Articles (Blog)

Invisible Work: Real Life, Organised.

What is Invisible work? It’s so much more than housework. It’s the other job that you do. The one that keeps your family life going.

It’s all those things that you do, that are unseen and taken for granted by those around you. It doesn’t always run smoothly. But even on the worst days, everything that you have done, shows.

You know what they are:

They’re all the things that keep a family on track.

Remembering birthday’s & other events. Everybody’s birthday. Including your own.

All the little things around the kids and their activities: gold coin koha, grown out of uniform, find the lost retainer, are there clean socks & undies, get the right kind of breakfast cereal, what are they eating, what are they not eating, wait… they ate THAT at their friends house!?

Managing everyone’s emotions and moods: from toddlers to teens, partners and parents. Tantrums, getting in trouble at school, the difference between anxiety & drama, sadness, depression. Working out what’s going on when they can’t explain it either. Trying to help, soothe and comfort.

Getting the housework done. It’s not just vacuuming, we all know that. And everyone has different ideas about the tasks that make up housework. Here’s a list:

  • Vacuuming.
  • Washing floors.
  • Clearing and wiping benches and vanities.
  • Filling and emptying the dishwasher.
  • Washing dishes by hand.
  • Putting away clean pots and pans, and plastics, drink bottles, cutlery, dishes, glasses and mugs.
  • Cleaning the toilets.
  • Cleaning the shower.
  • Doing the laundry.
  • Making sure everything is dry.
  • Changing the sheets and towels.
  • Putting away SO many clothes.
  • Taking the rubbish and recycling out.

Guess what? – Stating the obvious I know, but every task on this list takes time.

~ This is an interesting one. I recently sat down with a client and helped her plan out her housework around her job and kids needs. What an eye opener! She needs jet-propelled roller skates to get everything done in the time she has between work and sleep. Sound familiar? Taking the time to write up a timed housework plan shows you (and anyone who might see it on the fridge…) exactly how much you have to do each day AND how long it takes.

It’s the mental load of remembering. Planning, coordinating, time and energy. And SO many texts!

It’s the emotional load of caring. Being the family motivator, comforter, negotiator, dancing the tightrope of teenagers reactions. Maintaining relationships of all kinds.

It’s all the work that’s unpaid.

Did you just think “Well, of course it’s unpaid!” ?

It’s essential work that keeps a family and home functional.

It’s facilitating the wellbeing of those who live in the home.

It’s creating a safe and comforting retreat for you and your family.

It’s Project Management & Event Management.

It’s being the person who knows what’s going on at an amazing level of detail:

  • Noticing subtle changes in your kids behaviours.
  • Which bits of toys belong together.
  • Which toys they actually love and play with.
  • Noticing things that need to be cleaned, organised or tidied.
  • Noticing what’s running out, and shopping for it.
  • Paying attention and listening and helping.
  • Knowing everything that needs to be done, to get stuff done!

And most of the time, the people around you think it just happens automatically. If it doesn’t happen, they get annoyed! They really have no idea.

“Yes Liz, we all know this already!”

You’re flat out, racing around trying to remember everything and get everything done. You might be feeling a bit resentful of the people around you who don’t help. You might even be on the point of burnout.

So What Can You Do About it?

Here are some ideas:

Let them know what you’re doing.

Write out your daily housework plan and put it somewhere obvious.

Say what you’re doing. “I’m just going to text your friends mums about your party”, “It’s time for me to put the next load of laundry on so you have clean underpants for tomorrow!”

Put a calendar up on the wall and write everything, EVERYTHING, on it.

It’s not passive-aggressive, it’s just the facts.

Delegate tasks to the other humans who live in your house.

The reality often is that they will not help, or it takes too much energy to make them help. And if they do help, sometimes it means you have to let go of your idea of How Things Should Be Done.

Start young. Before they learn to flounce, ignore you, sulk or scream and roll their eyes. Beware, this starts a lot earlier than you think it will.

Delegate even little jobs. It’s one less thing for you to do.

Negotiate. Work out your team’s skill base.

Hire people.

You have a lawn person right? A mechanic, an accountant?

So hire a cleaner, once a week, once a fortnight, or once a month. Babysitters give you back some of your time. Laundry services give you back some time. You get the idea.


But have a back up plan. Chaos happens. Prioritise the things that make your life easier.

Paper is just as good as digital, if it’s in your face and it works for you.

Digital calendars, reminder lists and notes, voice memos and planner apps. They are all helpful, but you need to test them to see which works best for you.

Paper calendars, planners, diaries, note pads and little scraps of paper. Need to remember? Write. It. Down. Immediately.

White boards and chalk boards, pin boards or big art pads on an easel. If you need to work it out, and see it (and for others to see it too) make it big and obvious.

Be smart with your time.

Sometimes it pays to Do It Now. When you come home with the shopping, it’s just smart to put the frozen stuff away first right? You don’t have to schedule it, you just do it.

I’m a big fan of putting things you’ve used away as soon as possible. That doesn’t mean you have to put everything away instantly. But soon. Instead of letting it all build up to an humungous pile. Unless, of course that works for you and your schedule.

Try to give yourself a little extra time to get things done. Instead of scheduling to the tightest minute, add a bit. If you end up with extra time, you can choose to do something else or just relax.

Schedule rest time. Your quality of life is important.



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