A Work in Progress

I was fresh into married life and housewife-ry, and, I must confess, I was almost a hopeless case.

I knew how to make a few simple pasta dishes, had some experience in house cleaning, and I could compose a 50 page thesis on the philosophical justification of Christian beliefs — although admittedly, the latter wasn’t helping me very much with getting my homemaking together.

I would be up at 10:30pm, washing a sinkful of dishes due to a shameful amount of procrastination. Cleaning the bathroom happened…when I remembered to do it. I was tripping over baskets of dirty laundry and clean laundry which had been sitting around for half a week. Houseplants were dying for lack of water (I have since then accepted my inability to keep a houseplant alive). My office desk was a disaster. In my defense though, I did have dinner ready on time….Sort of….Okay, maybe once in a while.

I’ve come a long way since then. I’m more confident now about my abilities as a keeper of the home. Laundry, dishes, and cleaning are completed in a much more timely and orderly manner. And I always have dinner ready right on schedule…(Okay, okay. Most of the time).

And I’m still improving. Slowly but surely, everything is finding a place of its own, clutter is being cleared away, new tasks are being added as old ones become habits, and routines are falling into place.

As I look back and remember the chaos of yesterday, there are a few little tidbits of advice and words of encouragement I would like to offer to young women embarking on married life and motherhood. This is for young women who, like myself, have struggled with “not having it all together.”

#1.  Don’t Compare Your Homemaking Skills to Others’

Especially not those of an older or more experienced woman. Remember, she probably started out much like you, and over the years was able to build up her home to the standard it is at.

That said, it is helpful to gain ideas and inspiration from how other women keep their home. The issue comes when you view another woman’s house and, instead of rejoicing in your friend or neighbour’s successes and learning from her, you compare her strengths to your weaknesses and put yourself down, or worse, resent her.

#2. Form Reasonable Expectations for What You Can Accomplish in a Day

This is especially important once you have young children. Between feeding them, clothing them, cleaning them, and otherwise caring for them, some significant hours of your day are spent. There’s only so much time, and everything seems to take longer than you would expect. Allot only a few “big” tasks to yourself each day, and leave yourself plenty of additional time for each one. At the end of the day, you will feel encouraged that you were able to accomplish what you set out to do — however small — as opposed to feeling defeated by the long list of chores that remain undone.

#3. One Step at a Time

More than once I resolved to get my homemaking act together by making a long list of the tasks I wanted to accomplish. My determination to implement those changes would typically last about a week and then fizzle. It was just too much. I could only get about a quarter of it done, and then I would think of the mountain of tasks remaining and give up.

Having gone through it, this is the advice I would offer to someone in the same shoes:

When you want to add some additional tasks to your schedule, go ahead and write down a list of five, and then select one or two, preferably something with a reasonable time commitment. Choose a day of the week on which to do this task, and then for a month or two make a determined effort to get it done every week on that day.

Say, for example, you want to get into the habit of cleaning the floors regularly. Tuesday is one day of your week that you typically don’t have many other commitments on. So make a note, mark your calendar — whatever you need to do to remind yourself — and on the day, make cleaning the floor one of your first tasks. Over the course of that month or the next few, if you keep at it diligently, that task will start to become routine. Once you are confident of this, you can move on to adding another task, always keeping in mind to make it reasonable. (Adding two hours of daily workout to your schedule is just not going to happen. Trust me on this one.) Each small success will serve as an encouragement to you and will help you to move forward with the confidence that you can get it done.

#4. Establish Routines and Schedules

Some of you may be thinking, “I don’t do well with schedules. They’re too restrictive.”

I once thought the same. Schedules didn’t seem to make sense. I thought I could accomplish so much more, and have so much more freedom, if I didn’t lock myself into boxes of time. Since then I have discovered that schedules are actually more freeing.

Before having a schedule and routine, I found that the “basics” didn’t get accomplished on a reliable basis. Sure, there were some random tasks and projects which saw completion during the week. But dinner time was random. Laundry was piling up. The kids’ baths were being neglected. And on and on it went.

Furthermore, once I had finished a task, I couldn’t think of what to do next, and so much time was squandered on non-productive activities (read: “Youtube”, “Facebook”, etc.) because I thought my work was done. And at the end of the day, I would be kicking myself for the lost time when I remembered all the things I should have done but didn’t because I had forgotten.

What helped me in organizing my day/week was establishing a routine one task at a time, as I mentioned above. After I had been able to keep up some routine for over a year or two, I eventually became convinced that I should try a schedule too. So I divided my waking hours into 4 or 5 blocks of time, and allotted myself a few tasks or activities in each. In practice, you would probably say it works more like a flow chart, but regardless, it has been an immense help in organizing my day: chores are being completed more reliably, I’m spending time with the kids every morning — which has led to a significant improvement in their behaviour, by the way! — and I’m finding that some days I even have a spare hour in the afternoon to tackle some projects. I keep one printed copy of my schedule in the kitchen and one at my office desk, so if ever I need a reminder as to what to do next, my schedule is never far away!

#5. Never Call Yourself a Failure

Recognize that this is truly a work in progress. Like any other skill, good homemaking takes discipline and practice. You will have hard days and setbacks, and seasons when routines and schedules are lost (e.g. a difficult pregnancy, health problems, moving house, etc.). This is life, and one day the cloud will pass. You can start over again, and/or adjust your routine as needed. The important thing is to see improvement over the years.

May God bless you as you seek to be an excellent keeper of the home for His glory!

-Kristin

 

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