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!

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

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

The Backstory

Before I jump into the how of creating a “good enough” housekeeping routine, I wanted to give you a little backstory on the why. When my husband and I were newlyweds, we both started working outside the home right away, and when we were home in the evenings and on weekends we generally shared the load of housework pretty evenly. After he finished seminary and got a full-time job in music ministry, we decided I would stay home. But we did not have children for a few years, so I got used to having a lot of time during the day to do whatever needed done whenever I wanted to do it. Since time was at a maximum, I didn’t really need to learn to manage it well. Then, when we finally started a family, I was completely thrown for a loop. Life was messy for us on a whole lot of levels (that I won’t go into here), and I did not have a clue how to manage a house while caring for a baby and our pets and still be a halfway decent wife. 

Unreasonable Expectations

When I finally did what any normal internet-age housewife does and hit up Pinterest and Google for “home management planners” and “housecleaning schedules” and the like, I was immediately frustrated and dismayed. All the lists of all the things I was “supposed” to be doing just overwhelmed me even more! Some people’s lists included tasks that did not apply to my house at all. Others seemed to have no grounding in reality at all, at least for a mother of an infant or toddler. In an effort to measure up to these goals of housekeeping perfection, I would swing to the extreme and try to clean All the Things, All the Time. But I would quickly burn out and not to do any housework for days, if I could possibly help it. Obviously, this did not work well at all.

Finding Balance and Grace

I am glad to report that this crazy cycle did not last forever. I finally did find a balance and learned how to keep a reasonably clean house without going crazy over the details but not living in squalor, either. The key was GRACE. I had to recognize my own limitations, get over my perfectionism, quit comparing myself to others, and give myself grace. Once I received the grace of not having to measure up to someone else’s (or even my own unreasonably high) expectations, then I was free to do what needed to be done without any guilt. Yes, I still had to work at keeping a clean house. But I was released from the idea that it all had to be perfect or had to be done a certain way. It just needed to be good enough for our family. And that was a huge game-changer for this little rule-following momma! 

What’s Your Struggle?

Maybe you struggle with some other aspect of keeping your house in “good enough” shape. Perhaps it isn’t perfectionism that has you overwhelmed like I was. Perhaps you just plain don’t see the messes as a problem. Perhaps you are overwhelmed by too much stuff and don’t even know where to begin. Let me know in the comments what your biggest struggle with housekeeping is. I would love to get a conversation going and see how we can help each other out! I may have some extra helpful resources to share at the end of this series, so come on back next week for more!

Previous Posts in the Homemaking for Real People Series:

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

Fitting in Fitness as a Stay-at-Home Mom

 Let me preface this post by saying I am by no means a fitness fanatic. In fact, most of my life I have tried to find ways to avoid strenuous exercise such as running or lifting weights. It is highly unlikely you will ever find me joining CrossFit or Camp Gladiator or the like.

However, as a wife and mother inching ever closer to that “dreaded” decade beginning with the number “4,” I am becoming increasingly aware of my need to take better care of my physical health. It’s not about being a certain weight or fitting into a certain size of jeans…hey, sometimes I think about giving up jeans altogether and just living in comfy pants and skirts year round! What fitness is about for me is being healthy enough to serve my family, friends and community well. I want to have the energy to chase my kids around the yard, to take long hikes through the local nature parks, and to get through long days of housework and homeschooling and not be too tired to enjoy time with my husband.

And those are just things I want for myself in the present stage of life. As I focus my thoughts on the future, say 20 years from now, my motivation for staying physically fit changes a bit. I want to be able to get down on the floor and play with my future grandchildren without worrying that I may never be able to get back up again. I want to be able to travel and enjoy the empty-nest stage going on new adventures with my husband without the concern of preventable health problems.

As a busy stay-at-home mom with young children and a budget that prohibits extra expenses like a gym membership, the trick is finding creative ways to fit fitness into my daily routine. Honestly, even if I could afford to go to a gym all the time, I really wouldn’t do it. I’m a major homebody and introvert, and I hate, hate, HATE working out in public. So it works best for me to find things I can do at home that are either very inexpensive, or, even better, free! Sometimes I get up early and work out first thing in the morning. Sometimes I use a few free minutes during my daughter’s nap. Others I unwind with a little exercise at the end of the day after the kids are in bed. The key is making it a priority and being intentional!

Here are a few of the ways I have found to fit in fitness even as a busy homeschooling mom who doesn’t really love to work out in the first place:

  1. Getting a FitBit and working on upping my steps. This is the most recent change that my husband and I have both made, and we are loving it! He works a desk job, and I sit on the couch and read to kids for a large part of the day. It is easy to become “couch-shaped” when that is the norm! Now that I have a FitBit to keep me accountable and remind me to get off the couch, I am becoming more active throughout the day. One creative way I’m getting in more steps is by walking around while I read a book. Exercising my brain and my body at the same time is a win-win!
  2. Doing 30 minutes of yoga every morning. I love, love, love doing yoga but had gotten out of the habit after having my daughter (3 years ago now, yikes!) My current favorite routines are “Yoga with Adriene” videos  on Youtube. I’m working my way through her 30-day “True” challenge from the beginning of the year right now, and it is so yummy!
  3. Following Fit2B workout paths. Beth Learn has created such a wonderful wealth of mom-life friendly workouts to do at home. She is a gentle coach, both motivating and encouraging. I have done many, many of her workouts since I found her membership site when my son was just a little guy, and I still love them all! Whether I am in need of some gentle stretching or a more challenging workout, I know I can always find something to fit the bill at Fit2B.

If you are a homeschooling mom, or a mom of littles, I would love to hear how you stay motivated and find time to work out on a regular basis, especially if fitness does not come naturally to you. I can always use more creative ideas to fit fitness into my daily life!

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Part 1

Do you ever look at images on Pinterest or Instagram and ask yourself, “Does she ever do anything besides clean or cook and take pictures of the results?” Or maybe you are more tempted to ask, “Why can’t my house ever look that picture-perfect?” Either way, going down that rabbit hole of comparison is a dangerous path to take, isn’t it? We have to remember that those little pictures are not the whole package. We can only see a small piece of someone else’s life, and what we see may or may not reflect real life.

Why write about homemaking for real people?

The fact is, we are real people with real life situations and real busy schedules. As a result, sometimes our houses are going to be a REAL mess! And that’s okay. We can, however, aim to take control of the mess and find some order and beauty in the ordinary. Over the last 14 years of marriage, and even more so the last 7 years of motherhood, I have been finding ways to make homemaking a priority without sacrificing relationships. After years of swinging from perfectionism to sloth, I am finally able to keep our house in a tolerable state of cleanliness, to have a manageable schedule in most seasons, and to keep healthful food on the table and in the pantry. Thus, the inspiration for this blog series!

What is homemaking for real people?

Homemaking for real people is all about having grace while also getting things done. It is about doing what you can, when you can, to keep a balanced household without killing yourself. This series is for anyone who has a home, whether you are married, single, have kids in the home or not. I will talk a lot about routines and systems we have in place currently, which means they include my husband and our kids. These are things I wish I would have learned how to do a lot earlier on in life so that good habits had been in place before I became a mom. I will also weave in little bits of wisdom regarding our attitudes toward homemaking and having grace with ourselves and those who share our homes.

Topics I will cover in this series are as follows:

Every Monday for the next month, I will be sharing a new post from the list. I would love to hear from you as we go through this series. If you struggle with a specific area of homemaking I didn’t mention above, we could tackle that topic, too. Just leave me a comment here or on my Facebook page. If you have an extra tip to add, please share that with us, too! We can all learn from each other. Join me back here next Monday, and let’s embrace this concept of homemaking for real people together, one real day at a time.