Reader Catherine submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I sprained my ankle yesterday and can’t move without crutches, and I am feeling very overwhelmed. Neither my husband nor my 13-y/o daughter really cook, so he went out and stocked up on TV dinners but already that is getting OLD for me. (OTOH it doesn’t bother them. They honestly don’t notice what is on their plates.) And the mess is already beginning to pile up. E.g. – I hobbled into the kitchen last night and opened the dishwasher – my daughter had just piled stuff in there willy-nilly. Nothing was going to get clean that way, so I stood on one foot and re-loaded the dishwasher. But I can’t keep doing that. Clearly I’ve been protecting her and her dad way too much from household responsibilities – mea culpa – but what do I do to keep things in reasonable shape until I can move again? And get a decent, healthy dinner that they can cook with almost no cooking skills?
I’m sorry to read that you hurt yourself. In addition to dealing with the pain, it also sounds like you’re frustrated to be missing out on your responsibilities. You clearly take pride in the work you usually do around the house, and not being able to do it is grating on your last nerve. That must be aggravating.
Although it’s going to be difficult, you need to stop worrying about the house. The most important thing in your life right now is to heal properly. If you keep trying to take care of everything, you’re going to injure your ankle further and those crutches might become a wheelchair — and a couple months of healing could become years. I know it’s hard to let go of work you feel invested in doing, but you’re going to have to.
It’s okay if your daughter loads the dishwasher willy nilly. Even if none of the dishes get washed, she’ll move things around and run it a couple of times until she gets it. She’s 13, and now is a great time for her to develop these skills. And, she’ll remember the lesson better if she teaches herself. Redoing her work doesn’t help her, and it doesn’t help your foot.
Additionally, people like to feel needed. You’re not letting your husband or your daughter experience this because you want to do it all — even when you shouldn’t. They might not do things your way, but that’s okay. It’s temporary, and you may even find that you like how they do things. If your daughter learns how to run the dishwasher, this is a chore she can continue to do after you’re healed. A win for both of you!
As far as meals go, I recommend encouraging your daughter and husband to be creative. Let them explore cookbooks and recipe websites to find meals that they feel comfortable making. Don’t tell them what to make. Don’t tell them how to make it. Don’t critique what they make. Just encourage them to try their hands at cooking. Right now they’re relying on frozen dinners because they don’t think they can make good meals — and you don’t believe it either. Well, they can. The food might not taste great, but at least they’ll be trying. Your daughter might even grow up to become a world renown chef and this injury of yours could be the inspiration she needs to get started on her path.
Your injury is temporary and it is okay if the house falls to pieces while you’re recovering (but I don’t think it actually will). The more you focus on healing, the faster you can return to the responsibilities you enjoy in your home. In the meantime, trust your family. Enjoy and appreciate everything that they’re doing for you, even though it might not be the way you normally do things. They love you. They’re trying to care for you. Embrace these blessings and focus all of your energy on getting better.
Thank you, Catherine, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
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