Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Run the Day or The Day Runs You

Do you find yourself chasing after your day as if you were a helpless bystander at it's mercy?  Or does planning and organization come naturally to you?  I prefer a balance between the two.  Even the best laid plans are subject to interruptions, so being prepared for them is wise.  Of course, our husbands and children should never be made to feel like "interruptions" in our plans so no matter how you run your day, always welcome their company warmly and gratefully. 

There are however, unfruitful distractions that can lead you down a path of idle or wasted time. Use a timer if necessary. Planning for a nice coffee or tea break in your day helps keep you happily productive during  your work. 

I know that is an important part for me because I tend toward the energizer-bunny-kind-of-gal and have a hard time finding the "off" button. So for me, it's important to make time for a break so that by the end of the day I have enough energy reserved to enjoy the evening with my family.

Asking your husband for input on how you spend your day is also important.  Take his suggestions to heart and if possible, and arrange your schedule with his needs in mind.  Some ladies keep a home management binder to be helpful with this.  I actually do have a binder, but have not found it to be that useful; at least in this area.  Lists work better for me posted someplace I can see them frequently and check off or add to them as I go.  Once you've got an idea of what to do, make your schedule or list and check it off as you go.
Teaching Children to Help with Housework

Don't forget to give your children the opportunity to help!  Children need to be involved our daily activities. It's a vital aspect of their childhood - to be needed. And boy do mothers need their help! Today we hung up new drapes in the living room and our sons were there learning and helping right beside us.

We deliberately give them jobs to do that we could have done much faster ourselves, so they won't be deprived of the experience and the good feeling that goes with it. That's a key word: derprived.  When I'm tempted to "just do it myself" I think of how selfish it would be to deprive my children of something very good. They need to know they are needed and appreciated.  And they can't know it without our showing it.  A childhood full of "token" work is wrong.  Give them real responsibilities!

For example, my littlest son loved to help me with laundry. Even when he was just 2 years old, his servant's heart was showing.  Somehow he always popped up right by my side when I was at the washing machine. 

His job was to shove the wet clothes into the dryer as I plopped them down on the dryer door.  We always chatted cheerfully about our day and it didn't even feel like work.  I really enjoyed his sweet company as we did this little chore.  We really had fun as we worked together.

Naturally as kids get older they realize it isn't all a game, but by then they've learned to work cheerfully and with regularity knowing they are a useful, needed and appreciated member of the family.  And they become more and more prepared to take care of their own families someday. 

We don't set the bar so high that they can't reach it.  Mine still need reminding now and then and sometimes I'm tempted to stick a post-it note to their forehead, but one thing which I consider a sweet fruit of all my labors: they don't complain about working.  I'm grateful for that. And some of the jobs we give them are income earning, which is their favorite kind.

 1. Setting boundaries 

One of the boundaries in our house is to keep a BIG mess contained in one room at a time.  Our kids sometimes "take over" the living room with wonderful and elaborate games or creative structure which is fine.  I always come and admire their fancy forts and intricate war set-ups. (Can you tell I have boys?) But the boundary rule keeps things from getting out of hand. They are allowed only ONE room of the house for the take-over and once the fun fizzles, it gets cleaned up. And once in a while the fun doesn't fizzle for days and that gets hard.  But eventually it fizzles and gets put back in order.  This rule fosters their respect for others in the house that need space to live, too (and that the world doesn't revolve around them).  Most importantly, it honors their father by reserving a comfortable, clean living area where he can relax.

This boundary makes it possible for creative messes and order to live harmoniously and the needs of children and parents to be met simultaneously. 

2. Having Routines

God is both orderly and creative ; peaceful and passionate.  His awesome creation speaks of routines everywhere we look.  The seasons routinely give us four delightful courses of weather and wonder in routine succession.  The sun routinely rises each morning and sets each evening.  God's creation is full of routine and order!  But it's never boring.  So it can be with us - made in His image.  A good read on learning more about time management is Emily Barnes books.  She's got wonderful suggestions.  I own her book The 15 Minute Organizer and it's been very helpful. I imagine her other books are great, too.  (A frugal idea: rather than buying a book, see if they're at your local public library! If you really like it after checking it out, then buy it. Then you will only have books on your shelf that you really want. Less clutter!)

I know some people who make excuses for the accumulating chaos in their lives by indicating that routine equals boring.  But routine is simply doing the necessary with regularity which allows room for creativity.  Children especially thrive on routine but boredom should not be tolerated for there is always something worthwhile to do or to learn.

3. Clean Up As You Go

My mom taught me this one and it's pretty self-explanatory. I find it most essential in the kitchen and bathrooms . Cleaning up as we go actually leaves us with more time in our day because it's quicker and easier to clean up a small mess right then than a great, big accumulated mess later on (and for some, later on never arrives).  It just takes a wee bit of discipline.  My kids have learned the rewards of this little idea. 

These practices have worked well to keep our home calm but creative, innovative but orderly, comfortable but energetic, and most importantly, we have a lot of fun. 

Our household routines have become ingrained in all of us and the result is that order and tidiness is the casual 'norm'. The motto "a place for everything and everything in it's place" is not just an old fashioned cliche. It really works.  And when we make places for all our possessions, it is eye opening.  If you can't find a "home" for something, do you really need it?

For example, our shoes have a home in a wooden bench. We keep it by the front door. I'm not a stickler about it, so they often are sitting in front of the bench. But at least they have a place.  Other places for shoes we've used are large baskets and those wooden slatted shoe shelves. I like the bench best because you can sit on it and hides the shoes completely. Browsing craigslist or garage sales will usually turn one up inexpensively.

We have several bookshelves to house all our books, games, framed portraits and knick knacks. A tall, narrow bureau in the foyer houses keys, sunglasses, caps, cell phones,  lint brushes, etc.  Having 'storage furniture' makes it possible to routinely put things away so that things don't get piled up or overwhelming. A little each day and you're on your way.

Chaotic House, Chaotic Minds

When the environment of a home is chaotic, you can be sure the product is a chaotic mind. We can blame the state of a chaotic on too many children or too many messes, but the truth is it's simply a lack of discipline. This is demonstrated when there is energy to create a mess but not the discipline needed to clean it up.  Compounding the issue is simply having too much stuff in which case we need to simply purge unneeded items. 

A good rule of thumb to live by: keep only what you find to be useful, beautiful or meaningful.  Everything else is just baggage that will drag you down and clutter your home and mind.  Paring down does the whole family a favor. Plan a garage sale, donate to charity, offer unused to friends - whatever method you choose, paring down feels like a fresh haircut and results in much simpler living. And that translates to a peaceful home.

A Merry Heart

Proverbs 17:1 says, "Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife."  

I believe this verse reveals the extreme importance of being a cheerful keeper of the home. A meek and gentle spirit can cover many other failings. We don't have to be "perfect" but we be perfectly cheerful, smile at our family and love them.  The radiance that comes from a joyful wife (and mother) is like a room flooded with sunshine - something our family cannot do without.
I've found a few ways to help my kids keep their creativity without sacrificing our home in the process. This means a few things for me: Setting boundaries, having routines, and cleaning up as you go.

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