Heart Changes and Practical Habits for the Home Manager

Heart changes and habits for the home manager [from the jensens blog]
The heart stuff
About the only things that remain constant in our lives right now are busyness and change.  Accepting these realities has helped, as we slowly adapt our lifestyle to work well for 4 very young children.  There are challenges, but through prayer, reading, counsel and conversation with other moms, I'm encouraged that life doesn't have to always feel like drowning in 'things to do'.  God can and does provide the help, support and strength needed to fight the daily battles, small and large.  When I lean on His power and spirit, it's not that each challenge disappears, but I can handle it with more joy and perspective.  I'm continually encouraged that God offers practical wisdom for home management as I seek Him in my weaknesses...and I have a lot of them (let's face it, I'm pretty much clueless when it comes to running a household for 5, going on 6, people).

Here is another constant -
Regardless of how 'put together' I get our lifestyle, I still have to tweak, change, and re-think everything every few months.  Our kids grow and their needs change.  Our activities ebb and flow.  We go through seasons of illness, being indoors non-stop, to seasons of sunshine and playing for hours in the backyard.  I've noticed that I'm not going to find a full-proof plan for organization and home management, but instead it's important to just remain disciplined but flexible.  Having a flexible heart - one that EXPECTS change and a need to refine the system - has really helped me come to terms with always feeling like I can't quite stay on top of our lives.

And here is the truth - 
My hope cannot be found in the perfect management solution to a busy life.  Because no matter how organized I get, how clean our floors are, or how well I communicate the schedule to my husband - this is not going to satisfy.  When I make an idol out of homemaking and worship perfect systems, and I trust those systems to keep me feeling 'peaceful and happy', they make me a slave.  I'm suddenly tossed too and fro by how well I've adhered to my own system of rules, and I proportionately despair or rejoice according to my performance.  The only thing I can rest my identity in is Christ, and I need to constantly remind myself that my peace and joy depends on a faithful, enduring God.

With that being established, I do still enjoy working out the kinks in our home management system, mostly because I think diligence in this area is a way to show Christ's love my husband and children.  It also frees me of some obstacles and burdens that can cause me to feel so overwhelmed that I can't look or think beyond my immediate needs and frustrations.  

Good organization and time management frees the manager to focus on the people instead of the systems...and this is something I want to experience in our home!

The practical stuff
So here are some practical things that have helped me manage our home well in this busy season of life:
  • The daily discipline of maintenance cleaning:  
    • Each day I have very basic maintenance tasks that I really try to stay on top of, like loading / unloading the dishwasher, going to bed with a clean kitchen, sweeping and mopping the floors, and picking up toys.  When I do these simple tasks (although they take a lot of time energy), it helps everything and everyone function better.  
  • The weekly discipline of a cleaning / home management schedule:  
    • Several months ago, I looked at my current schedule and slotted in additional responsibilities on set days of the week.  Not to make a strict law to live by, but to help me get into the routine of doing laundry, organizing papers, cleaning bathrooms, deep-cleaning the kitchen, and vacuuming on a rotation.  I honestly evaluated the time and energy I have each day, and tried to fit these tasks into nap times.  It's very difficult to do these tasks with the kid's help while they are awake (at their current ages and stages), so swift execution and staying on track has been key!
  • The Monday morning habit of evaluating our week:  
    • We keep a calendar on our refrigerator of just one week at a time.  That's about all we can digest around here!  Each Monday morning, I take 15-30 minutes to transfer our google calendar onto our fridge so Brad and I can both see our week.  I note times and days to grocery shop and run errands, or things we might need to find childcare for.  Starting off Monday with this habit really helps me focus on our week!  I've been working on my own 'planner' for over a month now, trying to make something that fits the way my own brain things and processes to-do lists.  It's helping a lot!
  • The identification of 1-2 areas of training we are addressing with children:  
    • Not long ago, a veteran mom challenged me to stop being overwhelmed with the 10,000 things I need to teach our boys before they move out, and start focusing on one thing at a time.  Yes, sometimes things overlap, but intentionally identifying this area each week and writing it down has helped me make progress, see my goals, and stay focused.  Here are some examples from past weeks:  immediate obedience, potty training, establishing a morning routine (make bed, pray, eat), using hands for helping / serving, etc.  
  • The practice of using transitional activities in stressful moments:  
    • At least 2-5 times a day, every one of my children seems to meltdown around the same time.  It can be over something large or small, but it happens - due to hunger, sleepiness, stress, routine change, sharing toys etc.  I used to (and still do) just feel panicked in those moments.  Anger rises or I just want to cry because I'm overwhelmed with needs.  But on the advice of an older mom, I finally filled my back pocket with some planned strategies to help in those situations like; start singing songs, practice rhymes, read books aloud, turn on kid's music and do actions to the songs, change locations in the house, offer a snack break, or pull out a super exciting activity that they rarely get to do.  Just FYI, some days I do all of this to absolutely no avail (and then we pray and wait for daddy to come home).  But thankfully, it's now my habit to switch into these activities before just getting frustrated!  I've been challenged to actively learn and build a repertoire of these things, instead of just parenting by the seat of my pants in stressful moments.
  • The acceptance of areas that are "good enough":  
    • A favorite blogger recently posted about this, and I realized I practice this skill in my home management.  It's impossible to be perfectly on top of everything at all times, so it's been helpful to pre-identify areas in life where I'm okay with accepting "good enough" in this season.  We eat very simple meals, and I try to feed my family balanced nutrition, but I don't stress about it.  I try to minimize screen time, but if I need to let my kids watch a show or part of a movie on really hard days, I don't do it in guilt.  I try to keep our papers organized, but we also have a box of 'things to file someday' that we are okay with.  I don't want to let extreme expectations steal my joy and prevent me from loving my children well.  
The goal of these practical tasks is yes, to steward the things and responsibilities God has entrusted to us, but primarily they are implemented for the sake of freedom.  Being organized and working on the discipline of home management (regardless of home much you work at or outside of the home) truly helps you love others as Christ has loved.

Why am I sharing this with you?
These skills and habits might be obvious to a lot of women, especially those with task-driven personalities.  But for those of us who are more driven by creativity or relationships, understanding the importance of tasks, self-discipline, and routine can be a challenge.  When I got married, I barely understood how to keep my dirty dishes in check, let alone how to manage a bustling household.  It's been a long arduous process for me to honestly evaluate my heart desires alongside God's word, and ask for His help to be diligent in areas where I'm not naturally gifted.  Besides strengthening my theological understanding of my responsibilities to my family, I've benefitted GREATLY as women share what works for them.  I'm thankful for blog posts, books, and conversations with others which have helped me practically understand what might work best for our family.

So if you don't have any systems yet, and you feel intimidated about getting started, know that you are not alone!  Even the most 'godly' women aren't born knowing how to love a husband and children well through home management.  That's why Titus 2 says we have to teach each other how to love like Christ!




In the comments:
What practical home management skill has helped 'free you' to love your family better?


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