What a Difference a Month Makes

January 31st. The end of the first month of 2013. And what a month it has been!

When Teresa and I set out to do this, I’m not sure what sort of expectations we actually had. I think we just thought we start it and then see if we could get a few of our friends to like our Facebook page. And eventually, maybe there would be someone who’d follow that we didn’t personally know…you know, a friend of a friend of a friend. Or something like that. Nowhere in my mind did I expect there to be 139 “likes” on Facebook, and I’m not sure I thought about having followers on WordPress or Twitter. Twitter! People, I am “tweeting” every day. Me. (Lynne) I can’t believe I even figured out how to do that!

But you all have blown us away! You all stepped right up and accepted the challenges. You not only accepted them, you went right on and met those challenges with determination and some really hard work. The pictures you have sent in – your “before” and “after” pics – have been amazing. We have been so encouraged by your comments and by your successes! It has been so wonderful to see you encouraging one another through the Facebook page. You are motivating one another and you are motivating us to keep moving forward. (I encourage you who are just following the blog to join the Facebook page. You’ll be encouraged by so many people there!)

It’s so exciting to be on this simplifying journey with you! I have been motivated to clear out a few more things. To be sure to stick to my routines and schedules. To keep it up even when I’d rather not. It’s so excited to get notifications about comments on the Facebook page or blog. That’s where we’ll have to work on ourselves next…limiting our time on the computer! 🙂

Thank you all for participating in this first month of our new endeavor! We are so very glad that you found us – or,  for some of you, accepted our insistent invitations. We are looking forward to working with our first “focus group” and getting input as to where we need to go from here. If you aren’t in the focus group, we may be asking you to complete a survey to help us gear our posts towards the areas in which you need or want help and encouragement.

If you are in the focus group, by the way, our first meeting is Saturday, February 2, from 11-1:30ish. Email us at lynneandteresa@yahoo.com for directions to my (Lynne) house.

Thank you all again for being a part of this with us!

Blessings,

Lynne & Teresa

P.S. I am having to make this a short post because I’ve got to go walk six miles before Weight Watchers! Pray for me! 🙂 ~ Lynne

Finding Your Balance

Good morning! Or afternoon or evening, I supposed, depending on when you’re reading this post. 🙂

As I sat here and pondered what to write about today, so many thoughts and ideas went running through my head. I am trying to not repeat myself, but some topics need to be revisited. And some are a little scary to approach. I never want to offend anyone by implying that what they are doing is wrong in any way or that it’s a “my way or the highway” kind of thing. So if something I write ever comes across that way, please let me know. I may get on my soapbox now and then, but I don’t want to stay there so long that I run people off.

Anyway, I finally decided on balance…that wonderful place that is halfway between complete chaos and total perfection. Through Simplify 2013, our goal is to help you find balance in your life…in all areas of your life. I hope that you all took the time to physically write down the top five things that matter the most to you. And I hope that they weren’t actually “things.” Your stuff will not help you find balance. Knowing your priorities in life and basing your decisions on them is the key to balance.

No one wants to live in complete chaos all the time. Though I have met some people who somehow seem to thrive on chaos and drama. I don’t hang around with those people. Having your own teenagers in a house is drama enough. No one needs other people’s drama creeping into their homes and sucking the joy out of it. And it can happen…little by little so you don’t notice. Then one day you wake up and you’re smack dab in the middle of someone else’s drama. (“Smack dab” is a very formal term for “right there”.)  Chaos can come in many forms. It could be a messy house where the people who live there spend half their time looking for misplaced things and the rest of their time blaming each other for the mess. It could be a calendar or schedule so jam-packed with activities, meetings, and appointments that you only see your family in the car travelling between those activities and appointments. There are no real conversations because you’re scarfing down fast food from the drive-through you swing by on your way to wherever it is you’re going. So many things can contribute to chaos: caring for young children; caring for aging parents; working extra hours; spending weekends catching up on household chores and not getting rest. And teenagers. Did I mention those already? The list is probably endless.

On the other end of the spectrum is perfection. Or perfectionists, I should say. Their houses are always spotless. Their kids are always spotless. They make it from Point A to Point B to Point C and are never, ever late. They have jobs at which they seem to excel. They take extravagant vacations. They teach Sunday School and sing in the choir. They drive expensive vehicles and have all the latest gadgets. So what’s the problem? I’m just guessing – and basing my guesses on my own personal experience here. Not that I’ve ever driven an expensive vehicle or have had all the latest gadgets. And Disney World is about as extravagant as I get. But I’ve done the perfect house, long hours on the job, busy stuff. So what do you not see when you look at this “perfect” family? You don’t see the credit card bills. Or the kids’ faces when you drop them at daycare at 7:00 in the morning so you can get to work early and get a head start on your day. (My daughter just recently told me how she felt abandoned when I left her at daycare every morning. Broke. My. Heart.) You don’t see the mom or dad up late every night getting the laundry done. You don’t see how tired mom looks when she literally falls into bed at night. You don’t see her mountain of laundry because she keeps it hidden. You don’t see the cracks in the marriage because she and her husband are both so stressed from trying to keep up with the Jones’ that they don’t keep up with one another any more. (Apologies to anyone out there whose last name is Jones. Not saying it’s you.) I saw a quote the other day from Will Rogers. It says, “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” I hope this is not you.

So where is that balance? How do we find contentment? It’s located about halfway between these two extremes. Where there is balance, you’ll find routines. Routines aren’t boring. They’re life savers. You’ll find schedules for household chores. You’ll find kids who participate in one outside activity at any given time, not three or four. There are weekends spent relaxing or doing fun things instead of ten loads of laundry. There are fewer extravagant things because balanced people live within their means. You’ll find calendars that have empty places on them – beautiful, empty places. You’ll find people who can say the word “no” and not feel guilty about it. The definition of contentment is “satisfaction; ease of mind.” It’s the place where you find yourself smiling more often than you frown. You have time and energy to devote to your family in the evenings. You have time to sit and read and enjoy a cup of coffee because there aren’t ten pressing things that have to get done. Like now! You have an undeniable sense of peace in yourself because you know you’ve found your “sweet spot” in life. You may not be travelling to Europe. You may not be driving a fancy car. You may not have the most updated cell phone with all its bells and whistles. (I, for one, could probably never understand how to work all the bells and whistles anyway.) Your mind is at ease…it isn’t in a constant state of busyness and worry. Other people might actually enjoy being around you. You might enjoy being around them.

If you didn’t write down your top five things – the things that matter most – do it now. Physically write it on a piece of paper. Put it where you can see it. (If there’s something on that list that shouldn’t be on it, consider how to get it off of there. Pray about it and then take steps to remove it. Replace it with something that really matters.) Then start making decisions – big and small – based on that list. Remember that things that don’t fit in with the things on your list likely don’t belong on your calendar. Remember that it’s alright to say “no” to people. Say it often. Begin to clear your calendar of unnecessary BUSYness. Don’t say “yes” to things just so you can say you have a busy schedule. Some people seem to think that having a busy and packed schedule is some sort of badge of honor. It’s not. They say things like, “I’ll have to get back to you. I have to check my schedule. I’m so busy this week.” Sorry to burst your bubble if you’re one of them. Joy and contentment…those are real badges of honor. Those say, “My life is under control. My house is under control. My kids are happy. My husband is happy. I have my priorities in order and I’m living them out.” That’s a badge I’d gladly wear.

The dictionary defines balance as “mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior, judgment, etc.” Steadiness. Stability. Calm. That’s where you want to be. If you aren’t there yet, I hope that we can help you get there. You’ll really like being there. We have good times there. Blessings abound there. If you’re on the path now, we’re excited to see you headed our way. If you’re still wavering about simplifying your life, I am here to encourage you to get on board. Before it’s too late. The time to enjoy life is now.

Blessings,

Lynne

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” ~ Jim Rohn 

Join the Conversation on Facebook

Good morning, again!

Just wanted to invite you who are following the blog here to join us on Facebook. We are having good conversations over there and you can see “before” and “after” pictures from those who are taking the weekly and special challenges. Some amazing transformations! So cool to see. You can search for us there by typing “Simplify 2013″ in the search bar. Without the ” ” of course. 🙂 We’d love to have you join us in actually talking about what’s going on as we move forward into decluttering, cleaning and simplifying our lives. But it’s worth it just for the pictures.

Lynne & Teresa

 

 

Tuesday Tips: In the Kitchen

Good morning!

So, obviously, Tuesday is going to be “tip” day. Until I run out of tips, then it will be something else. 🙂 Today, I’m going to share kitchen tips. You probably already practice some of these. If you don’t practice any of them, choose a couple to work on this week. Add a couple each week until your kitchen is running oh so smoothly. 🙂

NOTE: If you haven’t yet taken the kitchen challenge and you need to do so, save these for after. (See “notes” for the kitchen challenge. And take it. Soon.)

1. Don’t go to bed with a sink full of dishes. 

I feel certain I’ve said this before, and probably more than once. If you do, you will wake up, walk into the kitchen, and burst into tears. Well, maybe not. Still, it’s not a good feeling. But generally the kitchen is where the coffee is so you’re going to have to look at it. And it’s just not a pretty sight to wake up to. So before you go to bed – and preferably just after dinner – take the few minutes to either empty the dishwasher and begin to reload it, or take a few more minutes to wash the dishes. I can handle clean dishes in the dish rack; in the sink, not so much. I have a tremendous fear of roaches…and I think they probably like dirty dishes. So  I am motivated not only by the need for an empty sink, but also by a fear of roaches.

2. When you’re cooking, clean as  you go.

When you are making a meal, baking a cake, or doing prep work, clean as you go. Keep some hot soapy water in the sink or dishpan, and wash as you go. Or be sure to start with an empty dishwasher, and fill it as you go. Either way, you don’t end up with a giant pile of pots, pans, bowls, spoons, etc. waiting for you when you’re tired from all the work you’ve already done.  It’s much nicer to only have to put away the dishes or turn on the dishwasher. Much nicer.

3. Sweep the kitchen every day.

The kitchen is a busy place, at least in my house. When you’re cooking, inevitably flour and crumbs and other stuff end up on the floor. Unless you’re a neater cook than I am. Which is entirely possible. So sweep it up and dump it. Again, roaches like crumbs…mice probably do, too. I don’t want to see either in my kitchen. I’d have to move out. Seriously.

4. Mop your kitchen at least twice a week.

I’m not talking about on your hands and knees scrubbing here. Just run a wet mop over the floor about twice a week. My kitchen floor gets dirtier than any other floor in the house. And fast. If you are up for it, running the mop over it every day wouldn’t hurt. Just saying.

6. If you spill something, get it up immediately.

Do you have any idea how sticky sweet tea is if you leave the spill on the floor? Apparently my kids don’t know this, but having stepped in the sticky sweet tea spots on more than one occasion, I can certainly confirm it. If you spill something on the stove, clean it up. Spill something in the fridge, clean it up. The longer it sits, the harder it will be to clean. You might have to do intense scrubbing. No one wants to do that.

7. Put a layer of aluminum foil in the bottom of your oven.

If you have a layer of foil in the bottom of your oven and something you are baking overflows on to it, you can remove and replace the foil quite easily. If something overflows and you do NOT have foil in the bottom of the oven, you have to clean it up. And if you forget to do so and use the oven again – especially on high heat – that something will begin to smoke. There may be flames.  And your kitchen will be filled with smoke. And the smoke alarm will go off. And it will scare you and your cats. True story.

8. Throw out your leftovers once a week.

Pick a day and just throw them out. If you hate to waste food like me, you should freeze the leftovers the day or day after you cook them. For example, when I make chili or lasagna, I make a lot. Then I freeze the leftovers in single portion sizes and can pull them out for a quick lunch or dinner if I’m not feeling inclined to cook. It happens. Otherwise, don’t keep things in there over a week. I always empty my leftovers out on Mondays because Tuesday is trash pick-up day. I don’t want them hanging out in the garbage can attracting nocturnal creatures (and probably roaches). And I don’t want them hanging out in the fridge, either. I know they’ll grow green stuff pretty quickly. Not sure what happens if you continue to leave them in there, but I think it would involve tossing dish and all in the garbage if you did.

9. Put groceries away immediately.

When you get home from the grocery store, put the groceries away immediately. I know you’re tired if you’ve been grocery shopping. I hate to go to the grocery store. I always come home feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck. Not sure why, but I do. (I always prepare my coffee pot before I go so that I can enjoy a quick cup before I put the groceries away. So, technically, I don’t do it immediately. But I do it quickly.) I put the groceries away, put the bags where they go (reusable ones back to the trunk of my car; plastic ones in the “to be recycled” drawer in the pantry), and then I sit down and have another cup of coffee. (Are you aware by now that I really, really like coffee? You should be.) If you leave the groceries out – on the table or in bags on the floor – you’ll just feel worse when you walk back in and they’re still there. I have learned this from experience. So trust me.

10. Deep clean the kitchen once a week.

With some sort of disinfecting cleaner (store-bought, all natural, or homemade), clean your counter tops. Clean out the microwave. Scour the sink. Put baking soda and vinegar in the sink drain to freshen it. Wipe down the fronts of your appliances. Clean the stove top. Replace foil in oven if needed. Run a disinfecting wipe or cloth over all the handles and knobs in the kitchen…cabinet, stove, fridge, doors. Sweep or vacuum the floor, especially around the baseboards and under the edges of the bottom cabinets where the little stuff goes to hide. Mop with a cleaner of some sort. Do a general straightening up of the things in your cabinets, drawers, and pantry. This takes me about 30 minutes a week.

Taking a few minutes here and there to do these things will keep your kitchen orderly all (or at least most) the time. Deep cleaning once a week will just make you feel good about yourself and your kitchen.

Again, if you haven’t taken the kitchen challenge and you and your kitchen need it, plan to take it soon. Next week sounds good, right? Once the big mess is gone and you see your counter tops shining and your appliances sparkling and the sink empty of dish piles, it’s easier to keep it up with just a few minutes of work every day. If you need motivation, put your kitchen “before” picture where you can see it. Look at it every day. Say to yourself, “Nope. Not going there again.” You’ll be glad to do a small task then. Just ask someone who’s already taken that challenge.

Have a blessed and beautiful day!

Lynne

 

The Master Bedroom Challenge

Hi, all! Happy Monday! (Is there such a thing? I’m not sure.) I hope you all are well-rested and ready for a new week. And I hope that you’ll find this week less busy and less chaotic than the ones you were having before you started simplifying your life. 🙂

This week’s special challenge room is the master bedroom. If yours is clean and organized, then you might consider another challenge from the list. Alas, mine is not. This is the one room that gets neglected in my house. I think that’s because no one sees it but me and my husband. I can easily close the door if someone comes over so it’s not in sight. It’s the room that gets vacuumed and dusted less often than it should; the room with pictures to be hung that are still sitting on the floor. Oh, the bed is made and it’s relatively straight, but it’s not quite where I’d like it to be. So I will be working on this project right alongside you this week.

So I took a “tour” of my master bedroom. That took about two minutes, maybe less. I made a list of what needs to be done and this is what I came up with. Your list might be shorter or longer. (I am embarrassed about the dust bunnies that have been multiplying so rapidly underneath my bed!) Anyway. Here’s my list.

1. Reorganize closet. (I’ll let Eric tend to his own closet. I’ll work on mine.) Get rid of clothes that I don’t/won’t/can’t/shouldn’t wear. I’m pretty sure my daughter will go through my clothes and take care of that. It’s possible that the closet will then be empty. One lone sweater left hanging there on the rack. A single pair of shoes in the floor. I’d get excited about getting all new clothes, but I really hate to shop. Sigh.

2. Hang pictures above bed. I don’t know how long I’ve had them. Just sitting there gathering dust. Wishing they were at least hanging on the wall to gather dust. Gonna make that happen this week.

3. Clear/clean/dust bedside tables and lamps. I really want new lampshades. Maybe I’ll make that happen this week.

4. Clear/clean/dust wardrobe and husband’s dresser.

5. Run curtains through dryer to remove dust. (I hate my curtains. Truly. But they are room darkening ones so that hubby can sleep during the day when he is working the night shifts. So I’ll clean them, but I still won’t like them. U.G.L.Y.) Evict dust bunny families from under the bed and behind the furniture. (Sorry, bunnies, you gotta go. You’re just not cute like the real thing. If there were real bunnies under my bed, I think I’d have a different sort of problem.) Vacuum (or dust) the blinds and ceiling fan. Mop.

When all this is done, I might reward myself with a pretty clothes hamper and a new houseplant for my room. It’s the only room without a plant. I think it needs one. I love plants. They make me happy.

Since my husband is on nights for part of the week and days the other, I’ll have to work in my 15-minute spurts when he isn’t sleeping. I’m sure he’ll appreciate that. Nothing like sleeping and having someone vacuuming under your bed.

I’ll be brave and take pictures before…and I hope you’ll do that same. Then we’ll celebrate our successes on Friday. I’m afraid all this cleaning out is making me want to rearrange furniture and paint. Or hire someone to paint. Don’t tell my husband. He says I paint the walls every other week. It is NOT true. Not. True. It’s a few months between painting at least.

Your bedroom is supposed to be your sanctuary. Try to make it look and feel like one. If I could evict the television from my bedroom, I would. But that is where my hubby goes to watch TV before bed. Were you aware that you can watch TV with your eyes closed while snoring? It’s true. At least he says he’s watching TV when I go in and turn it off. 🙂

Have a super week! I look forward to seeing the pictures on Friday!

Lynne

Taking It Slow on Sunday

Sunday is here again and I hope you’ll be able to take it slow today. Get your church in. Get your nap in. Try really hard to NOT get any work in. 🙂

Today is one of my “busy” Sundays. I’ll serve as a greeter at church this morning. Then I am hosting my small group this afternoon at 4:00. Since my husband is on nights, I’ll have dinner in the crock pot. I’ll still try to squeeze in a nap after church because that’s how I roll.

I hope you enjoy your Sunday…I hope it’s filled with lots of peace and quiet and rest. I’ll “see” you in the morning with a post on this week’s challenge room: the master bedroom.

Blessings,
Lynne

Weekly Challenge #4

It’s Saturday Challenge Day!

(Just so you know, I said “It’s Saturday Challenge Day” in my mind just like the guy on wrestling who says, “Let’s get ready to rumble.” I’m not sure what that says about me…)

So, here we are on another Saturday. We are almost a whole month into simplifying our lives through daily and weekly challenges, decluttering our homes and our schedules, taking time every day for our own selves, and – hopefully – fitting in some exercise a few days each week. A LOT has been accomplished in these first weeks of 2013. I have so enjoyed seeing all of the “before and after” pictures.

So today you can choose from one of the following challenges for the coming week:

1. Master bedroom challenge (details on Monday)

2. Kitchen challenge (posted 1/14 under “Household Chores”)

3. Living room challenge (posted 1/21)

4. Laundry “monster” challenge (posted 1/7)

5. Choose a spot/area that aggravates you and/or stresses you out and work on it. (see “Weekly Challenge #1 posted on 1/5)

Don’t forget to try your hand at menu planning (posted on 1/9), getting in some exercise, and spending a few minutes every day on you.

If you have any specific questions about any of these challenges and you don’t want to discuss it on the Facebook page, you can email me at lynneandteresa@yahoo.com. Or you can message us through the Facebook page. (I think.)  Also, if you want to see a particular post again, email me at the above address and I’ll email it back to you. That way you don’t have to scroll through 25 days of Facebook posts. 🙂 I will be posting the main challenges on the Facebook where you will be able to find them. I think they’ll be under “notes.” I did post the menu planning one there yesterday.

Also, if you feel like Simplify 2013 has been a help to you, please share it with a friend. We want everyone to experience the joys of a clean house and a decluttered calendar. 🙂

Lynne

Guest Post by Sarah Tronson

I am not what my family and close friends would consider “tidy”. In fact, some may consider me “messy”. I like to think of myself as “so full of energy and creativity that I can’t take a break from my creative side to jump over to the side that needs to keep the house clean”. No matter how I say it, I know I have never been able to find the motivation to keep a clean and neat home. My sweet, loving husband married me nearly 9 years ago with the idea that I would be the one to keep the house clean. Now that it has been this long, he finally gets his wish!

I was browsing Facebook one day, and I noticed that my sister, Amy, had “liked” Simplify 2013. My husband and I recently decided to purchase a new home. I had been thinking of changing my life to become more “simple”. With the major change of moving to a new home, I thought it would be an excellent time to “start over”. So when I saw the name of the page, I knew it was meant to be!

In the few weeks since I joined the page, I feel as though I have finally found the motivation to be the wife and mother I always wanted to be. The weekly projects make keeping a clean and organized home simple. I have truly discovered that it is possible to get your home clean, and to keep it that way, without a massive amount of time and labor.

From Lynne and Teresa, I have found that the most important things to do in order to maintain my home are the following:
1. Work a little each day, and don’t get overwhelmed with the amount of work to be done. You can always begin again tomorrow.
2. Make sure to take time for yourself each day. Even a few minutes is refreshing!
3. Finally, have someone keep you accountable. I use this page. By responding to each week’s challenge, I feel more of a desire to clean, because I know that others will be paying attention.

To Lynne and Teresa, thank you so much for creating this page so that people like me (who are a bit lacking in the clean and organized department) can get the encouragment and skills to change our lives! You are truly a blessing to me and my household, and I look forward to learning more and more from you! I know there are good things in store for all of us in our Simplify 2013 challenge!!

Sarah Tronson

The Importance of Friends

Good morning! And Happy Thursday! Friday is just a day away. “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow…”

Today I want to talk about the importance of friends. Friendships – good ones – enrich our lives in so many ways. Now I’m talking about real friendships here, not surface ones. Those are called “acquaintances.” I’m talking about those few people in your life that you could call at 3:00 a.m. in an emergency and they’d be wherever you are as fast as their fannies could get there. You only need a few – a select few. Ones that you can tell a secret to and know that it won’t end up on Facebook before you’re done talking. Ones who say “I’ll pray for you” and you know that they will. Those who will walk alongside you through good times and bad times. No one needs “fair weather” friends – the ones who are around when all is good but hit the door running as soon as something bad happens. Nope, you don’t need those.

Last night, the ladies from my small group (from church) got together for our monthly ladies’ night. There were eight of us there. There was eating (duh!) and laughter and some serious conversation – and some not so serious. Hence the laughter. Every month when we get together, we learn a little bit more about each other. We open up a little bit more and share more about ourselves. We are a support group for one another. Each of us knows that the others are there for us. I hope that even the new ladies feel that way. Have a crisis? Call one of us. Need a meal? Call one of us. Need to hear words of encouragement? Call one of us. It’s that kind of group. I feel like we grow closer every month. (Our group also has a monthly guys’ night…I have no idea what they talk about. Hopefully, they are getting the same friendship base as we are. Guys need friends, too.)

Then there are those friends that you’ve had since you were young. I have two friends who were my first friends when I moved to South Carolina in the third grade. We were close all through high school and even through college. Now that we don’t live as close or go to the same church, we don’t see each other very often. But when we do, we can pick right back up like we saw each other the day before. I know I could call either of them at 3:00 a.m. and they know they could call me. We’ve been through a lot of good times and some tough times together.

Then there are the friends who really do life together with you. Your BFFs. You can have more than one. You can’t have ten. At least, I don’t think so. You should have a core group of friends that you interact with and converse with and share with on a very regular basis. The ones who will tell you that you have spinach in your teeth, or that the outfit you’re wearing does indeed make you look fat, or that you are being grouchy and need to chill. The ones who will walk with you through any crisis whether it’s yours or one of your children’s. The one’s who sit with you at the hospital through your dad’s surgery, or listen to you rant about one thing or the other without judging (or without laughing out loud…usually), who plan birthday surprises for you, whose kids know that they can call you if they can’t get their mom. These are the really deep and abiding friendships. You probably only have a few of these and that’s good. There are just some things you can’t share with your 1,247 Facebook friends. Or that you shouldn’t share. Seriously.

When you have kids – especially little ones – it’s sometimes hard to maintain any relationships outside your house. But it’s important. You’ll need someone to advise you, to guide you, to just hold you together some days. When you call them crying and blubbering because it’s been three days since you last got sleep, a really good friend will show up, take care of the kiddos, and send you to take a nap. And strongly suggest a shower. She’ll do a load of laundry and clean your kitchen And then have coffee ready for you after your “recovery period.” Don’t abandon your friends when your kids are young. You will definitely be needing them when those kids turn into teenagers. Just saying.

It’s so important to maintain these friendships! I can’t stress that enough. We need friends. The super close ones will be by you for a lifetime, I hope. The close ones will vary during the stages of your life probably. You’ll meet new people and will feel a connection and your friendship circle will grow a little. Don’t abandon your friends when life gets busy or hard. That’s when you need them most. Don’t be embarrassed to asked for help. Anything you’d do for them, they’d do for you. Remember that. You don’t always have to be the giver in a real friendship. Sometimes you’re the receiver of the love and kindness. Accept it.

I hope each of you has at least one friend who is going alongside you in your journey to simplify your life. One who is cheering you on at each success and accomplishment. Who comes over and praises you for your clean living room and diminishing laundry pile because they’ve seen the “before” in person and know what a big deal this is for you. They didn’t make you feel bad for the mess, but they sure make you feel good for the progress!

I hope you have a wonderful Thursday! Be sure to reach out to a friend today…just to chat or to show them your before and after pictures of your challenge projects. If there’s coffee shared, all the better! 🙂

Lynne

Being the Heart of Your Home

“The more one meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large.” ~ Confucius

Good Wednesday morning! We’re halfway through another school and work week. If you’re on vacation, you may be halfway through that. Sorry. 😦 How is it going with your challenge project this week? Are you still amazed at how much you can get done in just 15 minutes a day? I know this means that some projects take more than a week, but you want it done right and to have the task completely finished, so take the extra time if you need it.

Disclaimer #1: The post below refers to household in which the husband and wife/mom and dad reside together. It does not apply in situations in which there is verbal or physical abuse. If you are in either of those situations, I pray that you seek help immediately.

Disclaimer #2: I am telling my story here. About how I went from full-time career woman to full time stay-at-home mom (and then home school mom). I know everyone’s situation is different. But whether you work or not, you – as the wife and mother – are the heart of your home.

Disclaimer #3: I get on my soapbox at the end. There is a warning just before I get on it. 🙂

I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” (If you hadn’t heard it before, you have now.) We laugh at it, but it’s a true statement. Ladies, you are “Mama” even if there are no kids in your house. You are the heartbeat and the mood-setter of your home. While hubby/dad is the leader, you are the heart. And while the leader may be grumpy and difficult, how you respond to him sets the stage for how everyone else in your house responds to him as well. (If hubby or dad is not around for whatever reason, you are the heart and the leader. I know that has to be hard.) Being the heart of the home is an important role.

Have you ever noticed that if you’re grumpy, everyone else in your house is grumpy? If you’re stressed, everyone else in your house suddenly does the ONE THING that aggravates you the most? If you are tired, everyone needs something…NOW! The rest of your family is simply responding to your mood. Teenagers are especially adept at mood reading (since they themselves are usually quite moody) and will joyfully (I think) add to whatever negative vibe you’ve got going on. Babies can sense mom’s mood and will respond to it, as well. Unhappy, stressed mom = whiny baby. Almost every time. Husbands who walk in the door warily just waiting to see what the mood is like before deciding whether it’s safe to head to the family room or if it would be wise to retreat to the man cave have obviously felt more negative vibes than positive ones.

Do you want your house to be filled with grumpy, stressed people? I doubt it very much. Then you can’t walk around all the time being grumpy and stressed.  This is where organization, schedules, and routines become very helpful. No one can be un-grumpy or un-stressed in a house that is chaotic and disorganized. Neither can anyone be especially un-grumpy and un-stressed in a house that is in perfect condition all the time because no one is allowed to touch anything. (Having been there, I can assure that perfectionism breeds more grumpiness and stress, not less.) You’ve got to find your balance – the place where you are on an even keel. Things that need to get done are getting done. The house is in a general state of order. Your laundry is done. You have a calendar that has just enough on it but that isn’t full every single day and night of the month. You are being selective in what goes on that calendar. (You may, in fact, dare someone to put something on it without consulting with you first. I do. I admit it. I am the “calendar Nazi.” I like my calendar to be mostly blank. It makes me happy.) You’re not overbooked, overworked, or overlooked. Hubby comes home to dinner being prepared or even ready; he’s happy. He helps by taking care of the dishes after. Kids have mom to help with homework or just listen to them – because she isn’t running off to evening meetings every night – and they’re happy. They actually put away their laundry when you ask.  Well, maybe by the fourth time you ask. You’re available, appreciated and adored. You’re happy.

Whether you work outside the home or not, you’re still the heart of your home. When I worked full-time with two little ones under the age of three, I was not a happy heart (of my home), and that was reflected to others quite clearly.  I was stressed, tired, grumpy…sometimes I was just plain mean. (True confession.) Yet, at the time, I wasn’t willing to give any of it up. I wanted to be able to do it all and do it well. I had this image in my mind of the career woman in the business suit whose house was always clean, whose kids were always smiling (and clean) and whose husband just thought she was all that and a bag of chips. I discovered that I couldn’t manage all that. I tried for several years, but I just couldn’t do it. Either everything at work got done and nothing at home was ever quite finished, or everything at home got done and work fell behind. I was tired. T.I.R.E.D. (I know some people manage quite well. I was not and am not one of them. Fact.)

To you moms who can work outside the home – whether full time or part time, whether because you want to or because you have to – and are able to maintain balance with your home life, I give my utmost admiration. I couldn’t do it, and I had a great boss and co-workers. Deep in my heart I knew that I was meant to be at home, and until I got there, things just weren’t going to be right. Still, I ignored my desire to be home for several years. I mean, after all, I had a college degree. I couldn’t just stay home, could I? I had schedules then because I had to maintain control in some way. I knew we had to eat (and when I got home and was bone tired, I didn’t want to go back out.) I knew we had to have clothes to wear (so I did a load of laundry every day). Schedules kept everything from completely coming apart. Apparently, they didn’t make me any nicer, though. Just saying.

I went back and forth between full-time and part-time working, and a couple of periods in there when I didn’t work. In the end, I was working full-time to pay for daycare (which is crazy expensive!), work clothes and gas. Have you ever actually sat down and crunched the numbers? We did that. Here is my salary. Hey, that looks good. Here is what I actually bring home. Oh, that’s quite a chunk gone. Here’s the daycare bill. Wow. Here’s how much I’m spending on gas to go back and forth to work each week. Hmm. Here’s what I’m spending on clothes, pantyhose (I hope I never have to put another pair of those on. Ever.), dry cleaning, etc. Well. Seems like I’m not making much after all. Still, it’s something. Right?

But when my husband said to me, “Either you quit or I’ll quit for you,” I knew the time had come. I knew he’d had enough. I turned in my resignation and came home. (Some people thought we were crazy, but we were okay with that.) We have never regretted that decision. I burned my “Superwoman” cape and moved on with a smile on my face. My son was 7 and my daughter was 5 when I finally quit work for good to stay home. (Oh, how I wish I could go back in time. I would never have gone back to work when my son was a baby. I can see now that we were just doing what was expected of us.) My kids are now 21 and 18. Finances are tight at times – especially now that we have two in college – but every time I ask my husband if he wants me to go back to work, I get a very definitive “no.” That tells me that we made the right decision. The salary was nice; having a happy heart is oh so much nicer. We’ve never had to go without anything…I think that’s God’s blessing because we finally followed His lead and did what He had been telling us to do. My house is now in a general state of order most of the time. My calendar is relatively clear. Dinner gets made. (True Confession #2: One night last week I wanted pizza. And I didn’t want to take the time to make it. I ordered it AND had it delivered because it was cold and I didn’t want to go out. And I enjoyed it.)

If you do work outside the home or from home (whether you want to or have to), the schedule, the routine, the discipline are extremely important. They will help you maintain your sanity. They might even make you nice! Taking 15 minutes before work to do a few little chores (putting dinner in the crock pot and throwing in a load of laundry) and 15 minutes when you get home (throw the load in the dryer and clean the bathrooms) can make all the difference in whether you spend your weekends on housework or on resting and relaxing.

Warning: Soapbox ahead.

If you are working outside the home because you want to not because you have to, I urge you to think about that. While stuff is nice, it doesn’t define you. I, for one, am not going to be impressed the size of your TV, the model of your car, your granite counter tops, your huge house, or your fancy vacations. I would be impressed by an orderly house and the fact that you have time to sit down and have a cup of coffee with me. I care about your happiness. I want your life to be full of joy, not stuff. (You realize that all that stuff may be the reason you found this blog or Facebook page in the first place.) I want you to enjoy your life as it is and as you want it to be, not as someone else tells you it should be. That’s called contentment. The saying about your kids only being young once…it’s true. So just think about it. Do that number crunching. It was quite an eye-opener for us. It’s so, so easy to fall into the trap of what the world says you must have and must do to have it. Don’t believe the commercials you see on television. That’s not real life. That’s someone else telling you what you need – and paying big bucks to tell you that. Where do they get those big bucks? From you buying in to what they’re selling you. You do not need designer bags or clothes, fancy dinners out three times a week, or a bigger and better house, or the newest model of the car you already own. Nor do you need to eat out of a box or bag from the grocery store every night. (I don’t care what anyone says, boxed or even frozen macaroni and cheese does not taste as good as homemade. You are welcome to it.) There is nothing inherently wrong with “things.” It’s just that we, as a society, seem to place more emphasis and importance on “things” rather than people. I, myself, would rather have fewer things and happier people living in my house. (Again, teenagers and 21-year-olds may still be grumpy. I can’t explain that one. I’m not sure anyone can. I’m sure I was the same way.)

Soapbox speech over.

So…YOU are the HEART of your home. You are the essence of what goes on there, of the mood, of the “feeling” that you and others get when they walk in your door. Think about that. Meditate on it, even.  Changes may be necessary. Cleaning, organizing, scheduling, exercising and taking care of yourself, eating well, working or not working…all of these things affect how you see things and , as a result, affect your heart. Figure out what it takes for you to be a “happy” heart and then go for it!

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” ~ Jim Rohn

Have a blessed day!

Lynne