Household management 101

Where to start if you are clueless

If you had asked me a year ago what household management meant, I probably would have said it had to do with knowing the family’s schedules and keeping the house clean. But over the past few months, I have learned that it is so much more. 

Definition and importance of household management

So what is household management? It is the tasks, chores and planning necessary to ensure a smoothly running household. 

Why is it important? Without effective household management, a household will fall apart. 

The best example I can think of to illustrate the importance of household management is in the book Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. There is a scene when the main character, Fanny Price, visits her parents house for the first time in many years. Fanny expected to find a quiet, polite household, but was completely disgusted by the lack of control that her parents had over her younger siblings. Additionally, her mother was always complaining about the servant, how she could never find good help and about the disrepair of the rug. She also did not use her children’s abilities to her advantage, but instead allowed them to quarrel and run all over her and the rest of the house. 

After getting over the initial shock of the upside-down state of the household, Fanny began implementing small changes to calm down the feeling of the entire house. She began the education of her sister to the finer things in life. She helped create peace between two warring siblings. Her changes, while not big, impacted the entire house and made her family love her.

Types of household management

I’m by no means an expert on household management from the 18th and 19th centuries, but I am becoming acquainted with ways we manage households today. Most of these ways I have stumbled across and fallen over on my way to having a more organized house.

  1. Planners
  2. Command center
  3. Meal planning
  4. Cleaning schedule
  5. Budget planning
  6. Homeschool binder

Planners

Planners come in all sizes, layouts and brands. I prefer a half page size weekly planner with space to write my to-do lists, appointments and writing assignments. I also like to sometimes use a daily planner to get a rough idea of what my day will look like. On that spread, I also like to include what types of laundry I need to do for the day. I have played around with several styles and designs for my planning. 

Below is the current version of the weekly planner that I am using. I made these in Canva, using some designs I had seen.

Command Center

When we moved into our current house, I knew we needed something to help keep us a bit more organized. Somewhere, I had seen a designated area in homes that had a bulletin board and a white board. Most of them also had some sort of table or filing system where mail and other things could be put and processed. 

Our command center was my first attempt at organization before being organized was really on my radar. While it has helped a lot, there are still many functions our command center should have and doesn’t. Because of the shameful state of our command center (I haven’t gotten around to organizing it yet.), I will refer you to this command center Pinterest search for examples of what a command center can look like. While ours isn’t always the most functional, I still really like having a command center and highly recommend it anyone. 

Meal planning

Over the years, I have struggled with meal planning. Those times when I would meal plan, I found that I didn’t follow them or didn’t plan enough food.

The past few months, I have started meal planning again. And I actually really like it. One of the things I have recently discovered about my meal planning is that creating a meal plan removes the decision fatigue that I otherwise get when the evening rolls around. It removed the question of what I should make each night. 

I may do this the cheater way, but my meal planning is mainly based off of the menus provided in the EveryPlate boxes our family used to purchase. (If you are struggling with the basics of cooking and meal planning, I highly recommend this meal service. I found that it made it easier to prepare meals because the entire meal plan and ingredients are in one box and are mailed to my house. Recipe hunting and grocery shopping aren’t necessary. And no, EveryPlate did not pay me to say that. I love EveryPlate.) 

Due to the number of growing children in my house, we no longer use EveryPlate. Instead, I plan out one week’s worth of meals at a time using the recipe cards we received in our past boxes. (I think I have almost every one.) Because each card is a whole meal, I am able to easily plan out our meals and buy groceries based on the cards. But I do want to start creating my own single meal plans based on our families favorite foods and start incorporating them with our EveryPlate recipes.

Because of the weirdo I am, I feel the need to plan every meal. So I created this meal planning sheet to help me know what we should eat for each meal of each day. I also included a grocery list that I use when shopping.

Cleaning schedule 

In my various research on organization, I stumbled across cleaning schedules. The idea is that you have certain chores that you do on specific days of the week. These can include cleaning the toilets, organizing the pantry and cleaning the stove. 

At first, I tried it using someone else’s system and printables. But I found that it didn’t match my life, so I modified it to fit my needs and family. 

Budget planning and homeschool binder

These two items, I don’t currently use, but I thought I would include them anyway. While I don’t use them now, I hope to in the future. 

The idea behind the budget planner and homeschool binder is to have ways to help stay organized in the area of finances and the education of your children. 

For examples of budget planning, I recommend the Youtube channels Kell of a Plan and The Organized Money. They offer ideas on how to do budget planning, as well as having loads of ideas for how to use planners.

For ideas on how to use a homeschool binder, Youtube has several videos on the subject. 

What I have learned so far in my journey

There are several different things I have learned on my organizational journey. 

  1. Everyone is at a different stage of their journey. It is so easy to look at those who are ahead of you on the journey and see how organized they are. It is easy to feel discouraged and like a failure. But the truth is, that organized person may not have always been organized. They may have been a mess too. What you see is the result of lots of hard work. With the same work, you can also be organized. 
  2. Start where you are and start small. Learning a new skill takes time and practice. If you never run, you can’t expect to run an entire marathon. It takes practice and lots of work to build up speed and endurance. The same is true with organizing. You can’t expect to go from a disaster to totally organized in one day. It will take time and work to become organized and to stay organized. Organization is a skill that must be practiced. So start where you are. Take small steps to build the organizing muscle. With practice (and lots of patience), you will find that staying organized becomes easier. 
  3. What works for one person may not work for you. The internet is full of videos on how to organize and plan. Funny thing is, the way someone else does things usually only works for me to a certain extent. There will be something about their method that doesn’t match my life and needs. So I take their advice and adapt it to find what works best for me. You are unique. Your organization and planning will also be unique. 
  4. Play with it until you find the right solution for your family and situation. It may take several styles, methods and months to find what works best for you. During this time, it may be tempting to give up. But keep going. Getting to that organized life will be worth it. 
  5. Be flexible. This plays into the last two points. Don’t get so stuck on one way of doing things that you miss out on a better way.

Organizing toys in the living room

I hate toys. I don’t really hate toys themselves, but I hate how disorganized they can get. See the below picture as evidence. 

And before you are tempted to say I am a horrible mother for hating toys, I should say that I am very glad my children have toys. Over the years, I have attempted to be selective in what toys I have brought into the house. I prefer toys that can be used for building and inspire imagination and creativity. I love LEGOs, play kitchen toys and toy trains. 

But the problem with my preferred type of toys is that they have lots of pieces. And lots of pieces require lots of storage. And organization. Don’t forget organization. But organizing toys isn’t easy. 

I have been trying to organize our toys for years. I have tried buckets and bins. We even have used bookshelves for toy storage. (One thing I learned in this area is not to use tall bookshelves for small child toys. They can’t reach them.)

But as much as I have tried to organize our toys, there have been two problems.

  1. I did all the organizing and did not include the kids.
  2. Our toys have legs – specifically the names of the small children in my house.

This past week, I made another attempt to organize the toys in our house. (See the above picture as to why it was necessary. Again.) This time, I had my son help me out. It took longer than if I would have done it myself, but I’m hoping that he will be more likely to stick to the new organizational plan, despite how his sisters may try to change it.

While we were at it, I had him sort through and get rid of the toys they no longer play with. While some of them did take a little convincing, I think we are both happy with the toys we got rid of and the ones we kept. (The toys we got rid of have joined the other toys in the garage that I am getting rid of. Read about my garage challenge here.) Last week, I mentioned that I hate getting rid of toys, but I don’t want to keep toys that we don’t play with if they are taking up space that we can use for toys we do play with and for toys we could get and play with. So to that end, we set our mega bloks out on the street. 

While it was hard to do and made me sad to see them go because some of them were at my grandma’s house when I was a kid, I like that we have some space back. I also am glad to know that someone else will have fun with them.

So how did we attempt to organize the toys this time? Take a look.

We rearranged the small green containers and moved the train tracks out of their tote on the bookshelf. Now all of our trains fit into one bin, with the exception of the large pieces that still live in the round blue bin. (I hope to eliminate this bin as well, but it will take a bit of time.) My son also took some of his Hotwheel cars out of the car bin, also on the bookshelf, and put them into the green bins. My hope is that with the train tracks and cars in these containers, they will be put away quicker and in the correct places. I also grouped some of our other toys together by type.

I put my daughters’ play food into a larger container. The one they had was too small for all of their food. 

The bottom of my son’s workbench was a disorganized mess. So I used a small crate and put all of his tools in it. I also used a flat pencil holder to house his small collection of Nerf ammunition. For all the random, and unexpected, pencils I found on his workbench, I gave him a round pencil holder. 

While the solutions we employed were simple and, really, quite small, they have made a big difference. I guess the moral of the story is, it doesn’t matter how simple a solution is, if it works, use it. 

How to deal with clutter and excess possessions

A not-so-traditional look at how to deal with the stuff we don’t need

Clutter. The word makes my eyes roll and my body quiver. 

Everyone has to deal with it. At my house, it pops up so quickly I get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of it. But there are a few areas that tend to get more clutter than others.

On top of all the clutter, there are the possessions that I have been moving around with me for way too many years. In my previous post, I mentioned that I want to get rid of the excess possessions that are in my life. But saying I want to get rid of stuff and doing it are two very different things. So here is my approach to dealing with my excess and messes.

  1. Step back and look at the big picture.

Overview – Where do you see yourself or where would you like to be in five, ten, fifteen and twenty years? What steps do you need to take to make your current reality match where you want to be?

How this plays out – I know this may seem like a very odd thing to do when dealing with a mess, but hear me out. Over the past month, I have been doing a lot of analysis of my goals, dreams, legacy and hobbies. While I don’t know where I will be living in five, ten or twenty years, I know who I want to be and what I want to accomplish. 

One thing I know is that I don’t want to be a hoarder. I also know that I will be moving again, perhaps several times. Those two things are my end goal when it comes to dealing messes. They are the reason I am doing what I am doing. They are what keeps me going when I want to give up and quit. These goals will influence what I keep and what I get rid of. 

When asking yourself these questions, it may be helpful to write them down. As I have been working through this process of looking at the big picture of my life, I have found it very beneficial to see my goals in writing. It has given me a sense of empowerment, purpose and confidence that I can reach my goals and that I won’t forget them. It is an accountability tool for myself going forward.

  1. How do your possessions make you feel?

Overview – Are your possessions weighing you down? If so, what do you need to get rid of to relieve that weight?

How this plays out – A few months ago, a friend said that she was taking five minutes a day to get rid of stuff they didn’t need any more. She said that doing five minutes a day relieved the decision fatigue that can occur when decluttering and getting rid of stuff. What stuck me the most was the relief she felt with getting rid of their unneeded possessions. Having already started down my own organizational journey, I took her story to heart. While I haven’t done exactly what she did, I have noticed a sense of relief when I get rid of stuff we no longer need. 

But I still am carrying around a fairly heavy weight. As I am going through this process, I am asking myself what needs to go before I will feel like the weight is gone. While I don’t have the complete answer yet, I think I will know it when it happens. 

  1. When was the last time I used this?

Overview – How long has it been since I used this item – six months, a year, three years? If it hasn’t been used for a period of time, should it be kept? Does this item have a purpose that could overshadow time limitations, i.e. Christmas decorations?

How this plays out – Okay, this is a bit traditional. Okay, it’s a lot traditional. But it is a very valuable tool to have in your proverbial tool belt. Or your kitchen. I have actually used this question to sort between the spatulas I use and don’t use. And I need a lot of spatulas. Yes, I’m weird. But if you haven’t those cups buried deep in the back of the cabinet for over a year, it is time to consider getting rid of them. Same for the box of toys in the garage that has five years worth of dust on it.

There is a time where the six month rule doesn’t apply – items that are used once a year, such as Christmas decorations. Other specialty or rare items also are not applicable under this rule. But use this exception sparingly. That seldom, if ever, used crockpot may not qualify under this exemption.

  1. It is okay to keep some sentimental items, but in limited quantities.

Overview – Don’t throw away all your childhood memories because you never use them. Instead limit the quantity to one box or tote.

How this plays out – I am a bit sappy and like to have some sentimental items from my childhood, such as yearbooks, knick knacks that sat on my dresser and photos that were taken before I purchased a digital camera. I also want to keep handmade items given to me by my grandmother swo that I can give them to my children when they get older. These items were stored in my cedar chest and a few totes in the garage. This past week, I decided to go through my cedar chest, remove the items that are usable around the house and combine all the sentimental items into one place. Allowing myself this one space feels freeing. I am able to keep the things that carry memories from my childhood without letting them over run my life (and garage).

I can’t say that I have completely mastered this area yet. I still have a bunch of my childhood toys in the garage that I need to get rid of or let my children play with. I may compromise for a while and let myself keep a one tote of toys in the garage for a while until I am able to fully let them go. 

  1. Dealing with the naysayers

Overview – In the purging process, you will run into opposition from friends, family and yourself. When this happens, take a step back, remember the big picture and reevaluate.

How this plays out – I mentioned to someone that I wanted to get rid of a third of my possession, or at least a third of the garage. They replied with, “I don’t get rid of stuff because I might need it later.” While I love this person dearly, I know an accumulation of possessions and unwillingness to part with things can hold people back from living a full life. However, I realize that this person is in a completely different situation than myself and has the ability to store things where I do not. They also have a different goal than myself and the possessions they are keeping could possibly contribute to their overall goal. 

Still, their statement felt like a criticism. I have had to stop and evaluate if they were correct or not and if their mindset would work for me. A look at my big picture says it won’t and that I should continue on as planned. 

We can also experience negative thoughts and pressure from ourselves. When this happens, grace is the best thing we can give to ourselves. Dealing with clutter and excessive possessions is a process. For some people it may take a few years. The thing to do is remember the big picture, who you want to be and continue making progress, even if it is slow. It may be like my friend who was doing five minutes a day. It may be one weekend a month. Or it could be one month a year. The thing to do is what works best for your situation and your goals.

My journey of becoming (or wanting to become) organized

I am probably the least qualified person to talk about organization. Take one look at my house and you will know exactly why I say that. Losing things, clutter and a lack of focus has been the story of my life, my kitchen, my bedroom – you get the picture. 

But over the past few months, I have become obsessed with trying to get organized. Maybe obsessed isn’t quite the right word. Deeply motivated is probably better. 

About nine months ago, we gathered all of our possessions from five or six different locations and moved halfway across the country. It was a huge task that took two weeks of preparation before the movers began packing. And while I got rid of some stuff then, we still have loads of stuff that we really don’t need. Because of my husband’s job, we are guaranteed at least one more move in the near future. Probably more. With this prospect facing me, I don’t want to keep carrying around excess stuff for the rest of my life.

I also have four children. After moving, I very quickly realised that my current form of household management was horrific and would not stand the test of time. My first step was to institute chores for the two children capable of completing tasks. 

Slowly over time, I have been adding and trying new things to help keep myself organized. I have established a written planner, as a virtual one didn’t work for me. While this planner continues to evolve, change and grow, I am finding it very helpful. I also keep instituting organizational elements for controlling and managing our stuff. So far, my favorite is garbage cans in the van. I no longer have to chase empty food wrappers across parking lots. 😄 

While going through the initial planner phase, I stumbled across free printables for long term goal planning. I have never done long term goal planning that I can remember. While I know that my goals will change over time, it has been really helpful for me to write down what I want to accomplish. A few weeks ago, without the assistance of any printables, I decided to write down where I want to be in the next five, ten, fifteen and twenty years and what I want my legacy to be. Wow! Did it ever help me figure out where I should be focusing my time and energy. 

But even with all of the organizational strategies I have put in place in my life and home, I still have a long way to go. I recently came home from visiting my parents for a month. Walking through the door of my house after being gone, highlighted multiple areas of my home that need improvement. 

The biggest, and the one I have known about since we moved, is the garage. I have installed some organization there over the past several months, but there is still so much that either needs to be gotten rid of or needs a home. Just before coming home, I set myself a challenge – get rid of a third of our possessions by the end of July.

While I don’t think I will truly get rid of a third of all we own, I definitely think I can get rid of a third of what is in the garage. I have a lot of baby clothes I probably will never use again. I no longer feel the need to keep these clothes in case we have other children. I want to be able to bless someone else with these clothes, just as I have been blessed by them. I also don’t want to keep moving unnecessary items around. 

So while I am probably the least qualified person to talk about organization, perhaps I am also the most qualified person to talk about it because it is something I am currently working through the process of doing. 

Over the next few weeks, I want to share with you some of the things I have learned on my organizational journey or things I want to add to my home. I will also keep you updated on the progress of my garage and if I accomplish my goal. I hope you will join me and that my journey, ideas and tips will inspire and encourage you along your own organizational journey.

Don’t give up. You can do this because God is by your side.

Slaying dragons

After writing last week’s post, things felt like life got much worse and all of my motivation seemed to disappear.

Apparently my husband has also been thinking about the lack of motivation also. He had an amazing analogy for it.

A young man hears about a dragon who is terrorizing the kingdom. Full of energy and the desire to achieve a great victory, he rushes to the dragons cave and slays the dragon. He is the hero. He has saved the day.

Then he hears of another dragon. He slays him also.

Soon he hears of two more dragons. He also slays them.

As this repeats itself over and over, the now almost middle-aged man begins to wonder why he is killing dragons. Finally, he quits and gets a job in a metal working shop. When people ask him about his heroics, he brushes it aside as nothing. He’s put in his time. That isn’t exciting anymore.

As I have been thinking, it makes sense why I would encourage my son to get back on his bicycle after falling off, but I can’t tell myself to keep going. He is young. He has lots of energy and excitement to slay the dragons.

I, on the other hand, have slayed a lot of dragons. Why should I keep slaying them? There are way more than I can ever kill.

Does this excuse my lack of motivation? No. But it does help me frame it in a tangible way. I guess the next question is, how do I find the energy and motivation to keep slaying the dragons in my life? That is something I need to keep thinking about and find an answer to.