Making Room

The other day, I was pretty annoyed with the family at large for not doing their share, or any share, really, of the housework. I’d spent the whole day working, and the whole lot of them were gone. Disappeared. Two of them cp-henry-play-blockshad an acceptable reason: they were at work! But the rest of them? Not so much. And they heard about it.  Later that evening, as we went about our Advent devotions, I suggested the song “People Look East”.  The older children got the message right away, but the younger ones were cheerfully oblivious.

Actually, I really like that song, don’t you?  It’s hopefully expectant.  We make time to prepare our hearts and our homes for the coming of our Lord, and why not?  I would tidy up the house for any other expected guest!  Maybe we shouldn’t go quite so far as Old Befana, who is so focused on cleaning that she misses the Lord entirely, but a little prudent cleaning, I think, will not go amiss.cp-tommy-play-living-room Our hearts are very much influenced by our environments. It’s a challenge to feel at peace when the home is cluttered and messy. It’s easier to be calm and recollected when one’s spaces are well-ordered and attractive.  At least, I think so.

It’s a constant battle for me to keep things neat, partly because I have a very large family, and partly because I have a bit of my father’s propensity to collect and save things.  I go through cycles of accumulating and purging, and my desk is almost always covered with books and papers and the detritus of my daily life.  If you want to know what’s going on with me, just glance at my desk! img_4945

This Advent, I’m looking for breathing room. I’m trying to work around the challenges and find space to be the me that doesn’t just spend her days taking care of an active family. There’s a me who loves to write, to photograph, to make art, useful and otherwise. There’s a me who makes home nice and enjoys it as a creative activity. There’s a me who reads and takes bubble baths, sometimes simultaneously. And there’s a me who has time to spend in quiet prayer with my Lord.  I’ve been missing this version of me.

Today, my desk is tidy and stocked with art supplies. My camera battery is charged. The main areas of the house are actually pretty neat.  There’s room to think and create and be.  And this is just where I want to be.  Today and always.

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Three Things: Housekeeping from the End of The Rope

This season that I’m in right now, it’s a demanding one. If anyone ever told you that parenting teenagers was easy, they weren’t doing it right. I also have a baby and a husband home 24/7, a small farm and a large household to manage, and six of eight children to homeschool. Me time? It doesn’t exist.

I’m hanging on at the end of my rope by the skin of my teeth.

And lots of days – most days – it’s a challenge to keep up with even the most basic housekeeping tasks.

One day, not too long ago, I sat myself down and we had a talk. “What if,” I asked myself, “instead of worrying about all the things, you just committed to keeping up with three?”

“Three things?” I answered myself, with no small amount of hope and relief. “Why, anybody can do just three things!”

After a little bit of brainstorming, we came up with three things that would have the biggest impact on our well-being and peace of mind.

Make The Bed

A bed is a very large expanse of horizontal surface, and leaving it a mess of tangled sheets and discarded pajamas is visual chaos. It takes me five minutes to make the bed, pick up the laundry, and put our water glasses and coffee mugs in the sink. The payoff is one neat room I can step into throughout the day when I need a respite. Even just knowing it’s there is a balm to my weary soul.

After I make the bed, I lay out Evie’s changing things. She sleeps in my room, and it’s just easier this way.

Wash All the Laundry

There are ten of us in this house, and skipping the laundry for even one day means overflowing hampers and a heck of a lot of work for the laundress. It’s an easy one to let slide, though. I can often get it all washed and hung by 8AM, but sometimes, I’m hanging the second load at lunchtime and running my third “specialty” load in the afternoon. As long as it gets done by the time I have to start dinner, though, I don’t feel so harried.

Blue jeans hung to dry near the fire. Each load of laundry hung saves approximately $3 on my electric bill, and it doesn’t take all that long.

Plan For Dinner

These people. These people! Three times a day, they want to eat! If I don’t check my menu plan in the morning and take meat out to thaw, then come three o’clock, I’m stressing and scrambling to think of something satisfying I can pull together using only pantry ingredients. I don’t mind doing that once in a while, but everyday, it becomes a draining task resulting in a less than nutritious diet. Since I had a plan when I made my shopping list, it’s a small thing to review that plan and select a meal, and without dinner hanging over my head, I have a better day.

This is not the freezer that houses our meat. We have two chest freezers for that.

That’s it. My Three Things. These are not the only things I do in a day, but these are the basic three I concern myself with each morning.

How about you? If you just committed yourself to just three things, would that ease your burden? What would your three things be?

(PS: I wrote and photographed this whole post in snippets on my iPod, because opportunities to sit down at the computer are scarce!)