by Annette T. Durfee, Momivate's Cultivate Leader
When I was first married, I told myself that although I might not be rich, I could still be clean. In my exuberance as a new bride, I felt like that was something I had control over. Later, as children multiplied and the demands on this mother’s time began to pile up, I changed my tune a little to this familiar adage:
Cleaning and scrubbing can wait for tomorrow
While this poem has some truth to it, and we should definitely treasure the time we have with our children, I do not think it means we need to neglect our homes. And I have found that I am not truly happy in a dirty, cluttered home. In fact, I believe that if we do it right, our homes can be a refuge from the world – a happy oasis so to speak. And so, while it may be virtually impossible to keep an absolutely immaculate home, I do my best to help it be clean, orderly, and beautiful. Here are a few tips I have found to help our home be both clean and happy.
1. Everything is not always clean at the same time. What kind of promising list is it that must begin with a disclaimer? Yet, remember that the goal is not only to be clean, but happy – and that means the mother too. This means that I must be realistic. After all, even Betty Crocker has her limits. I have found that if the dishes are done and the downstairs is clean, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the laundry is folded or that the toilets are scrubbed. Time is always a tradeoff. If you see “clean” in one room, you must know that other things are not done. Likewise, if my day has been full of errand running, grocery shopping, or volunteering at the school you can be guaranteed that the house is not entirely tidy.
2. 10 Minute Tasks. My friend Caren taught me to do those unavoidable, yet necessary jobs as quickly as possible. She offered to do my dishes once. I felt it would be okay to procrastinate, but she insisted that it would only take 10 minutes. Soon, I began to follow this line of thinking and I have found great success with it. Seldom do I have big blocks of time. And other times, I feel too tired or overwhelmed with big jobs. So, I try to think small and simple. By setting the timer for 10 minutes, I allow myself success by working furiously to get as much as possible completed. Yes, racing the clock is a mind game for adults as well as children. And the snowball effect it has on me works wonders. And do you know what? The very process of just beginning gives me energy for more!
3. Put your “helpers” to work! Let’s call it teamwork, folks! I figure, if they can help make the mess, they are old enough to help clean it up. Giving them jobs not only prevents more mess in the meantime, but helps their self - esteem and sense of contribution and personal responsibility. What a great gift! True, this may take more time initially, but eventually, as children are trained, this tip actually becomes a time saver. A word of caution: A clean house does not equal happiness if it takes a fight to get it that way, so practice patience and use your creativity to make it fun and rewarding for them.
4. Get out one project at a time. There is definitely wisdom in not running faster than we have strength. We would not think of making our baby run a marathon before they learn to crawl nor would we hand our toddler juggle 50 pound weights, so why would we do it to ourselves? All right, I will admit that I am not always good at this, in fact, it seems that there are often many balls in the air all at the same time. Yes - never a dull moment! But I know that at those times when I have put away the first project before I proceed with the next, things are definitely less chaotic. For example, a few moments in the kitchen after each meal saves a lot of time later.
5. Have a cleaning schedule. Having a certain time of the day or week to do things helps me relax and not feel guilty about undone work. I know when and whose turn it is to help with this or that. Everyone is on the daily schedule to clean their rooms and do a dish job. With a schedule, I know which day I will do the laundry and I never have to scramble to take out the garbage. Chores that only come once a week are scheduled as well. I can calmly go about the tasks at hand and realize that even though there is always something waiting to be done, I can take it easy and tackle today’s load because the rest will be done on the proper day.
6. Be flexible: Now wait a minute. Didn’t I just say to have a schedule? And now I’m saying to be flexible... Well, yes. A schedule is great for some things, but if the baby is crying or your toddler needs a friend to play with for a while, a rigid schedule can become the family enemy. People are always more important than a task to be done. Sometimes other things call for our attention as well, don’t they? Sometimes we need a few moments to ourselves to rejuvenate. So, give yourself a little wiggle room. It’s okay when things don’t always run like clockwork.
7. Less is more. Years ago, I read a marvelous decluttering book by Don Aslett entitled, Clutter’s Last Stand. I fell in love with the ideas from it and would encourage anyone to read it who has a difficult time hanging onto EVERYTHING! The basic idea is that if you do not use it, like it, or need it, no matter who gave it to you, or how much it costs, or how long you’ve hung onto it, toss it or give it away! Just how many neckties, Legos, envelopes, and knick - knacks from Aunt Paddy Whack do you need anyway? While you’re at it, teach your children to go through their school papers and belongings as well. This is a life skill. And I find it incredibly freeing to realize that by simplifying, you have less to wash, polish, scrub, fold up, dust, or trip over and you have more space, money, and time to share with your family and others in meaningful ways.
8. Organize. There are a zillion and one ideas out there to organize every nook and cranny in your home. I had fun with an old book called Confessions of a Happily Organized Wife. (The title alone makes me smile). But to simplify, may I suggest some basic ideas.
9. Dovetail. It is really fun to do two things at once. For example, my mom taught me to put my “maids” to work in the morning (dishwasher, washer/dryer). I can also do this when I talk on the phone while sweeping, catch up on the child’s school day while folding socks together, or letting breakfast cook while I make lunch. Remember again, that relationships are always more important than “getting it all done.” If you neglect your children, for example by tapping away at the computer or scrolling endlessly on your phone while they are begging for attention, you have only fooled yourself.
10. Survival mode. Part of the inevitable with raising a family are those times when it is just less important to have a totally clean home – maybe someone is sick, you have a new baby or a time - consuming church assignment. Forget about cobwebs, dusting, cabinets, closets. At these times, I feel that it is better to settle for some clean for the sake of your sanity rather than to let the whole house fall to pieces. I have decided that the three main things of importance are dishes, laundry, and making my bed (which gives the general appearance that the room is mostly clean). My next favorite strategy is to whisk through the living area with a laundry basket for a little clutter pickup. I let everyone do their part to empty it. Aren’t I thoughtful?
At the end of the day, remember to smile. Don’t worry so much about perfection. A clean and happy home is within your reach, so be your own best friend. Put your feet up for a bit and give yourself a pat on the back for what you have done.
By Annette T. Durfee, Momivate's Cultivate Leader
Have you ever noticed the oddities of life?
...like how the birthday cake you’re making never looks like the one in the picture?
Never mind comparing it to the picture – which is actually a cake made of four layers, so that means you actually have to use TWO cake mixes... but the picture won’t tell you that.
Pay no attention to the fact that the sad crack in your attempt at the cake will NOT stay “glued” together, no matter how much frosting you use to cement it together.
And don’t even notice the huge crumbs that are adhering to the once-white frosting (maybe some sprinkles will hide them!!). Perhaps, you conclude, the sides look better unfrosted anyway!
OR - Does it ever seem that the most meaningful conversation you get to have with your spouse is:
-- at the end of the day,
-- at the bathroom sink
-- while you are foaming at the mouth with an electric toothbrush wildly sputtering, unable in the least to utter a sensible word?
So, you play the game of charades or better yet – an impromptu sign language which you try to decipher without splattering toothpaste blobs on the mirror as you laugh through the hilarity of it all?
OR - Do you find yourself seething at the injustice of finding that there are always at least 3 diapers left in the package that absolutely WILL NOT fit your baby before they transfer to the next size up?
AND - Have you tried to mathematically explain why, with so few people in the family, every single cup in the house gets dirtied – including the measuring cups?
I’m probably not the only one who has had more than her share of Pinterest fails and foibles. But if my Better Crocker skills don’t take the cake at least my attitude will. If you’re like me, and even one of these scenarios rings true for you, this might be a good time to take a look at a happy principle that can help every mother and homemaker: realistic expectations. Yes, with a little reality check, you can take anything that comes with ease.
Did you know that some things are supposed to be imperfect?
Mismatched socks... scuffs on your best running shoes... sticky fingerprints on the fridge door handle... Almost imperceptibly, flabby bellies, burnt toast, and layers of dust just happen. Life happens!
There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with your family. It is what it is.
And it’s not only OK for it to be this way, it is supposed to be that way!
Take the coffee table for example – an innocent enough piece of furniture wouldn’t you say? But in a house full of children, is it really going to stay a focal piece impressively set with elegant table top décor? Of course not! You and I both know that even the best homes aren’t picture perfect.
We can expect that homes with children have their fair share of crumbs, smelly socks, broken figurines, lost items, scattered toys, ripped pages in books, smears on the sliding glass door, and on and on. It helps when I know that some things will inevitably happen, because it allows me a great deal of sanity for when the unexpected happens and things don’t work out perfectly.
In fact, if you can look at it with a smile in your heart, you might just find it so ludicrous that it provides a moment of laughter that you look back on with fondness.
While mothering my Littles, I frequently found peace of mind through a quote often attributed to Marjorie Pay Hinckley to help me remember that my priorities were just where they should be:
I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here, and that I really lived.
Expecting reality doesn’t mean admitting defeat!
I can expect, for example, that my children will make endless messes (and I will too), but that doesn’t stop us from cleaning it up at the appropriate time.
My communication with my spouse may be spotty at times, but that doesn’t mean we neglect our relationship. We regularly and consistently schedule time to be with one another to just TALK (most times without a dental implement in hand).
We are gloriously imperfect in each and every way, but we set goals, and give assignments. And we put our plan into action with a little elbow grease. We do it, remembering the WHY of it all – not to satisfy some plausible guest who never seems to stop by, nor even to catch up to the Jones family (although we admit that they ARE a nice bunch!) - but because we like it that way. In fact, we even enjoy it!
I am enough.
I can be happy without being Pinterest Perfect. While the Internet world of “reality” sometimes creates a facade of perfectly clean homes, the Gerber baby who never cries, and homes decorated to a “T,” I can be happy with what we have and who we are becoming. I may also (heaven forbid) go without some of the niceties of the luxury homes in order to allow myself to spend more time concentrating my efforts more closely on building a strong home and family. We can also give ourselves credit for being creative, even if it means that we make a mess for a while. We are, after all, learning, growing, and developing together. In fact, we are a living, breathing work of art! I suppose the casual passerby may judge me and my efforts (or seemingly lack of them), but that judge won’t be me. I will give myself grace allowing me and my family space to be real humans. We ARE indeed “good enough.” We can have strength and self - confidence to do and be and achieve in real albeit imperfect ways.
By Annette T. Durfee, Momivate's Atmosphere CouncilMom
They all do it. You know - that thing that drives you up a wall! No matter the age of your child and in spite of your best efforts, they inherently know exactly what button to push to get us to react. And it seems that the more we push for them to stop it, the more they pull back until the tug of war has escalated and within seconds, the sense of peace and beauty that we so desire in our homes is ruined. So what do we do? How can we conquer this frustrating behavior that frays at our nerves, fuels our frustration, and tests the limits of our patience?
Here are a few ideas that I have found helpful.
1. Take a break.
Take a few steps back. Retreat into my room for a few minutes – ALONE. Breathe! Regroup. Punch a pillow if it helps! Timeout for Mommy is not only healthy, but a sanity saver! As you remove your presence from the child they also get a chance to recover and try again. And while I take a break, I do what my knees were made for – I PRAY! When mothering moments go awry, I need help from a higher power. For me, this is God. I have found that He is always there – never too busy for me, never burdened by yet another plea for help. I pour out my heart with my worry, frustration, anger, and then, I LISTEN.
Sometimes I get an idea – I can see how I could have prevented the situation or how I could react in a better way next time or something simple I could do to help my child. It may not be the entire solution to the problem, but it is enough to get me headed back in the right direction. And as I implement that God-given idea, I regain confidence and my child and I regain a positive momentum. Other times after prayer, I am left with a simple yet reassuring sense of peace: I can handle this. I’ve got what it takes. I am a good mother. And other times, the answers aren't immediate but come along the way as God, my Father in Heaven goes behind-the-scenes with me and adds to my efforts.
2. Become curious.
Ask, “Why?” Why is my child behaving this way? What could he or she be feeling right now? What things are going on in this stage of their life that could cause this? Is there a little sibling rivalry going on? Is there a new baby that is diverting my attention? Perhaps something going on at school? I wonder: what is hard for them? How do they feel about themselves right now? Is there something I could do or say that would help to redirect their attention to something positive? When we become curious, we open up the door to the possible feelings of our children and we become more compassionate, empathetic, more loving. We can even help them to feel supported by helping them voice their own feelings. “Are you feeling sad, frustrated, lonely? How can I help?”
3. Model the behavior you want to see.
As hard as it may be to believe, it just may be that your child has not thought of a better way of doing things, even despite perpetual broken-record pleas from you. They may be in need of a consistent example to follow. Let’s say that your child has developed a habit of running through the house screaming. Although it may make you feel like pulling your hair out and yelling back, muster the mentality to smile and speak with a calm and quiet voice instead. “Let’s use our inside voices.” The important people in our children’s lives are like great big mirrors. What our children see in us, we will also eventually see in them. So, let’s be the best mirrors we can be accompanied with a smile, a hug, and a kiss.
Whatever we give our children attention for they will repeat. We already know that our children do the things that drive us bonkers often to get attention. So why not turn it around and use this to our advantage? Rather than handing out negative attention, we could choose to focus on those things that we want to continue and offer praise when we see them. For example, when I wish that the children would not fight and argue, I notice and thank the child at a time when they are being a peacemaker. “I love it when . . .” You fill in the blanks. My mom did this for me once in a simple way that stuck with me. One day she gave me a Mr. Goodbar candy bar with the explanation, “because you’re so good.” I didn’t know about shaping then, but every time I remembered that tasty treat, along with her other caring words and deeds, I felt like I was good and I tried to prove her correct!
5. Realize that we are not meant to control others.
I think I all too often learned this lesson the hard way, scraping the heels of my feet as I skidded along the road of hard-won control. As I struggled to learn a better way, I reflected often on a quintessential quote that I pinned on my Value Board:
“Never let a problem to be solved, become more important than a person to be loved.”
-- Thomas S. Monson
Such a beautiful reminder! This thought helped me to remember that the little people in my life were not bad, they were learning, just like I was learning how to mother with love.
Our children will inevitably do things that we do not approve of and this is not, I repeat NOT an indicator that we have failed as parents. And while that means that at times we need to discipline, we can leave out the empty threats, arguing, bribery, fighting.
Yes, our mission is not to control, but to teach, to influence, set an example, and - the best part of all - love them like crazy!
By Esperanza DeLaLuz
Today when this world is so often in chaos, it is critical to remember what is important and what lasts. Too often the world, in general, demeans the role of homemaker. It seems to say that being a homemaker is what you do when you aren’t smart enough, strong enough, driven enough, or educated enough, to work outside the home. And that is clearly not the truth.
Making a home is much more than cooking, cleaning, and washing—you can hire those things out, if you have enough money. But you can’t pay someone to be your child’s mother. You can hire a babysitter, even a nanny who becomes devoted to your child—but that is still your child, and no one can love that child as you do, with love that is visceral, concrete, and unshaken.
Homemaking is mothering, too--making an environment where the people you love are able to grow and dream and feel safe. Homemaking is creating a haven, a breathing space, and a refuge from the world. Homemaking is helping children build a relationship with God.
Being a mother has challenges; it is not a job for the weak or the lazy or the selfish. But even if, like me, one has tendencies towards those things, it is amazing how much one improves when those tendencies interfere with the well-being of your child. Suddenly, selfishness becomes getting and doing and being whatever your child needs. Laziness is converted to opportunities to cuddle and sing, read stories and rocking your little one. And weakness—well, turning weakness into strength is something we model for our children. Inspired by our children's needs, we gradually become less weak, lazy, and selfish.
So, making a home for your children—your family—that is comforting, safe, and clean is nice, but it’s secondary to the love you have for your family. You do it because your family needs it—and hopefully they appreciate it (and learn to help)—but loving comes first. So, when you stress about how little housework you have managed to get done because you have spent your time mothering instead of cleaning, think of this charming little poem:
Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ‘til tomorrow,
For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.
-- Ruth Hulburt Hamilton
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