of classic work-at-home schemes. Medical billing

These types of ads top the list. They are ads for pre-packaged businesses. They list these as billing centers can be found in newspapers, on television and on the Internet. If you respond to the ad, you’ll get a sales pitch that is designed to suck you in and take your money. A typical pitch may sound something like this: There’s “a crisis” in the health care system, due partly to the overwhelming task of processing paper claims. The


Home Jobs and Scams

solution is electronic claim processing. Because only a small percentage of claims are transmitted electronically, the market for billing centers is wide open. The sales person may also tell you that many doctors who process claims electronically want to “outsource” or contract out their billing services to save money. They will promise you that you can easily earn a substantial income working by full or part time. They will tell you that all you have to do is to provide services like billing, accounts receivable, electronic insurance claim processing, and practice management to doctors and dentists. They will assure you that no experience is required and they will also tell you that they will provide ample clients eager to buy your services or that their qualified salespeople will find clients for you. The reality is different. To make any money you will have to sell, and the market is saturated. Many of these promoters do not have experienced sales staff or contacts within the medical community. You will be sent materials that typically include a brochure, an application, sample diskettes, a contract (licensing agreement), disclosure document, and in some cases, testimonial letters, videocassettes and reference lists. You will be promised software, training and technical support and asked to make an investment in the range of $2,000 to $8,000. Before investing a single cent, require that the company give you at least 20 of their customers to call for reference. If they refuse to give you more than two or three references, chances are those people have been hired by the sales company specifically to give favorable testimonials. Interview people in person, preferably where the business operates, to reduce your risk of being misled and also to get a better sense of how the business works. Even if the business is reputable and honest, it may not be the best choice for you. Although there is a need for this type of sales, few people are able to successfully find clients, start such a business and generate revenue. Most people never earn a substantial income or even recover their investment. Competition in the medical billing market is fierce and revolves around a number of large and well-established firms. Envelope stuffing

This is another area that is highly promoted. The advertisements state that, for a “small” fee, they will tell you how to earn money by stuffing


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

envelopes at home. Usually, what you get for your hard earned money is a letter telling you to place the same “envelope-stuffing” ad in newspapers or magazines, or to send the ad to friends and relatives. The only way you’ll earn money is if you become a scammer yourself. Assembly or craft work

These advertisements sound great but often require you to invest hundreds of dollars in equipment or supplies. Items that you can purchase on the open market for less than what the company offers. For example, you might have to buy a sewing or sign-making machine from their company, or materials to make items like aprons, baby shoes, or plastic signs. They will promise to buy the articles you produce for an unnamed client. However, after you’ve purchased the supplies or equipment and created the products, you will often find the company refuses to pay, and rejects your work, claiming it doesn’t meet their “quality standards.” The simple fact is, all they are interested in, is selling you over-priced equipment and materials. You are left with expensive equipment and supplies, and no income. To sell the goods you made, you must find your own customers.

The Best Questions to Ask Legitimate work-at-home programs will tell you in writing what’s involved Here are some questions you should ask a promoter: • • • • • •

What tasks will you have to perform? Be sure to ask the program sales person to provide every step of the job. Will you be paid a salary or will your pay be based on commission? Who will pay you? In other words, where is the money coming from, the client or the company promoting the product? When will you get your first paycheck? What is the total cost of the work-at-home program, including supplies, equipment and membership fees? What are the exact items that you will get for your money? By asking the right questions you should be able to determine whether a specific work-at-home program is appropriate for your circumstances. It will also let you know whether it is a legitimate business or just a scam.


Home Jobs and Scams

Home Job Ideas There are many jobs you can do at home to supplement your income. You can write articles for newspapers, put together scrapbooks or photo albums, sew, or create decorative baskets or centerpieces for tables. Do the things that come easy to you and that you enjoy. Writing

This takes skill and newspapers do not pay very well, so don’t expect to make a lot of money off of this type of work. Many newspapers need articles about upcoming events and activities in the area that they serve, as well as activities in the surrounding areas. If you are interested in doing this work, contact the editor at the paper and inquire. Most papers have multiple editors that cover different features such as sports, community, news, etc. Contact the one that oversees the area in which you can contribute. You might also consider writing a book. Becoming a published author takes time, and becoming a well-known author that can land six or seven figure advances on contracts takes even longer. There are numerous books on the subject that can help you. Check used book stores, or search the web for reduced prices but a great way to start is to find a local writing group. There are groups dedicated to practically any thing you can think of. Attend the meetings and talk to the members of the group. You find out what it takes, acquire information on how to start and discover if it’s really something you want to pursue. Other Areas

If you have craft skills, there is always a market. Small retail shops are always looking for homemade crafts. Decorative baskets, center pieces for tables, attractive metal sculptures, birdhouses, boxes, chairs, etc. can bring in good money. You can sell your products at a local flea-market, conventions and home shows, or advertise through newspapers. Practically everyone wants photo albums and scrapbooks, but many folks don’t have the skill or the time to create them. Chances are good that you know people who have boxes overflowing with pictures waiting to be organized. You might even be one of them. Arranging photos in a photo album or a


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

scrapbook takes skill and time, but is an activity that can bring in extra money. Sewing

This is another area that requires a skill many people do not have. Sewing machines come with many accessories and can stitch, monogram, create logos, and make practically anything you can imagine. You can create made-to-order items or make items on speculation. Child Care

Every state has different childcare requirements so you will have to check into these rules Computer Jobs

If you have computer skills you might be able to type reports, design web pages, or provide a wide spectrum of other computer services. Customer Service Jobs

Home based customer-service jobs are growing in popularity. Large companies are looking at the untapped work-at-home market rather than outsourcing jobs to overseas. Many of these jobs allow flexibility, and you can often set your own hours, however, these also have downsides. The pay is limited and you are usually paid only for the time you are on the phone. The less time you work, the less you make. Most of the jobs don’t come with benefits. In most cases you must also have a computer, phone line, and high speed internet access. These jobs can entail booking airline reservations, taking orders for clothing, electronics and other items from major brand catalogs or anything else that requires telephone interaction. To find these jobs, go online, and do a search under the term, “onshoring” or “homeshoring”. Read


Home Jobs and Scams

articles written by respected and trusted organizations to learn what to expect, and acquire the names of the leading companies. You can also search on “virtual call center agent�, once you know what you are getting into. There are scammers in this area as well so do your homework. If the job sounds too good to be true, drop it.


Chapter 6 Establishing A New Budget Setting your budget is something that you must do as soon as possible, and you must keep the new budget realistic. You don’t want to be so general that it allows you to overspend; at the same time, you don’t want to be unrealistic and rigid. A good, realistic budget allows you to meet your requirements without feeling as if you are punishing yourself.

Identifying Income and Expenses The first step is to identify your current monthly income and expenses. Use a ledger book with multiple columns, purchase one of the many software programs that are on the market, search the internet using the terms “tracking household expenses” or “personal expenses” for free expense sheets or design your own spreadsheet. Use whatever is the easiest for you. 1. Add up income from all sources including part time jobs, social security, alimony or child support. Don’t forget about stock returns or investments if you have such. 2. Create a list of expense categories on a separate sheet of paper. These categories should include:


Establishing a New Budget

Utilities List the gas, electricity, telephone, and water costs. To get an idea of how and when the rates will change, go back in your records for one year and jot down each expense by the month. You can also add up the charges for a specific service, and divide by the number of months, to get an average cost for that utility. Fixed Expenses

List food, rent or mortgage, security alarm company, and other necessary items that you can’t survive without such as gas and insurance for your car. Go through your checkbook, credit card bills, and other records to get a good idea of what you spend each month. Discretionary Expenses

List entertainment such as movies, sporting events or theater, transportation costs to things other than work, school or religious events, magazine subscriptions, cable TV, DVD’s, club memberships, and anything else which your survival doesn’t depend on.

Other Expenses This category covers unusual or infrequent expenditures. Bills that come once a year such as car inspections or registrations, annual gift-giving occasions, dental or medical checkups, back to school clothing and supplies, etc. At the same time, make a note of these things in your planner so that when they come around, you won’t be surprised and it won’t break your budget. Add up all expenses and subtract them from your income. If your expenses are less than your total income, your budget is fine but make sure you set aside some of the extra every month toward emergencies. However, if your income is less than your expenses, it is time to make adjustments.


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

Adjusting the Budget If your expenses are higher than your income or you would like to cut expenses then it is time to take a hard look at where you spend money. Eating out is enjoyable but not a necessity. Do you buy magazines or books you don’t read? If so, cut that expense from your budget. Take a close look at you home and automobile insurance and see if you can get the same coverage for less buy shopping around or getting the same company to cover both. Cut every thing you can and live without the items for at least three months. In most cases you will find that you don’t miss what you cut. However, if doing without something is causing a problem after three months, and you have the budget for it, then add it back in. In some cases, you can cut back or reduce without totally eliminating an item. Can you take mass transportation rather than driving? Can you cut down on specialty food or drink? Can you buy clothes at resale shops or thrift stores? Can you rent or purchase fewer DVD’s? Can you get books at a garage sale or library? Can you stop smoking or do away with other expensive habits? All spending reductions, even if small, will help your over all budget.

Keeping to Your Budget Now that you have identified you income and expenses, and have reconciled your actual needs, it is time to follow your budget. Again there are numerous ways to track the budget. Your tracking sheet should include how much money you have allotted for an area, and a column for how much you actually spend. This enables you to track and adjust as needed. It’s not necessary to itemize every single item. List utilities separately, but consolidate items like groceries even though you may have purchased them from multiple sources. The first column should show the name of the item, the second column should list the actual or estimated amount of the bill, while the third column should list actual amount spent. When you first start, track the budget on a weekly basis so that you can see how you are doing. If you spend you entire gas budget in the first two weeks of the month then you need to determine if your budgeted amount was unrealistic or if you need to stop traveling so much.


Establishing a New Budget

Example Budget Worksheet – permission is granted to copy for personal use. Item Household

Amount of Bill

Mortgage/Rent Taxes/Insurance Association Fees Electric Gas Water & Sewer Phone Home Phone Cell Television Service Internet Auto Expenses

Car Payment Car Insurance Gas Tolls Maintenance Credit Payments

Credit Card(s) Loans Food

Groceries Eating Out Insurance



Amount Paid

Due Date

The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

Medical Personal

Medical Prescriptions Haircut Clothes Pets

Food Veterinary Grooming Entertainment

DVDs Movies Books/Magazines Hobbies Other Expenses

Anything else


Establishing a New Budget

It will take some time for the budget to stabilize and be realistic. Monitor it every month and see if you are constantly over-estimating or under-estimating anything. As you identify those areas, adjust accordingly. Track your spending by the week so you know exactly where your money is going. List the same areas as above on the budget worksheet. Example Tracking Worksheet – permission is granted to copy of personal use Expenses Household Utilities Auto Credit Food Insurance Personal Pets Entertainment Other

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Be sure to put aside some money each month in order to treat yourself and your family to something special. Even if you’re not able to put much away each month, it will add up and you will find that sticking to a budget is a lot more fun if you are rewarded for doing it.


Chapter 7 Childproofing Your Home Many parents overlook this area, yet approximately 2½ million children are injured or killed each year due to household hazards. Safety latches on cabinet doors, or drawers may irritate you, but the first time your child is prevented from getting into something dangerous, you’ll realize it’s worth the fraction of time and effort it takes for you to work the latch. Children are curious and want to see what’s in drawers and cabinets. Such things as cleaning chemicals, knives, and medicine can cause lethal injuries. Most safety latches are easy to install, but they must be firm enough so the child cannot tug on the door, or drawer to open it. A good way to determine what you need is to get down on your hands and knees and crawl through the house. You will see the underside of chairs and tables, you will notice sharp edges, wall sockets, and other hazards you wouldn’t normally think about, but that are accessible to your small child Electrical outlet covers can prevent children from getting an accidental electrical shock or possible electrocution. They are inexpensive, effective and can be purchased from most stores that carry baby supplies. Be sure the types you get are difficult for a small child to remove from the outlet and big enough that the child can’t choke on them.


Childproofing Your Home

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are another must have item, and required by law in many cities. Replace the batteries in such units yearly, even if they are still working. Place a sticker showing the battery replacement date on the unit and mark the date on your calendar. Purchase or assemble a first aid kit for minor injuries. Basic supplies include bandages, antibiotic ointment, gauze pads, aspirin and/or nonaspirin pain relievers, antibiotic ointment, and medical adhesive tape. You may also want to include large adhesive bandages, Ace-type bandages, antiseptic wipes, different sizes of sterile pads and rolls of gauze, tweezers, safety pins, latex gloves, burn medication, sun screen, eye drops, and first aid instructions. Write down emergency contact numbers and place them near your phone. Also consider attaching the same list to your refrigerator. Along with 911, list your local police department dispatch number, the fire department dispatch number, the local ambulance service, family doctor, closest emergency room, and the national poison control hotline number (1-800-222-1222). Set emergency numbers as speed dials in your home phone and cell phone and make sure any children who are five years old or older know how to use the phone in case of an emergency. Use tight fitting edge and corner covers or bumpers on hard furniture and fireplace hearths to protect a child in case of a fall. To prevent falls for both children and adults, make sure all rugs and runners have non-slip backing or remove them. Setting the thermostat too high on water heaters can cause scalding. Most experts recommend that the temperature be set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. For babies, the bath water should be tepid or lukewarm, not hot: around 96 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a safety gate to keep children off of stairs and out of dangerous areas. Choose a gate that allows easy access for adults, but that your child cannot push out of place or open. Inexpensive gates that are held in place between the doorframes by pressure alone will force you to step over them to move from room to room. Also, a child may be able to dislodge them by leaning on them. The type of gate that screws into the door frame is more secure, and can be opened easily by adults. Purchase door knob covers or install a door locks that are out of your child’s reach on doors to the outside. Remember that locks be engaged


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

every time to be effective. Forgetting just once to lock the door behind you can result in disaster. Install window guards or window stops. Also, if you have window blinds, cut the cord loops apart to eliminate the chance of your child choking by getting tangled in the cord. Attach safety tassels or inner cord stops to prevent the cord from pulling out of the blinds. Replace corded phones with cordless ones to prevent strangulation. This also allows you to move more freely around the house and yard when on a call. Car seats are required by law in most places. Be sure that they are approved for the weight of your child and installed properly. For infants, the seat must be positioned in the middle of the back seat, facing to the rear. Carry extra towels to roll up and use as props for your child when needed. If you car has a central door and window lock on the driver’s side control panel, make sure it is engaged. If not, lock the doors individually and roll up the windows. If your car comes with extra child safety features, make sure you engage these as well. Never leave a child unattended in the bathtub, whether water is present or not and place in no-slip mats in the tub and under the rug beside the tub. When you are carrying your child, do not carry sharp or extremely hot items at the same time. Keep small children away from dangerous items like the stove. Avoid clothing with draw strings for children under five, as they are a choking hazard. Small children to get the cord wrapped around their neck. Select clothing with elastic around the waist or end of sleeves. If you have a fireplace, make sure its safety grate is always in place. Keep anything that can be used to start a fire out of reach of the children. If you have radiator or floor heaters, fence them off to eliminate burns. These are some of the main things to consider, however there much more that should be done. For a more comprehensive listing, you can purchase childproofing books or go on-line and search on “childproofing your home�.


Chapter 8 Children In School Once your children start school, everyone’s life changes. You will have a lot more time for yourself, and more time to get things done. You now have the time to keep the house and take on a separate job. Author’s Note: I limit my job work to mornings, and reserve the afternoons for laundry, house cleaning, cooking, etc. I discovered that writing books and writing a newspaper column was enjoyable and relaxing, and because I am a morning person, I start writing as soon as everyone has left and usually stop around noon. This keeps me from feeling rushed to get everything done. However, just because your children have started school, it doesn’t mean that your involvement with them has ended. What it does mean, is that you will now have to make an extra effort to be part of their life. Consider joining a parent organization at the school, or volunteer to help with activities, field trips, and preparing treats for special days. You will need to meet with teachers to review your child’s progress and you can expect to have plays and other class events to attend. Your child will have homework and you must be involved. Offer advice, check their work and explain anything they find difficult, but don’t simply provide the answer. Your children may also have sports activities in the evenings which will require you to juggle dinner plans.


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

Make sure that your children are properly prepared for school. Discuss both acceptable and unacceptable behavior, explain what rewards or consequences their actions will bring and let the teacher know that you are available if there are problems during the day Keep in mind that all children act out at one time or another. It’s part of life and doesn’t mean your child is a problem child, so try not to over react. Also, reinforce proper behavior without going overboard. Time, and your consistent attitude, will bring about the desired results. Keep a school calendar that lists all of the semester dates and the holidays in a conspicuous place. Also make sure you keep a box of cupcakes mix, and a container of frosting in your pantry at all times for those “I forgot to give you the note… it’s your turn to bring cupcakes today!” surprises. If your child is in a special education program, you will likely be required to attend Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) meetings. The school will give you information about the special education process, but there are other agencies that can also provide assistance. The Association of Retarded Citizens, (ARC), is one such group, but there are others and information is available on the web. Staying involved with the school will assure there is no gap in your child’s education. Another item you can expect to address is bullying. If you feel that your child is being bullied, notify the teacher at once and contact the principal as well. Talk to your children often about drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, and do so early in their life. Most schools can provide information, and your child’s doctor is also a good resource.


Chapter 9 Life Outside of the House There may come a time when you find yourself saying things like, “Excuse me, I have to go tinkle” or you go out to eat and find yourself cutting your spouse’s meat into bite size pieces. If that happens, you need to get a life that involves other adults.

Play Groups And Clubs When your children are pre-school age, you will spend most of your time with them and it’s normal in this situation to crave adult stimulation. You will be watching the clock, waiting for other adults to get home so that you can talk about something other than toys and cartoon characters. If you get involved with others, and establish unstructured playtime, and home activities, you will find the pre-school years fly past. Playgroups or clubs can provide much needed adult company. The purpose of these groups is to create an environment where children can play together and adults can talk among themselves. The best option is to join a group whose members are the same gender as you are. If you are of the opposite gender, you may discover that the subjects discussed during the play dates do not satisfy your needs or do not interest you. Most large cities have both Mom and Dad groups, but many of the smaller towns may only have one or the other. In that situation, you have two options. Join the available group, or start your own. To find a club, watch the newspaper. Many papers list organizational meetings. You can also talk to other stay-at-home parents and ask them


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

about playgroups. If this fails, drive by the local parks and recreational areas, and look for a gathering of people with small children. Don’t hesitate to approach them. Chances are all of them have been where you are and will welcome you into their group. If you can’t find a group, start your own. You’ll be surprised how many people will be interested. To get started, contact the local newspaper and ask them if they will run an article for you. Most newspapers have a section for community organization and events. All you have to do is advertise that you are looking for people that are interested in a playgroup, and list a contact number. If you start one, you will have to lead it. You will need to find areas that are safe and fun for the children where the group can meet, but that also allow the adults to socialize while still able to observe the children. Look for parks with fenced areas and benches, fenced recreational areas like ball fields, or other places where the children can be safely enclosed while playing. You can also meet at people’s houses, but a word of caution. It’s best to hold the meeting in the backyard. If the meeting is in the house, the children will require closer supervision. Such a location also forces someone to play host, and decreases everyone’s overall freedom and chance to take a break from babysitting. While it’s nice to sit and talk, having a theme can add a lot of fun. Try holding a recipe meeting with all the adults bringing a recipe to share with the group. You may also want to have a scrapbook meeting, interesting internet sites, or any other topic your group might find interesting. You don’t have to put a lot of work into the meeting, but a central theme can get shy people to participate, add to the group discussions and make the whole process more enjoyable. Many churches also provide day care so that stay-at-home parents can run errands or do other things best accomplished without children tagging along. Check with your local churches to find out who provides this service.

Parent’s Night Out Establish a time to spend some time together with your spouse or friends without the children. Discuss this at your playgroups and offer to swap babysitting with the other parents.


Life Outside of the House

Your night out may be simple. Perhaps no more than a trip to get some coffee and sit and relax or it can be dinner, dancing, a movie, or a play. Don’t feel guilty about leaving the children. Chances are they are going to have more fun than you playing with their friends. Don’t rule out an occasional overnighter for your child, either. If you have a special person in your life, time for intimacy is essential to a solid relationship. Take your home back for one night every now and then in order to have the freedom and privacy necessary to enhance your love life.


Chapter 10 Avoiding Burnout and Meltdown Being a stay-at-home parent can become depressing if you let it. You spend all day cleaning the house and no one notices or it could be that you cook supper every night but no one compliments you. They just get up from the table and leave you to clean the dishes. Day-to-day activities become a never-ending chore and you may find yourself moving robotically from one task to another without a lot of satisfaction. If you find yourself calling your spouse frequently, or calling friends all day long, if you feel tired all of the time even though you’re getting an ample amount of sleep, or if you find that you’ve begun to dread doing housework, you are reaching burnout or meltdown. If this describes you, you need to change what you are doing, and how you are doing it. First, change your mindset. Your job is vital. If you are married, you make it possible for your spouse to go to work and get the job done without worry. You provide a pleasant, safe and healthy environment for the children to play and learn in. Understand that if your family didn’t appreciate what you were doing, they would speak up. Take the fact that they aren’t complaining as a sign that they are happy with your work. If you were in the outside work force, you boss wouldn’t compliment you all the time, but he would certainly let you know if you weren’t getting the job done. The same principle applies at home, so take pride in the job you are doing.


Avoiding Burnout and Meltdown

Suggestions Get your family involved. Ask them what they would like on the menu, or design a specialty or theme dinner, and then discuss the food and the customs of the country you selected while eating. Have a pizza night or a burger night and let everyone serve themselves. In other words, don’t get in a rut. Make your job enjoyable. Take opportunities to get out of the house. This can be through play dates, shopping, visiting museums or the library, fishing, garage sales, and many other activities. You’re limited only by your own imagination. Many activities are free and are enjoyable for both you and your children. Mix in some “me” time with your housework. When the children take a nap, pick up a book and read. Watch a television show. Enjoy the weather on the patio and watch the birds. Do something for yourself. Also, set aside time to occupy the children with a game or another learning activity, then sit down and have a soda or cup of coffee. Make sure that the tasks you do around the house are organized so that you can get the job done faster, then move on to something more enjoyable. Getting the children involved with some of your activities will also make things more enjoyable or at least easier for everyone.

Family Day Create a family day. Set aside the big chores for one day, and use the time to simply have fun. Don’t feel pressured to attend events that are expensive or time consuming, instead try doing simple things such as bike riding or walking trails through the park. The point of a family day is for everyone to get away from the normal routine and spend some enjoyable time together. Many libraries and bookstores provide a children’s story hour. Your children will be entranced by the reading and you can browse, get something to drink, or just sit and listen.


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

Fishing is another fun event. You may come home smelling like fish, but who cares? If you catch and release, you don’t even have to clean them. Children love to catch fish of any size. Take a camera when you go. Swimming is always fun. In the summer, you can go to the outdoor pools and during the winter, you can go to places such as the YMCA and other organizations that have indoor pools.

Weekends If you plan your week properly, you won’t have any household chores to do on the weekend other than preparing something to eat. This gives you the chance to get the whole family together. It may be something as simple as letting the children play in the backyard while you and your spouse relax and read or perhaps grill and eat outside. You might also consider travel. State parks are enjoyable and are usually inexpensive. Get on the computer and find out what attractions are near where you live. If you are married, be sure to discuss this with your spouse. You might be ready to see the world, but your spouse may be exhausted and want to just sit and relax.


Chapter 11 The Evening Evenings will be the most hectic portion of your day. They start with the preparation of the dinner and end by going to bed. The time between these two events is filled with activity. First, determine when to schedule the evening meal. Take into account the children’s schedules and, if you are married, the time your spouse arrives home. If you have a spouse whose quitting time varies, arrange for them to call you when they are leaving work. Try to schedule the time to eat for 15 to 30 minutes after they arrive home as often as possible. Dinnertime is family time. Discuss what everyone did during the day. Your children will enjoy your interest in their activities. Your spouse will want to know what big and wonderful things the children did. Your spouse will want to talk about the successes and experiences of their time at work. This is also your chance to mention what you did during the day. After finishing eating, everyone should pitch in and clean the kitchen and the dishes. That way, both you and your spouse will have time to spend with the children or relax together before bedtime. Children should take a bath before going to bed. You will need to supervise this, and be sure to read a story to young children before lights out. Before you head to bed, make one last venture around the house, check the locks, and pick up any mess left over from the evening. You may have a properly prepared dinner, a clean house, clean clothes, and good family structure, but you may find you’ve lost the desire to be intimate with your partner. You work the whole day and you are still


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

at your jobsite. Meanwhile, your spouse spent the day somewhere else, and coming home is a change and a comfortable feeling. This can lead to problems if you cannot separate your home job with your relationship with your spouse. To combat this, you must learn to shut off the stay-at-home parent mindset. Even though you work in the house, you still have to stay attractive. Dress in something other than sweat pants and sloppy shirt all the time. Comb your hair, put on your makeup (if you wear such) and at the end of the day, change clothes, and freshen up. Dress for your spouse or for yourself. It will make you feel better and, if married, it will make your spouse appreciate you more. Married couples need time together. Spouses must compliment each other and express appreciation to one another. Make sure to you spend some time alone together so that you can both forget about the children and center on each other. There are many different ways to do this. Here are a few suggestions: •

• • • • •

Run a nice warm bath. Pour in some fragrant bath oil and then using a soft sponge; gently bathe each other from head-to-toe. To add another unique touch you can take and old bottle, write a love poem or just your feeling toward your partner, and have it floating in the bath tub. When your spouse is taking a shower, take the towel, place it in the dryer to warm it and then give it to them to use to dry off. It will lead to more. Buy a book from an author that both of you like and designate a night to read it. Take turns to reading to each other. Record your favorite songs and sit and listen while talking about the memories the song brings to each of you. It can be songs from when you first met, first dance, wedding, etc. Put on some soothing music and dance while in each other’s arms. Serve dinner to the children and then have a late dinner just for the two of you. Add candles, or make it a picnic on the patio or in the yard. You can relax and eat while viewing the stars. Pick up a romantic movie and watch it while snuggling on the sofa.


The Evening • • •

Give each other a massage. Use aromatherapy oils. Focus on the neck and the back. Dim the lights to set a more romantic scene. Create a video challenge night with romantic rewards for the winner. It is a game where everyone wins. Take the child monitor and camp out in the back yard or patio on sleeping bags or blankets. Cuddle, relax, and talk about whatever you want. Move yourself out of the work place and put yourself into the home you have taken so much time to make comfortable. Don’t do any cleaning, ironing, or anything else that relates to housework. Intimacy is a portion of your relationship that must be maintained.

Move yourself out of the work place and put yourself into the home you have taken so much time to make comfortable. Don’t do any cleaning, ironing, or anything else that relates to housework. Intimacy is a portion of your relationship that must be maintained


Chapter 12 Cleaning Your Home There is a right way and a wrong way to clean a house. Some things must be done before others, and if they are done in order, you save time and get the job done correctly.

Sequence To keep from redoing areas you have already cleaned, it is best if you follow a simple sequence. First, clean the kitchen and bathroom(s). Then do the remainder of the house such as the living room, bedrooms, etc. In these rooms start by dusting, then sweeping, vacuuming, and finally mopping. Do the most difficult tasks first: cleaning the bathroom(s) and kitchen. Dust next. Any dust or dirt that falls on the floor will be cleaned up later. Save the cleaning of the sink as the last item on the list so that you can use it to clean the mop or fill the mop bucket. To start, pick up any clothes or toys that may be lying around. Put away all items that would hamper your flow when you do the cleaning. Pick up any throw rugs you have, take them outside and shake them, or put them in the washing machine to clean. When finished, lay them to the side. Then dust all rooms. When finished dusting, sweep areas that are not carpeted, vacuum the rugs, and run over the areas you swept to get up anything you missed. Then mop and put down the throw rugs once the floor has dried.


Cleaning Your Home

Tips If you look under the sinks in the kitchen and bathrooms of most of the people in the world, you will find them totally cluttered with cleaning supplies. Get organized before you start. Go out and buy a cleaning caddy. The caddy is normally made of plastic and is a small container with a handle in the center. All of your commonly used cleaning supplies kept in one easy to find place that is easy to carry from room to room. Here are the basic items you will need: Window Cleaner:

There are many good all-purpose cleaning aids that can be used on windows, mini blinds, mirrors, outside of appliances, television screens, and many more items. You can find window cleaner with, or without, ammonia. Do not use ammonia based cleaner on windows tinted with sunscreen film.

Disinfectant Cleaner: Use this on the kitchen counter tops, bathroom counters, toilet, shower and any place where bacteria can grow.

Furniture Cleaner: If you have wood furniture, you need a product that will easily pick up the dust, but not create a buildup of wax. Read the instructions that came with your furniture before selecting something to clean it with.

Dusting Rag: An old undershirt, T-shirt, or old cotton diaper makes good dust rags. Dust rags can also be purchased in quantity from a farm supply stores, dollar stores or large discount stores. White is the best color as it shows how much dirt you’ve collected. When it becomes too dirty, refold it, and use a clean area. Wash it when dirt covers it on both sides.


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents Hand Duster:

These are normally tipped with either a light flexible plastic or feathers. Use them on books, lampshades, and other items. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on this item to get a good one. Sponges:

You will need at least two different sponges. One counter tops and one for the tub or shower. Color-code the sponges with yellow for the counter tops and blue for the showers and tubs so that you can easily remember which sponge to use for which task. Toilet Bowl Brush:

There are many different types of brushes on the market specifically designed for cleaning the toilet. Choose one with a long handle. Tub and Tile Cleaner:

Most tub and tile cleaners remove soap residue and contain a mild disinfectant. Choose one that won’t scratch the surface of the tubs or sinks. Paper Towels:

Keep a roll of paper towels for wiping mirrors, the outside of the toilet, etc. This will save you from washing a lot of rags each time you clean house. Gloves:

Gloves will protect your hands from chemical cleaners and are great for changing diapers. There are many different types on the market, though I prefer the latex disposable type. They can be found at most big box stores, farm stores, and hardware stores. I buy them by the box because I also use them for painting. Since they are lightweight, they don’t hinder your actions.


Cleaning Your Home

Along with what goes in your caddy, you will also need: Bucket:

A lightweight plastic bucket is a necessity for carrying water in when mopping the floors. Floor Cleaner:

There are many products that, disinfect, clean and give your rooms a fresh smell. They are not expensive, but make sure you read the labels. If you have floors that require a special cleaner, use it. Keep the floor cleaner inside the bucket so it takes less space and is always available. Mop:

The type of flooring you have will affect your choice of mop. A string mop is very good for a tile floor, but a sponge mop is often better for linoleum. Use the type that allows you clean the floor in the shortest amount of time.

Cleaning the Rooms Kitchen

Start with the items that are above the counter and then move on to the appliances such as the microwave, oven, and refrigerator. It’s not necessary to clean the inside of the oven or refrigerator every time you clean the kitchen, but if you use the microwave a lot you may need to clean the inside of the microwave every time. Using baking soda and water or a specific microwave cleaner, spray or wipe down the inside of the microwave. Be careful not to flood the inside. Wipe it down with the kitchen sponge and then dry it with a paper towel. Many microwaves have a rotating plate inside that can be removed and cleaned. Be sure it is placed back into the proper tracts so it will rotate. Clean the outside of the microwave by spraying a light mist and wiping it down. Check the vents and wipe them off to ensure there is no


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

build up of dirt and grime. If the microwave also functions as a vent for the stove, make sure you take out the vent filter and clean it according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Some filters can be placed in the dishwasher and others have to be hand washed with warm water. Check the specifications that came with the microwave. If you don’t have the handbook, you can find the information by going on the manufacture’s web page or emailing the company to obtain the information. Cleaning the oven is one of the jobs that most people don’t like to do, but is a must. There are some steps you can take to make your job easier when it comes time to clean. One quick and easy way is to cover the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil. If something overflows it will drop on the foil instead of the surface of the oven floor. Be sure if you use aluminum foil that it does not touch the electric element use for heating. Most of the new ovens either come with self-cleaning or continuous cleaning modes. Even these need cleaned. The self clean function helps but doesn’t do the complete job. No matter what type of oven you have, you will have to clean it. There are numerous items on the market to assist you in the task, but all you really need is baking soda and water. If you have a self cleaning oven, run the cleaning cycle first and then let it cool before cleaning. There are two main ways to clean using baking soda, one is to mix soda and water together in a bottle and spray it in the oven. The problem with this method is that most spray bottles will clog. The second way is simple and easy. Take the baking soda and sprinkle a thick layer on the bottom of the oven. ALWAYS make sure the oven is off and completely cool before doing any interior cleaning. Next, using a spray bottle, spray the baking soda until it is damp. Do not overspray. It should not be saturated with water. As you go about your cleaning the rest of the house or other activities, stop every few hours and spray water on the baking soda. You want to keep it moist. After you have sprayed a few times, use a sponge to scrap out the baking soda. The baked on food will come with it. Wipe the walls with a wet sponge with baking soda on it to clean the sides. Remove the racks before you start cleaning. Place them in the kitchen sink and use the same process as you did on the floor of the oven, sprinkle and dampen. If there is severe build up the process might need repeated, but once you have it clean it will


Cleaning Your Home

be easier to maintain, and you won’t be eating food that tastes like cleaning chemicals. Cleaning the refrigerator is another of the tasks that has to be done. Even though the insides of most refrigerators are smooth molded plastic, there are still areas where mold and bacteria can form. These are most common under the drawers, gasket around the door and where the racks mount to the sides. If you keep up the cleaning you will have less work when you do the full cleaning. If something is spilled, mop up the liquid with a paper towel and then use a damp and soapy sponge to clean it up immediately. Remove the item that spilled and wipe it down. Then wipe down the area in the refrigerator. After the area is clean, take a paper towel and dry off the area. You can now replace the item that spilled. Cleaning a refrigerator is best done before shopping. It is the best time to reorganize, check the food items and to clean. When you return from your shopping trip all you have to do is place the item inside. Look at the expiration dates on the items to ensure they are still under the date. If you have something that looks bad but is still under the expiration date, use your best judgment. If it looks bad, it probably is and it is time to replace it. To clean the inside, again go with a product that is safe and easy to use. Using a mop bucket, mix Ÿ cup of baking soda with one quart of warm water. This compound will clean, sanitize, and remove odors. Remove the food, the racks and the drawers from the inside. Then wipe down the entire inside and door seal gasket to remove stains, mold, or food splashes. Wipe down the entire area. You do not have to rinse off the cleaning compound unless you used too much. If you did, just wipe it with a clean, damp cloth or paper towel. The shelves and racks can be cleaned with the same baking soda and water but you may want to use a plastic bristle brush or a plastic scrubber along with the sponge. Don’t use anything that is too hard that will scratch the surface of the plastic. You can do this in the kitchen sink or the bath tub. Before putting the items back in the refrigerator be sure to wipe all containers. You may want to also rinse the fruits and vegetables. Place a paper towel in the bottom of the drawers to absorb liquid. If you are having problems with mold, wipe down the inter surface of the refrigerator with vinegar and then wipe it down with a clean dry towel or cloth.


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

Defrosting a refrigerator is almost a thing of the past, but if you have a refrigerator that is not frost free you must remove the ice buildup to allow the freezer to operate efficiently. It is time to defrost when you have a buildup of about ¼ inch of ice. To start remove all food from the freezer portion and place them in another refrigerator if you have one available. If you don’t you can use an ice chest or even a cardboard box. Just dump in the ice cubes to keep everything cold. If you have a defrost position on the appliance turn it on. If you don’t, unplug the refrigerator so the ice can melt. You may want to place a pan of hot water in the icy area to speed up the process. DO NOT scrape or pick at the ice buildup because this can cause damage to the freezing unit. Allow the ice to melt. Don’t forget to use a large pan below the freezer unit to catch the water as it melts and drips. When cleaning the top of the refrigerator, be sure to use approved steps to reach the top and wipe down the area with warm water and a sponge. If you have items in the freezer there are easy ways to ensure they are still good to use. If you have prepackaged items they will most likely have a Sell By or Use By date on them. This is especially true with items like mike and bread although some other items may also have the dates on them. Check to see if the item has an Expiration Date stamped on it to let you know if it can still be used. If the item has a Pack or Package Date that tells you how long it has been since it was processed. If you split out the food and placed them in freezer bags or other containers, mark the date on the package. If you are using a container, you can use adhesive tape on the top or side of the container to mark the date. To find a complete listing of refrigerator and freezer storage times go to, and then go to “Consumer Advice” on the drop down menu. The web site has information of temperatures, storage times, and practically everything else you would need to ensure your food is safe to consume. Here is a small guide of recommended times for storage of common food in the refrigerator or freezer:


Cleaning Your Home


Milk Cream Sour Cream Ice Cream Fresh Eggs Mayonnaise Frozen dinners/casseroles Hamburger meat Hot Dogs/lunch meat, unopened Hot Dogs/lunch meat, opened Bacon Chicken/turkey

Steaks Roasts




Up to 7 days, check the use by date on the carton Up to 10 days One month No 4 to 5 weeks 2 months No

No No 2 months No No 3 to 4 months

1 to 2 days 2 weeks 1 week

3 to 4 months 1 to 2 months 1 to 2 months

7 days 1 month Whole – 1 Whole & Parts – year 1 to 2 days Parts – 9 months 3 to 5 days 6 to 12 months 3 to 5 days 4 to 12 months

Dishwashers vary in make and style but they all work basically the same way. The plates, glasses, silverware, pans, and other items are loaded in sliding shelves. The water normally sprays upward from a rotating arm in the bottom of the machine. It is advised to rinse the heavy items off of the items in the dishwasher because the food that is washed off falls to the bottom of the dishwasher. Periodically check the filter in the bottom of the machine to ensure it is not clogged. If you have a machine with a removable filter, pull out the sliding trays and remove the filter and rinse it off before replacing it.


The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-home Parents

Dishwashers can get food stains, rust, and discoloration. To clean the dishwasher, remove all of the items from the dishwasher except the racks. Put in a dishwasher safe cup of vinegar in the top rack and run a full cycle. Use the hottest setting the machine has available. This will clean, disinfect, and remove odors. Another effective method is to sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the inside of dishwasher. Run a short cycle using the hottest cycle. This will also remove stains and odors. Alternating between the two methods will give you a dishwasher that is sparkling clean. Check the drain screen regularly. Clean the inside at least once a month to keep it sparkling clean. Another item that many people don’t consider is how to load the dishes for the best cleaning. How the machine is loaded has a big impact on the cleaning job you get. To get the best cleaning, load your cups, glasses and small bowls on the top rack. Ensure the bottoms are up and the opening is facing down. Also lay large spoons, spatulas, and other long utensils in the top rack. Dishes go on the bottom rack. Place them so they are all facing the same direction. Pots, pans, and large bowls also go on the bottom rack. Make sure they are in a position to drain and not fill with water. Most skillets can be placed at the side edge or the back edge of the bottom rack. Place them on their side. Put the forks, spoons, knives, and other utensils in the utensil holder. Mix them so you have the different types in each individual holder. This allows space between the utensils allowing them to clean better. Placement is very important to get clean dishes. Now you are ready to wipe down the cabinets. If you have painted cabinets, wipe them down with any mild cleaner. If you have wooden cabinets, it is best to use a cleaner designed for wood, but stay away from furniture polish. At least twice a year, wipe down and clean wooden cabinets using a product that cleans and moisturizes the wood. This will keep them from drying out and keep them looking new. Small kitchen appliances such as the coffee pot or toaster can normally be cleaned with a damp sponge. Be sure to pick up the toaster and clean the crumbs from underneath. To clean the crumbs from inside, unplug it and hold it over the sink, then remove the plate from the bottom


Cleaning Your Home

and tap gently on the side. Replace the plate securely before plugging the toaster back in. Next, clean the counter tops with a disinfectant. Wipe down the counters with a sponge. Be sure to move any items resting on the counters and clean under them. Author’s Note: If you notice a considerable amount of dust buildup on the counters and tabletops every week, it is time to change your AC/Heater filter. The stove is next. If you have a glass or ceramic top stove, use a cleaner specifically designed for these so that you don’t scratch the surface. Quite often you will have a spot or line of heavy buildup on the top. This will require more cleaning then the remainder of the top. Pour a small amount of the cleaner near the heavy coated areas to be cleaned and using a paper towel, wipe or scrub off the spill marks. There will be enough cleaner remaining for the rest of the top and all you will have to do is gently wipe it to remove any light spots. When all of the food or water marks have been removed, remove the knobs and using the window cleaner, spray the entire stove top and wipe it down. Wipe off the knobs before you replace them. If you have a stove with burners, remove the drip pans and wash them in the sink. Most electric burners can be removed by pulling them out of their plug just like an electrical wall socket. Gas burner grills usually lift off. The gas burner itself is not removable. Most electric stove tops lift up for cleaning under the drip pans and burners. When the drip pans get to the point where they are no longer serviceable, measure them to get their size and purchase new ones.. After you have finished the kitchen and the bathroom(s) it is time to move on the rest of the house. This will require dusting and polishing of the furniture, lamps, clocks, and the many other items of furniture and items used as decorations. Start by dusting. Dust everything: furniture, pictures, clocks, and knick-knacks and other decorations. Don’t forget light switch and electrical outlet covers. They gather dust easily but it takes just seconds to wipe them off.


The Ultimate Guide  

No matter who you are, or how long you've been managing a household, the Ultimate Guide has valuable tips, tricks and time saving strategies...