Category Archives: Homemaking

The House That Cleans Itself

housecleans[1]The first time I saw these five words on the cover of a book they looked as tantalizing as a cream-filled doughnut.  If there’s one idol I’ve battled for years, it’s the idol of wanting a perfectly tidy home.  For some reason my mom has always had this innate Mary Poppins-like ability to create order out of chaos.  As a result I grew up in a beautifully organized home that ran like a well-oiled machine.  And then I got married, moved into my own little house, and made two startling realizations: Keeping an entire house clean is crazy hard, and I have no idea how my mother did it.  Suffice to say it didn’t get any easier when I added two children and 85,000 articles of doll clothing.  Plus accessories.

Over the years I’ve felt all sorts of things when it comes to housekeeping—guilt, frustration, and at times the ungodly desire to morph into a barking drill-sergeant.  Which is why I was so taken aback to read this statement in Clark’s book:  “The startling truth is that cleaning really shouldn’t have any emotional component at all.  It’s not an emotional subject.  It’s just a necessary set of tasks.  If the thought of cleaning house evokes any [strong] emotion…it’s time to unpack that baggage and see what’s in there.  It’s making housekeeping, which is just a necessary part of life, much more difficult than it needs to be.”

Right off the bat this helped me make it through the rest of Clark’s book, because let me just warn you, the woman is detailed.   But if you can let go of the emotional component, you’re free to apply the principles you like and not feel guilty for ignoring the ones that are beyond your stamina.  That being said, here are my 3 favorite principles from her book (re-phrased in my own words):

1. Don’t just tidy, figure out what’s causing the mess and problem-solve.  To do this, you have to analyze the way mess accumulates in your particular home.  For instance, there’s always a pile of books on the end table in our den, usually dirty socks on the floor, and a huge {amazingly comfortable} blue chair that’s crusted over with sticky handprints.  Normally I ignore the books, take the socks to the laundry room, and wash the blue slip cover every few weeks.  After thinking like a problem-solver, I designated a basket for the books we’re currently reading, stowed a hamper discreetly in the den, and made a new rule—no one under twenty-five gets to eat in the blue chair!  By the time I problem-solved my way through the whole house, the mess had begun to reduce itself rapidly.

For your inspiration--a shot of all the things I was ready to part with after my HTCI makeover.

For your inspiration–a shot of all the things I was ready to part with after my HTCI makeover.

2. Get rid of as MUCH as possible.  Clark taught me to view every single object in my house as owning a piece of my time.  Furniture, paper clips, Barbie shoes, that monogrammed bridesmaid gift in the attic—everything. The question you have to ask is: Is this object worth the time it takes to clean it, dust it, straighten it, pick it up, pack and move it?  The simple truth is, the less you have the easier it is to maintain order.

3. Create a “launching pad” and eliminate “rabbit trails.”  Two of the most common ways mess accumulates is in the entryway of your home and in the pursuit of what Clark calls “rabbit trails.”  A rabbit trail is any activity you frequently embark upon that requires supplies from around the house.  For instance, I store wrapping paper in the upstairs guest bedroom closet, simply because there’s room for it there.  But of course, the tape and scissors are downstairs in the study, and I actually wrap gifts on the dining room table.  Once I’ve gathered all the supplies and wrapped my gifts, what’s the likelihood that I will put them all back where they belong before next Christmas?  Moderate to low.  Clark’s solution is to set up “stations” wherever the task is accomplished.  In my case, there should be a large container with all the supplies necessary to wrap presents stored out of sight somewhere in the dining room.

To help out your entryway, Clark suggests a “launching pad”–a cabinet, bookcase, closet, or shelving unit somewhere near the main entryway that holds all the items you enter and exit with on a regular basis (wallet, purse, sunglasses…etc.)  If your kids are school-aged, they can each have their own bin in the launching pad to hold things like backpacks and library books.  This is a fast way to stop the clutter as it comes in the door, and to keep from losing important items.

All in all, I loved the improvements Clark’s book brought to our home.  If you have the time and energy, I’d recommend buying it and giving her system a shot.  Take it with a BIG grain of salt, use what you like, ignore what you don’t, and thank God for the gift of a home—messy, clean, calm, and crazy.

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Decorating Kids’ Rooms on a Budget

I’m no Martha Stewart, but there’s something really fun about decorating a kid’s room.  I still remember the first bedspread I picked out for my own room.  I remember decorating my first college dorm room, and I remember ordering my first baby quilt when I was pregnant with Aubrey.

Decorating seals memories into paper and fabric, pictures and paint.  It turns a house into a home, and a room into a haven.  And thankfully, it doesn’t have to break the budget!  Below are five easy ideas I’ve enjoyed in decorating my kids’ rooms, all of them budget-friendly!

1. Storybook Lanterns

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I saw this Pottery Barn original idea at a friend’s baby shower, and LOVED it!  The lanterns are charming, whimsical, and a celebration of reading!  You can use baby books if you’re decorating a nursery, or brighter Dr. Seuss-style books for a kid’s room.  I also used several free Chick-fila kids’ meal books to cut back on cost.  I got the lanterns at Michaels–6 for $14.99 (use the weekly 40% off coupon, and they’ll be under $10).

2. Canvas Paintings
In both my kids’ rooms I started with a favorite quilt and coordinated everything around it.  When it came to buying the pricey owl artwork to match Heidi’s owl quilt, my artsy mother-in-law took one look at it and said, “You can paint that yourself!”  (gulp!)  Turns out I loved it!  Not only was it cheaper, I got to choose the size and shape of my canvases to fit my wall space.  I will definitely use this idea again!  (See the final product below!)

3. Personalized Letters
For some reason, I just love seeing my kids’ names on their bedroom walls.  (Maybe it’s because we took so ridiculously long to choose them!)   You can design your own adorable letters, or you can pay my talented friend Jaclyn Anderson to do it for you!

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Another budget-friendly perk is that the letters can change with the room.  When Aubrey transitioned into a bed, we got a new quilt and I scraped off her letters then repainted and redecorated them.

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4. Framed Artwork

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P1060037Decorating with kids’ artwork is cheap, easy, and an extra-special compliment to the artist!  To make the Bible verse, we started by making Eric Carle prints, following directions from the imagination tree blog.  I cut the words out of the finished prints.

5.  Chalkboard Paint
This is a picture of our garage-turned-playroom.  It cost $9 to turn the entire lower portion of that wall into a chalkboard, and boy has it been worth it!  When kids come over, everybody can find a spot and go to town.  I’ve also seen people paint their kids’ closet doors with chalkboard paint, a really cute idea.  Just remember, chalk dust runs rampant, so it’s best if the room is not carpeted.

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Running a Home While Running on Empty

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Several months ago Clint came home from work with a surprise.  He pulled a tiny princess coloring book out of his pocket and handed it to Aubrey.  Sheer ecstasy erupted.  She danced in circles, hugged him at least ten times, and profusely thanked him.  Then she sat down and colored every single page.

While she was occupied, I turned to him and asked, “Where did you get it?”

“The trashcan,” he replied.

It still makes me laugh.  I can picture her intently bent over each picture, carefully coloring, while Clint and I crack up in the kitchen.

Sometimes when I feel truly depleted, I think about Aubrey and her coloring book, and I wonder how much of what I treasure in my life is actually garbage.  I’ve never been physically anorexic, but there are spells when I feel spiritually anorexic.  I feast on all sorts of garbage—entertainment, distractions, rigid scheduling, my own ability to perform—everything but Jesus.  As a result, I’m crammed to the gills and starving just the same.  And somehow in this state, I manage to keep going for a really long time.  After all, the dishes always need washing, the kids always need feeding, and the floors always need sweeping.  So I truck along like the Energizer Bunny, ignoring all the signs of spiritual starvation, until one day the battery of my own effort finally runs dry.  Something touches this raw, cavernous hunger in my soul for Jesus, and before I know it, I’m crying and I’m not even sure why.

It’s ironic isn’t it?  God is ever present—the feast of His presence lies before me, and I pass the days munching on cocktail peanuts.  And I wonder why I’m so hungry.  The first blessed assurance God has given me in this journey, is that the food is there.  It is possible for all the longings of my heart to be satisfied in Jesus.  But how?  How do I find fulfillment in Christ amid the daily drudgery?  These two principles are helping me more than any other:

Practicing the Presence of Christ
Running a home is incredibly monotonous.  Not only are the tasks menial, few ever remain “finished,” which can make you feel a little like Sisyphus endlessly rolling the rock (or laundry basket) uphill.  But what if we changed our perspective to recognize the vast reward in the “doing” rather than the “accomplishing”?  Unlike the world, Christ does not ask us to achieve.  He asks us to be faithful.  Thus, as Oswald Chambers writes, “drudgery is the touchstone of character.”  Look at Jesus Himself, who washed the disciples’ feet.  Can’t you picture Him changing diapers with great joy and love?  I can, because no calling from the Father was ever too menial for Jesus.  He came to serve, to love the least of these, and to do it with or without the praise of men.  How then, can I refuse to do the same for Him?  Brother Lawrence, who lived out his days as a kitchen aide in a monastery, wrote, “I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”  Like Brother Lawrence, you and I can practice the presence of Christ every time we wipe Desitin on a rash-y bottom, and rise happier than a king!  And therein lies the secret to running a home with joy and purpose.  We are doing all things as an act of love and worship for Him (I Corinthians 10:31).

Resting in the Presence of Christ
I find that practicing the presence of Christ in the hectic chores of the day is always easier when I spend quiet moments resting in Him.  Sometimes these moments come first thing in the morning, sometimes during nap time, and sometimes last in the day.  Either way, they are crucial because these are the moments when I feast.  I lay all my longings before Him, and I am overcome by His intense love for me in spite of my unworthiness.  To quote the Jesus Storybook Bible, His love makes me lovely.  His love makes my life lovely.

At times I’m tempted to skip these moments with God for love of a lesser idol, and at times I’m tempted to fulfill them dutifully and rigidly like a slave.  I know both attitudes must break His heart.  Yet graciously, every time I come to Him—whether for love of Him or love of myself—He meets me.  At the height of my joy, He meets me.  In the pit of my sorrow, He meets me.  In the thick of my drudgery, He meets me.

Surely, you and I don’t have to run on empty!  Not with a God like this.  We can run on His power and by His grace.  We can run through the happiness, through the failure, and through the ten million dirty diapers ahead.  We can run in the very presence of Jesus.

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Confessions of a Housewife

Clint once asked me if I felt like I lost some of myself when I married him.  I told him no.  I have never felt like being his wife cost me a piece of myself.  I did, however, feel like I lost part of myself when we had kids.  Maybe ‘lost’ is the wrong word.  I guess I still have this part of myself—I just don’t know what to do with it.  I’ve polled many mothers about this, usually beginning the conversation by casually asking if they have any passions outside of their family.  What I found surprised me.  Some women truly do not have ambitions or dreams that wage war with homemaking.  There is no balancing act necessary in their lives because there’s only one side to their scale: family.  Do I think there’s anything wrong with this?  Not at all.  In some ways, I envy them.  But I cannot relate.

I have many dreams that have absolutely nothing to do with my children, or my husband for that matter.  Mostly they are dreams that awoke in my childhood when I first discovered I had one life and I could do absolutely anything with it.  Let me give you an example.  I have always wanted to be a writer…not a blogger, but a novelist.  As soon as I could string sentences together, I created worlds with my words—some of them ridiculous, some of them sacred, all of them amateur.

So, this Christmas I asked for a book—On Writing by Stephen King.  Like any aspiring author, I have lost myself in it, inadvertently peppering my husband with more Stephen King trivia than he ever cared to know.  The book is the Holy Grail of writing, with all the secrets your English teacher never told you.  But there is just one problem—I can’t do it.  The regimen King advises to become a truly successful author is impossible to uphold with my lot in life.  I would have to sacrifice my family, a sacrifice I’m not willing to make.  And so I sit here, on the eve of the New Year, trying to put it all together in my mind.  As a busy wife and mom, how do you maintain godly priorities and not lose personal ambitions?

In the end, I think it comes down to choices.  Nobody lies on her death bed regretting all the choices someone else made.  The choices that impact our lives the most are the ones we make for ourselves.  They are a direct reflection of our values.  So I have to ask myself, what do I truly value?  I love it when I’m writing and I start to smile because it usually means I’m arriving at a conclusion.  I know what I value.  And honestly, I value it more than all the accolades of the finest author in America.

Now is not the time to become the next Stephen King.  Now is the time to raise my kids.  Now is the time to snuggle on the sofa and laugh with my husband.  And when I have some free moments, I’ll probably spend them writing.  Maybe I’ll squirrel away a novel, although I’ll never do it in three months as King suggests, and my characters will likely grow stale as they sit forgotten in my laptop.  But I know this—I won’t be lying on my death bed regretting the characters I neglected.

Do I think it’s wrong to have ambitions outside of your family?  No!  I think it’s wonderful.  I think it reminds you that God made you a unique individual.  I think having passions and thoughts and feelings of your own helps you bring a lot to the table for your family.  Do I think these independent ambitions should be central?  No.  I think they should be surrendered, sometimes even sacrificed when push comes to shove.  Why?  Because none of us is superwoman.  We can’t have it all in every season of life.  We have to make choices.  And the more intentional you are when it comes to making choices, the better they’ll be.

So that woman inside of you that longs to grab an espresso, lock the door, and write til your eyeballs burn…or run a marathon, or become a doctor, or create your own line of homemade doggie treats–be at peace with her.  Don’t pack her up and kick her to the curb.  Pray about her.  Find ways to explore her.  But don’t let her run the show.  And when necessary, remind her how richly God has blessed you.  Then tell her to be quiet so you can do the dishes.

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De-Clutter in a Day

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De-Clutter in a Day

Nothing is more fun than leaving a house with 86,000 disorganized toys only to return with 86,000 new Christmas toys.  With this in mind, I set out to de-clutter our house before the Christmas aftermath re-cluttered it up.  Along the way I discovered that it’s possible to take a giant leap toward a more organized home in a single day.  If you’re brave, here’s how to do it.

STEP ONE: TACKLE THE TOYS
Plan ahead–gather a variety of storage containers (I mostly use empty household containers).  Then start bright and early–immediately after breakfast, gather all your cluttered toy boxes and dump them into one giant pile.  The kids love this!  They will find toys they forgot even existed.  While they’re occupied reuniting, get busy sorting. The goal is simple: categorize as many toys as possible into the various containers, particularly small toys.  At the end, there will always be a collection of rather large, miscellaneous toys that can go in a big, open container.  But put the smaller containers up high and only let kids play with one or two at a time.  This will keep the toys fresh and the play room organized.

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STEP TWO: SORT THE CLOTHES
Because kids grow so rapidly, if you’re like me, every six months you need to sort through their clothes.  So once the toys were tidy downstairs, I tackled the dressers in the very same fashion–dump and sort.  The goal is to have a tidy, up-to-date dresser for each child, as well as a few organized storage containers of clothes in off-sizes.  In our house there are four places you will find kids’ clothing: the largest clothes are in Aubrey’s dresser.  When she outgrows something, it goes into a storage container for Heidi.  When Heidi is able to wear it, it goes into Heidi’s dresser.  When Heidi outgrows it, it’s relegated to the final storage container, either to give away or save for baby #3.  It would be worthwhile to note that if you don’t sort your own clothes seasonally, now might be a good time to start.  Get rid of the clothes you never wear, and put off-season clothes in storage (unless you’re blessed with a massive closet!)

clothing_before-after

For me, this was as far as I went with the kids.  By the time steps one and two were complete, they were ready for a nap.  And so was I.  But I tucked them into bed, put on my big-girl panties, and kept on trucking!

STEP THREE: CONQUER THE KITCHEN
P1050854Close your eyes, Mom.  Every time she visits, my mother sorts out my pantry, and for some reason, about ten minutes after she leaves, it always looks like this again.  When I absolutely cannot stand it a second longer, I know it’s time to organize.    So, a couple tips I learned from my mom:
1.  Consolidate!  Get rid of all the gigantic boxes with 2 granola bars left in them.  Delegate a large tupperware to be the “snack spot” and throw all those bulky boxes away.
2.  Strategize: if you have small kids who will likely disobey you and sneak into the pantry, which items would you most HATE to see sprinkled all over the floor?  Put these up high!  Also, think logically about how often you use various items, and as my mother would say, “Make it functional.”
3.  Don’t be a pack rat in the name of frugality–nobody likes crusty hot chocolate mix.  If in doubt–throw it away!
4.  Have a wet rag handy, and wipe down surfaces as you go.  Trust me, they need it.  The same goes for a broom when you can finally see the floor again.

Once your pantry is organized, (ahhhhh…), it’s time to take on the fridge–my least favorite duty.  A true deep clean would necessitate throwing out all the junk, organizing what’s left, and wiping everything down.  P1050862When you’re done, if you have any gumption left, consider what else may be a problem area in your kitchen–overflowing tupperware drawer with no matching lids?  Mile deep junk drawer?  Stuffed-to-the-gills recipe box disaster?  Choose the worst area, and get busy.  For me it was the junk drawer, and let me just tell you, it was truly mortifying.  If the very thought of undertaking such a task depresses you (as it did me), try popping in a movie while you work–if the kids are still napping it’ll feel like a treat!

STEP FOUR: CATER TO YOUR FAMILY
I know you’re losing stamina, so am I.  Here is the final step–take stock of the possible improvements you could make in the rest of your home.  If you’re really gutsy, make a list.  Disarrayed Christmas decorations in the attic?  Disheveled laundry room?  Engorged filing cabinet?  Now before you burst into tears, consider which one project would bless your family the most.  Does the study desk, piled to the ceiling with papers, discourage your husband every single day?  Is there a particular room your family spends significant time in?  Choose the one task that will give you the most bang for your buck…or joy for your labor, and get to it.  (You will likely find yourself more excited about completing this task as you envision the way it will bless your family!)  Save the other items on your list for another day.  You can complete one project each week for the next month, and find yourself in a thoroughly organized home in the new year.

STEP FIVE: CELEBRATE!
Growing up, whenever spring-cleaning-day rolled around, my mom would promise us ice-cream when everything was done.  Now that I’m an adult, I realize the sheer joy of having an organized home is more rewarding than all the Haagen-Daz in the world!  But go ahead and treat your kids.  Go to the park (if it’s still light out!), bake some brownies, pop in a special movie…do something fun.  It’s a great message to send them: as a family we work together and we enjoy the benefits together.

FINAL TIPS:

  1. Be ready to troubleshoot.  At some point or another you will discover that as you have been neatly packing storage containers of clothes, the baby has been unpacking them behind you.  Wince, grimace, squeeze your eyes shut, and then release the big breath you’ve been holding. Everything is going to be okay. Put the clothes back in their categories and this time stash them up high.
  2. Be realistic.  Guaranteed your kids will wake up from their nap bright-eyed and bushy-tailed around the time you’re ready to fall into a coma.  At this juncture, edit your ambitions.  Aim to arrive at step five as quickly as possible, and consider making the “reward” going out for dinner when Daddy gets home.
  3. Be prepared for it to get worse before it gets better.  Inevitably, at some point you will glance around your kitchen, and it will look something like this:

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Resist the urge to cry.  Instead, fuel your overwhelming disillusionment into staunch resolve to throw away as much as possible.  Then, when your kitchen looks like this…

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…snap a picture and blog about it  😉

Establishing a Schedule

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No matter what your previous work experience, when you take on the role of full-time homemaker, you are suddenly CEO of the company.  Each day stretches like a blank slate before you, and how you choose to fill it is entirely up to you.  There are no meetings, no job descriptions, and no quarterly evaluations.  If you do a smashing job, no one’s going to promote you, and if you’re woefully irresponsible no one’s going to fire you.  The uninhibited freedom can feel overwhelming at first.  I think it’s why we young moms will often look at fellow young moms and casually ask, “So…what do you do during the day?”

When I first found myself at home all day, my answer to that question went something like this: “I wake up, change the baby’s diaper, go to the neighbor’s house to ward off boredom for pretty much the entire day, then come home and make dinner.”  Not exactly a great use of time.  Herein laid the problem: my use of time reflected warped priorities.  Over the years I began to learn how to order my day, and the result was far greater fulfillment, daily accomplishments, and joy in the home.  I’m not suggesting that my system will work for everybody, but I offer it here as a starting point.  It’s the sort of step-by-step tutorial I wish I could’ve read when I first took the plunge into full-time homemaking.  So…if you’re a SAHM thinking about establishing a schedule, here’s what I did:

  1. List your priorities in order of importance.  (Ex: Grow in Godliness, Love My Family…etc.)  I referred to the book Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney to help me come up with my list.
  2. Next, create a simple chart with days of the week across the top, and time in thirty-minute increments along the left-hand column.  Begin with the time of day you generally wake up and end with the time of day that you generally go to bed.
  3. Block off one entire day as a Sabbath.  Personally, I chose to do this because I like to have one completely unstructured day a week, with no expectations, no chores, and no requirements except enjoying God and my family.  For me, this day is Monday since it’s my husband’s day-off.
  4. Next, fill in the established commitments you have each week.  These are the things you routinely participate in that do not change from week to week.  Side Note: I think that how much you’re part of has a lot to do with personal preference.  If you’re happily commited to one activity a week, good for you!  If you feel bored and aimless, then perhaps it’d be helpful to build some routine events into your week.  Think through the age of your kids, their interests, your budget, and your needs (what am I lacking–fellowship, spiritual growth, time alone?…etc.) 
  5. Okay, your commitments are scheduled in.  Next, pencil in meal times, nap times, and your kids’ bedtime routine.  A typical morning for me begins around 7am and includes dressing the kids, fixing breakfast, and a quick dishes/tidy-up time.  Sometime between 11:30 and 12 (depending on the day) I fix lunch, tidy-up again, and put the kids down for a nap from 1-3pm.  Around 5:30 I start dinner, we eat at 6, bathtime begins at 6:30, and the kids are in bed by 7pm.  Factor all that in, and my week is beginning to take shape.  Everyday I have a “morning” chunk of time between breakfast and naptime, and an “afternoon” chunk of time after nap before we start dinner.
  6. Take stock of what time is left.  In my case, there are 4 established things I’m part of each week–church, BSF, Book Club, and MMO (read more about these things here).  These 4 things take up 4 of my “morning” chunks of time.  So I am left with 2 “morning” and 6 “afternoon” time slots per week.
  7. It’s time to factor in chores.  Because grocery shopping for me falls somewhere between climbing Everest and being attacked by sharks, I like to do it only once a week.  So that takes up one more “morning” time slot.  Personally, I like having a chores’ schedule because as soon as my “chores for the day” are done, I don’t worry about doing any other chores until the next day.  So, if you’re like me, at this point in the schedule-making process, you may want to allot certain chores to certain days.
  8. Finally, I chose 2 blocks of time to schedule intentional play time with my kids.  Obviously, I play with them more than this, but in case the week gets crazy and I’m tempted to become consumed with chores, having that time set aside helps me ensure that they’re getting uninterrupted quality time with me each week.  This is about as structured as I like to be, so instead of setting requirements for my remaining blocks of time I simply labeled them “free time,” and then created a list of possible free time activities.  Here is a fictitious example of what the final product might look like: Weekly Schedule
  9. Okay, here is the kicker–it’s time to evaluate.  Go back to your list of priorities and beside each priority, write down aspects of your schedule that fulfill that priority.  For example, here’s what my list looks like:
    1. Grow in Godliness—Church, BSF, Time with God while girls nap
    2. Love my Family—Sabbath / Family Day, Mommy & Girls Play Time, Chores
    3. Serve in the Church—Book Club, Sunday Morning Nursery Duty
    4. Fellowship with Christians—BSF, Book Club, Church, Small Groups
    5. Evangelize non-Christians—(I don’t “schedule” this into my day, but being out in the community during some of our “free” time slots helps keep me missionally minded.)
    6. Manage and maintain our home—Chores
    7.Health / Leisure Time—Exercise during nap time, MMO, free time after 7pm
  10. Finally, if you’ve discovered that one of your priorities is being neglected in your schedule, go back and factor it in.  Remember, you establish the schedule!

Whew!  We made it through!  Once more, let me reiterate that you don’t have to do things my way.  I’m only sharing my way of doing things since this is my blog and I get to write about whatever I want 🙂  I can testify, though, that as I’ve sought to use my time intentionally and truly “own” my days, my joy and gratitude in being home has grown exponentially.

So…what do you do??

Check out a movie like “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” (starring Sarah Jessica Parker) and you’ll quickly catch wind of the running joke that stay-at-home moms sit around eating bon-bons all day…and maybe go to the gym in the afternoon.  Now, I’ll admit I keep a stash of dark chocolate Doves in my pantry, but that’s about as far as the stereotype goes.  In actuality, I have a very full schedule–one that I thoroughly enjoy.  It’s taken me a while to figure out how to fill my days with the right blend of activity and quiet that enables me to fulfill my priorities and enjoy my life.  Obviously, my “blend” is unique to me.  I have friends who are active in twice as much as I am, and other friends who don’t participate in half the things I do.  But if I could pass along one piece of advice to a rookie stay-at-home-mom, it would be to establish a schedule that honors God, suits your personality, and enables you to fulfill your priorities.  Before posting about how to establish a personal schedule, I thought it might be helpful to outline the primary commitments that fill my week.  I am involved in 4 different things:

1. CHURCH

I attend an incredible church, called New City, in downtown Macon, Georgia.  The two best things about my church (in my opinion) are the solid gospel focus that permeates everything we do, and the high value placed on community.  Not only do we have small groups that meet throughout the week, but we authentically live life together.

2. BSF

“BSF,” short for Bible Study Fellowship, is a free worldwide organization that encourages women from all different backgrounds to come together and study God’s Word.  For one year you gather to study a particular portion of the Bible–this year it’s the book of Genesis.  I absolutely love BSF because it’s a program not just for women, but for their children.  For two hours once a week, I sip coffee, discuss the book of Genesis with other women, and listen to a live lecture that always manages to refresh my heart.   Meanwhile, my daughters are listening to the same Bible story, singing Bible songs, and learning important aspects of conformity (like sitting in a circle with other kids, following directions from different adults…etc.) that are hard to teach at home.  I also like the weekly homework we are given because it’s an easy way to get in God’s Word and stay accountable.  If you are a stay-at-home-mom who could use some mid-week biblical refreshment (not to mention a breather from the kiddos), you ought to check it out.  There is very likely a group meeting not far from you.

3. BOOK CLUB

I also host one of several weekly book clubs for women in my church.  My particular group is reading Strong Women, Soft Hearts by Paula Rinehart.  While BSF is a time to dig deeply into Scripture, this is a time to laugh, fellowship, and talk about how Jesus impacts our daily lives.  No, we don’t have childcare, so it’s also a somewhat chaotic time!  But this, too, is beneficial.  I want my kids to be comfortable playing with other kids, and respecting the boundaries of adults.  So even though we may face anywhere from 5-500 interruptions per session, our kids are beginning to learn how to play kindly with one another, let the adults talk about Jesus, and obey even when company is around.  Maybe your church doesn’t have anything like this in place, but you’d like a greater sense of friendship and community.  Start one yourself!  It can be as informal as a weekly playdate that ends with a brief prayer time for one another, or as structured as a book study that grows to include childcare one day.  Who knows?  God could use you to start something powerful among the women of your church.

4. MOMS MORNING OUT

MMO is my weekly treat.  It is simply time to myself.  My husband was actually the one who encouraged me to sign up, and I have not stopped thanking him since!  Once a week I drop my kids at a local church with an excellent pre-school program, and then I do whatever I feel like doing–write, pray, shop, go to a cafe, read a book….ahhhhh….

So…why blog about this?  I guess I just want to make the point that being a homemaker doesn’t mean being housebound.  It’s possible to have a full and enriching schedule–one that blesses you and makes quality use of your time.  And if in the midst of all this activity, you find some time to put your feet up and eat a couple of bon bons now and again, then good for you!