I used to be fairly well organized and very clean. Not any more. Now, I'll happily settle for clean. Chronic illness means the necessity for budgeting my time and energy is more important then ever. In a sense, I am very glad. There is something quite humbling about realizing my limitations and accepting a 'new normal' ... and doing it cheerfully - most days! Every season of life has it's challenges, and joys!
So, in the midst of our new normal, I am trying to teach our children the simple principles of easy cleanliness. Considering that we have two classic 'messies' who are easily sidetracked and have far better things to do then keep their rooms clean, I've boiled it down to the essentials for doing what needs to be done with as little effort as possible - the easy way. I decided to post it here, so when I look around and see that things aren't running quite as smoothly as we'd like, I'll be able to remind them of the easy principles and get us all back on track!
The Easy Way to Tidy Up
- Do your job right the first time. You'll just have to do it a second time if you don't do it 'right' the first time! It takes more time and effort to put a piece of a paper on the counter, move it to a pile, sort the pile and then toss out to the recycling bin - put it in the bin right away! Don't touch it again! Dirty plates go directly into the dishwasher or sink - why load up the counters? For the children, this translates to folding square the first time, delivering the right socks to the right bedroom, arranging the shoes on the mat just the right way, the floor swept clean - even the corners, and all the toothpaste scraped off the sink - all this just takes training! Don't look for perfection the first time - re-train as needed and don't do it for them if you know they have the skills and were just 'goofing off'. If they have done their best - don't re-do it - that's just demoralizing.
- Never travel empty. During my very brief waitress experience, our trainer drilled this into our heads, and I have never forgotten. If our hands were empty as we entered the kitchen or left, we were severely reprimanded. We were supposed to always bring in the dirty dishes or be taking out food or drinks - always a full tray. Always! We all have those piles in our homes that are 'base camps' - things waiting to be put in their right place - at the bottom of the stairs, on the side table or on the counter. If you use the principle of 'never travel empty' as you walk by those piles to the general area they are going to you always pick it up and take it - and as you return to the room, you bring something with you that you need or was out of place. It takes less than 20 seconds and it is the easiest way to put things to rights.
- A place for everything and everything in it's place. Your hairbrush does not belong on the kitchen counter. Dirty clothes do not live on the floor. Garbage does not get stuffed into pockets. You wouldn't dream of putting muddy boots on the white carpet. You get the idea! Even if you aren't super organized, there is a general place for everything. If everyone in the house knows where that place is and puts things away where they belong, life goes so much more smoothly! If you have things that don't have a home - find a home or give them away! It's just that easy, and that hard. Again, this is an area for training - for everyone in the household. If you have a labeller, this is the place to use it - and for non-readers, take a picture of where everything goes and post it until they get it. Also - if you move something, make a change or get rid of something completely, let everyone know!
- Open your eyes to what needs to be done and do it. Some folks just don't see it. Clutter and dirty don't register from their point of view. Sometimes we have to train our eyes to see what needs our attention and be aware of our surroundings. It's a good idea to take pictures of a room when it is tidy and clean and post them where your children can see them so that if they are asked to help tidy, they know what the end goal should look like. At the same time, if you feel like something isn't quit right and you can't put your finger on the problem, take a picture of your area and soon you'll be seeing with fresh 'eyes' just what needs to be done to bring a sense of order to a space. Then, there are those of us who see it, but just leave it! The training to just do it takes more time - we all have other things to do, but doing the bit of work in front of us that needs doing first smooths the path to time for doing things we enjoy.
- Finish - don't get sidetracked. This is where I fail most often, and I am sure it is a struggle for most moms with with children at home - their eager young faces often get in the way of my schedule! We have to be flexible and realize that their needs are more important than keeping on track. Our children are young for such a short time and we need to enjoy them as the gifts from God that they are. At the same time, if you know you don't have uninterrupted time, it's better to tackle a job in small tasks - even 5 minutes of concentrated effort will yield great rewards if you just keep coming back to it, investing those 5 minutes and seeing it through to the satisfying end!
- Eat your elephant one bite at a time. Unless you have a SuperWoman costume under your clothes, you have limits. Time and energy constraints are real and they sometimes discourage us from even beginning to face an overwhelming task. Even breaking it down into smaller tasks might seem too much at first, but the alternative of living with a big ugly smelly 'elephant' in your midst isn't even an option! Get help - enlist husband, children, a friend - or hire a stranger to come in and help. Whatever it takes! I'm not always very good with this either, but I'm learning to accept help and ask for it when I need it - it's a learning process!
- Do everything as a service to the Lord. "Are you grumbly hateful or humbly grateful - what's your attitude? Do you grumble and groan, or let be known, you're grateful for all God's done for you?" Words from a childhood Sunday School song often come to mind when I am tackling a particularly distasteful task. As a follower of Christ, my service to my family should be done cheerfully, ' as unto the Lord'. Jesus taught us by example to have a servant's heart, not a Doormat and not a Queen. I want to lovingly serve my family as though I were serving Christ, Who gave Himself completely for me. Puts things into perspective, doesn't it?
- Have fun once it's done! Whatever little job you have to do, it is always more fun to have a goal in mind - something enjoyable at completion. It doesn't have involve
chocolatefood, an expense or even leaving your own yard - but plan something you enjoy for after your housekeeping is done! Work has it's own rewards - it is more fun to live in cleanliness and easier to live in order, but other little rewards are always an added bonus. If your kids have a list of their chores, have them check it off, put on their sticker or whatever they do - it's just as satisfying for them to note all they have accomplished as it is for you to cross your jobs off a list! I like page protectors and erasable markers for this - but whatever works best for you!
I'm quite certain I have missed a lot of great ideas, but these are the principles that work well for us, and I hope you find just a little something here to make the everyday things that need to be done a little lighter!