Simple things in managing a home. Post 20.

One of the best things about writing a book like '34 Bubblegums and Candies' is the instant connect that anyone who reads it feels. The incidents are all true-life incidents and it is a non-fiction book. It falls under creative non-fiction which is one or the rarer genres. It made it to the National best-seller list, has gone into 7th impression (sometimes, I myself cannot believe it)  and I get hundreds of mails from people who share their life stories with me, after they read the book. They say that they truly feel they know me well as a friend. I feel honoured and humbled. I have only been honest and sincere in my writing, and that has touched and moved thousands.(The book sold more than 25000 copies and still counting).

I do try to reply to each and every mail I get, at least once. (If you haven't got a reply from me, it might have been pure oversight). Lately, I have been getting a lot of mails (at least 12 on the last count) asking about how I manage to do so much (writing, art, fitness and raising two children plus running a home) and how I organise my time. Usually to all the mails I get on these lines, I give them this link which was a post I wrote on time management.

Below is a mail (which has been shared after taking permission from the person who sent it--Name has been changed) which is on similar lines, but this mail somehow moved me.

 Hi Preeti,
My name is  Gargi* and I am a regular reader of your blog and books.
I am married with a 6 year old son and a full-time job.
I am left speechless about the way you handle so many aspects of your life...your home, your kids, your exercise, your career.

I am writing the email specifically to ask you about how you have brought so much organization and balance in your life. 
Is it possible for you to share the rules and guidelines by which you lead your life.
My intention is not to invade your personal space. I am at my wits end trying to do this jugglery act . I am out of shape, my home looks like we have shifted in yesterday and this state of chaos increases my irritation levels which results in a grumpy husband and a hyper-active kid.

The only aspect which has been working very well is that I cook fresh and well-balanced meals for my family.

I don't have any idea where to start in terms of exercise and cleaning up the house.

Is it possible for you to share the kind of things you do every 2 hours in a day so that it gives me some idea as to what I need to pay attention to and what can be delegated etc

Again, I feel bad asking about something as basic as this but I figured out that the only way I am ever going to learn this is from a person who has mastered this.
Any other tips/suggestions is most welcome.

Thanks in advance, 

I thought I could answer this mail in detail here, as the next time I get a mail like this, I could always point them to this page, plus it would serve the purpose of my  'useful post' for the day.
So here goes:

Firstly I got married when I was just 23.I had a corporate career and it had just started out and was taking off well, but I quit my job and gave up my budding career. The primary reason for this was that I was certain that I did not want to send my children to a creche or a day-care or allow them to be raised by grandparents.(It is truly not easy to raise young children and if the primary care-giver has to be a grandparent, it is a huge burden even though they may not vociferously express it. Many grandparents have no choice in this matter--but that calls for a different post)

Did I feel bad to go from a 'working woman' to 'just a housewife'? Of course, I did. But the thing is, when I gave birth to my son  (and later to my lovely daughter) and saw their twinkling, bright button like eyes, I was certain I had made the right decision. I absolutely LOVE babies and children and having my own two children to love and take care of-- It was like someone had given me a treasure! I totally and completely enjoyed (and still enjoy) being a mother. Spending time in the company of my children is something I can do for HOURS.There was no way I was handing over my children to be raised by others.

My writing career started only in 2006, when I lost my dad. I had started writing the blog, and that took off in a way I never expected. (see this post for details) Before that I have worked with children and taught in many schools. I also had been doing my own workshops on developing thinking skills in children. By the time my writing career started, my children were no longer infants and did not need me all the time.

But my case is completely  different from Gargi's case, as I have never worked full-time, after I have got married. (for a brief while I did, but it was impossible for me to efficiently manage my home, plus work and kids, so I quit again)
What I would advise Gargi to do is this:

1. Wake up an hour early every single day
:  The amount of time you gain and the amount you can achieve in that time is truly quite incredible. You could begin going for walks. It may be very hard at first, but soon your body will start responding and you will begin seeing results. Side by side, cut down on calories and begin to eat healthy. A good book I recommend (which I read recently)  is 'From XL to XS' by Payal Gidwani.
2. Hire an efficient cook: Get a cook to come at 6.30.a.m or 7.00.a.m and get him/her to cook nutritious meals. You save so much time when you do not cook yourself. Plan the previous day, what menu you would like the cook to make. Monitor how much oil he/she uses and emphasise that you want healthy food. Train the cook to make meals exactly the way you make them.

3.Involve husband and son in keeping home tidy: When my children were small and I needed them to clear up their pile of toys I used to play games with them like "Who will gather and put away the largest number of blocks in less than a minute?" We used a stopwatch which would beep. All of us would rush to do it, and it was a family activity which resulted in everything being put away. Your husband and child too have some responsibility in helping you to keep the place well.

4. Organise and manage kitchen well: I am sharing with you pictures of my kitchen shelves. 

As you can see, everything in my kitchen shelf is neatly labelled and everything is in transparent see-though containers. I have invested in a good set of containers for storage.
At a glance, I know what is running out and what needs to be stocked. I also have a pen and paper handy on the fridge, so that as soon as something runs out, I make a note of it. I have trained my maid also to do it. if she needs any supply (like cleaning liquid, broom) , she immediately writes in on my list. I have a calendar with boxes (it has pictures of all the current music favourites like Iyaz and Katie perry :-))  and I make a note of stuff like how many clothes have been given to the laundry/Ironing guy, when extra milk has been delivered, and also if a certain newspaper (I subscribe to three newspapers) has not been given on a particular day. At the end of the month, I just have to consult this calendar, while settling bills.
5. Give clear instructions and train the house-help well:  The house-help has to know what rules you want followed. She/he has to clearly know what their duties are and when they are supposed to do it. What I have done is that I have a made a list for the house-help as well. On Mondays, she  sterilises the kitchen towels, by boiling them in hot water for 15 minutes, with a disinfectant, On Tuesdays she  cleans the fridge and kitchen hub with detergent . For each day of the week, she has an extra task, apart from the regular duties like mopping-sweeping, cleaning kitchen, dusting, doing the vessels, chopping vegetables , putting out the clothes to dry and folding and putting away clothes etc. I do pay her very well too.
6. Leave it as you found it: A simple rule which a friend of mine follows and which she has made all her family members follow is 'Leave it as you find it' rule.She asks her husband and children to spend two minutes just before they leave the room, to put back things in their proper places, and to leave a room as it was when they entered it. The same rule for bathrooms. Personally,I confess, I am not that disciplined or strict--my kids often leave wet towels on the floor and leave their beds unmade and I usually clean up after them :-) (what the heck--once they go to college, the house will be so empty and everything will be super tidy anyway)

I do hope the tiny things I have written here help in some way.
Honestly, this is all I do. If anyone has any other tips for efficiently managing a home, do share them and I will update this post, crediting you.


  1. Great tips! I personally don't cut down on my sleep coz it affects my day in a major way, but I try to be as efficient as possible with my time during the day.

    I think a lot of times even the financial situation of the family matters. Educating 2 kids in good schools and sending them to good colleges requires a fortune these days. Even owning a home is expensive. So if you cannot sustain a standard of living that you want with one income, 2 incomes help.

  2. wow, You inspire me. I am still a working cum studying woman of the house... I don't know HOW i am going to manage my life and days whenever we want to go the family way! But somehow reading this makes me feel it will be a bit simpler if I organise! I love your blog and will surely read your books!

  3. Hey Preeti,

    I cannot help buy say "u are a gem of a person".

    Iam really moved with this post, not just cuz of the interesting tips, but cuz u took so much time out to help someone. God bless u and ur family.
    Take Care :)

  4. Reading your 500th post again, took me three months back. i have nothing to comment on home management but the care u show for your readers and share even little things genuinely is respectable.

    sometimes i wonder, apart from the literature content what is so special in your writing which makes me to read regularly?. it is this care & respect u show on readers.

  5. Anonymous9:55 AM

    wow, great tips. i wish i was this organized. the only thing which works for me is that anna sleeps by 8 and i take out half an hour then to tidy the house. i don't have much to add other than take the stairs whenever you can. i have an eleven month daughter and till a month ago i was 4 kgs above my pre-pregnancy weight. i started taking the stairs twice a day. once when going up to my 4th floor office in the morning, and once when returning to my 5th floor apartment in the evening. today morning i was only 2 kgs above my pre-pregnancy weight :). it's not much extra effort and you don't need to take out much time for it.

    ps: hi preeti. i've commented here before under a different name. i think i was your first portrait commission in bangalore :)

  6. Preeti,
    This is a great list... adding a few things -

    > Managing Veggies/Fruits - Stock once a week or better still delegate to househelp as something or the other keeps running out in the middle of the week - like chillies, lemons, curry leaves, fruits :).
    I give my househelp 1000 rupees at a time and simply take "hisab" from her once a week. Once the 1000 bucks are utilized, I give her 1000 again. I pay her additional salary but for this activity but the 200-400 p.m. bucks you might end up shelling out is so totally worth it!

    > Declutter your home once a while - Unbelievable how light it makes you feel. Also makes you feel really good when you can pass on the excess to good hands - househelp, ironing guy, car wash guy etc.

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  8. That's a beautiful, kind, helpful and generous post all rolled into one :) It was a great idea to reply to Gargi through this post. Loved it!!

  9. This is a supercool kitchen u have....:)
    very neatly managed!! this is the first thing i'll do after going back home...manage my kitchen shelves properly!!
    getting a good maid is also good luck. My maid is pain sheer in a**...have written about her here,

    but believe me tolerating her here is not this funny!!

  10. "Organize" - a small yet a heavy word...carries a lot of weight. Means so much :) If only I could master this... :)

    Such a lovely and neatly organized kitchen cupboards you have.

    And Thanks for this helpful post. Serves as perfect reminder when we loose track and need to take charge of our every day life.

  11. Life begins: Thanks so much :)

    Deepti: Read it! If i were you, i'd have chucked her out! :)

    Ankita:Thank you so very much!

    Meg: great idea about decluttering--so important.Will surely add that. Thanks!

    Annastales: Nice to see your own blog! Do come over for a cup of tea :) we live close to each other now!

    Venkat:Thanks so much. A blog is nothing without its readers.Every writer values their readers, some like me show it a lot more than others, I guess.:) Took you back three months means what? Because it was written 3 months back?

    Pointblank: thank you so very much for those wishes.

  12. Varsha: Thanks :) You can order them off flipkart or you can dial a book and pay cash in delivery :)

    Shachi;Yes I agree so much. Sometimes two incomes is a necessity in some families.

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  14. The best thing I liked about your kitchen shelves is the lighting inside...:)
    Many interior designers compromise on such things...

    I liked the Point no.6 - 'Leave it as you found it''s so easy to do it, and when we don't, it creates a mess..!

    Super post as always...:)

  15. took me back means- the day i came back to india i read that post. some incidents are associated to the timing i read that post. things changed then so fast.

  16. Very tidy kitchen. Thank you for sharing the tips. I've got organising the kitchen as my easter break agenda and this came at the right time.
    Thank you once again.

  17. So much to learn from you preeti :)

  18. Good tips--all of them.. Your blog is like an encyclopedia, read now remember, go back and re-read when I want to implement.:)

  19. Anonymous11:17 PM

    Organization is very important but it's also very important to gain perspective. I used to get overwhelmed with my housework too, until I realized that time spent with my husband and pets was not to be wasted fretting over housework. So once in a while, even if things are not in place, I let go. It'll all get sorted out, and ever since I adopted this attitude, it always has. It's like a painting, we don't look at the dots that constitute it but the whole picture. Each one's home or life is very different. While we do our best, let's never forget to smile. :)

  20. Anonymous10:21 AM

    Woahhhh... u r just unbelievable!!! As someone said, u really are darn sweet to put in so much effort to write to your readers :) ;)

    Loved it asusual :)

    btw, I wrote something here - - cos of you... your blog post n your book made me write :)

    Oh yeah, didnt i tell in FB that i had ordered... i got the book from dial a book - read it in one single day..... It was sooo soooo sooo gripping!!! loved it... If you read the first few lines in my above post, you would know how i read it :D ;D lol...

  21. This is what i like the most about make time for everything...even a small thing...n ur there to address that!!!

    U have been helpful to so many people....Ur tips are really useful!!!


  22. I recently stumbled on your blog via Flipcart. To be very frank, I have never never written a comment back on any blog; I am always a silent reader or consumer. and most of the times, i feel awkward and shy to comment back. After reading your blog for 2-3 days, I am spending more and more time and becoming your fan! Well, there must be 1000 fans of yours and I am no special - but, this is my sincere effort to appreciate your work, art, books, writing, and your way of living life to its fullest! Thanks for sharing these experiences.

    This post like many others is really great! I specially liked the last part, "Leave it as you found it" - this is something my mom strictly follows and her house it very clean and neatly arranged. Though, this is NOT something i inherited from her! :(


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