By Donna Gaines
I am not a naturally neat or organized person. I like things clean but can overlook clutter and piles…until I can’t. Do you know what I mean? When you spend more time looking for something than actually using the item, you need some intervention. So early in my child-rearing years I knew I needed to get a handle on basic home organization. Not so I could be proud of my newfound skill but so that my family could experience calm instead of chaos.
I recently stayed with my daughter after the birth of her fourth child. Henry spent 11 days in the NICU, so I was helping with getting the other kids up and ready for school, driving carpool, doing homework, dinner, baths…you get the idea. It made me reflect on that time in my life and some of the efficient strategies I had put into place to help this “messy” find order.
Our God is a God of order. He has systems in place in the world around us and within our physical bodies. Consequently we too will function best with systems in place. My mother is the master multi-tasker. I know people say you really can’t multi-task, but don’t tell her! When I wanted to get myself and my family running smoothly and implement some systems for organizing my home, I simply thought back to the way my Mom did it.
I want to share with you some simple steps you can take to bring order and calm into your home.
Mom always started the coffee, and then put on a load of laundry. I adopted this same practice before heading to my favorite chair to read my Bible and pray. Then I would wake the children and get breakfast on the table while they were dressing for school. At the same time, lunches were being assembled and packed away in lunch boxes or sacks with their names on them.
Now, remember that load of laundry you put in the wash first thing this morning? Put it in the dryer while packing lunches.
I would encourage you to walk through your home and think about ways you can be more efficient and streamline your cleaning and organization. Then implement a room at a time. Get your family in on it with you. Soon your system becomes a family system to which everybody can contribute.
A game changer for me was purchasing cleaning supplies for each bathroom. It is so much easier to clean while you are in the bathroom than to have to go gather cleaning supplies and come back. It may be an investment on the front end, but it will truly save you so much time that I know you will thank me later.
If you have stairs purchase a stair basket. You can find one here. All those little things the children bring downstairs; those game pieces you found under the couch, and the hair bows and books can all go in the stair basket for the children to carry upstairs and put away. Before we had an upstairs, I used a clothes basket that I hid behind a chair in our den. It really helped for a quick clean up.
One of my friends had a 10pm rule. By 10pm she had to decide what she would have for dinner the next night. I always did best when I meal planned for a couple of weeks. I am not a rigid rule follower, so if you change your mind about a meal, no problem, but at least you have the ingredients when you need them and you have options.
My crockpot became my friend in the years my children were home. I also doubled almost every recipe and froze one of them. Those frozen meals could always be pulled out on an especially busy day to thaw in the refrigerator and be popped into the oven when we returned home from all the extra-curricular activities that my children were involved in.
Just a little bit of planning enables you to invest in your family around the table. In fact, in her studies on family meals, Miriam Weinstein concludes “that eating family meals together is a ‘magic bullet’ that dramatically improves ‘the quality of your daily life, your children’s chances of success in the world, your family’s health, and our values in society.’ In the subtitle of her book and on her Web site, Weinstein concludes that eating family meals makes us ‘smarter, stronger, healthier, and happier.’” (The Table Experience by Devi Titus)
Enlist your children to help you clean up the kitchen after dinner and start the dishwasher. Then gather up clothes after the children’s baths. Start another load of laundry. Are you getting this laundry rhythm? If you will just put a load on morning and evening, you won’t end up with the mountain of laundry that is so overwhelming!
Maybe your Mom wasn’t organized, or wasn’t in your home. I have a friend who called me after her first child started school. With great exasperation, she said, “Will you tell me how you do mornings?” Her Mom had been sick most of her childhood and she had others taking care of her. All the things that needed to be done and kept up with baffled her.
I had a place I called “family central”. It was inside a cabinet on which hung a family calendar and it held a container with a folder for each child. All important school papers, future field trips, etc. (you know that pile that you keep moving around in the kitchen?) went into each child’s folder. All events for the family went on the family calendar. Each Sunday night, we would review what was coming that week and make plans accordingly. My husband and I were not shy about scheduling family nights. Your calendar will be full, the question is, who will fill it?
I hope this has helped you moms begin to think about how you can be more efficient and possibly put some systems into place that will help your home become a haven of peace and order for you and your family. I created a little checklist for those of you who may need a little help establishing your rhythm of order, and you can download and print it here. Love your children well and make sure you have time to spend with them enjoying and discipling them. I can tell you from experience, they grow up fast. Basic planning and systems will ensure that you enjoy the journey. Before you know it, you will be traveling to welcome a grandchild!
Donna and her husband, Steve, have four children and also have the privilege of being “Papaw” and “Nonna” to fifteen sweet grandchildren. She is a pastor’s wife, Bible teacher, author of four books (Leaving Ordinary: Encounter God Through Extraordinary Prayer, Seated: Living From Our Position in Christ, There’s Gotta Be More, and Choose Wisely, Live Fully: Lessons from Wisdom and Folly, The Two Women of Proverbs) and editor of A Daily Women’s Devotional. She is a disciple maker who fervently desires to see the lives of women transformed as they encounter God through His Word and prayer. Embracing God's missional calling on her life, Donna mobilizes women to practically live out their faith through both inner city and international efforts.