Insourcing and Outsourcing 

I really like checklists. I like knowing concretely that I’ve done my work, which is one of the reasons I liked menial tasks like shelving even once I had my MLS. I like report cards.

And that’s one of the hard things about staying at home full time.

Because I can fill my day with any combination of tasks, but I’ll never be able to do all the things.

I make my own bone broth, my own granola, my own pizza crust. I don’t make pickles, or yogurt (though I’ve tried), or hummus. I can embroider, but I can’t knit. I’m not much of a gardener, though I might like to be. I mend shirts that need buttons, but the other day I threw out a cookie sheet because whatever was on it (baked-on potato starch???) was so thick and unyielding that I refused to scrub anymore. I like to bake and I don’t like to iron, so I do a lot more of the former than the latter, and people might be able to tell. (Wrinkles, waistlines.)


Most of the jobs I have had centered around scheduled hours and specific tasks. If I showed up for the scheduled hours most of the time and performed most of the specific tasks, I was doing well.

I like doing well.


Stay at home motherhood is not that way. I need to take care of the kids, keep them safe and tolerably clean and reasonably happy, and it would be good if, barring illness and crisis, I made sure we had regular meals and enough clean laundry to limp by.

Beyond that, it’s kind of up to me, and it’s kind of bewildering.

I’m listening to Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect right now, and while that’s helping, I’m also remembering my reflections years ago on her essay, “Things I Don’t Do.”

My question, I guess, is this: How do you, as a homemaker, choose? Frugality? Interest? How do you know if you’re doing a good job? How do you feel good about the decision to hire a cleaner, or buy your produce at the farmer’s market instead of growing it yourself? When you can do almost anything, go deep on any one task, which ones merit your lingering attention?

Fairly typical, honestly.


4 thoughts on “Insourcing and Outsourcing 

  1. I was telling my mom just today how hard it is to make conscious choices about what tasks I can handle and what I can’t. I just want it all. I want to garden, knit, sew, pickle, preserve, make my bed every morning, and bake bread every week. As well as blog, work on creative writing projects, learn Slovak, and grow my small business.

    Besides walking occasionally I’m not working out right now, which is something I’ve consciously decided on, but it nags me and I think it’s probably more important than things half the things on my aforementioned list. I’m also not deep cleaning. Like ever. If and when we could ever afford it, I would love to hire a maid service to come in once a month or every two months to do deep cleaning. Both working out and cleaning are both things I hate though, so it’s not hard to give up. But I still feel guilty about not doing them and feel a thousand times better when I actually do them.

    So I have no answers. Just solidarity.


    • Solidarity is always appreciated! I’m thinking of doing a maid service for floors and showers specifically, every three months or so. When we moved into this house it was filthy and my crawling baby kept getting grungy onesies, and my sister gave me the BEST housewarming present: a couple women who came and cleaned the house so at least now it’s all our dirt, and not the filth of strangers. I think I’ve already given up on some things (like clutter-free surfaces, or ironed clothes) but I won’t admit it to myself and just feel guilty about it.


  2. Hmmm. Your thoughts give me pause. Mostly I just do what needs to be done immediately. No clean underwear? Time for laundry! 🙂

    If I have extra time, I don’t choose to get caught up, though. I choose to read inspiring mom blogs or play with my kids. My house is a hot mess. But it’s a happy hot mess.

    I guess for me it does come down to budget. It’d be great to outsource cleaning. And I’d love to have clothes perfectly tailored to my weirdly disproportionate body. But where I am now will be fine. I guess I do what I like. Ironing is out. Homemade ice cream is in. 🙂


    • Yes! A lot of mine is a combination of following my interests and fighting fires. I don’t have strict schedules for most things, but I think that’s OK because with a newly mobile, completely irrational toddler in the mix, I would just get frustrated trying to keep it!


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