Little things matter. Along the way you discover they weren't so little after all.

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We’ve talked about getting organized and tailoring your routines to match your needs. We’ve talked about tackling the things that bug you and working in small chunks of time. I’ve got one more realization to share with you, but before we get to that, I did a little investigative documentation yesterday.

After the kids got on the bus, I timed myself doing my normal routines. The one difference was that I stayed on task (not something I do easily) and did the chore uninterruptedly from start to finish. Here are my results:

Make bed and clean up bathroom (wiped down the sinks, mirrors and toilet, changed the hand towels) = 10 minutes

Empty the dishwasher = 5 minutes

Load the dishwasher = 5 minutes

Tidy up living room/dining room and vacuum both = 10 minutes

Putting away miscellaneous papers, clothes, books and stuff = 5 minutes

All these tasks added up to a total of 35 minutes.

35 minutes.

That’s it.

That’s when I force myself not to get distracted from one job by another job, when I force myself to not dwell on the old greeting card I just found in a stack of papers I was sorting (just as an example).

35 minutes, and my house is a place in which I can sit or invite someone over without being annoyed or embarrassed by the tasks that need doing.

When you break it down, it isn’t quite as daunting anymore.

Organizing Your Meals

I had another area that took me a long time to adjust: meal preparation. When you’re a couple, you have flexibility and the capability to fend for yourselves when necessary.

When you’ve got children, they depend on your to feed them.

It should be obvious, I know, but it took me a long time to catch on to.

For a long time, when dinner rolled around it caught me off guard. I mean, didn’t these children just have a snack an hour ago? How can they possibly be hungry? For them to expect dinner seemed so unreasonable. In reaction, we’d run out and get fast food, or we’d try and go to a “sit-down” restaurant (because at all the other restaurants you’re forced to stand??). We’d end up stressed out from trying to contain impatient, hungry toddlers, or we’d be stressed because we spent too much money on eating out.

Not a winning situation.

meal planning

meal planning (Photo credit: LizMarie_AK)

When I finally realized that these people, however unreasonable, were going to want to eat EVERY DAY, we made a couple changes.

1. I joined a meal co-op.

The meal co-op was a fun idea that worked well for a while. I won’t go into great detail here, but it was a group of moms who delivered hot meals to one another.

2. I froze meals.

Freezing meals worked wonders for us. For example, we weren’t at a point where we could eat an entire 9×13 pan of lasagna. By preparing it in two smaller dishes and freezing one of them, we got two meals out of the deal. I found a fantastic book that had recipes that my family enjoyed and didn’t require a lot of exotic ingredients. It is still a go-to cookbook for me, and I recommend it to anyone, even just as a good general entrée cookbook.

3. I stocked up supplies for quick dinners.

Everyone has times when they just don’t feel like cooking, but eating out is expensive and not particularly healthy. We started keeping on-hand supplies for quesadillas and refried beans, soup and sandwiches, or taco salads. These don’t take much work, and my kids will eat them. It saved us stress, time and money.

4. If there was something I knew we needed regularly, rather than buying one I bought two.

For a long time I bought only what we’d need once we were almost out of it, and didn’t think ahead to when we’d need it again. Sometimes this was because it was cost prohibitive for me to buy ahead, but sometimes it was just a lack of planning. As we got more established, and I got better at managing our home expenses, it saved us trips to the store which in turn saved us money since we weren’t picking up all those little extras that end up in the cart when you shop with three children.

There you have it.

Getting our meals organized has made our supper times much more enjoyable. There are many tools out there to help you plan your meals, even planning out a couple weeks in advance, so I won’t offer those here. However, I do think that having a plan cuts down on the hunger induced crabbiness and anger that can well up when everyone wants food and no one knows what to do about dinner. It can also help the main chef in the house share the work of cooking. When there’s a plan, the chef can point out things others can do to help out.

I hope this series has been helpful. It comes from learning it slowly over time, the hard way.

My goal for structure  is to get things done and thus free me up to have adventures and fun everyday, investing in friendships and relationships. Rather than rigid schedules or routines, these little helpers are there to serve you and keep things working smoothly in your home so it can be a place people (including the people who live there) can be welcomed and valued.

I’m always on the lookout for other ideas to make things easier around family life. If you’ve got any favorite routines or tips, please share them with the rest of us! And as always, thank you so much for reading.



laundry (Photo credit: bies)

I think this is going to be a three part series, just like a good sermon, right? But my main points aren’t all going to start with the same letter. You’ll just have to find another way to remember them. 😉

This month I had a revelation.

Some of you are really smart and have already known this thing for years. It was such an unspoken assumption that you never thought to mention it to me. But it really was a new thought in my head.

Wanna hear it?

My revelation is simple.

It dawned on me as I was emptying the dishwasher that I will have to do this EVERY DAY.


Yes. It is no longer a once every couple days type of thing. It is an every day activity.

The same goes for laundry (well, almost every day).

The same goes for dinner.

These things must happen every single day.

When my family consisted only of me and my husband, we could go days before the dishwasher would be full enough to justify running it. Laundry was only as needed, maybe once or twice a week. We could whip up meals easily and in a pinch we could scrounge a series of snacks and call it good.

Not so once you have a bigger family.

These people want to eat all the time.

And they must be forced to wear clean clothes or, if you’re not watching, they’ll wear the same thing four days in a row and two of those days there was mud adventures and coloring time with sidewalk chalk and markers.

Plus they can’t do much of the heavy lifting chores themselves. That will change but for now, it mainly fall to the person who stays at home with this wild crew.

And that’s me.

Everyday Flexible Routines

Part of my problem is that I don’t love routines.

Traditionally they’ve made me feel confined and limited, bossed around, if you will.

Dishwasher, open and loaded with dishes

Dishwasher, open and loaded with dishes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But as I’ve tried to wrap my head around the necessity of routines, I’ve realized they also free me up to be able to keep one step ahead of the other people in my house.

If I keep up on the laundry, then nobody is bugging me for clean socks two minutes before the bus arrives.

If I make sure the dishwasher is emptied (by me or the child who is assigned that duty) then everyone else can more easily put their dirty dishes INTO said dishwasher.

If I maintain a rough routine, it allows me space to schedule all kinds of other things because I know the bare bones have been taken care of.

Here is an example of the everyday tasks I’ve admitted need to be done every day:

  1. Run a load of laundry, including folding and putting away (some days it doesn’t get put away but at least it is folded and clean).
  2. Unload dishwasher. If there are any dishes left in sink that didn’t make it in before I washed it, load ’em up.
  3. Make the stupid bed.
  4. Wipe down bathroom sink and make sure clothes and other items aren’t left in there.

See? That’s not so bad. Some of these routines only take a minute but they contribute to a sense of order and cleanliness. (Dorky word choice but dontcha just feel better knowing that you’re not going to get a glob of toothpaste on your hand when you turn on the faucet in the bathroom? That’s the power of cleanliness)

Tackle What Bugs You

My list probably won’t look the same as yours.

For example, it makes me crazy to leave our bed unmade. In my head, it makes my entire room look like a disaster, and maybe it is, but the unmade bed just accentuates that fact.

But that’s my thing, and it may not be yours.

Other people need to vacuum every day, or change the sheets daily. This seems like overkill to me, but if that’s what helps you keep your ship afloat, you should do it.

Some people are highly sensitive to crumbs and must sweep all floors in order to be assured the five second rule (you know the one where you’re eating something and it fall s on the floor? You’ve got five seconds to pick it up before it is officially dirty) can be safely and confidently implemented.

Whatever your thing, be it mail, garbage, a pristine refrigerator crisper drawer, go ahead and make it part of your routine, but I would encourage you to only include the things that really create a hitch in your day if left undone. Most people can get by without washing their windows every day, but it is harder to ignore the food demands of a family. See the difference?

You’re the Boss of Your Routine

If you start to teeter into being unable to leave something undone, or if you’re habitually late because you can’t leave your house until you lock and relock the doors five times each, then you may need to step back and re-evaluate the role of routine. Is it helping you or is it controlling you? Remember,

You’re the boss of your routine, and it exists to serve your purposes, not vice versa.

The goal of organizing the home is to develop an atmosphere of hospitality, peace and security. A messy jumble of a house might be fun for a while, but it soon it starts to feel cluttered, stressful and unwelcoming. There’s a balance to be found — organized but not rigid, tidy but not sterile. Take a little time, look around your home, and figure out what things might need a little more daily attention and they’ll be so much more manageable for you. You can do it, and then put your feet up and reward yourself with a good book, knowing that you’re creating a home you’d want to live in!

You offered some helpful insights after the last post, and I would love to hear some other things that work for you to stay on top of the business of running your home. Let’s help one another.

It is 7:45 in the morning, and I just discovered that I successfully put a child’s Pull-Up (overnight diaper, basically) into the washing machine last night and ran the load. All the clothes are now covered with granules of water absorbent gel from inside the used Pull-up. It’s decision time: should I put the clothes back in the washer and run it again? Or put the clothes into the dryer and hope the gel doesn’t melt to all the clothes and the inside of the dryer? Did I mention that I now live at my in-law’s home and it is THEIR dryer we’re discussing?? This is too difficult a decision for 7:45 in the morning.

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