The ABCs of Order in Your Home
By Marilyn Rockett
May 4, 2007 - 3:33:21 PM
Okay, Ladies—let’s talk. It’s time to drag this idea of organization out of the shadows, dust it off, and take a good look. We know we need “it” but we aren’t sure where to get “it” or how to keep “it.” We see a friend or acquaintance with “it,” and we wonder how she does “it.”
Why does organization seem so difficult? We long for order out of our chaos, but the whole thing seems to elude us at times. If we could just grasp “it” long enough to show some positive progress, we would feel hope for long-term solutions to our dilemma.
Each of us fights a private battle with organization. Do you lack training? Do you have lazy habits? Do you have a rebellious spirit toward your role in the home? Are you just too busy juggling too many balls? Is school time or your use of a particular curriculum crowding out other important tasks because you fear that you won’t provide a good education for your children? Have you forgotten your priorities? Maybe you’ve never sorted out your priorities; consequently, you jump from one task to another, leaving unfinished jobs strewn from one end of the house to the other. Whatever your particular nemesis, you may be tired of the fight and you yearn for peace and order in your home.
If you desire that order, you have come to a profitable place for change. As in anything you do, you have to want the results or it just won’t happen. My experience has shown me that there is no one “right” system for everyone, but there are certain principles that help all of us, no matter what battle we fight.
When all around you is falling apart, you must begin small, taking one baby-step at a time. Begin at the beginning with the ABCs of order.
Acknowledge Your Successes and Failures
Despite your feelings, you probably are doing some tasks well. Identify those things and examine why you are successful in those areas. Even if you see only one thing, look at it and ask yourself these questions: Do I like doing this particular thing? Am I good at it, and do I feel successful when I do it? Is this an easy task for me?
For example, you may love to cook. You love to create new dishes that are nutritious and tasty. You enjoy experimenting with recipes, and you seldom use one exactly as it is written. Possibly you serve several “famous” dishes that everyone raves about. Experiencing the joy of seeing your family savor a wonderful meal that you have prepared for them makes homemaking worthwhile to you. However, your home is falling down around you—the laundry piles higher every day, green rings decorate your toilet bowls, and you would rather throw a shirt away than sew on a button.
You obviously have applied your creative spirit to your culinary skills and have experienced success with that area of your responsibilities. Congratulate yourself for that ability and keep up the good work! Remind yourself that you do some things well.
Now, look for ways to carry that same creative bent to the things that you enjoy less. Decorate your bathroom by hanging fresh curtains and some lovely pictures. Use a pretty tray to keep items neatly on the bath counter. Add a picture of your husband or your children to smile at each morning as you get dressed. (One of my favorite pictures sits on my bath counter.) It is harder to leave that green toilet ring when your bath is pretty and inviting.
If the mending stares at you but you would rather put off doing it, try gathering all your supplies into a pretty basket large enough to hold them, plus a few mending items. Place the basket next to your chair in the family room (or on a shelf nearby, if you have young children who love to rummage through things like baskets). When you sit down in the evening, pick up the mending while a family member reads aloud or the children relate their day to Dad. Tackling one or two items quickly is easier than facing a large stack of mending at one time.
Accept the fact that you can do some tasks better than others. Admit your weaknesses and look for ways to improve in those areas.
Build a Basic Routine
If you often jump from one task to another without finishing anything or you feel as though you don’t know where to start on most days, you need a basic routine. Your creative spirit may bristle at the thought of a “schedule,” but a simple, doable framework frees you and allows time to accomplish the basics.
Make a weekly routine based on a predictable sequence rather than on certain minutes or hours to do what you need to do. A simple routine that you stick to, even for part of your day, is the single most helpful thing you can do to restore order to your home. After all, it was skipping those basic responsibilities that brought about the chaos in the first place.
A simple, skeleton routine that allows for housework time, play time, and school time allows you freedom to be flexible while still maintaining order and a generally clean and tidy home. If you keep it simple, you will find more time to do other activities without sacrificing your home on the altar of the urgent.
Evaluate each room in your home, deciding which things are most important to accomplish and which could wait, if necessary. Write those things down on paper as you walk through your home. Then use the list to establish your routine. You and your family must grocery shop, cook meals, wash dishes, do laundry, clean floors, and make beds—or at least change sheets occasionally. You may want to include a daily pick-up time to help keep clutter to a minimum. Include anything else that helps you maintain your home at a reasonable level of functionality.
Put your routine on paper, marking blocks of time each day for activities such as housework and chore time, school time, fun time, and any particular commitments such as music lessons, sports practices, and so forth. Post the routine where the family can see it, and stick to it as much as possible. Remember that you don’t have particular hours or minutes to do things, rather you have blocks of time to accomplish the necessary tasks—chores after breakfast, school time after chores, and library trips on the days you take the children to music lessons, for example. If an emergency shifts your routine, just go back to the basics as soon as you are able. Assign chores to each of your children old enough to do them, and supervise to see that they complete what you expect of them.
Most important, don’t overplan. If you stay too busy with multiple activities, you won’t have time to teach your children to work and to maintain your home in a God-honoring way—not perfect, but presentable.
Continue to Change
Motherhood, homemaking, parenting, and teaching children are not for wimps! Those jobs are difficult and require continual learning and adjusting. I don’t know anyone who has ever accomplished all of them perfectly.
Change is difficult, isn’t it? If you haven’t done well in keeping your home, determine why and then work on that particular problem. Your example of a commitment to persevere will teach your children to keep going when things are hard and to continue to learn and grow in all areas of their lives.
Don’t be afraid to make changes in how and when you do things. If something isn’t working, change it. Find the best method and time for you and your family, and don’t do something just because your mother did it that particular way. Ask older women for help and ideas or find a mentor. Scripture tells us that the older woman should teach the younger woman (Titus 2:3-5), but we seem to forget that practical admonition in today’s culture. Someone else who has been where you are often can see problems that you are overlooking. Don’t be too proud to ask for help.
I’m so grateful for the new beginnings the Lord provides when needed. He desires that we work toward homes that honor Him, and we can trust that He will give us the energy, power, and new beginnings for our tasks.
Praise Him for your strengths and offer your weaknesses to Him for His correction and change. The only “it” that matters—and that you need—is a heart that longs to honor the Lord through your home and a desire to go back to the basic ABCs, when needed, to accomplish what He has given you to do.
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