I remember making the transition from working woman to stay-at-home mom when my oldest child was born in 2011.
Although I had never been a particularly clean or tidy person, I imagined what a stellar housewife and homemaker I would be with ALL THAT time on my hands. Of course, the house would be spotless, sparkling and tidy. Plus I’d reorganize everything and be crafty and have fabulous meals on the table each night.
How do you think that worked out for me?
Well, for one thing, I didn’t count on how much more work my home was going to be with the switch to being at home all day, plus the addition of an infant, turned toddler, turned preschooler, plus two more little ones within a few short years.
And I didn’t realize that the problem was more me than time.
Me, who had never been disciplined when it came to house chores.
Me, who suddenly had no structure in life and who is given to laziness and overwhelm in situations like that.
Me, who had never before experienced prolonged sleep-deprivation.
Needless to say, that transition did not look quite like I thought it would.
I deeply wanted to be the stellar housewife I’d imagined, but instead my house ran me. I never felt on top of it.
While I worked at it a lot, truly making strides in the area of self-discipline and idleness, it was still a discouraging, losing battle in my mind.
Over the years, I’ve watched a few of my friends run their homes well, and I’ve marveled at how they made it look so easy. I had no more excuses than they do, yet their homes were always tidy and not a particular source of overwhelm.
I’ve tried to learn from them, and I’ve hadmany significant breakthroughs along the way! I’ve made several changes in the way I approach my homemaking fundamentally, and now I’m passionate about helping women achieve the same breakthrough! That is why I created the Help for the Hopeless Homemaker Online Course (find out more about that here).
But for starters, one of my breakthrough realizations was: when it comes to my children, I needed to…
Make them WAIT.
What do I mean by that?
I realized that because I’m such a people-oriented person, I was consumed with the interpersonal dynamics of my children and family at the expense of fulfilling the practical interests of the home.
I wasn’t creating stops in our day to keep up with the house as we went, and as a result it was a constant mess,
…despite all the (untimely) work I felt I was putting into it.
I wasn’t making my children wait on my attention while I attend to the needs of the household as our day progressed. I was immediately joining them in the next activity.
And most parents know how quickly a home can go from bad to worse to fatal.
So, now any time my children and I transition from one activity to another, I make a point to get the previous activity all cleaned up and restored to its former glory before we move on. Sure, they should help, but realistically a 3-year-old and 1-year-old are not going to be able to do a whole lot, and that’s OK. They still have to wait and/or participate…. Or, for heaven’s sake, go entertain themselves.
So, for example,
- When I get them out of the tub in the evening, we do not proceed to pajamas and bedtime until the bathroom is totally restored. They can wait. And, realistically, it only take about a minute.
- In the morning, we’re not done dressing them until their beds are made and rooms picked up. They can wait a minute or two for the breakfast, and our day starts with order.
- When it’s time for their afternoon TV show, they can and will pick up a basket or two of toys, but more importantly, that show will not start until I have the family room back to ready: throws, cups, pillows and toys all back in their spots. They can wait.
- When they are all ready for bed, in pajamas, bathed and hugged goodnight by dad and siblings, they will not start their nighttime book until all their clothes are put away, toys returned to their proper spot and everything tidy. They can wait.
- And after dinner, they can’t have my attention until dishes are done, counters wiped, clutter cleared away and floors swept. This is hard for them at times, but… they can wait.
This provides much needed structure for me that prevents the mess from compounding.
All of these things are becoming part of our routine as a family.
Of course, there are exceptions. The needs of these little people are still the first priority, but i’m learning to reorder the rest and so are they.
Funny I didn’t think of this before.
And it extends to more than just the kids.
- When we have company over for a meal, we used to let the dishes sit until our friends left so they could have our full and undivided attention, insisting that we would do it later when they offered to help. Now we do the dishes and tidy up while we visit with them. It feels natural and no one minds that! (Although I will say, our entertaining is pretty informal at this stage of life).
I apply this mentality to myself as well. It’s helped me put routines in my day for a tidier home.
- I’m not finished “getting dressed” until my bed is also made.
- I disallow us from “leaving the house” until the kitchen is tidy.
- I don’t get to sit down to rest until such and such is done. Most of the time, I can wait until the job is done to proceed with my day.
This philosophy might sounds harsh to some, but believe me, my children are surviving and adapting quite well to this new approach. It’s becoming the new flow of our day, and they are learning to help clean up more than ever.
It’s all about organization of time. It’s about creating the habit or tidying as we go.
It’s about doing it all immediately, before it becomes overwhelming.
As children and pregnancies and responsibilities and sleep-deprivation keep on coming, I’m thankful that I finally found an approach that works for me to keep my home tidy throughout the day. It’s truly a stress-reliever and improves everyone’s quality of life.
And you know what? When my home is tidy, it’s not so difficult to imagine cleaning once in a while either.
This is just one of the many, simple-yet-life-changing realizations I’ve had as I’ve sought to change how I run my home fundamentally.
The process of re-inventing myself from the “constantly-behind, idle-prone and overwhelmed homemaker” I once was has been immensely eye-opening. I feel like I’ve figured out what works for someone like me.
I’ve learned that it all comes down to doing a few simple and strategic things with diligence.
Because I’m excited about what I learned, and because I feel like I “cracked the code” to making lasting changes in my life for God’s glory, I created the Help for the Hopeless Homemaker Online Course!
This scripture-based, 11-part course is designed to help you gain control of your home for God’s glory.
And, if you join now, you will have the opportunity to go through this process of transformation in community, with other homemakers on the same journey!