Keeping a clean and tidy home [Practical Tips - Part 4 of 4]


When I went from barely keeping up with our messes to making a daily and hourly habit of keeping things tidy, I needed a plan.

First, I needed lots of God's help because I don't "naturally" keep things neat and tidy.  It takes lots of self-denial and self-discipline to make our bed everyday and clean up after every single meal.  Some of you can relate to this, and some of you are horrified.  It is genuinely hard for me to choose "chores" over doing things that I think are more fun like reading, playing with Lewis, blogging, seeing friends, visiting my husband at work, etc.

Then, through God's help and strength I developed a plan that would work for me.  I told people about it for accountability.  And I just did it.

Suddenly, I had a clean house pretty much all the time...and it wasn't as impossible as I expected.  In fact, it was manageable.  I felt like a person who started a weight loss journey and just achieved the first 10 pounds.  After I got past the initial week (which was admittedly very hard because things had built-up over time), I was cleaning clean things every day.  Wiping down counters and bathrooms was a quick and easy task because they were hardly dirty.  Picking up Lew's toys was no problem because there were only a few on the floor.  Keeping our bedroom tidy was simple because there was only one or two clothing items to deal with per day.  I thought keeping our house clean was going to mean I cleaned ALL THE TIME, but within two weeks I was AMAZED at how much time I had to do other things...guilt free!  Another incredible thing happened...I actually got AHEAD.  Because the basics were already clean, when I had time to tidy something, I got to work on an area of the house that hadn't gotten attention in a long time (think dusting window sills and wiping down cabinets).  Seriously?  What busy mom has time to clean her window sills?  I didn't think it was possible, but it is, folks...it is.  (okay, don't actually examine my window sills when you come over)

So here are a few things that really helped me:

1.  God's grace.
This is kind of obvious, but I really could not have done any of this without his amazing grace and power to deny myself the instant gratification of idleness.

2.  A motto:  Don't do it later...do it now!
I read this blog post and became totally convicted about my spirit of procrastination (it's a must read if you have the same issue).  This was the number one phrase I said to excuse my messy ways, "I'll get to it later".  I really meant well...I really thought I would get to it later but I never did.  OR when I did get to it, things were already so built up that it was a huge task.  God helped remind me in each situation..."Emily, don't put this off until later, just do it now."  Changing my thinking about cleaning was a major hurdle to cross before I could actually maintain my work.  I had to keep remembering to die to myself and my desire to do something fun that I wanted to do and instead take up my cross and be an industrious woman.

3.  A schedule.
The word schedule is slightly offensive to me.  I don't like planners, schedules, and lists...but I'm finding that they are crucial to organization, homemaking, and cleanliness.  I created a simple 5 day cleaning plan (with an every other week rotation) and hung it on our fridge.  I literally cross off what I do every night (and my husband's gentle encouragement to do this).  I don't get the whole list accomplished everyday, but even if I do 75%, our house is in great shape.

4.  Motivation.
I'm not one of those competitive, internally motivated people.  I need some external motivation to make things happen.  When I am feeling sluggish, and I REALLY don't want to do the dishes or make the bed, the holy spirit graciously brings things to mind to motivate me like...

  • The feeling of confidently welcoming Brad into a tidy home after work and hearing him say, "the house looks wonderful, thanks honey."
  • The feeling of being able to invite anyone into my home with little notice because I don't have to hide my mess first.
  • The feeling of freedom and rest during nap time when I actually don't have hours worth of cleaning to frantically accomplish, so I can actually relax without any guilt about the tasks I'm avoiding.
  • The feeling of doing what I know is right...there is blessing in obedience.
  • The feeling of being caught up.

I remember that these are the fruits of my labor...the fruits of obedience.  I might not be able to "enjoy" the easy thing and get the instant gratification of avoiding some dishes, but later I'm so glad I pushed through and persevered...because the rewards are worth it.

Women:  let's repent of our heart attitudes that reject sacrificial living and accept comfort and laziness.  Let's repent of our excuses, and our thinking that being clean and orderly doesn't really matter.  Let's dive into the word of God and develop a passion for living to the glory of Jesus Christ in our everyday environment and activities with the help of the holy spirit.  Let's be women that can be hospitable to outsiders, and offer refuge for our families.  Let's take our influence in our home seriously, and use it as a light for Jesus.

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As I mentioned before, I drafted this series quite a long time ago when Lewis was still crawling and I was still in an fairly easy stage of pregnancy.  It is interesting for me to read all of this, because on one hand, I still very much agree with all of this although I have not been able to put it into practice over the past few months.  Just last week I felt like I was at my mommy breaking point, and some of it was due to the fact that our house was in shambles.  I felt so tired of Brad coming home to a mess, Lewis playing in a mess, and digging through burp cloths strewn everywhere to find a clean one.  I finally had to hit my knees and cry out to God because the realization struck me again that I can't be the wife, mom, homemaker, daughter, friend, etc. that He wants me to be without His grace and strength.  It was kind of a relief to give up my own trying.  When I went back to the tasks at hand, I wrote down several rooms that needed to be picked up and told myself, "just 10 minutes per room, that's all I can handle!"  It was miraculous what happened.  God gave me energy and really expanded my time!  Just a short hour later, the whole house was picked up again and I felt loads better!  Not just because things were tidy, but because I was reminded that God is on my side and His help is real.  That afternoon Lewis's behavior improved and so did my mood.  When Brad came home, we had a relaxed evening because we weren't all scurrying to clean up after the kids went to bed.  It was a relief, and reminder to me that even in this really busy season, there is some value to keeping a clean and tidy home even if it means I can't mop the floors or deep clean the bathrooms.  

I'd love to hear from you!  Where are you at on this journey?  Is is a struggle?  How has God helped you manage your home?

Catch up on the series:
Part 1 - My Journey
Part 2 - Why it Matters
Part 3 - Avoiding Legalism
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