I recently looked up top resolutions for the new year—and saw some interesting lists. They were the typical ones you would expect—lose weight, exercise, get out of debt, eat more healthfully, spend time with family, etc.
But what struck me most was the recurring use of the word MORE.
Many years ago my husband and I started a cool tradition that we called Thirty Days of Romance during the summer/close to our anniversary. (Read about that here!)
In the last two years, it has gotten increasingly difficult to have this romantic time period—yes, you read that right…as our kids got OLDER, it got harder to do! When we began it about eight years ago, we had four kids at home teens/tweens—and we just told them that we were dancing and romancing for thirty days, so don’t bug us. 🙂
What non-daily jobs do you dislike the most?
For me, it is errands (agghh….they feel so purposeless….then you have to come home and put things away/cook things/organize/store/sort…) and little tasks like writing a letter/email explaining something or preparing a package to mail or cleaning a stack of something….etc.
For those jobs I dislike, I do the following:
|Image from scoutiegirl.com
Twenty-five years ago when I was a young mother, housewife, and homeschooler, I had trouble getting all of my work done every day–while teaching a young son to read, keeping a curious preschooler out of everything, taking care of a toddler, nursing a baby, etc. Truly the statement “the days are long but the years are short” was never more real to me.
I had problems that many people who are “self employed” have–plus the added “benefits” of having a lot of littles around making messes and needing seemingly-constant attention. (I really do think they are benefits–but when a man is self-employed, he usually doesn’t have to take care of a home, feed a crew, and provide constant care and supervision to little kids! He just, well, works!)
The greatest problem that those of us who are self employed and/or homeschoolers and/or housewives with littles is that of prioritizing. The second greatest is motivation. Why clean this up when it is just going to become a mess again in thirty minutes? Why fix a hot meal….three hours later, I will need to start another hot meal!
I have found many ways to get the motivation needed to make it through those days of many littles and lots of homeschooling needs–but that would take a book to explain, so for today, I would like to address the concept of prioritizing.
When I had little kids, I loved creating systems–toy storage systems, closet organization, bookshelf perfection. These were things, however, that should not have been high on the priority list. The priority list needed to include daily work, like dishes, laundry, meal preps, child cleansing, reading lessons, and unit studies. Not systems!
My husband would come home at the end of the work day, and I would take him by the hand and lead him through the house, making a path through clean laundry, unbathed children in pj’s, and stacks of dishes, to show him the toy shelves with all of the toys sorted into baby wipe containers with picture labels on each shelf so that the kids could put the toys onto the right shelves. It didn’t even dawn on me that I should have done dishes and laundry BEFORE doing those amazing toy shelves.
After he saw my prize-winning shelves, Ray would roll up his sleeves (literally) and dig in to help bail me out from my day of misplaced priorities. We would get the dishes and laundry done; he would call me “closet lady” –and then we would often repeat the cycle again in a few days.
As we added more children to our home (and more kids in school), it became obvious that I could not continue to put contact paper on every box that came in the house and hand make labels with bright magic markers. Something had to give–and it was then that I came up with the solution to all of our laundry and dish (and trash!) problems:
Treat laundry, dishes, and trash just like brushing my teeth. I brush my teeth at least twice a day (sometimes three or four if I eat something spicy or I am going out in the evening). And I began doing the same with dishes, laundry, and trash.
We still adhere to the below schedule twenty-five years later–though I have seldom done this daily work once the two oldest children could handle these tasks, about ages ten and seven–the youngest child or two of the family who can handle the work has always done the daily tasks (so that we more, um, accomplished kids and parents can do harder jobs, like cooking, shopping, cleaning out freezers, weekly bathroom cleaning, discipling teens, mentoring young adults, teaching fractions, organizing closets (!), etc.).
TWICE A DAY LAUNDRY, DISHES, and TRASH TASKS
Bedtime: (1) Run the dishes from the evening in the dishwasher
(2) Put laundry from earlier in the dryer (“fold ups” only; we have always done hang ups in the moment, moving it before it spins out and hanging it up when it is nearly dry so that we don’t have to iron)
3) Start another load in the washer before sleeping
Morning: (1) Unload dishwasher and put away any big dishes that were drying on the counter after last night’s dinner
(2) Fold and put away laundry in the dryer
(3) Move washer load from washer to dryer and dry it
(4) Gather trash all over the house in the big bag out of the kitchen trash can and take it all out; replace bag
Noontime: (1) Do second load of laundry in dryer (fold and put away)
(2) Start tonight’s first load of laundry in washer
(3) Load dishes from breakfast, lunch, snacks, and cooking and run dishwasher
Evening chores: (1) Unload daytime dishes
(2) Load dinner and dinner prep dishes
(3) Bag kitchen trash again and take it out (we only gather from everywhere else once a day, in the morning)
This assumes chore sessions are in place. Even if you do not have good chore sessions right now, you can start with a five minute session before or after each meal and get laundry and dishes done then (even if it is just you doing them). Four five minute sessions can keep everything up if you have a dishwasher. (Note that we do a load or two of “hang ups” in another chore session in addition to that twice-daily laundry schedule. “Hang up” laundry is a weekly chore, separate from the daily laundry.)
When I didn’t have a dishwasher, I still kept this same routine, but I just kept hot sudsy water in the sink all day (reviving it as needed) and washed dishes and put them in the drying rack as I had them, definitely at least after each meal, but I (or a child) would often run out and wash a sinkful here and there.
Doesn’t TWICE A DAY for each chore (fully done–trash, laundry, and dishes) and twenty total minutes of work a day sound completely doable??? It is! You can do this!
Twice a day–just like brushing your teeth!
Once you learn to “Delight in Dailies” and get the things done that need to be done on a daily basis, it is time to get other things done, but what?
I can remember when my husband and I were first married, I would ask him, “How do you know what to do every day when you go to work?” I just couldn’t figure out how he knew what needed to be done.
He would always ask me, “How do you know what to do when a student comes for tutoring?” or “How do you know what to do around the house and with the kids every day when you get up?”
I remember telling him, “I just do.” And he would say it was the same for him at work.
Prioritizing at work and at home are two very different things though. I mean, at work, you have a boss waiting for you to finish something. And you have deadlines, etc.
But at home, once you get the dailies done, everything else that isn’t a daily is always screaming out to you! (Come to think of it, before you get the DAILIES done, everything is screaming out to you!)
I have followed two very simple tips in working on non-dailies:
1. I always do the next thing that is due. I call these my TIMELY TASKS.
(Well, almost….like just now I was printing recipes for my cooking morning tomorrow and I got sidetracked writing this post. Technically, the recipes are due before this because my cooking day starts at 8:30–and this could wait until tomorrow–but I digress!)
Once I am done with my dailies, I always ask myself what is the next thing that has to be done–my editor is waiting on a document; student papers have to be edited for class the next day; tomorrow’s meat has to be marinated; bedding has to be moved to the dryer in order to go to bed tonight, etc.
This one little tip always keeps me moving in the right direction!
2. I have an ABC WEEKLIES list.
Yes, for many years, I hardly saw this WEEKLIES list, but now I get to some of the things–and I am having so much fun!
After I get my dailies done–and I have “put out fires” by doing the next thing that is due–then I am ready to consult my WEEKLIES list. (I finally get to organize a closet or clean out the snack cupboard!!!)
But I don’t just have a WEEKLIES list; I manipulate my WEEKLIES list. I go down the list task-by-task and write an A, B, or C beside each one.
Then when I have a chance to do something off of it, I do an A task. And I keep on doing A tasks all week–anytime I get a chance (after my dailies and timely tasks).
No matter what else happens in any given week, I know that I have my DAILIES done; I have my timely tasks out of the way; and I did as many A’s as I could (and occasionally even a B or two!).
This isn’t a glamorous approach. I don’t craft beautiful things. I don’t decorate my home Better Homes and Garden style. I don’t always cook from scratch. I don’t scrub between the washer and dryer.
But I feel like an organizational genius. And my home runs fairly smoothly. And I spend time with my kids and husband. And we eat decent meals. And we always have clean clothes and the trash out of the house….because these things are my DAILIES.
When I was homeschooling a houseful of children, the new readers read, the writers wrote, and I checked their work, read aloud to them, talked to them, and taught them the Bible…because these things were my DAILIES.
Because I always did my DAILIES…..I became an organized homeschooler!
Everything is always crying out to be done. People want us to do everything. Our extended families need us. Our church needs us. Our ministries need us. Our jobs need us. Our children need us. And we can start to feel like the hamster on the wheel very quickly if we don’t have a plan in place to get to the important things.
My DAILIES, TIMELY TASKS, and ABC WEEKLIES have helped me do that for many, many years!
(Now back to my recipes!)