Q: I just started a new job where I’m working twice as many hours as I’m used to, and my schedule is all over the place (some days, some nights, a random day off in the middle of the week instead of a weekend). My routines are all screwed up, and my house is a mess. How do I figure out any kind of routine when my schedule is so unpredictable and I’m exhausted all the time?
A: Do we work together? Because this sounds an awful lot like my life.
I’ve worked a retail or retail-adjacent schedule for 20 years. You adapt to it, but there’s always an underlying level of suck that never quite goes away. It’s impossible to make plans, your friends don’t understand that you don’t have a “weekend,” and yes, your house devolves into a horrifying pit, because when the hell are you supposed to keep up with it?
- Clean when you get home. Do at least 20 minutes right when you walk in the door, before you change out of your work clothes. I know. It sucks, and it’s the last thing you want to do after a long, shitty day at work. However, it will also be the last thing you feel like doing when you get up tomorrow, and Tomorrow You will weep tears of undying gratitude to Tonight You for having done it. Trust me, you want to keep Tomorrow You happy.
- Maximize your days off. I’m not saying to marathon here, but do the bigger, suckier projects when you can alternate them with watching Netflix and eating kettle corn.
- Do something every day. Even if it’s something small — one load of laundry, 20 minutes of dishes, putting all of your shoes away — every little bit you do day-to-day is less that piles up and overwhelms you when you’re home.
- Put it away, not down. I am not exaggerating when I say that roughly half of your mess will cease being a mess if you just put shit away the first time. Don’t drop your shopping bags inside the door; put everything where it belongs. Don’t kick off your shoes and leave them in the living room; put them back in the closet. Don’t leave dishes in the sink; wash them as soon as you use them and put them away. It’s a series of little things that, over time, will save you so much cleaning and aggravation that you won’t even believe it.
- Accept that you can’t get everything done all at once. Your house is going to be a little messy until you adjust. That’s fine. A job change takes a lot of getting used to, and it throws your schedule all off. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
Good luck with the new job, and remember that habits and routines can be changed. It just takes a little practice.
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