A very common thing for Rachel and I to hear from other women is, "How do you do it all? I don't know where you find the time!" or "You two are so organized. I wish I could be like that." Today I would like to take a few moments to answer those two questions by dispelling the long-standing myth that some women (the "elite") are just naturally blessed super-organizers while the rest of us are doomed to a lifetime of chaos and clutter. Did you notice I said "us"? That's because most people who know me (apart from immediate family) would be shocked to know that my natural tendency is to be lazy, messy and chaotic. My love for checklists and "to do" list printables does not spring from my natural ability to be organized, but out of necessity due to my lack of self discipline.
You see, when we talk about being "organized", we are really talking about learning habits of self-discipline.
It is true that there are some people who have a natural gift of organizing parties, ministry events, fundraisers, etc. Rachel and I love to plan and host events. We have a sweet friend at our church who is so creative at organizing children's birthday parties. But that's not what I am talking about today. I am talking about a daily discipline or habit of running our homes in such a way as to be able to accomplish the tasks that God has given to us as women, wives and mothers.
This doesn't come natural to many of us. Mostly it is because of a lack of habit training in our younger years that carries over to adulthood. Many of us who were never raised to develop habits of neatness, orderliness, time management, etc. struggle terribly at keeping a home once we become wives and mothers. We look at other women and marvel at everything they are able to accomplish. We are amazed at how organized they appear.
But what we are seeing is not a woman that is so much "organized" as she is a woman who employs dozens of small, self-disciplined habits that add up to a well-ordered home.
Are you ready for the some really good news? Habits can be learned at any age and at any time. It's never too late to begin to change our habits. Would you like even better news? God will give you wisdom and help if you ask. He wants us to be fruitful as homemakers. Pray and ask Him to help you as you begin taking tiny, consistent baby steps toward organizing your home and your days. If this is your desire, then I hope you will find my 5 Simple Steps for Organizing a Busy Mama's Day helpful. It is the result of years of prayer, failures, trial and error and, ultimately......victory!
This is where we all have to start. We cannot even begin to find order to our days until we know what that looks like. Now, if you are not in the habit of ordering your days, you may fall into the temptation of swinging the pendulum too far and following a strict schedule. I am not a big fan of schedules. It's far too easy to fall slave to a schedule and miss opportunities for learning and fellowship with our children through out the day. We should be able to take small detours when ministry and fellowship opportunities arise inside and outside of our homes without feeling like our day was "ruined" or we didn't accomplish anything because we didn't stick to the schedule. However, although I am not a fan of schedules, I do find tremendous value in creating a basic "ebb and flow" to each day.
There are 4 very important things you need when creating a routine to your day: a Bible, notebook, pen and your husband's input. Whenever I feel that my life is beginning to creep back into chaos, I find a quiet spot to pray and reflect on my priorities as a wife and mother. I open my notebook and begin to jot down a list of my priorities, beginning with the most important and going down the line. Beside each priority item, I jot down a few notes where I realize I need to improve or if I have been slack or inconsistent. It may look something like this:
1. Love my husband: Do better at preparing his lunch the night before work, send the kids to bed earlier for more alone time?
2. Love and train my children: Be consistent with Bible devotions every morning, potty train toddler, story time after lunch daily, be diligent about correcting speech habits, etc.
3. Homeschool: Rise at 6:30 to begin our school day earlier (Is this feasible?) Reconsider our school routine, not getting it all done. How can we pare down?
4. Keeping the home: How can I better divide the morning chores so we can begin school a half hour earlier? Need to assign sock folding to 1 to 2 children.
As I am writing, I try to take into consideration the things that are important to my husband. For instance, my husband does not like to come home to unmade beds. This is something that really annoys him. I make it a priority to make my bed first thing every morning before our school day starts It is also on each of my kid's Daily Checklists as well.
After I have prioritized my responsibilities, I am ready to create a flow to my day. In my home, it looks a little like this:
breakfast and group school time
individual school work (try to spend 1/2 hour in the morning playing/reading/teaching toddler)
lunch and read aloud
nap/quiet time (mom answer emails, phone calls, blog, etc.)
laundry folding or freezer cooking
You will notice there is no particular time that any chore or activity has to begin or end, although I have a general idea in my mind that breakfast should be around 8:30, school work should last until around 12:00, supper prep should probably begin no later than 4:00, etc. It is not a schedule set in stone, just a general ebb and flow to our day based on our priorities as a family. This is the single most important thing you can do to begin ordering your home.
This is a habit that once you begin, you will be lost without it. It is simply the practice of sitting down each weekend (I choose Sunday evening) and planning out your week. After checking the family calendar, I fill in activities for each day. It's also helpful to go over the "to do" list with my husband and teens, jotting down everyone's work schedule, etc. If you would like to know how using a "to do" can keep you super organized, check out Rachel's article: Keeping Organized With a Simple "To Do" List. You can also download and print Rachel's personal "to do" list form (4 pages to choose from) by clicking on the image below.
Now that Mom has her checklist, the kids need theirs! This is especially true for homeschooling families. Homeschooling mamas get pulled in so many different directions and it can be quite overwhelming for a mother to, not only remember every school and chore assignment each child is supposed to be doing, but follow them around to see that they are doing it! The answer: a daily checklist. In our home, I do not find it necessary for my kids over 12 or 13 years to use a checklist. By that age, they should be mature enough to complete their responsibilities without Mom looking over their shoulder. However, for the kids still learning responsibility, or in the case of an older child who has not learned habits of diligence and organization, the checklist may be necessary. I do not allow any free time for my children until their checklist has been completed. For a child that is especially struggling to be responsible, I need to approve their checklist before they are allowed free time. You can print our freeDaily Checklist by clicking on the image below.
Ladies, I am not exaggerating when I say I could write an entire blog post on using the humble little egg timer to teach yourself (and your kids) time management and self discipline. From music lessons, to timed reading, to quiet times........the usefulness of the egg timer to a busy mama is endless!! For today, I will just tell you how I use it to help me personally be more organized and disciplined with my time. I am the kind of person who can focus singularly on one activity to the exclusion of all others. Also, once I begin an activity, such as creating printables or writing a blog article, time tends to slip away and I am only brought back to reality by the screeching of my toddler when he is not getting his way. Can anyone else relate? Maybe you don't get stuck on a project like I do, but you find yourself sitting down to "check Facebook" and look up an hour later to find that you should have started supper 30 minutes ago and the toddler has destroyed the house. I have a very simple solution: the egg timer. Before I sit down at the computer or iPhone or any other activity that tends to "trap" me, I first decide how much time I am able to give to it. I may decide that I can only use 45 minutes of the toddler's nap time because I have phone calls to make. So, before I sit down, I set my timer for 45 minutes. When the timer goes off, I know that I need to stop and get back to other activities or chores. I have only recently begun to employ this method for being disciplined with my time, but I wish I had started it years ago. I love the egg timers that are shaped like eggs, but when I was looking onAmazon recently, I saw they have a ton of other cute designs that would be fun for the kids to use!
There's really not a lot to say for this last simple step to organizing your day. But I can think of no greater tool than the simple dry erase board. If I had to pick from all my organizational tools: egg timer, to do lists, etc., I would choose a dry erase board. They are so versatile and can be used 100 different ways to help you organize. For many years, I had a large one hanging on the side of my fridge with each of my kids' names written in permanent marker.
Every evening, I would write down with dry erase their responsibilities under each name. The advantage to this was that I could add or change their responsibilities according to activities or needs for that particular day. The disadvantage was that it got very tedious writing it out every evening, and if I got busy or forgot we had a more chaotic day. That's why I switched to the Daily Checklist.
In more recent years (or in other words, as I am getting older) I find that having a small dry erase board on the front of my refrigerator is invaluable. Sometimes I use it to write notes to myself of things I think of throughout the day that I am afraid I will forget. If I have a large freezer cooking day planned, I will write down all the recipes I plan to make and cross them off as I go. Many times I will take important tasks off my weekly "to do" list such as phone calls and write them very large on my dry erase board with a giant arrow or star that says, "Do NOT Forget!!". I'm telling you, ladies. It will revolutionize your life! Here is the little one that fits just perfectly on the front of a fridge door:
I hope that these 5 steps will help to bring you closer to order, discipline and organization in your day. Remember that learning new habits takes time and there is grace aplenty when we slip back into old habits. (If you saw my laundry room right now, you'd think I had completely backslidden! lol) When you do find yourself slipping back into chaos, go back to step number one. Find a quiet spot to sit and pray. Ask God for wisdom to order your day and organize your home. Then go back to practicing your new habits of self discipline. You, your husband, your children and your home will be greatly blessed for it!
If you have your own favorite idea for bringing organization to a busy mama's day, please share it here in the comments. We might feature it on our facebook page. Also, don't forget to follow us on Pinterest for other homemaking and homeschooling ideas.
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