7 Ways to Be Organized When Your Spouse or Partner is Away | From Overwhelmed to Organized: 7 Ways to Be Organized When Your Spouse or Partner is Away

Monday, April 28, 2014

7 Ways to Be Organized When Your Spouse or Partner is Away

Do you have a significant other who travels for business?  Or travels with friends or family without you?  How do you deal with the house and your family while he or she is gone? 

I've never been in this situation before, but soon my hubby is going to be away for nearly 2 weeks.  We share the load in our family and while I'm the "at-home" parent right now, it's still going to be a big adjustment having him gone.

Today I want to share how I'm getting organized to prepare for the time he's away.  Hopefully these 7 tips will help you if you're in this situation too.

First off, let me say that I'm super happy for him that he has the opportunity to take this trip.  His sister is a travel agent and won an all expenses paid cruise.  Her fiance couldn't get the time off so she invited my hubby to join her.  It's a Holy Lands cruise making stops in several places in Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, and Israel.  I'm a little jealous that he gets to experience these amazing places without me, but I'm really happy he and his sister have the opportunity to enjoy this trip together.

But, after the initial emotions of excitement and jealousy passed, an overwhelming feeling set in for me.  I will be on my own with the kids for nearly 2 weeks.  

I know many of you are single parents and you do this all the time and I gotta tell you, my hat is off to you.  I mean no offense to you at all in this post and I honestly don't know how you do it! If you have tips to help me out... I'm all ears :)

Now I love my kids, and they love me.  And we'll have a wonderful time together while my hubby's gone. But Daddy has always been their favourite.  Especially for this one :)

He was the at-home parent during both our kids' early years and he was amazing at it.  But he and I are very different.  I'm OK with that most of the time.  But I know they will really miss him and so will I.

So, what do I do when I feel overwhelmed?  I organize! 

I want to keep everything as simple as possible while he's gone so I can conserve my energy for the kids and not get worn out.  Because when I'm tired I can be grumpy.  And less patient with the kids.  Heck, I get that way when my hubby's around and we're parenting together, so I'm sure I'll have my moments while he's away.  Just keeping it real here :)  But I'd like to minimize those tired and worn-out times as much as possible and maximize the memories we'll make together with the 3 of us.

So, I made a simple plan.  Here are some of the things I did to create it.

1.  Create a detailed calendar

I started out by putting together a calendar of the days leading up to his departure and the days he will be gone.  I marked in ALL the appointments, activities, and plans that were already scheduled.  My son starts baseball while my hubby's gone, my daughter just started a new session of ballet classes, and we've got birthdays and family events happening.  Plus I've got organizing appointments booked.  I worked everything out so I could get everyone where they need to be with one taxi car instead of two. 

2.  Plan an easy menu

Next I created a super simple menu plan for the days he's away.  It's not like we have gourmet meals normally anyway.  But I simplified even more than usual.  I figure it's only 12 days... we can survive on meals like KD, grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, hot dogs and soup.  And my kids love breakfast food so we'll be having things like pancakes, french toast, or maybe even waffles for dinner.  We've done it before and lived to tell the tale.

And for a special treat (because we don't do this very often anymore), I'll take them to their favourite place... McDonald's.  Don't worry, I'll add in some of their favourite fruits and veggies too... I'm not undoing all the work I've been doing to get them to eat more of those :)

But, the main thing is this menu is ALL foods my kids like.  So I won't have to fight with them to eat anything while he's gone.  I'll be dealing with enough other battles on my own (or am I the only one whose kids bug each other just because?!). No sense battling over unnecessary things like food they don't want to eat when I'm here by myself. 

And the bonus is that all these meals are easy to prepare!

3.  Plan ahead for household chores where possible

My hubby is our chief laundry-doer.  When our time-of-day electrical plan kicked in a couple of years ago, we switched from daily laundry to doing all our laundry on the weekends when hydro is cheapest.  Hubby takes care of most of it since he doesn't work on the weekends.  To prepare for him being away, I scheduled all our "extra" laundry (sheets, towels, winter clothing that we hopefully are finished with finally, etc.) to be taken care of before he left.  As well as everything he will need for his trip.  Then I added laundry to my calendar to do while he's gone (but it should be pretty minimal since he'll be away and won't be adding to the piles - and his clothes are the biggest).  We'll catch up again when he comes back.

My hubby also takes care of things like changing the furnace filter, changing light bulbs (he's tall!), and changing smoke detector batteries (again the tall thing helps!).  It's not that I can't do these things if I need to while he is away, but planning ahead means we'll be safe and I'll have less to worry about while he's gone. 

Another really important task my hubby usually takes care of is grocery shopping.  It's been this way since we first got married...I really don't like doing it and he doesn't mind... works well for us :)  I'm sure I'll have to shop a bit while he's gone for fresh foods.  But I made an extra long list of items for him to stock up on, and I planned my menu to use fresh ingredients in the first few days and use more packaged foods during the last part of his trip.  So I won't have to do a lot of grocery shopping while he's away.

I'm conserving my energy for times like the after school rush and before bed :)

4.  Add other chores to calendar

Some household responsibilities can't be shifted to before and after hubby's holiday.  So I added those chores to my calendar along with my usual cleaning routines. 

For example, my hubby is responsible for all things garbage around our home... emptying the garbage under the kitchen sink as needed, emptying the small compost bin in our kitchen into the larger one in the garage when necessary, gathering all the garbage and recycling from the rest of the house (including the cat litter),  putting everything out on garbage day, and bringing in all the empty containers after it's been picked up.  Garbage isn't going to wait until he comes back, so I added those tasks to my calendar so I don't forget them or have to rush around to beat the truck to the curb when I'm racing to get the kids out the door for school :)

5.  Plan special activities

The kids and I are looking forward to writing a journal about our experiences while Daddy's away so we can share it with him when he gets back.  We're not sure how much contact we'll have during the cruise so this will be a way to feel connected to him. 

And they've been asking about some of the places he'll be visiting, so I wrote the itinerary on our calendar and while he's gone we'll look online at some of the places he's going to each day.  I may pick up some library books too.  I think it will help them picture where he is and what he's experiencing.  And, since it's a Holy Lands cruise, we can connect his stops to Bible stories as well. 

I've also planned a few special activities with the kids while Daddy's away.  We've got coupons for 2 for 1 movies and free Dairy Queen blizzards from all the cereal we eat around here.  So we'll use those when we need a pick-me-up, or to celebrate a great co-operative attitude day, or just to create our own memories of this time.  If we have a particularly nice spring day we'll go for a picnic.  And the kids want to play some board games together like we did last summer (obviously we haven't been keeping that habit up enough!). 

And just to be prepared, I've got a few other ideas up my sleeve in case we need them.   

6.  Create a "to-do before the trip" list

As soon as hubby's trip was booked (maybe even before that!), I made a list of all the things that needed to be done before he left.

Photo Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I included a few household projects, several appointments, getting our air conditioner installed, and Freecycling several items before he left so I wouldn't have strangers popping by while he was away.  Oh and packing for his trip... can't forget that!  We've worked away at the list and will finish up all the last-minute stuff before he leaves. 

7.  Ask for help

This is something I'm not always great at doing.  But I'm really lucky that both sets of grandparents live fairly close to us and have offered to help me out while hubby's away.  I'm planning to take them up on that on the weekends. That will give me a break so I have enough energy for during the week. 

Image Courtesy of mrpuen / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I also asked a few organizing blogger friends to help me out because... 2 days after my hubby comes back from his trip, we're going on a family vacation together for 2 weeks!  And our whole family is going to be fairly unplugged during that vacation, which will make blogging challenging.  Then, one week after we're back, I'm writing the Trained Professional Organizer exam and I'll need to spend time preparing for it.  Even though I'm working ahead on blog posts, it's going to be a really busy time period the next while!  Which is why I'm so grateful to a few bloggers for agreeing to write guest posts for me.  Once a couple of them confirmed, I felt SO much less overwhelmed!  And now you'll be able to read all the fabulous organizing and decluttering tips they'll be sharing with you!  Much better than the crickets you might otherwise have heard here on the blog :)

It's going to be an interesting 12 days while my hubby is away.  I know there will be a whole mix of emotions for all of us, but I feel a lot better having these plans in place.  I want the kids and I to have happy memories of this time too and I think being prepared like this will help make that happen. 

Luckily, most of the time these two like each other.  Just like their dad and his sisters. 

I'll let you know afterwards how everything goes.  Hopefully I won't be too jealous when I see the pictures my hubby takes :) 

How do you prepare when your spouse or partner is away?  {Happy to hear any other tips!}  Do you find it hard to ask for help?  If you've been to the Holy Lands, are there any places my hubby HAS to see? 

Happy organizing!

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