Minimum Maintenance

If your situation is more short-term, the concept of minimum maintenance may suffice. The idea behind minimum maintenance is that, of all the tasks in your household rotation, only some are critical or essential. These are the minimum basics necessary to maintain your household in a functional state. If you only do these over the long term, you’ll run into issues, but on a bad day or for a short period of time, you can drop down to the minimum maintenance level and do okay.

I like to designate these items on my regular list of tasks by highlighting them in yellow or red.

Yellow tasks are essential, but not critical. They’re what you drop to on the very busy or stressful days, but when you’re not quite in crisis mode – when you’re slowed down. These might include things like washing the dishes. Ultimately, the dishes need to be done every day – but if someone is in the emergency room, no one is going to die over saving the dishes for tomorrow.

Red tasks are critical. Even when everything comes to a screeching halt, these things have to happen. You can’t survive without eating, so meals are a non-negotiable. Somebody has to prepare them (even if “preparing” boils down to picking up takeout). The children and animals must be fed. Diapers must be changed. Bills must be paid (not daily, but on their regular schedule).

Everyone’s idea of what is rightly a yellow or red task will be a little different, and that’s okay. What types of things end up causing “yellow days” or “red days” for you will have a lot to do with this. If “red day” scenarios tend to be multiple-day crises, you might need to have the dishes on your red list (or buy paper plates!).

The point is to determine what absolutely, positively must get done no matter what, and mark it in red. Then determine what is almost, but not quite, as critical, and mark it in yellow. Some people prefer to make separate lists. They have a yellow list and a red list, and each of these is separate from the regular household rotation. If that works for you, go for it! I personally find it easier to not have one more thing to keep up with, and I like being able to see these critical tasks in context. Whatever works for you, though, is what’s right for you.

When the Minimum is Not Enough

For many of us who have illnesses spanning extended periods of time, this minimum maintenance just isn’t cutting it anymore. We can only crawl along at the minimum for so long before the not-so-minimum stuff starts piling up. You can skip the laundry for a couple of days, or a week, or maybe even several weeks, but you can’t skip the laundry forever! If that’s you, keep reading for six energy budgeting strategies inspired by the financial world.

Complete and Continue