Sunday, November 21, 2010

Titus Twosdays: Smoke and Mirrors

She looks well to how things go in her household, and the bread of idleness (gossip, discontent, and self-pity) she will not eat.
Proverbs 31:27 AMP

This is what your laundry room looks like, right? Yeah, mine too....

Remember last week, we talked about balancing all the things that compete for a slice of our day? We established some priorities to help us build a solid foundation: God first. Husband second. Children third. Now that we've got the Top Three where they belong, let's spend a few minutes looking at ways we can put housework in its place, in light of the fact that it's not the most important thing! We're not going to cover this in an exhaustive way, there are lots of books out there on this subject. I just want to share a way of approaching it that has helped me along the way.

Let me start by saying that my house gets messy. Sometimes really messy! We live here, my husband and I, our three teenagers, two Boxers, three gray cats, and a Beta fish named Spike. So I'm not speaking from a world that's always pristine and polished. After years of beating myself up for all the stuff I don't have time to do, I've discovered something that works, and I hope it will help you too.

Now, I know you have high standards for your home. I had them too. I don't have low standards now, just different ones. I've adjusted them to match my real life, not the life in my head, where sheets are ironed and DVD's are alphabetized. I used to fret because, in between getting the eight year old back and forth to school, feeding and changing the baby, and chasing the toddlers through the house, I couldn't manage to get everything done. I felt like a failure, like I was the only mom who couldn't keep it together. Comparison and isolation are common tools the enemy uses to discourage moms, by the way. Don't buy it.

Here's something that worked for me when the kids were little, that I still use today. I call it "smoke and mirrors" because the public areas of the house will look clean and tidy, but it only takes about ninety minutes, and can be accomplished a task at a time, as my day allows. It doesn't replace "real cleaning" but will make your home much more livable in between times, and you'll have a sense of accomplishment when it's done.

Some guiding principles before we get into specifics: Try thinking of your day as a suitcase, putting the big important things in first, and tucking small items into the small spaces. Start by putting a simple dish in the crock pot in the morning. (Get one of my favorites here), or check out for more easy, healthy dishes. The pressure of "what's for dinner?" will vanish, and your house will smell of home cooking. Start a load of laundry then, too. You already know moms don't have time to do one thing at a time! Stuff that's hard to do with toddlers underfoot, like mopping the floor, I saved for nap time. Don't be shy about involving your kids in this process. Matching socks or putting away toys can be a fun counting or sorting game with your little ones.

So here's what I do in about ninety minutes, usually not all at once. Sprinkle a little baking soda on the living room carpet (makes it smell fresher and baking soda is cheap!) Let it sit for a few minutes while I do the following: Pick up anything out of place in the living room. Spray fabric refresher on the upholstered furniture and area rugs in the living and dining rooms, 5 minutes. Quick clean the first bathroom (wipe sink, counter, and potty with disinfecting wipes, clean toilet bowl, windex the mirror, hang fresh towels, empty trash, stock paper and soap), 10 minutes. Vacuum living room carpet, 5 minutes. Swiffer-dust living room and dining room furniture, 5 minutes. Sweep floors in foyer, dining room, and kitchen, 10 minutes. Clean up kitchen-quick wipe the stove, frige, counters, sink, and table with a clean damp rag and some multi-purpose cleaner, throw a few dishes in the dishwasher. 15 minutes. Make my bed, put clothes and books away, 10 minutes. Quick clean my bathroom, 10 minutes. Quick clean bathroom number three, 5 minutes. Mop tile floors in kitchen and hallway, 10 minutes. Damp mop wood floors in dining room and foyer, 5 minutes. Total: 90 minutes. What about those messy teenager rooms? I close the door, they can do it later!

No, the baseboards and ceiling fans aren't dusted with this method. No, the windows don't sparkle. Yes, there is still plenty of laundry waiting for my attention. But when my husband comes home from work, and kids from school, or a friend drops by, at least there is a sense of order, and we can enjoy being here. Now, because I have an especially demanding schedule, I do have help with my house once a week. But the other six days, it's on me, and this method makes my house livable, so I can focus on things that are really important. Leave a comment on this post and share your time saving tips with us!

Prayer for Today: Father, help me to use my hours wisely. Help me to remember that my children are only small for a short time, and house work will always be there. Surround me with encouraging friends who can help me on the journey of home and family. In Jesus' name, Amen.


Leslie Oden said...

Someone asked me if I do this every day.....No! Just when the house needs a little TLC, in between "real" cleanings.

Natasha Chalker said...

Great reminder, fantastic tips! My laundry room looks just like that... not, but I find that disorganized laundry makes me crazy since it piles up so quickly. I have a counter top that goes over our washer and dryer. Since there are four people in our family, we each have a rubbermaid tub, the long, shallow ones. When the clothes are dry (not as soon as the buzzer goes might be a few hours, or even the next morning), I fold them and place them in everyone's tub, rather than throwing them in a basket. Our clothes are clean and organized and we put them away once a week..usually. I can do laundry throughout the week and the kids know if they need something in a pinch, it's there.

Leslie Oden said...

Great idea, Natasha! I'm totally stealing that one!