Book Review: How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind

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Do you ever feel like an idea is chasing you? Like when you buy a new car and suddenly see that make and model everywhere?

I’m being hit over and over again by the idea of assigning tasks to days of the week.

I read a post somewhere about Ma Ingalls and her ditty about “Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday…” and so forth. Then, I saw a headline about a writer who assigns different writing tasks to different days of the week.

And I just finished How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana White of the blog A Slob Comes Clean. She has a laundry day and other habits that help her keep her home, despite still being a slob at heart (and she’s funny to boot).

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(Page numbers not included in quotes because I read it as an ebook.)

Here’s the thing: as a project lover, I like to finish stuff. I like to work hard and then step away, living the rest of my life with the memory of how awesome I was in that moment.       Of the amazing results of my hard work.
I like to finish and move on.
Not much sticks in my craw like redoing something I did right the first time.

Here’s what I had to accept: Cleaning my house is not a project. It’s a series of boring, mundane, repetitive tasks. The people whose homes are clean all the time do these boring, mundane, repetitive tasks. (emphasis mine)

I still struggle to accept that I’m going to be doing housework until the day that I die. It doesn’t matter if I have little kids or big kids or grown kids–unless our financial fortunes change so drastically that I can afford a full-time, live-in maid in good conscious, then I need to put on my big girl panties and just do the daily work of keeping house–rather than wait for it to become a “project.”

Weeks into my deslobification process, I was learning that habits were the way to go. Habits were making a much bigger impact than I ever thought possible.
So I kept going. I added a new habit once the last one started to feel natural. Not easy, but natural.

Now I think of these things as pre-made decisions. This perspective works for me.
I don’t get to decide if certain things need to be done. I know for a fact they do. Just like I don’t get to decide the sky is blue.

I’ve written before about being an obliger. We’re taking May off of school, so that will be the perfect time to sit down and write out a plan–and then finding someway to oblige myself to stick to it.

Now, Monday is my laundry day. I start on Sunday night and end on Tuesday morning. I don’t have to think about laundry the rest of the week! I fold and sort right from the dryer and I put tons of stuff straight from the dryer to the donate bag! I can see a difference and more importantly, I found a system that is not overwhelming.

That’s actually a reader quote from the end of a chapter, but it sums up the whole “laundry in a day” concept so nicely. I’ve done this off and on for several months and when I actually buckle down and ensure I switch the loads and do all the folding, it’s magical. Definitely keeping it.

Here’s the author’s “ah-ha” moment about space after trying to fit fifteen-feet worth of cookbooks into a three-foot shelf (or some similar measure):

Soon after this space-in-my-home-doesn’t-expand-to-fit-all-the-stuff-I-want realization, I grasped that the root work of container is contain.
Like that shelf, containers are limits.

Not a radical concept, but the language was really helpful to me–especially for future purchases–in a way that “everything has a home” wasn’t quite sufficient.

And I realized something: I had established routines by not establishing routines. When I asked my family to do something I hadn’t been doing myself, they were confused. Things worked a certain way in our home. I twas the complete opposite of how I wanted things to work, but it was all my kids knew.
Once I established routines for myself, my family could jump into those routines because the routines existed.

This is a link I think I’ve been missing. I desperately want to teach my kids to learn how to care for a home so that they’ll be ready to leave the nest…but in wanting them to learn, I’ve waited for them to be “ready” before really establishing cleaning routines.

But if this is the year that I ATTEND to my family, maybe I pull on my oxygen mask first: figure out how to keep the house myself (with the kids still doing the chores they already do, like the dishwasher, a daily pickup, and the dreaded cleaning of their room) and then invite them in.

This easy, breezy read was encouraging and helpful–and I so look forward to putting many of Dana’s ideas into practice for my own (albeit not as dramatic) deslobification process.

What have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear!

 

Laying a Foundation of Security

“Mom, my friend asked me what’s going to happen to our house when you get divorced,” my oldest asked me in a whisper as the other kids ran past us from the backyard to the playroom.

Matt and I are not getting divorced. We are never getting divorced. We do not even use that word when joking or fighting. It’s off the table.

(And marriage has, praise God, always felt pretty easy for us, though I know not everyone is so fortunate and there are circumstances that require separation and/or divorce.)

But the little friend saw our bedroom door open and the his-and-her laundry scattered around, visible signs that two parents sleep there.

Unlike at her house.

It’s natural for children to project their life experiences onto others. I assumed everybody knew how to milk a cow and that every dad drank Mountain Dew for the longest time. This little friend was simply wondering how things would look for my daughter: would we still live nearby? Who would stay, who would go?

More than just projecting, kids want to share their experiences with others. It would probably be cathartic for this young girl to have a friend to relate to.

But I told my child, “Remember, we’ve talked about this. Papa and I said divorce wasn’t an option from the beginning. We are never going to leave each other or you.”

(Again, I recognize that some extenuating circumstances arise and change the calculus for many couples.)

I watched the tension drain from her face and shoulders, replaced only by what I can describe as a sense of security–and I got to see it light up her features again later in the week.

Since buying my PowerSheets for Christmas, I’ve listened to a lot of audio from their founder, Lara Casey. I listened to one of her audiobooks and have listened to several of her podcasts.

I will admit, she repeats herself a bit. She uses the same stories and themes, whether her garden or her Grandpa’s Bible that’s now hers, and so on. But these play like a CD player on loop because they have shaped her. So when we were driving home the other day, we took a minute to go two blocks further and drive down our old street.

Murray was the best landlord. The girls mostly remember their bedroom and that Murray bought them a Frozen Jeep that they drove up and down the massive driveway, blasting “Let It Go” all along the way.

“Do you know why Murray gave you that Jeep?” I asked. They didn’t know.

And so I got to add a layer of meaning to their memory of that house and that tiny apartment over the garage, the one we called our treehouse because every window gave us a view of greenery.

“Murray found out he had liver cancer. Shortly after that, he asked if he could give you kids a big gift. He had worked for money his whole life and wanted to use it well before the end. He wanted to share what he’d been given–and he wanted to share it with people he loved, like you.”

There is security in knowing who you are and where you come from. But more than these, I will spend my years, day by day, telling my children of the God who loved His own so deeply that He sent Jesus to buy them back.

Murray was great and a happy, healthy home is greater–but nothing compares to the security that comes from the all-consuming, neverending love of Christ.

Peter vs. John: Comparison

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The Bible isn’t known for being a comedy…because it isn’t. But sometimes a little humor sneaks in there, like this:

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. (John 20:3-4)

Commentaries expound on the significance of this moment, that it’s actually an important thing that shows that neither of them entered the tomb alone, etc. But at first blush, it just comes across as humorous, right?

“We were both running to the tomb–I got there first–and then we went in.”

We know that the disciples weren’t perfect, that they sinned and struggled just like we do. And since comparison is a major struggle today, I’m guessing it always has been, even if this particular passage has a further point. But in finishing our church ladies’ study of John last night, we see Peter outright comparing himself to John after learning that Peter’s own death will be terrifying:

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them…When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” (John 21:20a, 21)

I love Peter. So much. Over and over, he does the wrong thing or doesn’t understand or charges in where he shouldn’t–but the Lord never gives up on Peter. Even here, when Peter doesn’t like his lot and compares it to another, Jesus basically just says, “Mind your business. I gave you a job; go do it” (my own paraphrase of John 21:22).

John is promised a long life with ample comfort and time to write books, while Peter is promised suffering. Both are good and both glorify God–but these men can’t have both things.

And neither can you or I. Sometimes, I look at other people’s lives and want the ease I see there: family around to help, job security, clear and visible calling. Other times, I read a touching tale of someone clinging to Christ in great trial, and I long for what they have or despair that I’m too weak-willed to walk the road they’ve been given.

This is useless, fruitless, and deadly. If I am looking to the path of another, I am not looking to my own–and then I become useless and fruitless. But God anticipated this and reminds us over and over and over to look to our own:

  • The tenth commandment tells us not to covet possessions, but wouldn’t this extend to the work and lives we’ve been given? (Exodus 20:17)
  • Jesus tells the parable of the workers in the field who receive the same wages for different work–what kindness! (Matthew 20:1-16)
  • Paul instructs the Thessalonians to live quietly and mind their own affairs (1 Thessalonians 4:11)
  • Paul uses the example of a body to explain to the Corinthians that are different roles within the Body and that it suffers without people doing their part (1 Corinthians 12:15-16)
  • Hebrews 11 offers an extensive list of faithful men and women–and they made that list by acting in faith where God had put them

There’s plenty more examples, I’m sure.

Peter, John, and all of the disciples had to rise above their desire for comparison in order to be useful. We need to do the same. need to do the same.

My friends’ struggles and victories can encourage me to run the race before me only if my heart is rightly praising God for His work in and through them–not when I’m trying to insert myself into their (or any other) narrative.

Reframing Our Identity

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Since GHC-Texas, I’ve been reading through You Who? Why You Matter and How to Deal with It by Rachel Jankovic. She spoke about the book during the conference with a no-nonsense attitude; I would even say she came off a bit yell-y. The book doesn’t mince words either.

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But this can be helpful, particularly when we look at the world’s bumper sticker wisdom and t-shirt-deep identities. We look to the world to define us and tell us who we are when the Bible has already told us.

So while the question, “Who am I?” is common, an actual answer to it is uncommon…This is because no one wants to hear (or give) the one-sentence summary: “Yeah. Okay. So you are a middle-aged, overweight housewife who lives in Cleveland and has trouble staying on task.” (pg. 80)

Ouch.

But Jankovic goes on in the next pages to set up two different ways of identifying herself; here is a snippet:

I live in Idaho, less than a mile from where I was born. I married fairly young and have seven kids. Life is busy, and I am almost always needing to cook something…My work is often repetitive, but I enjoy it and I love my people…I tend to take on projects and mostly finish them, but occasionally get overwhelmed… (pg. 83-84)

She says that this way of describing herself comes across as boring because we are not made to be the center of our story. She reframes it with God at the center, and it looks like this:

To the glory of God, I live in Idaho, less than a mile from the place I was born. To the glory of God, I have seven children and struggle to keep up with my regular tasks…To the glory of God, I lift up my children. To the glory of God I ask them for their forgiveness. To the glory of God, I have had phases where I had to let go of some of my “dreams,” and to the glory of God, I have had phases where I needed to pick them up. (pg. 84, emphasis mine)

I often struggle to accept that this–this home, these people, this blog to type without a ginormous rockstar following–might be all that God has called me to.

And you know what? It just might be. And that’s His call and I would do well to get on board with his program than trying to go my own way. A foot trying to be an eye will not serve the body–or itself–well.

So, to the glory of God I am a 31-year-old mother of three. To the glory of God, I am homeschooling them, doing my best to teach them knowledge and wisdom. To the glory of God, I have a husband to work beside, a home to keep, and people to serve and be served by. I love books and words and spare time to tinker with both–and to the glory of God, I have that, in differing amounts per season.

In the world’s estimates, this is not much. But in God’s economy, it is enough and will be enough until He calls for something else.

On Chasing and Being Chased

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Lately, my little people want nothing more than to be chased. “Mama, chase me, chase me!” rings out from all corners of my house.

With my new prosthetic, I’m more inclined to chase them at the park and today, I soaked up their smiles and shrieks of laughter as almost-spring sun streamed through bare branches.

And I realized: we’re all desperate to be chased. People don’t really change.

In high school, I thought that if I could get a boy to fall in love with me, that would be the marker that I was enough, something worth chasing. Looking back, God used some ridiculously low self-esteem to save me from ever putting myself in a bad situation in pursuit of a guy.

And then, God sent Matt into my life. He asked me to prom and I knew he was a catch when he laid out his plan to keep my updo from being ruined if it was raining when we left the restaurant.

Funny thing, though: his pursuit of me, while delightful, was not enough. This gaping hole that I’d been trying to stuff with achievement and friends and adventure and even a boy still yawned in front of me.

And then that skinny, bespectacled boy laid out the gospel and that was it. The answers fell into place, the hole was filled.

It’s so upside down (doesn’t He always work that way?): once I finally caught the answer I’d been chasing, I realized it wasn’t enough, but that Someone had been chasing me the whole time.

And I still run: I doubt, I’m selfish, I do wrong. And still, he pursues and pursues and pursues. It’s not all fun and games like a day at the park, but the feeling of being loved and held is there–and it’s greater.