November 18, 2008

The Balancing Act: Laundry

Another stumbling block in the search for balance has been laundry. If you have more than one child, you're probably thinking I have no right to complain about laundry for just three people...but it's my blog & I can complain if I want.

My problem wasn't the small number of people in my family. It was the large amount of clothing for said people. For example, if CJ fussed because she never seemed to have any socks or underwear clean, I'd just buy more socks and underwear. It seemed logical. Sadly, it never occurred to me that I should do laundry more was one of those things I just put off as long as I could. The more I kept buying, the easier procrastination became. My rationale was that, as long as we had clean clothes, there was no need to wash what was dirty. The piles of dirty clothes would get taller and taller.

Finally, when I had no other choice, I would start washing clothes. Because I had so much to do, I'd just wash and dry. Folding & putting away were not high on my priority list. Besides, I didn't have space to put it all. I was left with piles of clean clothes and piles of dirty clothes. I could always tell the difference...but I was the only one.

When I started purging last year, excess clothing was high on my list. I did ALL of the laundry, and looked at what we had. I got rid of a lot. A LOT. It's an ongoing process. When I swapped seasonal clothing this fall, I purged from both summer and winter clothing. I hope to do that with every season change. If it doesn't fit (or we just don't wear it), I take it to consignment. If we've worn it out, I throw it away.

Now, there are no piles of clean clothes. The piles of dirty clothes are smaller and easier to tackle. I'm more apt to stay on top of things because: (1) I know we don't have much to spare, and (2) putting away what we do have is much easier.

Some other practical tips I've picked up along the way:

~R and I have three clothes bins in our bedroom. We sort the clothes when we take them off. HUGE timesaver! CJ only has room for one hamper, but sorting her items isn't so bad.

~My washing machine has a timer. It's one of the greatest inventions ever. Many nights, I put a load in before I go to bed and set the timer so that it runs just before I get up. After my quiet time, I put the clothes in the dryer. I wait to fold them when I get home (these are non-wrinkle items!). I also throw in a load before I go to work, and set the time so that it runs just before I get home. They're ready to go in the dryer when I come in, and I try to fold them right after dinner. Often times, I fold laundry as morning "quiet chore". Still, I never have more than two loads to fold at a time.

~I use 2 empty baskets when folding. One for items to go to CJ's room/bathroom. Another for ours. Everyone's responsible for putting away their own clothing (well, most of the time).

~I keep a few hangers in the laundry room. When I know I'm not going to get to folding a load for a while, I can easily take out the shirts and pants that will wrinkle, and hang them up right away.

Taming the laundry monster wasn't as hard as I thought. Now that it's manageable, I don't mind doing laundry at all. I can fold clothes while I watch TV or CJ does her homework. Not having to search for clean clothing is yet another valuable ministry to my family, and has made our home more peaceful.

If you've got some good laundry tips, feel free to share in the comments. I'd love to read them.

Next time: finding a daily schedule you can live with.

November 15, 2008

The Balancing Act: Comfort Zones

Comfort zones. We all have them. Mine is a green sofa that we bought from a dear friend. She rues the day she let it out of her grasp, so I let her have visitation rights whenever she wants.

But more than that particular piece of heaven furniture, our living room/kitchen are the center of comfort in our home. This one open room is where we spend most of our time...reading, watching tv, reading, playing board games, and reading (well, some of us more than others). When this area of the house is messy, it affects all three of us in a negative way. It's tough to flop on a couch piled high with unfolded laundry, or do homework on a bar loaded with dirty dishes. In the old days, the coffee table and end tables served as nothing more than a place to hold things I didn't want to put away. Shoes, magazines, newspapers, you name could probably be found in our living room.

I've learned that taking a few minutes every night to concentrate on this area of our home pays big dividends. As long the living room/kitchen are clean, it doesn't matter what the rest of the house looks like...we function better as a family. We relax more, laugh more, enjoy each other more. When I have my morning quiet time, I'm more at ease because my surroundings are peaceful.

I admit, there are days when I'm just too tired to deal with it. Still, even when I skip a day, I'm surprised to find how quickly I can restore order. (Again, decluttering was the springboard!)

What room/rooms serves as your family's comfort zone? If you think about it, I bet there's one spot that says "home" to you more than another. Perhaps it's your bedroom, a playroom, or the kitchen. Ask your family what room they enjoy most when it's clean. Then concentrate on that room. Even if you don't have time to vacuum and dust often, keep it tidy (if you have small children, invest in inexpensive baskets for quick toy storage). 15 minutes a day is all it takes to make a noticeable difference in the life of your family. And aren't they worth it?

November 13, 2008

Who Says God isn't in the Public Schools?

CJ's writing assignment this week...

I am Thankful

I am thankful for God the most. The reason why I am thankful for Him the most is because he died on the cross to save our sins. I am also thankful for my parents because they take care of me and take me places and feed me. Another thing is my Church family. They love me and take care of me. One more reason is my house and clothes. My house is something to live under. My clothes keep me warm.


On a day when we found out about layoffs at R's job, I needed to read this! We are praising God that R still has a job, but 50 people are losing theirs next week. The Lord keeps telling me over & over to TRUST. That is my prayer.

Pretty appropriate that, before I even knew about this, I chose this verse for Memory Monday with Joanne:

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
~Psalm 16:5-6 (NIV)

November 12, 2008

The Balancing Act: Organization

Continuing my thoughts on balance...

The key to enjoying peace and simplicity in my home has been organization. I've had a love/hate relationship with organizing my home. I would start out with great plans and visions of grandeur. Being an all-or-nothing gal, I'd have an elaborate plan to get everything just so, only to find I couldn't keep up. So, I'd do the next best thing...and shut down. I justified my lack of organization by telling myself that I was doing the best that a woman with two jobs and a shift-working husband could do.

I was wrong, and God called my bluff.

Trying to find things, scrounging around for clean clothes to wear, and never having enough storage were wearing me down. I realized the need for change, and started reading books about simplifying. I got good ideas from several sources, and started to implement them. Some worked and some didn't. I finally determined to organize my home in a way that made sense for my family. These are a few of my favorite ideas. Maybe one will work for you, or lead you to finding something that will work for your family.

Plasticware - My containers threatened to overtake my largest cabinet. Putting the left-overs away was such a chore, because it took 5 minutes to find the matching lid. I pulled everything out and immediately threw away bowls with no lids (and vice versa). I looked at what was left, and kept ONE container of each size and shape for food storage. (I do have quite a few mini-bowls, because they work well for packing condiments, applesauce, etc. for lunch.) I put everything I kept in 2 inexpensive baskets on a shelf. One basket holds containers for leftovers, and the other holds the pieces we use to pack meals for school & work. Finding a container & matching lid takes 10 seconds. I don't spend much time stacking them either...the baskets do a great job of keeping everything in one place & hiding the mess!

Honestly, at first I worried that I would miss all those extra containers, but I haven't. In fact, I find we throw fewer leftovers away. When I had so many containers, it was easy to just store everything in the fridge. Some things would get shoved to the back, forgotten. Now, I realize when my available containers are getting low.

Paperwork - my primary nemesis! I tried organizing bills very specifically. It didn't work for me. I found a solution that I blogged about here. I don't keep up with it as much as I should...but even three months of filing only takes me an hour using this system.

Laundry - I could devote an entire post to how I tamed the laundry beast. In fact, I will later in this series. For now, I will just say that it started with a clothing purge. Getting rid of extra clothes has made it easier to keep up with the laundry, find the things I really love to wear, and store what we have.

Calendar - I cannot function without a calendar. I've tried several different things (but nothing as detailed as Joanne's!) before finding what works for my family. It's similar to what Joanne & Lisa use. I use the Palm program on my computer for our calendar (including R's work schedule), my "to do" list, and our menus. I print it out & put it on the side of our fridge, so we can check it throughout the week. There's always enough space to write in anything that pops up. We're color-coded on the computer & the Palm, but the colors don't show on the printout. I use different highlighters for each of us.

I like my Palm because I can set alarms for my tasks, which is great when I forget to check the calendar. The only tasks I put into the Palm are big things, like deadlines & due dates. For the day-to-day errands, I still use index cards. I don't have the time or energy to put every single thing into my Palm. Besides, I still like to check things off.

Finally, I can't say enough how important it is to establish a place for everything. Be sure everyone understands where items should be stored. I've saved a lot of time (and earned a lot of brownie points!) by being able to find things quickly and easily.

The bottom line is that the organization of your home should be practical for your family. Don't feel intimated by someone else's meticulous method! Consider your personality, as well as your family's. Be realistic. It may take a while to find what works, but don't give up. I promise you, it's worth the effort.

*Next up: making the most of your comfort zone

November 10, 2008

Balancing Act: Part 1

My friend Lisa & I think a lot alike. Seems whatever she blogs about has been on my heart for a while. A couple of weeks ago, she posted about her struggle to find balance. It's something I've been fighting for as long as I can remember. In fact, God and I have been conversing about it practically on a daily basis this past year.

When I began concentrating on finding peace and simplicity, I had a vision of what my life would be like at the end of the year. Through God's working, some of that vision has been realized. Other aspects are still in progress, and still others have been abandoned in favor of God's direction. A good example of the latter is my morning quiet time.

Last August, I was convicted about the time I spent (or didn't spend) with the Lord. I started getting up at 5:30 so that God and I could have an hour alone, then I'd spend 15 minutes folding laundry or cleaning the kitchen before starting to get ready for the day. This schedule worked well, except for the one week each month when R is on day shift. He gets up at 5:45, and my quiet time wasn't very quiet. I admit, I haven't been quiet as I've battled disappointment and frustration during those weeks. I was selfish with my time with God, and didn't want anyone to interrupt it.

Thankfully, the Lord broke through the legalism to show me that being a loving wife is just as important as spending time with Him. During the most recent week of day shift, I slept in 15 minutes and got up with R at 5:45. I spent time talking with him, getting his lunch ready, and even folding laundry before he left for work. My quiet time was cut in half, but my spirit was more settled. God reminded me that it isn't about the amount of time I spend with Him, but rather the quality of that time. What did it matter if I spent an hour with Him, if my heart wasn't right with Him? I freed myself from expectations that weren't realistic during the week of day shift. This slight change led me to an even bigger realization.

I am responsible for the peace and simplicity in my home.

R has a strenuous schedule. His shift swings from week to week. It's more difficult for him and CJ than it is for me. For him...trying to sleep at odd hours, spend time with us, and minister as he's called can be quite challenging given the constraints of his job. For CJ...sometimes not knowing if Daddy's coming or going, not seeing him as much as she'd like (she's a true Daddy's Girl), and trying to be quiet when he's sleeping are equally as challenging. I am the constant, but I must be flexible enough to do whatever it takes to keep R and CJ on an even keel. I must put my own agenda aside to listen to their needs (spoken and unspoken) and keep things running smoothly in our home. It won't be a haven for my family otherwise. Considering the world around us, we desperately need our home to be a place of peace, rest, and security. The place we long to be more than any other on earth.

This is my calling. My privilege. My work. I'm only sorry I didn't figure this out 15 years ago...or at least when CJ was born 10 years ago!

I hope that sharing more about how I'm finding balance in my life, I'll encourage others who find themselves in this same struggle. For the next few posts, I'll try to do just that.

Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 3:13-15 HCSB

November 8, 2008

November 6, 2008

Around the House: November

Updated to add the most important thing! In Bible study Wednesday night, 3 of my girls announced they'd accepted Christ at a weekend youth event! Praise the Lord!

I've been absent from the blogosphere longer than I anticipated. I have several posts swimming around in my head, but they haven't made it to my fingers yet. Perhaps this weekend, though the next few weeks are going to be incredibly busy (busier than I want to be!).

~Cooler temps have finally arrived! The leaves are beautiful, and I'm in love with Autumn all over again. There's nothing quite coming home from work, listening to Yo-Yo Ma and greeted by a canopy of blazing orange, scarlet and yellow trees as I drive through my neighborhood. It's one of the highlights of my day.

~Mexican Chicken Soup and homemade bread will be waiting when CJ& I get home tonight. Yumm-o!

~R is traveling out of town to a college football game tonight. After CJ & I study for her FOUR tests tomorrow & she gets into bed, I'll pour some hot tea and settle in with a good book. Perhaps even watch a bit of the game on TV.

~Our most recent Netflix shipment arrived yesterday. On the agenda for this weekend: this movie and this one. I can't wait!

~We turned in our shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child last night. I always wish we could do 763 shoeboxes...but 2 is our limit. Shopping for the items with CJ is such a treat. It's amazing to think that for under $50, we can fill and mail 2 shoeboxes that will touch the lives of 2 very needy and appreciative children.

~CJ was so excited to see the Samaritan's Purse Christmas Catalog in our mailbox last week! For less than $15, she's providing a week of milk for one child, a Jesus Loves Me lamb for another, and Bible story books for 25 others.

~God is teaching me more and more about trust. Leaning on Him for the book fast...not a problem. Leaning on Him in some bigger areas of life...not so easy. I think 2009 may have to be the Year of Trust and Obedience!

~As the Year of Peace and Simplicity winds down, I am still astounded by what God's done. The pursuit isn't over, and probably won't be this side of Heaven. In some ways, I haven't gotten as much done as I'd hoped. In others, I never dreamed I'd get this far. I'll be sure to post a year-end recap with more details.

~I took Monday off, so R and I spent the day finishing the initial attic purge. There is still much to deliver to consignment and the ministry store. I will have that done by mid-December. I started organizing everything into areas. The big project will be weeding through the paperwork, pictures, and drawings, etc. that CJ's brought home. I'll probably find I can get rid of more things along the way, so I kept several empty boxes for just that purpose.

~Finally, if you're like me, memorizing the Word hasn't been a priority. It should be. My friend Joanne at The Simple Wife has announced this

No more excuses! I'm going to do this. Wanna' join me? Click on the button to find out more.

November 5, 2008