As spring unfolds around us, many days find us with our doors and windows flung wide to welcome in the fresh air. All the newness around us stirs many of us to clean a little deeper and even to purge some of our unnecessary items in order to enjoy a cleaner, more simplified home life.
If this sounds like you, I wanted to let you know that my entire Combat Clutter series is still available here on The HomeStyle. Combat Clutter is a series which targets one specific area of the house per post. Instead of trying to clean or organize your entire house in one day, Combat Clutter gives you a step by step plan to help you rid yourself of unnecessary stuff.
If you need additional inspiration to get organized this spring, I highly recommend the book Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider. This was one of the most helpful and motivational books I’ve ever read on home management, simplistic living, and organization.
What is your Spring Cleaning plan (or hopeful plan) for this year?
I stumbled across this idea on The Happy Housewife for a fun and creative way to store produce, use magazine holders, and add color to your kitchen:
My kitchen is one of the most blah places in my house, with one huge blank wall that I have no idea what to do with. I’m hoping these will add some interesting color and dimension.
Read the whole article here.
Last week was one of the roughest I’ve ever had since becoming a mother. Everyone was sick… and I mean SICK. Without going into the details, let me tell you that I was up every half hour the first night with one child, who was vomiting repeatedly. I did EIGHT loads of laundry in TWO days. I averaged 1-2 meals per day myself during “the plague.” My children watched more movies in the last week than I think they have in the last five months combined. It was rough.
I somehow managed to escape the worst of the bug until… Tuesday. And then it hit me like a freight train. I am not a lay-around kind of person, so it was very unusual that I struggled to get out of bed, and spent the majority of the day sleeping or reading.
At the end of the week, I surveyed the damage.
Eight loads of laundry still waiting dismally to be folded.
Completely out of dishes.
Ran out of grocery items daily. I hate “Oh no! I forgot something!” trips to the grocery store, so I was miffed to have to shop (or have Brian shop) almost every day.
Kids whose brains were dangerously close to becoming slime after so much screen time.
One very exhausted family.
As I reflected on the “Week of the Plague” and the recovery efforts underway in the days that followed, I realized that the benefit of being sick (and having everyone else in the family sick) is that it forces you to s…l…o…w… down and evaluate, “What is absolutely necessary that I accomplish today?” I would like to suggest that if the plague visits your family sometime that you limit yourself to these three (and only these three!) goals:
1. Keep everyone fed and hydrated. Sometimes this can feel like the battle of the century, but if all you do from 3:00-5:00 in the afternoon is help your toddler take small, regular sips of water you are accomplishing a HUGE feat! A friend of mine recently had her baby hospitalized due to dehydration. Her story replayed continuously in my head as I cared for my sick babies. Water is vital. Even if they can’t or won’t eat, get the liquids down ‘em! And yourself! Don’t neglect to eat healthy and drink LOTS and LOTS of water so that you can maintain your strength to care for your tiny patients.
2. Do the dishes. This is one I wish I had kept up with last week. In fact, I wish I had opted to do dishes over laundry most of the days. The reason is that if you find yourself with 20 minutes to spare (maybe the sick kids are taking a bath or napping), you want to be able to quickly and easily put together food and drinks for your sick ranks. It is also helpful for those not under the weather to be able to fix themselves a PBJ or grab a glass of milk without having to wonder, “Is this clean enough to use again?”
3. Make EVERYONE rest. Even the non-sick folks. Put on the back burner any ideals you have of 100% screen-free days or of staying on top of homeschool schedules. Put on a movie. Let everyone stay in jammies. Read lots of books. Keep it low-key. I promise, you can recover your routine once the germs have run their course.
I believe if you can maintain those three points, you will be able to get through a plague like we did last week. If you find an extra block of time not dedicated to one of the above, go ahead and throw ONE load of laundry in (I said ONE!) or give the bathroom a quick wipe-down. But above all, make sure you focus on 1-3 first.
What’s that? Make your own laundry detergent? Has this woman gone off the deep end??
Well that may be, but this was a very fun, easy, and inexpensive experiment!
My friend Angie came over this weekend, and we made a double batch to split. We used the recipe from Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider (which, by the way is my absolute favorite book I read in 2011!). The recipe is so basic, and the ingredients were easy to find and inexpensive to buy. Here’s what we used:
The recipe called for an entire bar of Ivory soap, shredded up. I had asked Angie to bring her hand-held cheese grater, because all I have is my food processor. I use that thing almost every day, and I’m sad to report that the motor is on its last leg. I wasn’t sure if it would handle the soap very well. However, when we opened the bar, we felt like it was soft enough to give it a try. Wow! Am I glad we tried that! In about 4 seconds, we had a perfectly shredded bar of soap:
However, as Angie and I stood there talking about how much this shredded soap looked like mozzarella cheese, she pointed out that it didn’t seem very likely that these skinny strips of cheese – I mean soap – would blend very well into the powdered ingredients. So, we decided to switch to the chopping blade and run it again. I pulsed it a few times, and it turned into tiny dots of soap. This looked more like what we were wanting!
Next, we mixed up a cup each of the washing soda and Borax. Not familiar with these ingredients? I wasn’t either before this weekend. Both ingredients can be found with the laundry products in your grocery store or large retailer (like Target or Walmart). I found these next to the stain removal products. Washing soda is not the same as baking soda (they actually have different chemical compounds). You can read more about washing soda in this article, if you’re interested. Borax (the other powdered ingredient) is a chemical compound used for about 101 purposes. There are some interesting facts and uses in this article, or you can read the back of the box when you buy some. (As a side note, I really want to find out what crafts people are using Borax in!)
So we mixed them up, and then stirred in our chopped up bar of soap. It looked pretty good to us at that point, but then Angie had the brilliant idea to further mix it by pulsing it in the food processor one more time. The result was a very uniform, very well-combined laundry powder:
We were getting pretty excited by this time! We had the calculator out on my phone, figuring out how much we were going to save with this amazing new experiment. We figured that each batch cost us about $1.25. A batch filled up about 3/4 of a large yogurt container.
That might not seem like that much until you consider that you only need about 1-2 Tbsp. per load of laundry. I estimate that I will be able to get about 30-40 loads of laundry out of this one batch. I try to buy commercial detergent (the 32-load size) when I can get it between $3 and $4. So if this works, I am looking at saving over 50% of what I had previously been spending on laundry detergent! Woo hoo!
I started using my new laundry soap right away, and so far I am really liking it. My clothes feel and smell very clean. I actually don’t notice much difference, which is probably a good thing. I am interested to see over time if the color-fading factor is better or worse than commercial laundry detergent. I will keep you updated how it goes!
But I missed feeling the accomplishment of getting my house whipped into shape one step at a time. So, this week I’m back at it.
This week, we are going to declutter our nightstands (or bedside table, or whatever you call them). I think this is an important, but severely overlooked area of our homes. Why is it so important? Well for many of us, it is the last thing we look at when we roll over and click off our lights. If you’re like me, you have mountains of stuff glaring at you – that’s not exactly a peaceful and relaxing image to have as the last image burned onto my retinas.
So, this week we will give ourselves a more pleasant view at the end of the day (plus you get to see something organized and inviting when you wake up too!)
To start with, take everything off the nightstand and thoroughly dust or wipe down your table. Ick. Um, I really cannot remember the last time I gave this little table some TLC.
Next, throw out any trash or papers that are no longer needed. I found several expired coupons and some scribbled drawings that I cannot remember which kid made. I opted to throw all those in the recycling bin.
In looking at what is left, are there any items that would be better placed in a different area of the home? Many experts recommend that you avoid keeping things in your bedroom associated with work. They recommend that the bedroom should be reserved only for restful or enjoyable activities. That is to say that your brain will rest better if you don’t have a stack of how-to books staring you down from the nightstand or a project you are finishing up for work. Relocate those items to the family room or your home office. I am attempting to only keep one or two books or magazines (the kind you read for pleasure, not learning books) on my nightstand.
Finally, decide what other items are necessary to have in or on your nightstand, but be selective. Many people need or want to have their glasses, some hand lotion, or tissues on their bedside table. That’s fine, but be sure to limit how many of those things you keep in this area. Remember, clutter adds to stress, so try to keep everything to a minimum. If possible, store as many things as you can inside the nightstand, rather than on top.
One last tip that I wanted to share with you is an Idea Notebook. I started doing this a few years back, and it has really helped me. It seems like I have some of my best ideas just as I’m about to fall asleep (or sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night). Either way, I am always so frustrated when I wake up and can’t remember those great ideas. The other frustrating thing that happens is that these ideas tend to keep me awake or from having a deep night’s sleep. So, I started keeping a notebook beside the bed to jot down ideas right when they’re there. I’ve really noticed that I sleep better knowing that my ideas are safely down on paper.
And that’s it! I hope you sleep better tonight with your nicely cleaned nightstand!
Our family doesn’t have what you would consider a “traditional” schedule. For starters, Brian works a revolving, rotating schedule, rather than a Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 job. His work week lasts for four revolving shifts of twelve hours each, followed by four days off. So sometimes his “weekend” is Monday through Thursday. In addition to this revolving schedule, he rotates through day and night shifts every six weeks.
On top of Brian’s schedule, we have Naomi’s schedule added into the mix. Since we share custody with her mom, we have a week-on, week-off routine for Naomi.
All this to say that finding a routine and saying what a normal day is for us can be very challenging.
Do you find yourself in this same position? It seems like more and more families have varied, non-traditional schedules. That can be taxing and difficult, but it doesn’t have to ruin you. Here are some tips we have come up with over the years for surviving a non-traditional schedule:
1. Be flexible. This tip can’t be stated enough. When people are coming and going at random times, you’ve just got to let go of some control. For me that has meant that my daily “schedule” looks very different from one day to the next. For example, if it’s a Monday that we have Naomi and Brian has to work, one of our scheduled activities has to be taking her to school. Because of that, we are usually up and moving much earlier than we are on days that Naomi is gone or Brian is available to take her to school. This makes our school day start earlier, Ryah’s naps take place earlier, and even meal times get bumped up. If I am rigid that “10:00 is nap time and school time and 12:30 is lunch time” I will just run myself ragged and frustrate the kids. So again, be flexible.
2. Look for the great in your situation. My extremely wise friend Tabitha (who is a pro at these out-of-the-norm schedules) gave me some really wise advice when we started our rotating shift schedule. She said, “There is something great about every single shift; you just have to look for it.” Sometimes I get frustrated when Brian is on nights and has no weekends off for an entire month. The truth is that I feel like a single mom during those times, and I get lonely. But instead of focusing on that and getting myself sucked down in the dumps, I have searched out the really GREAT things about the times that Brian is on nights. For one, it’s easier for me to find time to blog and read for pleasure. PLUS I get a lot more chores done in the evenings. A great thing about having a “weekend” in the middle of the week is that you can do activities as a family and avoid a lot of crowds. Last summer, we went on a 5-day camping trip in the middle of the week. We got great campsites with hardly anyone else around, PLUS we saved some money by not camping on the weekend. Every situation has something great about it; you just have to look for it.
3. Guard the time you have together. Look through the entire month you have coming up. Mark the days when everyone will be in the house (and awake) at the same time. Guard those days like a treasure chest. Be bold to say no to other commitments (no matter how great they may be!) so that you can prioritize family time. Then, when you come to those days, proactively choose how you will spend those days. If you want a pajama day, that’s fine – just make sure you choose it, rather than let those few precious hours slip through your fingers. If you want to get out and do something as a family make sure you have everything prepared in advance so that plans don’t fall through. Cherish every second that you are all together. It will make the times when schedules don’t line up SO much easier to bear!
4. Be very flexible with holidays. Flexibility is important throughout the year in a family with a non-traditional schedule, but it is absolutely crucial during the holidays. Accept that you may not always be able to celebrate holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving ON the actual calendar day. There is nothing wrong with that. Thanksgiving is about getting together with those we love, reminding ourselves of the blessings in our lives and thanking God for them, and eating some good food. It is NOT about the third Thursday in November. You can just as easily have Thanksgiving on a Saturday as you can a Thursday. Communicate your schedule with extended family way in advance and try to come up with an alternate plan that allows you to celebrate at a time that everyone can make it.
5. Accept invitations, even when everyone can’t attend. Sometimes when a spouse is working, the temptation is there to decline an invitation to the neighborhood BBQ or to a family birthday party. You might not feel as comfortable with your husband’s side of the family without him there. Or it might be overwhelming to think of navigating a social event alone with your kids. Or you might just flat be feeling like a hermit. It’s important to be honest with your reasons for not wanting to go. But don’t let going alone stop you from spending time doing fun and social things. Waiting for your spouse to be present can breed resentment toward him, because you may begin to feel that his job prevents you from having relationships with others. It’s healthy to get out and be around others. If you are feeling nervous about braving a particular situation with your kids, try to find a friendly face (or two) that might be willing to help out with your kids. Maybe a friend could help your child serve his plate in the buffet line, while another might be willing to hold your baby while you go to the bathroom. Most people are happy to help, especially if they understand your situation.
Shift work and other non-traditional schedules can be a daunting challenge to navigate, but they can also bring about some great rewards for the whole family if you are careful about the decisions you make. If you find yourself in a non-traditional schedule and are struggling, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Sometimes it can make all the difference just to talk to someone else who is going through the same thing as you.
Does your family have a non-traditional schedule? What tips have you come up with for surviving?
Thanksgiving is one of those holidays most of us really look forward to. It’s a pretty low-pressure holiday: there are no gifts to buy, no major traditions that require lots of work. Most people look forward to a day of eating LOTS of good food, relaxing, and having fun with family members.
But if you are the parent of a Picky Eater, Thanksgiving can be one of the most dreaded days of the year.
After years of struggling through Thanksgiving with my Picky Eaters, I’ve come up with the Top Ten Ways To Enjoy Thanksgiving with a Picky Eater. That’s right, not just survive the holiday, but really enjoy it with them! Here you go:
10. Start talking to them well in advance about the foods that will be on the Thanksgiving table. Many times, pickiness is rooted in more of a fear of the unknown. There are several foods we eat at Thanksgiving that we never (or rarely) eat the rest of the year. To a picky eater, new foods can be like a flashing neon sign: Don’t eat me! So, start today letting them know what will be served and explaining what each food is.
9. If possible, prepare some of the foods your family will enjoy at Thanksgiving ahead of time. If, for example, you are making some porkchops one night, why not make a pan of stuffing to go along with it? Be sure to point out to your child that this food will be on the table on Thanksgiving day too. By pairing a food that your child used to with a new food, he or she is more likely to at least try the new dish.
8. Allow your child to request one food that will be included in the Thanksgiving day spread. We started this tradition several years ago for Naomi. She would frequently be in tears on the morning of Thanksgiving, dreading the upcoming meal. Finally one year I allowed her to request one food – regardless of what it is – and I would make it for her. Usually it’s some sort of bread, but last year Naomi requested cous-cous. So there, beside the turkey and mashed potatoes, was Naomi’s little dish of cous-cous. It has really helped our kids to feel like their opinions of what should be served are valuable too.
7. Involve your kids in making the foods you plan to serve. As with #10, this can take some of the mystery out of the new foods. When kids find out that stuffing is basically just bread crumbs and veggies, they might be more willing to give it a try. And even if they don’t, it’s still fun to share the kitchen with a little one!
6. Focus on the meaning of Thanksgiving, instead of the food. Sometimes we as adults tend to get so caught up in the preparations for the Thanksgiving meal that we neglect to talk to our kids about the meaning behind Thanksgiving. Check out some books from the library about the first Thanksgiving and read them a day or two before you serve the turkey. One year we even prepared a short skit about the first Thanksgiving to show the grandparents. Talk about the importance of a thankful attitude in everything and help them practice being grateful.
5. Enjoy some of the fun non-food related Thanksgiving activities. Watch the Macy’s Day Parade, tune in to the Presidential Turkey Pardon, and enjoy a family game of flag football after the meal.
4. Keep your foods “traditional.” Although as adults we sometimes get bored of having the same old foods every November, to a kid that repetition can be like a safety net. (This is particularly true for older kids who remember last year’s Thanksgiving. For younger kids, the foods tend to feel “new;” in that case, refer to #9 and #10.) So instead of trying to reinvent the cheese wheel, try keeping the foods simple and predictble.
3. Be understanding that your kids just might not like the foods being served. I was also a picky eater as a kid, and I started dreading Thanksgiving as soon as Halloween was done. My Thanksgiving plate consisted mostly of bread. I have told my kids this story to let them know that I understand their struggle with this holiday. I’ve also told them that even to this day I’m not really in love with turkey, mashed potatoes, or stuffing. I eat them on Thanksgiving, but rarely make them during the rest of the year. I have told my kids to watch my example on Thanksgiving Day. I try to model an attitude of thankfulness to those who have worked hard to prepare food for me. I focus on the best parts of the day – spending a fun day relaxing with people I love. My kids know this and watch to see how I will handle the foods I’m not wild about.
2. Relax about the rules. While you might normally require your kids to finish all their food or eat at least two bites of everything, it will make the day much less stressful for you and for them if you put those rules to the side for the day. After all, it is just one day out of the year. They will likely survive if all they eat is olives and croutons for one day.
1. Have fun with them. If all else fails, ignore the pickiness and just have fun with your kids. Don’t allow this meal to become a battle. Instead, focus on loving on them. Practice thankfulness yourself and keep the day lighthearted.
I really, really like the convenience of Clorox wipes. I admit it. I would rather pull out a disposable wipe than spray some cleaning solution and then wipe it down with a rag. I don’t really know why, but I will admit I am addicted to them.
I am NOT, however addicted to the price. I guess convenience has a price. But I’m not so willing to pay that price anymore. I also am becoming less of a fan of the harsh chemicals found in many of our “everyday” cleaners.
So, just as I set out to make homemade glass cleaner and later homemade fruit and veggie wash, I have decided to make my own disinfecting wipes. The goal: Make them reusable, easy to use, and chemical free.
I love the website Simple Mom. It has lots of awesome tips for simplifying your home and living life to the fullest. It provides lots of great resources for those do-it-yourselfers. I used the recipe on that site to make an all-purpose cleaner. You can read the recipe here. I made a spray bottle full of the solution, which I keep under my kitchen sink.
Using her recipe, I began my quest to make my own Clorox-type wipes.
First, I cut up one of my old T-shirts into shapes that were about 8×8 or so. It’s not an exact science, so just cut them whatever size and shape you like.
Next, I folded them in half and laid them in an empty baby wipes container. You know, the type with the pop up lid. I figured that would make it easier to get them out. Plus since it keeps baby wipes moist, I thought it would do the same for my cleaning wipes.
After about 2-3 layers, I doused them generously with the cleaning solution. Then I layered a few more, and doused a little more until I was out of wipes. One T-shirt filled my container about half-way full. I’m sure we have other old T-shirts laying around the house that I can cut up to fill them the rest of the way.
So creating them was easy enough, not to mention how inexpensive it was. The real question, though, was would they clean well? We immediately put them to the test, as it was family “clean the house day.”We used them in the bathroom and kitchen primarily. Everyone reported that they seemed to clean everything easily and effectively.
At the end, I felt satisfied as I threw the used wipes into our washing machine. Not only was my experiment useful, easy to make, and frugal, it was also reusable. I’ve washed several loads of clothes with these wipes and have not had any discoloration on any of the other clothing.
This was one of my most successful experiments, I think!
(A wise and capable wife) gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household
and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.
Lately, I have felt challenged to get up everyday BEFORE my kids. I have been setting my alarm for 6:00 every morning and dragging my tired rear-end out of my warm and cozy bed. I am trying to shower, spend time reading my Bible and talking to God, getting at least mostly ready, and starting breakfast before they come toddling out of their rooms.
This used to be easier. Naomi was always our latest sleeper. When she was 2 or 3, it was not unusual for her to sleep in until 9:00, and sometimes beyond. Most of the time if I let her sleep, she gets up at 8:00 these days.
Will has also been a later sleeper. He usually sleeps until 7:30 or 8:00, but every once in a blue moon he sleeps in until close to 10:00!
And then there’s Ryah. Little miss “I hate sleeping.” Her usual wake-up time is between 6:00 and 6:30. And twice last week she woke up at 5:00. Bing! Ready for the day! Completely unwilling to be snuggled back to sleep. I blame her Grammie, really. My mom gets up at 5:31 every single morning. And she LIKES it! Ugh. Obviously Ryah got her genes.
But besides pointing fingers, I realized recently (much, much later than I should have) that if I were to actually wake up each morning, rather than be woken up, I might feel like my day starts just a smidge better. And if I were to have the chance to talk to God and shower before I had to do anything for anyone else, that might help me to have a bit better attitude about serving others.
So I’ve been trying. And might I say, I’ve been failing about 50% of the time. You see, I just really love my bed. But I’m not giving up. I am going to keep pushing myself to be in bed by 11:00 and out of bed by 6:00. Each day that I have succeeded has been noticeably and significantly better.
So speaking of which, it’s time for me to shut the computer AND my eyes. Good night!
You might have noticed that I haven’t posted much this week. Usually I get at least one post a day published here on The HomeStyle, but this week it just hasn’t been coming together. Part of it is (honestly) a lack of organization on my part. I feel like I have spent most of the week flopping from one project to the next, but when I look back it appears that I have really accomplished nothing at all. Do you ever have weeks like that?
Another part is that my parents very generously gave me all the leftovers from their garden two weekends ago. That means that my “To Do” list has increased significantly by adding many items that need to be preserved quickly. It has been such a fun blessing to freeze and can all the tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, eggplant, and peppers. I feel so fortunate to have received so many delicious vegetables for free! But it definitely takes a lot of time and work.
And finally, I admit that I’ve been frustrated with some of my backslidden home management ways. I have been working hard for almost 11 months now to purge, declutter, and organize my house. But it sure didn’t feel like that this week! At least once a day someone was yelling across the house, “Where are the extra sheets for my bed?” I don’t know. “Has anyone seen my winter coat?” Nope, not me. “Why is Will’s school notebook in the bathroom??” No idea.
Yes, it’s true. I’ve participated in all the Combat Clutter challenges I’ve written about on The HomeStyle. But unfortunately some little clutter gnomes (or something like that) have been running along behind me “re-cluttering” some of those areas. I wouldn’t dream of showing you a picture of my Linen Closet NOW, and I don’t want to talk about the state of my Pots and Pans Cabinet. Gulp.
But this is life. This season of my life is hectic. It’s messy. It’s disorganized. So today I’m choosing to say that’s ok. Today I’m choosing to get back on the horse and keep striving toward being the best mom and wife I can be. I’m regrouping and remaking some decisions about priorities. I’ll probably regress again in a few months, but I’ll worry about that when I get there.
For now, I’m at least back to blogging. For today…