(Part 2 in the Home Stewardship series of posts)
So I shared yesterday that part of the dilemna contributing to my discontent was a good deal of frustration. Time, money, and know-how (on my part) were all at a minimum. And, so for 10 years many household projects have been on hold.
In addition I have been feeling very overwhelmed. Caring for four boys under the age of 8, preparing meals, laundry, de-cluttering, cleaning, etc. all seem some days like more than I can handle.
I have been very tempted to just throw in the towel. If the kids don't seem to mind the mess, then so be it. And, if my house is in a perpetual state of renovation, then why even try to do anything to beautify it? After all, this house is supposed to be temporary. Someday we really would like to buy a house with a bit more land to it.
The problem with this line of thinking is that it has left me depressed, even more discontent, and unsettled. It was as though (in my mind) we've been living in temporary housing...for 10 years! It was time to really focus on how to make my house a home....not perfect - imperfections would still abound...but a place of rest, comfort, and love.
A fellow MOPS mom shared with me that at one point when she was single she was renting a mobile home. It was not her housing of choice and she said she even felt somewhat embarrassed. But then she felt like God spoke very clearly to her that he wanted her to be a good steward of what he had given her. And she said to me, "Karen, I'm not one of those people who often has a strong sense of 'God is saying' this or that to me. But, this was very clear." From that point on she made an effort to put extra care into her home - planting flowers, painting walls, decorating it simply yet beautifully.
And, that stuck with me. God does call us to be good stewards of whatever he gives us....whether our homes are worth 50 thousand dollars or 500 thousand dollars.
So here are some practical things I've been trying to keep in mind as I explore what it means to be a good steward of my home. These may be things many of you have already mastered. But, this list is a reflection of where I am right now.
1. Acknowledge your time wasters
Probably my biggest time waster right now is the computer. I love to check facebook, my blog, and other blogs for posts and comments. I also have become somewhat obsessed with Craigslist - specifically the furniture for sale listings. I am checking my computer over and over and over throughout the day. And, when I'm not checking it I'm wondering if there are any updates. Being aware of the problem is half the battle. Our time wasters usually aren't bad things in and of themselves. We just need to find balance.
2. Be Realistic
With an older house that seems to create it's own dirt and dust, four boys who love to play outside and bring in more dirt, and a husband who is a very hands-on kind of guy who brings in even more dirt, I am not going to have a pristine home. My floors are going to get sticky. Walls are going to get scuffed up. Things are going to get broken. Realizing this and accepting this will help me be realistic about what 'clean' looks like for our house.
3. Decide what is Good Enough
Growing up, if we owned a mop I don't remember it...because whenever we cleaned the kitchen and dining room floors it was on our hands and knees scrubbing. For the longest time I thought that if I was going to clean something I had to go all out and 'do it right'. But, the fact is, scrubbing on my hands and knees takes a long time. And, what happened is the floors wouldn't get done at all. When I accepted that the floors didn't have to be perfect...just good enough...they got done a lot more often.
4. Do what you can
The same type of issue held true with the bathrooms (my least favorite thing to clean). I felt like I had to be able to scrub the toilet, sink, and tub...as well as clean the floors all in one shot. But, the task seemed overwhelming. Breaking it down into smaller tasks...say scrubbing the toilet when I had 5-10 extra minutes made it seem far less overwhelming...and the bathroom stayed cleaner. In the same way, I have one particular room that seems to accumulate all the stuff that needs sorted or given a home. This room (my computer room actually) has become an overwhelming mess! I don't have an entire day to devote to cleaning and organizing it. So instead I've been tackling it bit by bit - 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there. It's still a mess. But, I can see the floor now!
5. Use simple systems
There are people out there who swear by household binders. In it they keep organized all their bills, appointments, menu planning, household projects, shopping lists, budget, etc. etc. I LOVE this idea. But, it doesn't work for me. I've tried it. I get more caught up in trying to maintain the binder. Then, something that is designed to be a tool in organizing tasks becomes just another task. I am the same way about chore lists, reward charts, etc. for the kids. It sounds like such a great idea and for some families it's an incredibly effective tool. For me, it's one more thing to maintain and I'm rarely consistent. For me, the simpler the better.
One example of a simple system I use is with mail/bills. When the mail arrives, I immediately go through it. I toss the junk mail. Magazines go on the magazine rack. Invitations or things involving an upcoming date to be scheduled I write on the calendar and tack on my mini-bulletin board. Bills I open and then I write on the envelope it arrived in how much is due and when it's due. I put those in my bill file and each Friday (payday) I pull them out and pay what needs to be payed. Sometimes there are still things I set aside that I'm not sure what to do with. Usually these are things I think my husband might want to look at. So, sometimes that pile grows larger than it should.
6. Slowly tackle the clutter
I have learned that I don't have to keep everything. It's OK to give away and throw away. This has been a slow learning process for me. I tend to be very sentimental over items or I stash them away that someday in the future they might be useful. I had to force myself in the beginning and bagging up stuff to take to Goodwill or ReUzit took me a long time. I'd sit staring at something in my hand and literally take 10 minutes asking myself, "Should I keep this? Would one of the boys want it some day? Should I sell it instead of giving it away?" Often I wouldn't be able to make up my mind and I'd set it aside to be dealty with later. Now I take great pleasure in filling bags with stuff to get rid of. It's still hard sometimes & I still get 'stuck' on certain items. But, I've come a long way!
7. Make lists of future projects
Thy Hand Hath Provided did a similar post last week titled "House Woes" In it she talked about how so many times we see our house but we don't really see it. And, then when we really look at it we realize 'Oh. This needs done. That needs done.' She went on to say that those things don't really need to be done to ensure our happiness. I agree wholeheartedly. Our happiness is not dependant on our houses. I repeat. Our happiness is not dependant on our houses. The one thing I would add to that is that when I do notice something that should be fixed or replaced...start a list. So many times, if I am out where I could buy whatever I need in my house, I can't for the life of me remember what I need. For instance, the ceiling light fixture in our kitchen fell and shattered months ago. I've gotten so used to the bare bulb that I forget sometimes that it's like that. But, this is an example of something I should put on my list - it's simple enough to fix...if I can just remember to buy that new fixture.
8. Take the time to enjoy a sense of accomplishment
When you do finish a project, take a minute to stand back and enjoy it. For me recently I finished weeding and mulching one of my flowerbeds. Yes. I still had more flowerbeds to weed and mulch, but I took some time to soak the the great feeling of accomplishment.
So there you have the areas I'm working on. This is what works for me. I'd love to hear some of the things that work for you. And, next post I'm planning on writing a bit about the heart issues involved in good stewardship.