– – – – – – – – – –
Thriving at Home: Gracious Order // Part 3 of 5
A five-part series about thriving at home, specifically as stay-at-home moms, but still applicable to all sorts of mama-situations. This is encouragement to flourish at home, not just make-it-through and survive. By God’s grace, you can thrive at home, mama bear!
Cleaning. Organizing. Decluttering. Everyone’s very favorite jobs when it comes to home making (did you catch that was dripping with sarcasm?). I think most of us can agree they are the “necessary evils” of keeping a home. I want to enjoy my home . . . but I don’t enjoy a home that is dirty/messy/cluttered . . . but I don’t like the un-messifying process . . . but I don’t like my home when it’s dirty/messy/cluttered. It’s a frustrating spiral!
I love a clean & organized house, maybe a little more than most, it’s true (many thanks to my Mother and her mom, my Gram….it’s in my blood….and I am truly grateful). They say some people are “cleaners” and others are “organizers.” The latter is more my style: it always feels good to clean but I would much rather declutter or organize. When surfaces are covered and everything doesn’t have a place, I can feel that stress level in my soul start to rise. And if we go four or five days with stuff piling up, then I need to have a decluttering session asap or the soul-anxiety will overflow. (Side note: where does your stress seem to rise? Mine is somewhere near my heart & soul; deep in my chest I can feel everything tightening when things aren’t quite right.)
Here’s my thriving-at-home encouragement:
Mamas, if having an orderly home is important to you, then let’s just decide to take responsibility for our homes, put on our big girl workin’ shoes, and dive in. We feel better when our homes are clean and tidy, the kids play better (at least mine do, and we’re teaching them good habits for when they’re older!), and our husbands feel less stressed when we’re less stressed and we’re less stressed when our homes are in order. Now there is an upward spiral that I can get on board with!
An orderly home is a home at peace.
We can thrive at home best when our homes are peacefully in order.
A big disclaimer here: I’m not talking about a perfectly clean & clutter-free home. I assure you that our home is very well-lived-in and hardly ever perfectly clean. We have seven people who live here pretty much 24/7, and we live in the woods, for goodness sake! But still, I try to maintain an overall sense of order, cleaning happens almost daily, the clutter is minimal and therefore the mama’s stress level is helped immensely. This is what I mean by order: not perfection or obsession but just regularly attending to our homes with care & grace.
First thing: Figure out what drives you nuts.
What isn’t working well and what causes that stress level to rise in your soul. Is it the dirty bathrooms? Or the sheets that never get washed? Or the kids’ toys everywhere? Or the remnants of winter gunk all over the family-mobile? Or the dirty dishes that never seem to diminish? Make a list–literally, write it down! Put a name to the annoyances you just can’t shake. While you’re at it, also write down how you would love for your house to feel and what would have to happen for it to get there. Is it a sense of calm that you love? Or maybe you love space and room to breathe? Or maybe it’s a clean bathroom that makes you feel so very satisfied? It’s much easier to reach a destination when you make clear what the destination should be!
|Real life, friends. It must be sheets laundry day!|
Second thing: Make a plan.
The house doesn’t clean itself and the clutter doesn’t go away without a game plan. Here’s your pep talk for the day: you are the manager of your home; therefore, you must manage it. You can do it! Figure out what works best for you and for your family and then figure out the steps to move forward. Do you need to get help? (No shame in that!) Do you need to be present more so that you have time to care for your home? Do you need to sit down with your husband and tell him honestly what is stressing your soul and where you would like your home to be? For me, it’s schedules and lists that help me manage best. I’m a crazy list lady, it’s true. For years I had a weekly cleaning plan–the month was divided into four specific cleaning lists that I accomplished on Thursday and/or Friday. Two days and the house was clean from top to bottom! But this year, I realized that wasn’t working with a slightly bigger house, more kids and a different family rhythm. Now I have a daily cleaning schedule–bite-sized bits of cleaning seems to work better in this season. When I miss a day of cleaning, I’m only a day’s worth of work behind, instead of a week/whole house behind.
If an example is helpful, here’s my current cleaning schedule (+ a printable version
A few practical tips.
Do it right now. Procrastination is our very worst enemy when it comes to home-keeping. Very few of us ever feel like doing laundry or mopping the floor or cleaning off the counters (at least I usually don’t), but we are relieved and energized when it’s done, right? So, do it right now. Dirty dishes after lunch? Spend five minutes and wash them right away. (Free tip: don’t let dirty dishes pile up for more than one meal.) Clean laundry in the dryer? Fold and then put away immediately; don’t pile on the bed to put away later. Picked up the mail on the way home? Sort as soon as you walk in the door: junk mail in the trash, letters on the counter for the husband, bills & important papers opened up and filed in the appropriate box or drawer for later. Accomplish the task right now instead of later. Later always sounds better, but it never feels better.
Enlist the kids’ help. And declutter daily. Believe it or not, kids can be your biggest cleaning asset! Having five of them is a definite bonus! (I kid….but really….) Sometimes I sound like a sergeant after dinner, standing in the kitchen and calling out orders, but in 10-15 minutes the entire downstairs is straightened, kitchen cleaned (even dishes washed!) and everything put back in order. Everything has a place! Our kids have specific cleaning jobs daily and weekly, and we usually ask them to clean up an activity before they move onto the next. This helps cut down on kid-clutter immensely. Always in the evening (and sometimes around lunch time too), we do a downstairs quick clean-up, just to reset everything back to clutter-free, and the kids are great about jumping in to help. Also, I try to spend about 10 minutes just picking up and putting away before I go to bed, so when I come down in the morning an orderly space greets me.
Remind the husband lovingly. My husband is amazingly wonderful about helping around the house and happy to do it; but he doesn’t always know or remember what cleaning or organizing I have in my managing-the-home plans. Also, as he reminds me often, he’s not going to read my mind or catch slight hints. So I am learning that loving reminders are not always a bad thing, and he is grateful when it is clear what I need from him. Talk with your husband. How can the two of you best work on this together? The goal: him helping, you not nagging or hinting, harmony abounding–you might be the manager of the home-order-keeping, but he is the managing-partner.
Reevaluate often. Changing up my cleaning schedule this year felt like such a scary step after doing it the same way for so long (and that’s the way I grew up doing it!), but it just wasn’t working for me anymore. I’m so glad that I decided to try something different. Every once in a while, maybe monthly or bi-monthly, take an honest look at your plans and reevaluate. If it’s not working, try something different! If this month the kids’ schedules look a little different, then change your cleaning schedule to work with it. If it just isn’t working to do laundry every other day, then try something different! Maybe try doing one load every morning and make sure it’s put away before lunch time. Give yourself grace and rework the plan if the plan isn’t working!
Quick clean often & deep clean periodically. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to clean because then we start seeing all-the-grime and are afraid we’ll get sucked into a three-hour cleaning spree, so we don’t do anything at all. But don’t underestimate the power of a quick clean! Sometimes I only have 20 minutes to clean three (well used) bathrooms, so I grab my mirror cleaner, antibacterial wipes and toilet scrubbers and work like the wind! Just cleaning the mirror; wiping down the counter-top, sink, and toilet; scrubbing inside the toilet; emptying the trash and switching to a fresh hand towel makes a bathroom feel all fresh again. Deep cleaning does have a time & place–put it on your schedule and then let your mind rest easy and tackle those quick cleans in the meantime.
Just for fun, here are a few of my favorite cleaning supplies:
Go forth and bring gracious order to your homes, mamas. God has indeed gifted you to be the very best manager of your home. Let Him help and guide and strengthen and inspire. “Your daily life [is your] sphere for glorifying Him.” And I believe in glorifying Him you will THRIVE AT HOME.
Here are all of the Thriving at Home posts!
* A few ideas & inspiration for this post came from Phylicia Masonheimer, one my favorite blog writers. She has an excellent free productivity course that I can’t recommend highly enough. You can read her blog here and the grace-based productivity course is right here.