Spring Cleaning-It’s really all about the clutter

 

arnel-hasanovic-375269-unsplash
Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

 

It is that season.  The temperatures begin to rise, the sun comes out, green emerges in our gardens and we feel this urge to “spring clean”.  And if you are like me, the picture above makes you take a deep breath and feel a sense of relief.  You want your whole house, whole office, whole life to look and feel this serene.

I realized years ago, that my bent towards organization and that spring cleaning urgency, which frankly hits me about every three months, was really a longing for space-white space.  It was a need for room to breathe.  It was a desire to be able to find things, keep up with my schedule and have moments to breathe.  In the end it meant I simply wanted SPACE- space to live, laugh, relax.

I came up with the following acrostic to help me organize and manage my time.

  • S-Sort
  • P-Purge
  • A-Assign
  • Contain
  • Evaluate

We often begin the process wrong, and so in the end, we simply do little more than move things around, finding ourselves a few months down the road, handling the same items, shifting them from one space to another.  If you can embrace my SPACE method, I promise you will find exactly that-space to live, to play, to breathe, to rest.

Step 1 is to Sort.  You can begin as small as one drawer, one closet or as large as one room.  Simply sort the items into categories:  like items together.

Step 2 is to Purge.  Take a good look at what you have.  Get rid of duplicates, broken items, the unknown…  Elect to either throw the items away or donate.  Either way have a bin or bag for both.

Step 3 is to Assign.  All that remains are the items you have elected to keep.  These should be things you use or enjoy.   Decide where you are going to put each item.  Some may find a home on a shelf, some in a drawer, some a closet.  What matters at this point is to simply decide where the item is going to live.  If the item is going to be moved to another room, take it there and simply leave it in a holding space until you are ready to address the space.  Once you have assigned each item a place to reside, step back and determined whether or not the space is sufficient to hold the items you have assigned to it.  If not-yep, hate to tell you, but it’s time to purge a little more.

Step 4 is to contain.  So many of us want to rush out and buy all these cute bins, containers, labels BEFORE we begin organizing.  PLEASE DON’T!  You will waste money and simply find yourself trying to organize the items you bought to help you organize.  Once you know what you are keeping and where you are going to put it you determine how it will be stored in the space.  If you need extra containers, hooks, boxes, etc. you will know what size and how many.  Make a list of any items you need to purchase in order to effectively contain the items in the assigned space.

Step 5 is to evaluate.  This is the step most of us want to ignore.  We want to organize our space and have it magically remain organized.  But that sweet friends is simply not reality.  We live.  Our families live.  Items make their way into our homes and at some point many of those items need to find their way out of our homes.  It is important to periodically (maybe once every 4-6 weeks) evaluate your space.  Is there an area causing you frustration?  Do you find yourself distracted each time you set out to begin a project or work in a particular space?  While this step can often be the most difficult to do, it really is the key to success.  The more mindful we become about our spaces, the more we stop to think about the impact of our spaces on our lives, the more intentional we become with our purchases and our decisions.  As we begin to live with intention and focus, we find that space we have longed for, and in that moment we take the deep, rejuvenating breath.

*this same process works for your calendar and time management system, but that’s a whole other blog 🙂

 

 

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Having a Housekeeper-It’s Biblical!

“…and portions for her servant girls.” Proverbs 31: 15.

So often we study the Proverbs 31 woman and then sit in awe or defeat.  We compare ourselves to her, a lifetime of achievements and qualities captured in 21 short verses.  We lose perspective.

This woman of God lived a life well lived.  She was blessed, praised and honored.  She did much.  She ran multiple businesses, she managed family finances, she took care of herself physically and emotionally.  She provided for her family. Her days started early and ended late.  But more than what she did, which is where we often focus, we need to consider who she was.  We should study to learn about her qualities, not her achievements.

We have already discussed that she was pure, trustworthy, loyal, industrious, and thrifty.  Most of all we know she feared the Lord and sought His guidance daily, hourly.  It is in the seeking to know who she was that we will find the lessons He has for us.

I have often joked about verse 15.  Before children, when I was working 60+ hours a week, volunteering in my community and with our youth group at church, I had a housekeeper.  In fact we had her for 16 years.  She became our friend, an extension of our family.  Her daughter grew up in front of us.  We shared laughs, tears, trials and joys.  I was blessed to have her help, her friendship.  On occasion, my husband would question our need for her.  (You see I am one of those people that would clean up to get ready for the housekeeper.  I know.  That’s a whole other discussion.)  On more than one occasion I would whip out Proverbs 31:15 to justify my decision.  I mean after all if this revered woman in scripture clearly had maidservants, then I should most certainly follow suit.  So there you have it ladies.  Having a housekeeper is indeed biblical!

Well, remember that thing called perspective?  In deed the Proverbs 31 had maidservants.  She lived in a day and time that financially, politically was one of the darkest and most difficult times in Israel.  Families often found themselves unable to provide for their children, thus abandoning them or selling them.  Recurring battles and plunder left many children orphaned.  Living in a trade community there we enslaved girls brought in and sold or traded, some even abandoned after the merchants were finished with them.  Yes, human trafficking existed even then.  As such, families who were able, families who felt compelled to help, would take young boys and girls in as bond servants, offering them safety, shelter and provisions.

The Proverbs 31 woman also had need for help.  Again, due to the times, life was difficult.  Much was required if one was to have food and provisions.  It required sacrifice, planning, diligent labor, ingenuity and physical strength.  It would have been virtually impossible to do it alone.

courtesy Town & Country
courtesy Town & Country

While I’d like to stick with the whole “having a housekeeper is biblical” thing, the real lesson is so much more.  It’s not about the housekeeper/the maidservant.  Again, it is about who the Proverbs 31 woman was.  She was wise.  She spent time considering all that she had and needed.  She sought God’s counsel as she attempted to plan for the future.  She was confident enough to know she could not do it all, she could not be all.  She knew what and when she needed to delegate. She saw her plenty and knew she was called to serve, to rescue, to help.  She provided for her maidservants as she did her family.

This woman did not live in abundance.  She had plenty.  But even the plenty she was willing to share, with her maidservants (vs 15) and with the poor and needy (vs 20).  It wasn’t about having more for the sake of having more.  It was about having plenty/enough and being willing to stretch that to help meet the needs of others.

This woman did not work from a place of pride.  She was humble.  She sought to work hard, give her best, yet she knew and accepted what she could not do.  A part of her resourcefulness was knowing what to delegate and to whom.  Once she chose to delegate, she then taught/trained those whom she sought help from.  Her ways were gentle.  She worked alongside them.  She cared for them.

So many lessons for us.  When I seek help am I doing it to stretch my plenty or to obtain abundance?  When I seek help do I humbly come alongside that person teaching/training and working alongside?  Do I use the extra time afforded me by having help to do something worthwhile?  Do I look for the needy and offer them help?

I don’t have a housekeeper any more.  Some days I miss her terribly.  But finances changed, my work load lightened, my daughters grew and the wiser choice was to take our plenty and use it wisely.  I now delegate to my daughters, working alongside them to train them and teach them how to care for a home, provide for a family and serve others.  We open our home to serve others.  We look for opportunities to help meet needs in our family, church and community.

We all live in different circumstances.  Our plenty is different for each of us.  And some of us our blessed with abundance. Remember, to that one, much is expected.  Having help is important.  Knowing what and when to delegate is critical.  Let’s remember those lessons from the Proverbs 31 woman.  Let’s dig deep and look at who she was, not just at what she had or did.  In the end it is all about stewardship.  Stewardship of our time, our resources and our plenty.

The BIGGEST Mistake Women Make in Managing Time

Managing our time is one of our biggest challenges.  Our choices and opportunities are infinite and yet our time is finite.  For most of us, our organizational issues are really nothing more than time management issues.  None of us wants to be disorganized.  None of us wants to be late.  None of us wants to miss a friend’s birthday.  We have good intentions.  We want to do right.

I think women struggle with this more than men.  In part because many of us do not work outside the home, or if we do, it is not full-time. We take on primary responsibility for our children and our homes.  As a result we find ourselves with multiple schedules to manage, and often our time is not our own-in terms of using it for ourselves.

I realized years ago, when I first transitioned from full-time work to staying at home with my twin daughters, items NOT getting taken care of or completed were typically items I had never written down in my calendar.  Outside appointments, volunteer projects, girls’ events/play-dates… all got written on the calendar.  However, the bulk of what I needed to get done, wanted to get done, failed to ever make it to the paper (or electronic organizer if that is your preference).  Cleaning the house, making a meal plan, buying groceries, organizing the Christmas decorations in the attic, weeding the flower bed…  As a result I often found myself with a full day transporting kids, handling volunteer phone calls, playing tennis, attending bible study, but failing to get dinner on the table, or snapping at my husband because I felt frazzled and disappointed in myself.  I found myself running to buy a last minute gift or card. I’d get stuck in the house all day on a beautiful Saturday cleaning or doing 8 loads of laundry.  Not what I wanted.

The hard truth is this:  If we want to get it done, we MUST write it down-not just on a list, but we must decide what day and what time.

Some people like to have a weekly schedule.  I personally don’t do well with a weekly schedule.  I work for myself and serve clients, so I rarely have two weeks alike.  I prefer to have a list of the things I know I need to get done each week.  I then transfer those items to my weekly calendar on Friday or Sunday.  I rarely mop the floors or do the laundry on the same day any given week.  However, what I do commit to is getting it written down on my calendar that week.  Why is this important?  One, it reminds me.  Two, if an invitation to an event or a client work opportunity arises for that particular time slot I see what I am going to say NO to in order to say Yes. Sometimes it is worth it.  Sometimes it is easy to move the task to another time slot.  Sometimes I realize I simply can’t say Yes.  if I don’t have it written down it clutters my mind all week and/or I treat it as less significant than other items, and then what do you know?! It never gets done.  On occasion that is fine, but week after week it is not.

As women we need to schedule what I call the MUNDANE/the WEEKLY.  Whether you work out of the home, from home or in the home, you need a calendar.  You need to note appointments, but just as importantly, you need to write down the mundane/weekly.  Treat those items as appointments.  Block the time.  Don’t schedule anything on top of the mundane or weekly unless you can reschedule the task or are willing to give it up that week/that day.

As I began to practice this I began to feel more confident as a stay at home mom.  Even now, it helps me keep my family first.  I know what is important to my family.  I know what I need to do to feel like I am taking care of them and meeting their needs.  I see where my time is going and I can appreciate it.

Don’t make the biggest mistake women make in managing time.  Get out that calendar.  Write it down.  When are you going to clean the bathroom.  What day and time works best this week for doing laundry?  What are you going to feed your family this week?  You get the picture.  It all needs to get done.  It’s all important.

Cup of Fresh Brewed Coffee and Main Things Remain the Same

My day of planning on the 31st went well.  As mentioned in Monday’s post.  I have been fairly purposeful about my calendar and project notebook, so I spent the time I had looking back through my journal.  I keep a daily journal.  Well, there are a few days missing.  For over 20 years I have held a morning quiet time.  For me, it is a spiritual discipline.  I love to sit with a fresh brewed cup of coffee, my Bible, journal and a devotional (or two).  My husband sits in a nearby chair, practicing the same discipline.  We don’t talk.  We dwell in the peacefulness of a morning not yet disturbed.  We dwell in the beauty of day not yet spoiled by our own sin nature.  The sun slowly rises and with it the robin sings and nature begins to stir.  In those moments our minds are clear.  What truly matters seems to rise to the forefront of our thoughts.  My husband ponders.  I write. Often the words I write bring clarity to my mind.  They determine the course of my day, or the next step in a decision to be made.  I often look back upon these words, amazed that I penned them.  Often it is evident, the Spirit has spoken.  Often the words penned are quotes from the devotional I am reading or a verse that hits me with a fresh perspective or new conviction.  When I take time to look back upon my journal I can see clearly the tapestry He has woven. What may have seemed chaos at the time, comes into focus and makes sense in hind-sight.

As I enter this period of raising teens, this Second Season, realizing my role is changing and my time to instill in them is quickly passing, I long even more for my actions and decisions to be purposeful.  I want my decisions to reflect my priorities, to reflect who I am, to reflect my convictions.  I want my decisions to have impact.  As I read through my journal words confirmed.  I am attempting to work a real estate business and organizing business part-time, but my main role is still at home.  Our home is our ministry tool.  Our home is my daughters’ safe haven, their soft place to land during these pubescent years.  I am now homeschooling one. The decision to do so based upon frustration with both public and private educational systems that struggle to see the capacity of children with learning disabilities, especially those who just need a little boost, a little accommodation.  The decision to do so based upon a need for my relationship with her to be more than one of tutor and task master.  The decision based upon a child who was losing hope.  My job is to protect her heart, but more importantly to teach her to fly.  I am blessed that in this time, I can do this.  It is a privilege and one I will not and dare not take lightly.  In addition, I am still meeting weekly with dear friends who know a ministry vision God has placed on my heart.  It’s been burning in me for years, but the time is not yet.  It’s not easy for someone like me to wait, but I am learning.  Words penned in the early morning hours in faithful discipline remind me to wait.

The main things remain the same.  Over a fresh brewed cup of coffee in the early morn, it is clear.

P.S.  I am currently reading “Visioneering” by Andy Stanley.  Life altering.  I highly recommend it.  If you want something challenging related to being a mom, I recommend the following:  The Passionate Mom, A Woman After God’s Own Heart, Disciplines of a Godly Woman or The Gentle Ways of a Beautiful Woman.

I also challenge you to join me in praying for three simple things.  I have prayed weekly for these the past six months.  They are simple, but alter my mindset.  I pray weekly for Provision Not Prosperity; Peace not Panic; Gratitude not Grumbling.

Can you do IMPROMPTU?

I did not blog last Friday.  It was the 31st.  If you have followed my blog at all, or know much about me, you know I try to set aside the 31st of the given month and have a mini-retreat.  It is a day of planning,  praying over the calendar, reflecting upon weeks past and looking to the future.  I didn’t get a full day this time, due to an important board meeting I needed to attend. Fortunately though I had smidgens of time leading up to the 31st to get things organized, highlight some areas of concern and list out the items I wanted to focus on.  I had some big decisions to make.  Although my time was limited, I had a good day.  I was able to pull aside during the late afternoon and do what I needed to do.  Three things emerged, each a message already on my heart.  Having them emerge again, helped me focus and make some tough decisions.

1.  I need more intimacy with Christ.

2.  Come Home.  I have felt that call on my heart for two years.  It is difficult to know what that means.  We are in financial times and in a place in life where my working would make sense, would provide more security for college etc…  I am still engaged in Real Estate.  My best friend and I have started an organizing business.  However, the refrain keeps going through my mind.

3.  I need to give the very best to my family, so that corporately we can overflow into our community and world.

Some big decisions followed.  I’ll write more about those Wednesday.  That evening, following this time of refreshment and planning, I made a special dinner for the family.  I had this planned, but at the end of my day, this particular day, it felt comforting and rewarding to do this special task for my family.

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I made cheese Polenta with Barbecue Shrimp.  I pullled out my new soup and sandwich platters from Pier One.  We had toasted garlic bread and a side salad to round out the meal.  My family was duly impressed.  We lingered a little longer at the dinner table, enjoying a special Friday night.

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Then came the challenge.  My mother decided she wanted an impromptu 69th birthday party.  Thankfully, being fairly organized, and coming out of a day of revisiting my purpose, we were able to throw it together.  My sister-in-law and her 4 youngest pitched in.  On top of that, a young married mother of two called asking us to keep her precious two year old daughter over night so she could focus some time and energy on her marriage.  What’s one more at the party!  With the help of two incredible daughters and an ever patient husband we created a taco salad bar and put together a little birthday centerpiece on the island.

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I don’t share this hoping for a pat on the back or adoration.  (although a few words of encouragement never hurt :))  No, I share it because I was challenged after a day of planning and purpose searching to live what I preach.  I was reminded yet again, that being organized, planning and knowing our purpose is not so we can do more with the same amount of time.  It is not about accomplishments.  It is not about managing time.  Being organized is about living in such a way that you can allow the interruptions (good or bad).  You can focus on people and relationships.  You can give.  You can live being EFFECTIVE, not just EFFICIENT.  There were some things that didn’t get done over the course of the weekend, but no regrets.

Then today, I got the blessing.  Sometimes we have to bless to be blessed.  I attended my first ever blog event.  Arkansas Women Bloggers hosted a get together at Family Life here in Little Rock.  I hesitated and almost didn’t go.  But I went.  And oh how glad I am I did.  It was refreshing to be around other women sharing their hearts through blogging, all with a desire to minister to other women.  The greatest blessing came though in meeting Barbara Rainey.  I have know of Barbara and read her books, but to meet her in person was true joy.  She has entered a new phase in her own life, and is doing some amazing things as an “empty nester”.  To get a glimpse go to http://www.everthinehome.com.  (I have to confess I placed an order as soon as I got home!)  While I was excited to meet her and hear about her new venture these words struck deep into my heart.  God used Barbara to confirm for me my decisions and heart desires.

“My advice to you as moms is to remember, you don’t have to do it all now, in this season.   As women we are blessed to be able to lead two lives.  We have a season where we focus on God, our husband and our families.  Then we get to have this other season, when the kids are gone, to pursue all those other things.  Don’t try to do it all now.  You have thirty to forty, maybe even 50 years to pursue other things after you children have left home.”

It was as if in that moment I could breathe.  God has been clear to me to come home.  He has blessed my husband’s business providing what we need.  He has given me opportunity to engage in real estate and a business with my best friend, but most of all He has reminded me the time for my family is now.  As Barbara said, there will be time later to pursue other things.  My girls are only home for a period.  They will navigate these teen years but once.  There are no second chances.

There is ALWAYS time: 8 Step Method for Making Time

As I have been following along in the 31 Days Challenge: Less and More, I have been struck once again by our likeness.  We women are so the same, and yet so unique.  We all seem to strive to do more than humanly possible.  We all long to be all things to almost all people.  We long for peace and joy and order in our days.  It is encouraging to know we stumble through this life together, facing many of the same struggles, and experiencing many of the same victories.  It’s an experience I don’t think men share.  More amazingly, in the midst of it all, our uniqueness shines through.  We were created to create.

As the 31st fast approaches and I look back on the 18 days completed in this challenge, I am reminded once again I need to take stock.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I have for many years practiced setting aside the 31st of the given months to plan, retreat, reflect.  I am anxiously awaiting October 31st.  This 31st I will be re-evaluating.  I realize I have lost track of how much time things take me.  I have lost track of what I am filling my time with.  So from now to the 31st I will be keeping a detailed time log.  I challenge you to do the same.  Not just as an accountability measure, but so you have a realistic sense of how much time the different tasks you must complete weekly require.  It is impossible to create a weekly plan and break it down into daily tasks if we really have no sense of time required or what we are truly spending our time on.  On average how long does it take you to get ready (yes, distractions included because it is doubtful they will go away)?  How often and how long does it take you to get groceries (this includes getting them home and put away)?  What is the typical length of any weekly or monthly meetings you attend?

The reality is:  THERE IS ALWAYS TIME.  The second reality is:  YOU HAVE TO MAKE TIME.  For the two realities to co-exist, one must make some difficult decisions.  These don’t have to be decisions for a lifetime, but they do need to be decisions for this season of your life.  My reality has gotten a little out of whack and thus the stress and accumulation of stuff has crept in.  So, as I said, once again I am going to keep track of my time and then begin a new plan for this season.  My process will go something like this:

1.  Keep daily time log for at least 10 days.

2.  Determine which tasks on the time logs are necessities and how frequently they occur.

3.  Evaluate the time spent on necessities.  Can I delegate anything?  Is there a tool I could utilize (possibly need to purchase) that would minimize the amount of time?  Are there different times of day I could do this task?

4.  Plug the necessary tasks on a rough weekly schedule and block off the appropriate amount of time, including 15 minutes “white space”.  (see previous post)

5.  After the necessities, what else fills my day?  What do I need to quit doing?  (If this is hard for you, I recommend you have a heart to heart with your spouse and a good, trusted friend or hire a personal organizer.)

6.  Are there things I want to be working on or doing that didn’t even appear in my 10 day log?

7.  Prioritize these tasks.

8.  Roughly fill in time blocks on specific days for the prioritized tasks.  This results in a rough “weekly schedule”.  Live with the schedule for about 30 days and then re-evaluate.