Balance….it’s not what you think

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Balance.  We all need it.  It seems we are all searching for ways to get there, too.  It’s no easy task to live a balanced life these days!  The definition of balance is a means of judging or deciding and/or mental and emotional steadiness.  I’ve often asked myself, how do I balance it all?  With four kids ranging in age from 18 down to 3, it’s hard keeping up with all the activities, chores, homeschooling, Sunday School teaching, co-op preparations, a new Sunday night program I’m starting in August, husband pleasing, menu planning, grocery shopping, meal prep, etc., etc., etc.  That doesn’t even include the schedule or my times alone with the Lord.  I often feel frazzled, and it’s no wonder.  Busyness is taking over our culture.  If we aren’t busy, we question if we’re doing enough.

I seem to feel more “balanced” when I have a To-Do List.  I can’t seem to function without one.  Routines are also key.  Doing the same things every day in the exact same order. They don’t have to be a certain time, as long as they are in the same order. If I don’t have a To-Do List or follow my routines, I get nothing productive done.  I also have to set alarms on my phone for everything, or I’d forget.  Things like gymnastics, story time at the library, when to pick my kids up from events, trash day, etc.  Is this normal?  Or, am I just frazzled?  LOL!

I always thought that balance in life meant figuring out how to make everything in my day work out smoothly, without stress. It was something that I had to schedule correctly, work through, or make happen. I even thought that praying for a more balanced life was a good thing, and it is. But, I think balance is not exactly what I’ve been thinking it is.  I recently wrote this post about resources I have used to help me have a clean and organized home.  One of those resources that I’m reading through currently is a book called Unstuffed. It deals with our stuff/belongings, our mind, our schedules, and our spirits.  And, I’m finding out that balance really has nothing to do with what “I” do. I can’t do anything to become more balanced. I can only find rest. Rest is what keeps me balanced. Why did it take me SO LONG to realize this? I mean, it’s clearly laid out in the creation account of Genesis. God did all his work in six days, and on the seventh He rested. He didn’t need to rest, He was just giving us an example to follow. Yet, in this day and age, we don’t see that NEED for rest. We feel like we have to go 100 miles a minute, and keep pushing through to get just one more thing done.  I think it’s also making sure that after we get a full day of rest once a week, that we focus on four areas to keep us from that frazzled state.

  1. Spiritual – Remain steadfast in God’s Word and in a healthy prayer life.  Keep sin at bay by asking for forgiveness often and repenting or turning from the sin.  Forgive others as the Lord has forgiven you.  Be thankful in all circumstances and for all things.  We are truly blessed.  Serve others in love.
  2. Physical – Eat healthy foods and get active.  Whether that means walking or a full on workout.  Exercise is great for your body, but it’s also great for your mood.  Give it a try and see for yourself.  I enjoy water aerobics when the weather is nice, Pilates for strength training, yoga for stretching and relaxation, and I’m checking into T-Tapp which is something I’ve just learned about.
  3. Mental – Feed your mind.  Never stop learning.  I always have books on hand to read, and now we have blogs, and articles all over the internet.  Learn something new.  Keep your mind active.  Fill it with good things, and stay away from negative things that can cause a negative attitude or mindset.
  4. Emotional – Be a friend.  Stay positive.  Think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, and lovely.  Laugh a lot!  Do things that make you happy.  I’ve recently discovered that I enjoy doing art.  It brings me joy.  Make it a point to be in contact with people who encourage you, challenge you, and lift you up.

So, I believe to have a balanced life, we must REST.  It’s the key.  What are some ways you try to remain balanced?  Do you think REST is important?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  I am planning to continue studying up on this.  I recently ordered the Bible Study called Living a Life of Balance (Women of Faith Series).  Can’t wait to get started on it and see what it says about having a balanced life!

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Summer Projects

Since we homeschool, projects usually have to wait until summer break.  Things like painting, huge decluttering sessions, home improvements, etc.

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A couple of summer’s ago, I refinished my oak dining room table.  Last summer I began the Kon Mari Method of decluttering and simplifying.  This summer is no different.  I have several things on my project list!  Here are some of those things, and I don’t know if I’ll even be able to complete them all!

  • Major Basement Declutter…this in and of itself is a HUGE job.  Our basement has become a catch all…and is really in bad shape.  I can’t wait to get it cleared out!
  • Move the toddler out of our bedroom and into her sister’s.  This means a new bed (hopefully a trundle) for them to share, and some rearranging of dressers and chest of drawers.
  • Potty training the toddler completely.  (Since the toddler was just mentioned, I figured I’d add this one in!  She is close to being finished, but still not 100%).
  • Kitchen Declutter, paint, and fix some minor cabinet issues.
  • Bathroom remodel (this one is mostly being hired out).
  • New Entry Doors.
  • Landscaping has been framed already, but now plants need to go in.
  • Make a head board for our bed.

Those are JUST the house projects!  Other projects include:

  • Sell baby items.
  • Price, list and sell old curriculum.  I also have a curriculum sale I’m going to that will help with this.
  • Purchase the rest of the curriculum for next year.
  • Write up lesson plans for our homeschool next year.
  • Make a working schedule for our school year.
  • Create a better chore system with earned money.
  • Create a better bedtime routine for the youngest children.

Something that I MUST do in the midst of all these projects is to remember to HAVE FUN on the summer break….things like swimming, going to the zoo, weekend getaways, summer camps, a family vacation, Royals games, and art days are planned.  Sometimes in the busyness of the summer projects, I can forget to stop the work, and have fun with the kids.  This year, I want to be different.  Memories are waiting to be made, relationships are longing to be built, joy is ready to be had.

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What are your summer plans?  Projects you’d like to complete?  FUN you want to do?

 

 

Resources for a Clean & Organized Home

clean-571679_1280I have been doing pretty well with my routines, and things have been shaping up around my house!  Yay!  So, I figured that I would give you all some FABULOUS resources that have helped me.  I have learned to be organized, and keep a home, all while homeschooling!  It can be done!  So, below I will have a list of awesome resources that have helped me along the way.  They aren’t in any particular order, but I will comment on each.

  • Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley a.k.a. The FlyLady – This resource may be one of my Top Picks!  It is extremely practical in helping you learn how to start creating routines and helping you develop good habits.  There is also a daily email reminder list you can get if you like, but the book alone is a HUGE help!  It was often the only encouragement I would get, and it was so encouraging!  Marla truly cares for her Fly Babies (as we are called), and really wants to help people.  Find the website with all kinds of helpful information here.
  • The House That Cleans Itself by Mindy Starns Clark – This was another practical book that helped me to reorganize my home so that cleaning was not so difficult.  It taught me things such as keeping like things together so they are easily found, and placing bins in places that seem to collect messes.
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – I wrote a review of this book last summer.  Here is that review:
    My REVIEW of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (BEFORE implemetation of her method}

    Well, to start off, I have to say that The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was something like I’ve never read before.  I’ve read many books about decluttering, cleaning, and organizing and this one was nothing like the others.  Not at all!  Obviously, by the amount of books I’ve read on the topic, this is an area that I struggle with and have struggled with for most of my life, if not all of it.  In fact, I am a huge fan and follower of FlyLady’s principles and have been for several years.  I have read her book, Sink Reflections, many times.  But, even with her ideas, I still struggle with the 15 minute decluttering sessions, and the detailed cleaning.  I have gone through some great periods of sticking to the daily routines, though, and I did like that part of FlyLady’s program, because if you follow it, it does work.  (But, again, I could never get past the DAILY routines to fit in the rest of the program!)

    So, when I saw some recent posts about the KonMarie Method, I was quite intrigued.  It is the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.  The posts and articles that I read were written by people who had read this book, and who had implemented the ideas or method into their own lives.  They were all very enthusiastic about it and even showed pictures and videos of some of the implementation.  It looked quite inspiring, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book and see if it would be something that would work for me. 

    Now that I have finished the book, I have mixed feelings about it.  I will detail those shortly.  I think some of the ideas are so different that they took me by surprise and at first I didn’t like them because they were so different.  But, as I continued to read, I came to understand more fully the reasoning behind them and think it might be worth a try to begin implementing them.  However, there were still some things that bothered me.  For instance, the almost worship like behavior of belongings.  That is not something I want to do or ever plan to do!

    So, I will start with the aspects of the KonMarie Method that I do like.  I like that she believes that tidying a little every day will cause you to be tidying forever.  I am not a naturally tidy person, so I would LOVE to not have to be tidying forever, and apparently if you use this method, you won’t have to ever tidy again.  (I do have to mention that her definition of tidying is not cleaning.  It is decluttering.  Tidying is decluttering, and if you do it her way just once, you’ll never have to do it again.  I LIKE that, I like it a lot!)  I also like that she believes that storage experts are hoarders.  That cracks me up!  I can definitely see her point.  I like that she suggests sorting by category, not by location.  I have always decluttered by the room.  I would start in the bedroom by sorting my clothes into keep, give, and trash piles.  Then, I would organize them back into the drawers or closet.  I would go through my entire bedroom sorting and organizing this way until the room was all the way decluttered and re-organized, then I would give it a good cleaning.  After I was done with my bedroom, I’d move on to the next room and repeat.  With the KonMarie method, you don’t go room to room, you go category by category.  Clothes are first, then books, and the list continues all the way to mementos or sentimental items.  At first this threw me way off, but I grew to really like the idea behind working in this fashion.  The next thing I really like is that you are to ask yourself when discarding, “Does this item spark joy?”  If it does not, you tell it goodbye; if it does bring joy, you keep it.  It sounds wonderful to only keep those things that bring joy.  It might become a tad tricky if your pots and pans don’t spark joy, but I do think the reasoning behind her having you ask this for each item makes a lot of sense. She says that if it sparks joy, you will take better care of the item, and therefore, it will last longer and continue to spark joy for a very long time.  I like that she has a particular order of categories to follow when decluttering.  I need help, and her giving the instructions with an order is very helpful.  I like that every item is supposed to be stored vertically.  This includes clothing!  Sounds absolutely crazy, but the pictures and videos I’ve seen are amazing.  This way you truly can see everything you own in a glance, and much less space is taken up.  It’s quite genius, actually!  I like that she says about books, “Sometime means never.”  If I haven’t read it, I most likely won’t read it.  It’s a hard thing to swallow as I’m a lover of books, but it is pretty accurate, I’m afraid.  She also says that the books to keep are those that belong in the Hall of Fame.  I have some of those books, and they are definitely keepers!  I like that when it comes to storage, she says that simplicity is best.  You don’t have to go out and buy expensive storage solutions.  I like that storage spaces are not to be scattered throughout the house.  I like that she suggests keeping things out of the bath/shower and kitchen sink areas.  At first, I thought this was crazy!  But, if you just get your bath/shower items out as you use them, and the soaps/brushes out as needed for cleaning dishes, how much simpler would it be to clean the shower and sink areas?  And, how much nicer and less cluttered those spaces would always look!  I also like how she says that we should appreciate the items we have.  It helps us to take proper care of them if we are thankful for them.  I have to agree.  These are many of the things that I liked about the book.

    Now I will share those things that I didn’t like so much.  I don’t like that photos are to be cherished for who we are now.  It seems like she is promoting getting rid of old photos and there are way too many memories in old photos for me.  Maybe if I stored them properly in a memory book, and that was an item I loved and brought me joy, I could see her point.  But, just discarding anything that is not current?  I don’t think so!  I don’t like that she says to forget about flow planning and frequency of use.  To me, there are some things that are conveniently located for a purpose (because of flow) and others that are placed where they are placed because of how frequently they are used.  So, this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  Maybe when I begin implementing the rest of her method, it will make more sense, but it doesn’t right now.  Another thing I do not like is the recommendation to empty my bag every single day.  (She is speaking of your purse and/or briefcase).  Why would I do this?  It baffles my mind, even after she explained why, I still don’t get it.  The next thing I do not like is making the top shelf of bookcases a personal shrine.  Won’t do it.  Never will.  I don’t worship things, and that is definitely a cultural thing I will not be implementing.  I also do not like how often it is mentioned to speak to your belongings, greet them, thank them, allow them to help you, and the mention of good fortune that will come when tidying.  I do believe that we should be grateful for what the Lord has blessed us with, and maybe I can turn these suggestions into having a grateful attitude to the Lord rather than to the item itself.  It’s just all kind of creepy and it’s sprinkled throughout the entire book.  For those reasons, I’m not sure I can recommend reading the book.  However, there were many good ideas, and I do plan to try to implement them.  I’m actually anxious to get started and plan to re-evaluate my review after I’ve tried implementing the KonMarie Method in my own home.  Tidying may begin as soon as tomorrow! 🙂

    Now that it’s been almost a year since writing this review, I can give a small update.  I still agree with most all that I wrote!  I did end up getting rid of A TON of stuff!  I think it was approximately 20 boxes and 30 trash bags of stuff, and I was unable to even get to my linens or kitchen!  The one thing that I do disagree with is that once you do this tidying (decluttering) you will never have to do it again.  Because I am a homeschooler, books will always need to be paired down, and because I have kids, toys and kid’s clothing will always have to be paried down.  However, if I lived alone, this would be true!  My favorite thing that was implemented (besides the feeling I got from getting rid of so much stuff) was the drawer organization.  It has made a HUGE difference!  I love the way my drawers look ALL the time, and I can literally see everything I own in every drawer.  I hope to continue with the tidying this summer by finishing the kitchen, and working through all the stuff in our basement.  I can’t wait!

  • Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup – This is a book I’ve most recently been reading.  It is also a lot about decluttering, not only our homes, but our schedules and minds.  I am not completely finished with this book, but I already know it’s one I want to add to this list.

Okay!  There you go.  These are four of my all time favorite resources for helping me to get my home clean and organized.  And, when my  home is clean and organized, it also makes me a better wife, mom, homeschool teacher, and friend.  And, I am better prepared to serve with a joyful heart.  Which reminds me of one more book!  Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver.  Check it out!

I hope these books can help you as they have helped me.  I imagine many of them can be checked out at a library.  Enjoy!  And, because I love to read, I’d love to hear of other great books that you’ve read on this topic!  Please share!

More Chaos, Less Order

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I am going to be completely honest here, and say that one of my all time biggest struggles is keeping a clean home.  Oh, I try to.  And, there’s been times in my life where I’ve done better than others.  But, it is truly a real struggle.  I don’t really know the reason why.  I think part of the reason is that I’m a perfectionist.  You may be thinking….”Well, if you’re a perfectionist, it would make sense that the house is always in perfect order.”  You would think so, however, I’ve found that my perfectionism also can cause utter chaos.  I rationalize that since I don’t have time to make it perfect like I want it, I might as well not do it at all.  It’s really pretty silly for me to think that way, because doing SOMETHING is certainly better than doing NOTHING.  But, sometimes I just feel so overwhelmed and almost paralized because I just can’t keep up with it all.  I have four kids, and with each addition, it seems to have gotten more difficult.  And, this overwhelmed feeling leads to much guilt, and feelings of failure.  It’s a pretty dreadful place to be.

I’ve read numerous books on cleaning and organization.  I’ve even implemented many plans.  I definitely have some favorite books I could recommend on the topic, and I may just list them at some point in case this is a struggle for anyone else.  But, the truth of the matter is….unless you put into practice what you read, and not just for a short time, but for the long haul, it will not stick.  It’s really quite a bummer.  I’ve often wished I could hire out help for keeping a clean house, but I am a stay at home momma, so I should be able to handle this!  I’ve had some great friends and family come and help me during some extra overwhelming times in my life.  They proved to be such a blessing, but the guilt returns once again when I’m unable to maintain what they helped me to create.

The longer I struggle with this, and the more I pray about it, I am coming to the conclusion that it’s really a whole lot about habits.  We get into these bad habits, like:

  • Leaving things out because we think it takes too long to put them away
  • Rushing to leave, so we don’t have time to pick up first (this is also a time management problem that seems to go along with the chaos of a messy home)
  • Spending too much time on screens….t.v., social media, phones
  • Sleeping in when getting up earlier would be a better choice
  • Staying up too late…then being too tired to accomplish much the next day
  • Procrastinating
  • Having TOO MUCH STUFF
  • Allowing things to build up to an overwhelming state
  • Not taking time out for recharging (I recharge by listening to Worship music, spending time in prayer and Bible Study, enjoying nature drawing and journaling, art, and date nights with my husband, or girls night’s out)
  • Not having a plan for meals…until the last minute
  • Not having a plan for each day

And, once bad habits are formed, they are VERY HARD to break!

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I’m currently reading yet another book on clutter.  I do find that reading the books help me to get motivated to make the necessary changes.  Since begining to read this latest book, I have gone back to making daily To-Do Lists.  It really helps me to maintain good habits.  Right now my list consists of:

  • Making My Bed as soon as I rise
  • Getting Ready for the day (Shower, Dress, Hair, Face)
  • Making and Eating Breakfast
  • Bible Study & Prayer Time
  • Daily Chores
  • Homeschooling

After I complete all of these things, I add to my list other things I’d like to accomplish that I may or may not get to.  For instance, right now, I am preparing for my son’s graduation so I have on my list to get the address labels made for the graduation invitations.  I’m also in the midst of planning homeschooling for next year, writing lesson plans, selling old curriculum, etc.  So, I add those things so I don’t forget anything.  And, if I don’t get to those things, I just move them to the list for the next day.  Having a list has really helped me stay better on task each day, feel more organized, and accomplish more. It has also helped me to prioritize the most important things.  So, for me a list is really necessary!  I can’t believe I allowed myself to stop using one for awhile.  Chaos returns with a vengeance when I don’t!

The last couple books I’ve read have really focused a lot on getting rid of so.much.stuff.  It’s impossible to keep a home clean when the clutter is overtaking it.  And, not really just clutter, but any access items.  We don’t NEED all the stuff that we own, but we just keep bringing more in!  It’s especially hard with kids and toys.  And, homeschooling makes it tough, too.  But, I do feel so much better emotionally, when my house feels like it’s been cleaned out.  Last summer, I did a major declutter.  I went through all the bedrooms, closets, clothes, toys, books, etc, and packed up probably 15-20 bags to give away.  It felt awesome!  That was after the last book I read on this subject.  I’ve learned, though, that after almost a year, it is something that needs to be done probably quarterly.  Otherwise more stuff keeps coming in!  With birthdays and Christmas gifts, with homeschooling books and supplies, with new clothes and shoes, and growing children….the stuff justs continues to accumulate.  And, once again, I’m feeling the suffocation of an unorganized, cluttered house.  And, honestly, I’ve learned you really can’t organize clutter.  It’s nice to organize those things you love and are keeping.  But, I must get rid of the rest!

So, since realizing I once again need to purge….I’m planning to tackle what I didn’t accomplish last year.  That includes the linen closet, bathroom cabinets, kitchen cabinets, and revamping of the kids clothes, shoes, and toys, and the most dreaded of all….the BASEMENT…otherwise known as the dungeon.  I’m actually hoping to get my entire family on board for the basement, and hoping to tackle it all over one weekend.  I don’t know if I will be able to accomplish it all in one weekend, but I do think it’s a great goal.  So, hopefully I can post an update with the before and after pictures!  And, if I’m able to maintain by developing GOOD habits to replace my bad ones, I will share my awesome list of books I’ve used over the years that have helped me a ton!

So, do you struggle with keeping a clean home?  Clutter?  Disorganization?  Have you conquered these struggles in your life?  If so, I’d love to hear how you got from Chaos to Order!