Wednesday, October 22, 2014

day 22: be kind to yourself...

This may not really fit in a series on order, but I feel very strongly about sharing this today.  I think as women, we need to spend more time being kind to ourselves. 

So today, cut yourself some slack.  Stop comparing yourself to others.  Stop wishing your life was different and take some steps towards change.  Stop the negative self talk.

I forget where I first saw this saying but I love it.  It is so true.  Take a look in the mirror and say something nice to yourself today.  

If you can't think of any, here are some from me: You are beautiful, you are strong, you are lovable, you can do it, and you are a daughter of the King.  Rejoice today in who you are!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

day 21: cleaning...

One way I like to create order in my life is to develop systems or routines for everyday tasks.  I've already talked about my meal planning and morning routines, today I want to talk about my cleaning routine.

Like cooking dinner, cleaning is something that must be done daily.  I've experimented with all different ways to clean my house and have found what works best for me.  Which is really the point of this whole series, that you find what works best for you and then do it.

I like to do a little bit of cleaning everyday, instead of doing one big cleaning on the weekend.  I have found that if I break up my cleaning, I'm more likely to stay on top of it and therefore I have a cleaner house.  I have tried both ways, and doing something everyday just fits my personality and life.  I have used cleaning systems created by other bloggers whereby they assign a task to each day of the week.  So for example, Monday is for cleaning the bathrooms, Tuesday clean the floors, Wednesday...  You get the idea.  I like that concept but I never knew what do to if I didn't do Monday's task on Monday.  Should I do it Tuesday or wait a week?

The best way to describe my cleaning system now is that I divided each task into the number of times I perform it each week and then do it that many times.  So for example, I vacuum my rugs 2 times a week.  I typically vacuum on Tuesdays and Fridays.  But since the task is not assigned a day but rather a number of times a week to complete, I can vacuum on other days and not add stress to my life.

I also have given my children age appropriate cleaning chores and we do those both during the week and on the weekend.  Some of the things my boys are responsible are; cleaning their bathroom, their bedroom, dusting the bannisters on the stairs and some of the vacuuming.  They also help with setting and clearing the table but I don't see that as a chore but more of a responsibility since they are part of the family.

Somethings that help me with my cleaning are;

1. I buy high quality natural cleaning products.  I don't like the idea of a lot of harsh cleansers in my house so I did some research and use natural cleaning products.  This also allows me to know that the boys aren't going to get chemicals in their mouths or eyes when they use them.  Whatever you are using, make sure it works.

2. I have a bucket (like the one in the picture) and store all my cleaning supplies together.  This makes cleaning easier since all my supplies are right there.  If I'm cleaning the bathrooms that day, I just bring the bucket from bathroom to bathroom and have all my supplies on hand.  I also put my cleaning supplies back in the same place every time, so I know where they are and if I need to order more.

3. I have thought about how I run my house and how my family lives in it and adjusted things accordingly.  For example, I like to run my dishwasher at night.  This allows me to use energy at non-peak hours and to start the day with all clean dishes.  I empty the dishwasher as my kids are eating breakfast and all the new dirty dishes go right in.  This helps me start and end my day with a clean kitchen. 

I encourage you to spend some time figuring out how to clean your house or do your cleaning chores in a way that makes sense for the way you live.  Create more order, by developing a system for cleaning that works for you and your family.

What kind of cleaning system to you use?  How has it changed over the years?  I encourage you, spend some time thinking about it.  The more mindful you can be about how you clean, the more ordered your life can be.


Monday, October 20, 2014

day 20: developing a morning routine...

One way I've found to reduce the amount of stress in our days, and more specifically our mornings, is to write out a morning routine.  These are not complex schedules but rather the steps that the boys need to follow to get ready for school.  For example, the boys wrote up the following morning routine;

1. get up
2. get dressed
3. eat breakfast
4. brush teeth and comb hair
5. put on socks and shoes
6. pack school bag
7. play time

I type the lists up and post them in our kitchen on our pantry door.  When my kids were little, I took pictures of them performing each step in our routine and posted them on a piece of poster board.  I also wrote out the steps even though they couldn't read, since I think it's never too early to expose kids to learning letters and words.

I've been having my boys help me write out the steps of their morning routine for three years now and I like this practice for two main reasons, 

1) It helps them learn how to organize and plan their time.  This is something that is intuitive for some people and not for others.  So it is a really valuable skill to teach your children.  Also, as they get older I'm hoping will translate into their school work and other areas of their lives. 

2) I have found that it cuts down on my yelling in the morning and the boys whining if we have written routines of what they are supposed to do. Now all I have to do is say, 'What should you do next?' and they look at the sheet and do it.  They also know what time we need to be in the car to leave for school, so if they want play time they learn not to fool around and just get their tasks done.

I have also found a few other 'rules' helpful towards reducing stress in our mornings.

We also have an absolute rule of no screen time in the morning.  None.  At all.  This is not something they are thrilled with but they accept it.  In fact, we made a rule change this year and only allow screen time on the weekends for our boys.  No exceptions. 

We also have the kids pick out the clothes they want to wear to school the night before.  My boys are pretty easy in terms of clothes.  One cares a great deal and the other doesn't.  So for the one that cares, it helps to have him pick out his outfit so we know his first choice is clean.  I also check the calendar for spirit days and other days when they have to wear special clothing. You only have to miss pj day once to know that this is a mistake kids don't forget.

If you find yourself continually stressed in the morning trying to get yourself or kids out the door, try writing up a morning routine.  I think the discipline of doing this will add more order to your morning and thereby reduce your daily stress.

Even though this picture has nothing to do with this post, I had to show you Grace playing soccer with John.  This picture makes me smile for SO many reasons but mainly because Grace initiated the play and her brother stopped his game of soccer to help her kick the ball.  They played together for about 20 minutes.  He was so happy that she actually participated in something.  I've posted a video of her kicking the ball around our circle on my instagram account.  You can see it here.  

What do you do in the morning to help reduce the stress associated with getting out the door?  Do you have a morning routine?


Sunday, October 19, 2014

day 19: pause and give thanks...

This post is part of my 31 days to more order series.  To find all topics and posts, go here.

So far in this series we've looked at your space and your schedule.  I'd like you to take some time today, on the Sabbath, to pause and reflect.  The practice of giving thanks is one that I am trying to cultivate in our children.  We want them to have an attitude of gratitude.  Usually, when I'm talking about this with the kids it changes my attitude and brings me to a place of thankfulness too.

Most of us that have the privilege to live in America have so much more than we need.  Take some time today to think about what you are thankful for.  I'm guessing that on top of your list is going to be people not things.  It's okay to be thankful for things.  In the winter months I'm really thankful for central heating and warm clothes.  But at my core, the reason I do what I do is not for the things in my life but the people in my life.

It's important to pause from your typical routine and be still.  I've found that thinking about what I'm grateful for in my life, causes me to be more balanced.  When we focus on what we have, we tend to be less stressed about what we don't have.

On the top of my list of what I'm most thankful is that I get to be mom to these three cuties.

What are you most thankful for today?

I hope you have a blessed day.  


Saturday, October 18, 2014

day 18: protect your time...

There are a lot of marketing slogans out there these days.  One that is popular with sports teams is the saying 'protect this house'.  It's meaning is obvious, the team is playing to win and protect their home turf.  Today, I'd like to encourage you to do the same with your time and schedule.

videos co gender protect this house women protect this house

Hopefully, you've taken some time to review your schedule and think about each and every activity you are committed to.  Now that you've looked at things, were  you able to take anything off your schedule?  Or maybe, do you just have a better handle on what you're committed to?  Both of these are good.  And realistically, now may not be the time to take anything off your schedule.  Your goal should be to intentionally evaluate everything and then be able to say that right now you are involved in what you feel you should be.

The next step with your schedule is to protect your time.  Just as we want to limit what we bring back into our homes after we have purged and removed clutter, we want to make sure that we don't fill the space we've just cleared in our schedules with just anything. 

As I mentioned in this post, my husband works every other weekend and I am very protective of the time on his non-working weekends.  Those are for family time.  Since we only have 4 days a month that no one works or goes to school, we try and be very intentional about what we do with those days.  My husband's schedule is a set one, so we know the weekends he will be free months in advance and can plan our  time accordingly.

As our kids have gotten older (they are 10, 8 and 7), we have become even more mindful of our time.  It means that sometimes, we say no to an invitation so that we can say yes to family time.  Sometimes we say no to helping on a project because it would reduce our limited weekend time even more.  Our kids know that just because you have been invited or asked to do something doesn't mean they will get to go.  Yes, they have missed parties.  Yes, my husband and I have missed events or parties.  But our objective of spending quality time together has been met.

This isn't to say that we never do things with other people on the weekends.  We love to hang out with friends and have people over.  It simply means that we are very selective about how we spend our time and we actively consider what we say yes or no to doing.

That's what I want to encourage to you to do as well.  Protect your calendar.  Start being more mindful about what you say yes to doing.  It may mean that if your child has a game and two birthday parties on a Saturday, that he can't do it all.  But in the end, you will probably feel less stressed and isn't that what we are looking for anyway.  It may mean that I say no to making a meal for someone on a weekend when Mark works, but say yes when I know he is going to be home.

How can you protect your time?  How can you instill more order into you schedule? 


Friday, October 17, 2014

day 17: knowing your personality type...

Welcome to my ongoing series of 31 days to more order.  To view the complete list of posts, click here.

Today's topic is about knowing your personality type.  Does that seem like a weird topic to put right in the middle of a series on order?  And more specifically, when I'm talking about managing your schedule?  Stay with me, because I think it fits.

I think that it's important to know what we enjoy doing and what our strengths are as we are evaluating whether or not to commit to something.  So how does knowing your personality type help you with this?  I think it helps us by allowing us to focus on what we are naturally inclined to do versus comparing ourselves to what others are doing.

I am an introvert.  Which is something that I didn't really come to fully understand about myself until I was in my 30s.  Just because I am an introvert does not mean that I am shy.  They are completely different things.  Although, I will admit to sometimes not being completely comfortable in social setting and having a fear of sitting next to people I don't know because I would have to talk to complete strangers.  It is one of the reasons I do not want to go on a cruise.  I can't imagine anything worse that being on a boat full of people I don't know and having to talk to them.  My husband thought I was crazy when I shared that with him.  He's an extrovert.

What is does mean is that while I enjoy being around people, I need to be alone in order to recharge.  I may enjoy being with people but if I got to choose whether I wanted to sit at home with a book in front of the fire or go to a party, the book would probably win every time.  I also process things internally, which is why I like to blog.  It allows me to be thoughtful and say what I need to say without talking to people.

I took the personality test found here.  I'm an INFJ, which according to the results is very rare.  It means I am an introvert (I), have diplomatic tendencies (NF) and a judging trait (J) (oops!).  So knowing these things to be true about myself, I don't take on roles that aren't suited to my personality.

For example, I love to teach but I do not like to do improv.  So one way I serve in our church is by teaching children.  I was asked to think about another role that would have me interacting with volunteers, doing skits and then providing feedback to adults on their portion of the program.  To be honest, nothing about that role seemed interesting to me.  But had I not understood myself and my personality type, I may have been tempted to take on a role like this to help out.  I get teased a lot by my friends who think it's crazy that I can present in front of hundreds of people but can't get up on stage and act out a skit.

It's important to know yourself and your limits, even if they seem weird to others.  Plus, it's totally fun to take a quiz like this!

So, I encourage you to take this personality test.  Once you have, call me.  No really, look at what you are involved in or with and make sure it's a good fit for  you.  Remember you are in charge of what you commit your time to, so be protective.  It's okay to say no.

I hope you have an awesome weekend!  Here in the mid-atlantic it's going to be sunny and mid-70's.  I can't wait to be outside with my kids.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

day 16: reviewing your schedule ...

Welcome to my ongoing series of 31 days to more order.  To view the complete list of posts, click here.

In yesterday's post I recommended you write down all of the activities and / or commitments you and your family has.  Today I want to encourage you to evaluate everything on that list and for you to make sure it is still something you want to do.

Which may seem silly to you.  But really, are you committed to things you no longer want to be involved with?  Is everything on your schedule something that adds to your life?  Are there things you are doing that no longer give you joy?  Who's to say that just because you can do something and have done something in the past that you have to keep doing it?

Two years ago, all three of my children started going to school for a full day.  So I was going to be alone during the day.  I was super excited!  When people realized this one of two things typically happened.  Some people would ask me if I was going to go back to work.  The answer to that is a big NO.  Other people would call and ask if I could serve on this committee or work on this school / church project or even lead a project for them.  For a minute, the 14 year old girl living in side of me was excited they were calling because it meant that they like me.  Right?  Wrong.  Well, maybe they did like me.  But in all honesty, they needed someone to help them and they knew that my schedule had just become a whole lot clearer during the day.

Thankfully I knew, since I wrote it all down on one piece of paper, what my family was involved in and how they would need me.  This allowed me to evaluate each request against the question of whether or not I wanted to spend my time doing it.  I know and understand that there are somethings that we do that we don't enjoy but fall into the have to category (school fundraisers and book fairs come to mind).  I also know that some of our commitments are due to the other people in our lives and so we may have to do something we wouldn't choose because it is for a child or spouse (like sitting by the side of a sports field with two other kids).  But the rest of the time, we should be filling our schedules with activities that we enjoy.  I have gotten very picky about how and when I commit myself to do things.

For example, I love to cook meals for people.  Really I do.  I love gifting friends and members of my church with a home cooked meal when they are struggling or in need of a helping hand.  But just because I love to do that and find it energizing, doesn't mean I need to sign up for every meal request that comes to me.  I need to evaluate what is going on in my schedule and with my family that week.  If it doesn't work for me, I know that someone else will provide that meal.

Spend some time with your schedule and your list of commitments and ask yourself the following questions:

1. Is this really something I want to continue doing?  OR Is this something I want to add to my schedule?

2. Do I still enjoy being involved in this?  OR Will I enjoy doing this?

3. Can I continue to commit to this activity?  OR Will I be able to commit to adding this to my schedule?

It's okay to say no.  It's even okay to take a break from all committees and activities for a season to get your home situated.  I have a friend who is doing this right now.  She loves to serve but has stepped back from most commitments because her family needs some extra attention right now.  It's necessary to give ourselves a break from things, even things we love so that when we do say yes we are doing it the right reasons.

So for today, sit with your schedule and review the commitments you have.  Even something that is a 'good' commitment, like serving at your church or in your kid's school, should be evaluated.  Make sure you can answer the questions above positively.  If not, make a plan to get out of your commitment.  And going forward, only add things to your schedule that you will enjoy doing.