Setting Intentions and Atmosphere in Our Home

I sat at the dining room table Sunday afternoon, notebook open in front of me and pen in hand, waiting for some ideas to come. After weeks of growing discontentment with our current routine and the attitudes in our home, especially surrounding chores and school, I was ready for a change. 

But what kind of change? I knew I had to set the tone with more positivity and a fresh atmosphere, so I set down a few ideas for adding positive reinforcement and a little more loveliness into our day. 

One of the problems we have been struggling with is in the area of completing our morning routine without dawdling and complaining. I created a little extra incentive chart for my son to do his morning jobs in a timely manner without my constant nagging. I also decided to back up the time I expect us to “start school” each day to stop us feeling so rushed. When I talked to my son about these changes, he was very excited and ready to try to get his tasks started in the morning.

Since my own attitude is really the only one I can change, I also wrote down some very different priorities for the week in my planner. Instead of usual top 3 tasks for housekeeping and work, I wrote things like “Smile, laugh, and have some fun every day,” “Create something with your hands,” and “Love God and your family well.” I also reminded myself of the importance of getting my personal Bible study and prayer time in before the kids wake each day, so I set my alarm a little earlier for Monday morning.

Finally, I resolved to infuse some fun and beauty into our homeschool routine so that we all have something special to look forward to each day. Over the past few weeks we added “Poetry Tea Time” back into our schedule once a week, and it had become a highlight for me and the kids. In my notebook, I wrote down plans for daily “tea time” at the beginning of the school day: light candles, set out the tea things and snacks, and gather at the table with smiles and anticipation of the good time we are about to have learning together. 

Finished with my brainstorming session, I pushed back the notebook and set down my pen with a satisfied sigh. I knew that none of these changes were big on their own. And I knew that none of them was a magic formula for success. But I also knew that because I was setting my intention to make positive changes and have a joyful attitude myself, things would be better. Because I was going to set the tone and prepare an atmosphere of beauty and goodness, our day would be different. I was hopeful.

And, you know what? Today was the best day we have had in a very, very long time. I hope it is not the last… I don’t think it will be!

The Reluctant Cook’s Guide to Meal Planning: Homemaking Series, Pt. 6

In this final post in the Homemaking for Real People Series, I am getting really, really real! I am going to admit that I don’t like meal planning. But I still find it absolutely indispensable to the general health and happiness of my family, not to mention the maintenance of our budget. I also have to admit that I actually am not a big fan of cooking. Eating, yes. Cooking, not so much. It’s not that I can’t cook. I am actually a pretty good cook! I just don’t love it. I know some people who go bake or whip up a new recipe for the pure enjoyment of it. I don’t. I cook because I like to eat, and, as a matter of fact, so does my family! Since we believe that whole, natural foods are the healthiest way to fuel our bodies, we also like to eat food made from real ingredients. And having food allergies and sensitivities makes it even more necessary that I do a decent amount of cooking on a daily basis.

In order to manage all this cooking, I have to have a meal plan. But how does a reluctant cook go about doing this?

Enter, the Reluctant Cook’s Guide to Meal Planning:

Step 1: Make a Master Meal List

Make a master meal list of 20-30 meals that are simple family favorites that you can rotate again and again. For a lot of people, this means just dinners because they have about the same things for breakfast and lunch, like toast or cereal, and sandwiches or salad. Our family, however, doesn’t eat cereal except as an occasional snack, and since we have a wheat allergy, bread for sandwiches is a real pain. I also like a lot of variety, so I do actually have lists of our favorites for breakfast and lunch, as well. Your master meal list is something you can always fall back on when you are lacking creativity or just need a default for meal planning. Obviously, it is good to try new recipes, too, but it sure is handy to know you have this list of meals everyone will enjoy when you just need to hit the easy button.

Step 2: Find Your Style

This part takes some trial and error, in my experience, but once you find your groove, you’ll be set! Some people like to have a monthly meal plan, others plan weekly. I’m a weekly gal, thought sometimes I do plan for up to two weeks at a time. You may prefer to have a paper plan that you post in your kitchen, or a digital meal plan system like Plan to Eat. I actually put my meal plan right in my Happy Planner along with all my other weekly to-do’s so I can see everything all in one spot. There are myriad meal planning calendar printable online, so I encourage you to try out a few different styles until you find your sweet spot.

Step 3: Look at Your Calendar

Before you start writing out your actual meal plan, you need to consider what you have going on in your week. Knowing how much time you are going to have for meal prep each day helps you choose what to make. For example, I know if I’m going to be gone most of the day, I either need to plan to have leftovers for dinner or make a slow cooker meal that will cook itself while we are out. Also, consider the season and weather when choosing meals. If it’s going to 90 degrees and humid, you probably aren’t going to want to plan a lot of baking or roasting if you can help it.

Step 4: Make Your Meal Plan

Once you’ve got all the preliminaries done, all there is left to do is plug in meals from your master list (or maybe a few new recipes from a Pinterest board)! I like to write down breakfast, lunch and dinner in that order. For breakfast and lunch, I don’t have as many choices to rotate, so that goes pretty quickly. We like to try more new things for dinner, so sometimes it take me a bit longer. As I go, I have my grocery list alongside me, so I can write down any ingredients that we need for the coming week as I go. I also try and write in any prep-work that may need done ahead of time in my planner. If we are going to have soaked baked oatmeal on Sunday morning, for instance, I write down that I need to get the oats soaking while I’m making dinner Saturday evening.

Step 5: Follow Your Plan

So, you’ve gone to all the work of making a meal plan. Now you need to put it in a place where you will see it and do your best to follow the plan! I know there are times when plans change and meals will get switched or left out all together. I am fine with this as it is MY plan, after all. I have the freedom to change it as needed. But I also know that if I don’t take care, produce purchased for a specific meal may spoil, or meat may not get thawed in time, etc. If I want to be wise with my time and money, it helps to stick to the plan. And, yes, I do build leftovers into my meal plan as much as possible! It is frugal and time-saving, and even my kids have no problems with eating leftovers (most of the time).

Step 6: Have a Good Attitude

Okay, maybe this should have been first…and it certainly isn’t reserved just for meal planning and cooking! Having a good attitude and thinking positive about your role as cook and meal planner for your family will go a long way toward making it a more enjoyable experience. I know that I am always proud when I put a healthy, hot meal on the table for my family. It is satisfying to know that this is one way I can serve and bless my husband and children, and it really is not all that much trouble after all. Even on a frugal budget, we can enjoy good meals when I plan well and execute that plan. And so can you! So, go ahead. Make a meal plan and go cook something wholesome and delicious!

That wraps up our Homemaking for Real People blog series! I’ve enjoyed sharing a little more in depth on how we run our home, and I would love to hear what you’ve thought of the series! Would you like me to write more on topics of homemaking, planning, or routines? Leave me a comment below. I’m all ears!

Previous Posts in the Homemaking for Real People Series:

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Pt. 1

Why Just “Good Enough” Housekeeping? Homemaking Series, Pt. 2

A Good-Enough Housekeeping Routine: Homemaking Series, Pt. 3

20 Daily “Quick Wins:” Homemaking Series, Pt. 4

Keeping the Laundry Monster at Bay: Homemaking Series, Pt. 5

Keeping the Laundry Monster at Bay: Homemaking Series, Part 5

Welcome back to the Homemaking For Real People series! We’ve made it to week 5 already, and today I’m talking about laundry. Yes, I know it is not the most glamorous or exciting part of our homemaking duties, but it is still important. And since it seems to be an area in which a lot of people struggle, I thought I’d share a few things that have helped me keep the dreaded “laundry monster” at bay in our home.

Have a Routine:

I’ve said it before in this series, but it bears repeating. Having a predictable routine for your housekeeping tasks will help you stay on top of everything, and laundry is no exception. In fact, in our house, even if there is not a set schedule or day for any other task, there is a schedule for laundry. No matter what else I have going on during laundry day, I try to make no excuses and just get it going. Since my husband and I got married nearly 14 years ago (say what?!) we have done laundry primarily on Friday and/or Saturday. This way I always know we have clean clothes for church and the coming work week. It just makes sense for us. As a young couple, we could generally do all of our laundry in 2-3 loads each week, making it pretty easy to get done in one day. Now that we have kids, I usually have a few more loads than that to do, but I still have specific days for washing clothing, towels, bedding and doing hand washing, when needed.

Fold and Put Away, Right Away:

I know that this is where a lot of people get tripped up, but believe me, friend. You will be able to stay on top of the laundry pile so much better if you just buck up and fold, hang and put away that clean laundry right away. Now, let me say this: in our house that doesn’t always happen exactly while the clothes are still hot from the dryer. It does, however, happen on the day the clothes are washed. I will frequently do 3 loads of clothes in a day, bringing them all to our bedroom and piling them on the bed. I hang things that will wring easily right away, but I will often wait until all the clothes I’m washing that day are done before starting to sort, fold and put away. But it always all get put away before anyone goes to bed at night. It is just part of the job, so I have disciplined myself to do it. My husband usually helps, but if he is busy, I don’t mind doing it all myself. I know there are seasons when this can seem overwhelming, but sometimes we have to stop making excuses and just do the work.

Train Your Kids to Help:

This is another things I’ve said before but will say again. Teach your children to help with the laundry. My son has been doing his own laundry since he was around 6 years old. Every week he has this on his chore chart. It is not his favorite thing to do, but he know how to do it and will not be bringing his clothes home for me to wash on his college breaks! Ha! Also, my daughter is learning how to sort the dirty clothes into colored piles and to help sort the clean ones into the correct family member’s pile. She can match up socks and fold wash cloths. Anything you can teach your children to do to help out, even if it takes more time in the beginning, will pay off in the end, I promise!

Don’t Buy Too Many Clothes:

Seriously. Capsule wardrobes, minimal amounts of clothing for each family member for each season, will help you. The fewer clothes you have to wear, the fewer clothes you have to wash! Also, if you don’t need to buy a lot of hand-wash or dry-clean only items, you will save yourself the time and money of needing to take special care of so many clothes. Buy permanent press or non-wrinkle dress clothes when possible to cut down on the need to iron.

Bonus tip:

Another way to cut down on laundry is to re-wear barely worn clothes. I’m obviously not talking about sweaty t-shirts or muddy jeans. But often we wear clothes lightly enough that they are fine for a second go round before hitting the wash. Teach your family members to hang up clothes that have only been worn for short periods and are still clean, instead of automatically tossing everything in the hamper. Dress clothes and jeans especially fall into this category.

It’s pretty no-nonsense and simple, but those are the things we do here to keep the laundry from getting out of control Do you have any other tips or tricks you use to keep from swimming in unfinished laundry? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Previous Posts in the Homemaking for Real People Series:

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Pt. 1

Why Just “Good Enough” Housekeeping? Homemaking Series, Pt. 2

A Good-Enough Housekeeping Routine: Homemaking Series, Pt. 3

20 Daily “Quick Wins:” Homemaking Series, Pt. 4

20 Daily “Quick Wins”: Homemaking Series, Part 4

Welcome back to my Homemaking for Real People blog series! This week I wanted to give you a list of 20 Quick Wins– small tasks that you can do when you are short on time that still make a big difference around the house. Most of these ideas are things that you should be doing daily, or at least weekly, anyway. All of them can be done in a few minutes, except perhaps washing a full load of dishes. For tasks that may take longer, or areas that have become overwhelming problem areas, try setting a timer and see how much you can get done in a 5-15 minute time period. I suggest printing off this list and posting a copy somewhere you will see it when you have few spare minutes. One great place to stick this list is in your planner so you will see it when you are checking off your to-do’s for the day! Also, if you have kids, many of these tasks are things your children can and should be taught to do, too. After all, as the saying goes, many hands make light work! Here goes:

20 Daily “Quick Wins”

  • Make the bed
  • Put dirty clothes in the hamper
  • Put shoes away
  • Clear off kitchen counters
  • Wipe bathroom counter and sink
  • Wipe kitchen counters
  • Wipe down microwave
  • Sweep kitchen/dining room floor
  • Fold throw blankets and fluff pillows
  • Hang up jackets
  • Fold a load of laundry
  • Put away clean clothes
  • Wash dishes
  • Put away clean dishes
  • Do a quick pick-up of one room
  • Empty waste baskets
  • Take out trash/recycling
  • Sort mail
  • Straighten a bookshelf
  • Clear off your desk/dresser/nightstand

How many quick wins will you have today? Click here to get the free printable list of the above 20 Quick Wins to help you make the most of your housekeeping time. It is formatted to print 3 lists on a page, so you can cut them apart and post them around the house where you will be able see them often. Happy cleaning!

 

 

 

Previous Posts in the Homemaking for Real People Series:

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Pt. 1

Why Just “Good Enough” Housekeeping? Homemaking Series, Pt. 2

A Good-Enough Housekeeping Routine: Homemaking Series, Pt. 3

 

A Good-Enough Housekeeping Routine: Homemaking Series, Pt. 3

Welcome to Part 3 of the Homemaking for Real People Series! Last Monday I wrote about my why behind the idea of  “Good Enough Housekeeping.” Today I’m going to talk about how we can start keeping our house in good working order and relatively clean without being total neat-freaks. I think most of us would like to have a house that feels uncluttered and could be “good enough” for company in under an hour. So we have to find a way to balance keeping order and not getting caught up in the details. Let’s get to work!

Define Your Priorities

The first step to creating a workable housekeeping routine is to take a good look around your home and decide what areas are the most important for you to keep clean and neat. You can do this a couple of ways. First, think about the areas in your home that get the most use, like the kitchen and bathrooms. Those are probably going to be your highest priority for getting and keeping clean because they need to be ready for use so much of the time.

You may also want to go through each room in the house and identify “problem areas” that seem to perpetually get messy or cluttered. Once you have identified all the problem areas, you can (hopefully) think of a solution to help keep those messes at bay, whether that be adding a daily “clearing up” time specifically for those spots, or better organization, or maybe just better habit training for your children (or yourself!). 

Take some time to write down a list of the areas of your home that are the highest priorities for you to clean, maybe even listing them in order of importance. I would also challenge you to write down at least one area that is NOT a priority for you right now, and give yourself permission to let it go for a while.

Divide Up Your Tasks

Next it is time to think about what specific tasks need done in order to keep your priority areas neat and tidy. Write each task down, then note how frequently you would like it to be done. In my kitchen, for instance, these are the main tasks that need to happen on a regular basis: 

  • Wash dishes: at least daily, preferably after every meal
  • Wipe down counters and table: at least once daily, preferably after ever meal
  • Wipe down stovetop, sink and faucet: once daily
  • Sweep floor: once daily
  • Mop floor: once a week
  • Empty trash: once a week, or as needed

There are some extra deep-cleaning tasks I could add to that list as well, but they are things that need done less frequently, like cleaning out the fridge, reorganizing the pantry, and cleaning the oven. 

Once you have written out what specific tasks you have and how often you need to be doing them, take a good, hard look at that list and make sure you have reasonable expectations for yourself and your family. When I look at my list above, for instance, I know that although I would like to have the kitchen and dining area mopped once a week, that rarely actually happens. So I need to decide if it is my routine or my expectation that needs to change.

Decide on a Plan

Finally, it is time to make a plan. This is the most personal and flexible part, so I am not going to give you specific instructions on how to make your plan. You need to find a routine for cleaning that works for you and your family. If you have children 3 and up, they can be taught how to help with some basic chores. If you are married and your spouse is willing, perhaps you can divide up some tasks between you. It may help to create a short list of morning tasks and evening tasks that you can post somewhere in your house to remind you to get those key things done daily. You may want to assign specific days to specific rooms, or to specific weekly tasks so that you know they will get done on a regular basis. 

The key in our “Good Enough Housekeeping” routine is having grace and giving ourselves permission to miss a day here and there. Maybe you even need to plan a “day off” every week in which you purposefully don’t do any housework beyond what is absolutely necessary. Keep your expectations reasonable. Don’t compare yourself or your current situation to someone’s pretty Pinterest or Instagram photos. Do what you can, when you can. Remember to put relationships first. Housekeeping is an act of service to your family and those who enter your home, but it is not the end all be all! 

Previous posts in this series:

Part 1: Intro to Homemaking for Real People

Part 2: Why Just “Good Enough” Housekeeping?