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Redefining Home Management

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Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Since most of us are interested in eliminating germs and bacteria these days I wanted to discuss another cleaning topic that makes me cringe even when we aren’t in flu and cold season… the kitchen sink.  We all wash our dishes before we reuse them. Ok, I have been in homes where they don’t actually wash dishes if no one ate off of them… but that’s an entirely different discussion!

 

Here’s the thing though… we all use the kitchen sink to wash our dishes and rinse our dish rags or sponges.  But, how often do you really clean your kitchen sink?  Research says most Americans don’t clean the kitchen sink very often, if at all.  In fact if you google the topic (which you may not want to!) you will find that in most homes the kitchen sink has more germs and bacteria than the toilets, and also has mold spores.  blahhhh!

 

Why is that?  Well in part, it is because we soak and rinse our dishes in the sink and never actually clean the sink itself.  We may rinse the sink out, but we down really wash and scrub it.

 

On a daily basis when I am done washing our dishes I use Dawn soap, hot water and my dish rag (or sponge) to wash the entire tub of the sink along with the faucet and handles.  I scrub the sink and all it’s parts just like I do the dishes we cook in and eat off of.  

 

Cleaning the sink on a daily basis will get rid of most of the germs and keep it from getting really gross, but there are still stubborn germs and bacteria that will thrive.  At least once a week (more when anyone is sick), I use a stronger and mildly abrahsive cleaner to really scrub the sink.  I use “Bar Keepers Friend Liquid Soft Cleanser” which uses oxalic acid to disinfect and is a mild abrahsive so it will provide a little deeper clean than regular dish soap.  You can also use Comet or Ajax, but I typically avoid bleach products in our house.  With any of these products you need to use a little water with the product to scrub the sink and then let the cleaner sit for at least a couple of minutes (5-10 minutes is best) before rinsing to give it time to kill more bacteria and germs.

 

When I thoroughly clean the sink, I also scrub down the sides of the drain and around the base of the faucet and handles.  I occasionally use a small “toothbrush” to clean around the drain surround and around the seam where the sink meets the countertop.  Many drain or splash guards (the rubber cover on the garbage disposal side) can be removed and cleaned as well, especially in newer homes.  If your splash gaurd comes out and you have never cleaned it, be prepared for what you will find! 🙂  You can also regularly remove those and toss them in the dishwasher.  

 

After cleaning my sink I disinfect the rag or sponge that I used, using the laundry and dinfecting procedures I discussed in my last post.   If you are particularly concerned with the germs in your sink, you can boil water in a kettle or pot and rinse the sink with it.  I worked as a nanny / housekeeper for a microbiologist many years ago and every time raw chicken was in their kitchen he would dump boiling water on anything it could have possibly touched.  I always remember that when I’m considering what will best kill bacteria and germs… boiling hot water!

 

Happy Cleaning!!

Disinfecting our Laundry

We are all a lot more consicous of germs these days, but I’ve been a little wary of them my whole life.  I know some of you can relate!  I always have antibacterial wipes in my purse, before I ask my kids if they had a good day at school I ask if they washed their hands when they came in the door, I can go barefoot outside all day but never in a hotel room…

However, there are a lot of things about germs that aren’t as obvious as, “don’t even touch the handrails on the escalator at the airport”.  Because I feel responsible for keeping client homes germ free all the time, I have done research on eliminating germs and bacteria and thought I would provide some guidance to all of you on how to disinfect your laundry.

A few facts that might surprise you…

  • The washing machine won’t kill most of the germs in your laundry, even with the hot water cycle.  Washing machines can actually spread germs while items are being washed.
  • More soap in your washine machine will be counter-productive.  Our newer He washing machines become less effective when too much soap is added.
  • Your dryer is the most effective place to kill germs and bacteria.  Germs and bacteria thrive when humidity is between about 23-77%.  High heat and high humidty is best, (humidity above 77%)  but high heat in the absence of any moisture is also good.
  • Towels of any kind (especially those from the bathroom & kitchen) are typically the dirtiest things we wash.
  • Although I love vinegar for general cleaning, it is not effective against these nasty viruses. (according to the CDC and FDA)

What you can do…

  • If someone is sick, wash their clothes seperate from everyone else’s.  Remember the dyer is where they will be disinfected, so keeping items seperate in the washing machine will reduce the risk of spreading germs.
  • Wash towels seperate from clothes, for the same reason.  Also, we don’t have to worry about shrinking towels so washing them separate allows us to use the highest heat possible in the dryer and then we can dry towels extra long.  This allows high heat and humidity at the begining of the cycle and high heat with little to no humidity at the end.  I always wash my towels this way and it helps with the mildew smell in the summer months.  
  • If you have special clothes that must line dry and can’t be exposed to high heat, drying them in the sun will also help kill germs.
  • After washing towels, cleaning rags or clothes from someone that has been sick, clean your washing machine to prevent the spread of germs in the next load.  Run a cylce with an empty washing machine and add bleach into the dispenser. If you can not use bleach, you can also use Hydrogen Peroxide (3% solution).  Although I regularly clean my washing machine with vinegar to clear odors and soap build up, it is not effective against the germs and bacteria we are currently working to eliminate.

There is also a laundry product, Lysol Laundry Sanitizer,  approved by the FDA to work against the coronavirus in the washing machine.  However, at this time I can not find any source where it is available for purchase.

Although the dryer is very effective, drying something that has not been washed and is not wet when added to the dryer is not effective.  For example, you can not take your child’s jacket that he wore to school and place it in the dryer to kill germs.  You need to wash the dirt away in the washing machine and have the jacket wet when placed in the dryer to create a high level of humidity during the dry cycle.

Last, if you have cleaned your home and want to make sure sponges or rags are exceptionally clean and sanitized you can place a large kettle of water on the stove and place rags & sponges in boiling water for 15 minutes.  This is considered the best possible way to kill all germs and bacteria.  

The Nine Lives of a Housewife

Sometimes I find myself having the same conversation with multiple people in a very short period of time.  Even though these people may have no known connection to one another, I see the connection of common struggles and frustrations.   When these reoccurring conversations or topics arise I feel a nudge to share.  So many women seem to feel that their struggles are only their own, and don’t realize that there are many women around them with the same things weighing them down.

 

Recently, that common conversation has been around feelings of being a failure as a stay-at-home mom.  This topic breaks my heart, because I am passionate about the important role stay-at-home moms play.  Some of the women I talk to are frustrated because they don’t feel they measure up to the women they see around them, others feel that their marriages are being tested because they just can’t meet their spouse’s expectations, and still others are just too overwhelmed to even figure out what part of the whole picture has them overwhelmed and miserable. 

 

I so wish I could swoop in, organize their homes with them, and provide them with a checklist of tasks that would make that feeling go away – the feeling that they are in a hole they will never dig their way out of.  But I can’t, I don’t have a magical formula for successfully managing your home, feeling fulfilled or exceeding your spouses expectations.   

 

What I do have is this…  a set of observations from the many women I have worked with.  Women that have shared their whole reality in completely vulnerable conversations, broken down in tears, and sent countless SOS text messages at moments of crisis.  And what I have discovered through these observations is that being a stay-at-home mom is a complex and undefined role that leaves many women and families struggling to navigate a path that fits their priorities and family dynamics.

 

We no longer have men that provide and women that stay home to cook, clean and raise the children.  Women (and men) chose to stay home while their spouse works to provide financial security for the family for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes the spouse that stays home has identified their vision and purpose in staying home, but many have not.  Even fewer have effectively communicated this vision with their spouse.  The result is that at best, only one partner in the arrangement has any sense of what reasonable expectations look like.  Any time expectations are ill defined and not communicated, the result is unmet expectations, frustration and wounds that are hard to heal. 

 

We have so many expectations of ourselves, and then our spouse has expectations of us as well.  All of us are trying to be keep the house in order and be the kind of mother we desire to be.  Then we look around and see all the wonderful things other moms are doing and feel like we aren’t doing nearly enough.  One of our friends is an amazing cook with only the healthiest ingredients, another is super fit and always active with her kids, yet another is constantly doing amazing arts and crafts projects with her kids, and all of them seem to be having way more fun.  It leaves us feeling like we are just not enough, not capable of this SAHM thing, and we want to throw in the towel and “go back to work”.   

 

Then the thing comes that puts us all over the edge… when our husband comes home and questions what we’ve been doing all day, why the house is such a mess, or why we can’t just get a simple meal on the table consistently.  This moves many women from defeated and frustrated to wounded, sad and even depressed.  We pour our whole hearts into our families and homes, our entire life seems to be within those walls and yet we feel like we are failing in every possible way. 

 

What has gone so wrong with this SAHM model?  A model that is supposed to bring about good things for our family – that is why we are doing it right!?

 

The problem is this… our world has so many ideas and expectations of all of us, and we allow those ideas and everything we see on Facebook, Instagram, and every other form of media to cloud our vision.  We begin to think that the purpose and mission of EVERY women in American should be our own, and we should be all of those things to our husband and children, all of the time.  That’s IMPOSSIBLE!

 

The first step is defining for yourself what YOUR purpose is, and why you want to do this incredibly challenging job of being a SAHM. There are a lot of good reasons.  Here is a long but not exhaustive list of the “nine lives of a housewife”, some of the many reasons women choose the role of SAHM…

 

1.) Do you want to provide your children with cultural and social opportunities that align with your values?

2.) Do you want to assist your children in developing academic and developmental milestones that will help them become successful and confident in their educational endeavors?

3.) Do you want to promote the health and wellness of your family, providing them with home cooked meals using the most nutrient rich foods and natural remedies possible?

4.) Do you have a child with special needs or elderly parents that require extra time or flexibility to respond in urgent situations?

5.) Does your husband have a career that requires him to travel, work odd hours, or involves you participating in social events on a regular basis?

6.) Are you working towards a personal development goal in fitness, wellness, education or a career path?

7.) Are you passionate about bringing together your neighborhood and community and often host casual or formal gatherings to foster relationships?

8.) Are you actively involved in a volunteer leadership role in your church, child’s school, or another charitable organization that requires a significant amount of time?

9.) Do you desire to be an “old-school” SAHM that takes care of meals, laundry, errands, schedules, and all of the other little tasks that life requires so evenings and weekends can be spent enjoying life as a family?

 

I can’t find anything wrong with any of the reasons I listed above.  They are all admirable pursuits, and in fact our world needs people that are passionate about every single one of these things.  I’m guessing you know where I am going with this… the problem is that no single woman can possibly be all of these things!  But, have you ever considered that no one woman can really be more than one of these things?  Sure, you can be one of these things and dabble in another, but no one can really BE more than one of these women as a SAHM. 

 

YOU have to decide why you are called to stay home and pour your heart and soul into your family all the time.  Is it because you want to create opportunities for your kids, maybe you want to serve your community, maybe you have a special needs child or parent that depends on you, or maybe you just want to simplify your family’s life to create more time for “family time”. 

 

The next questions is this…  Why does YOUR SPOUSE want you to stay home or why does he support your decision to stay home?   Do you know?  Have you ever really talked about it?

 

Here is where a massive divide occurs in many marriages that breaks my heart on a regular basis.  It is a breakdown in communication and defined expectations. 

 

If you are staying home because you desire to pour into your kids in their early years before they head off to school and the big world without you, you DO NOT have time to be the mom that keeps the house in order, laundry clean and healthy meals on the table all of the time.  If you take your children to “Mommy and Me” music classes, engage in play and activities that helps them develop fine motor  and early language skills and create social interactions that will prepare them for the social challenges of beginning school… you will be busy ALL DAY LONG!  You will have a busy calendar!  Mix that with the basic everyday tasks we have to do, (like feed our kids lunch, return permission slips, drive the carpool, change diapers, maybe take a shower on occasion…) and time for cleaning bathrooms, doing laundry, and meal planning/shopping/cooking does not exist! 

 

However, what if your husband always wanted a stay-at-home wife because he wants “the simple life”.  What if he envisions a family where you eat dinner together, have time for long walks in the evening, a glass of wine after the kids are in bed…  Or what if he envisions children that are way ahead of their peers academically and developmentally, with a head start on life when they enter the world, and you just want “the simple life”.  What if you both want the simple life, but regular uncontrollable situations arise with an elderly parent or special needs child that constantly derails your efforts?

 

Again, no woman can fully do more than ONE of the things in that long list of all the good reasons we choose to stay at home.  We can’t grow incredibly gifted and cultured children all day and magically have a home that is ordered, clean and always smells of home cooked meals by evening.   We just don’t have enough hours in the day.  Add to that equation a special needs child, elderly parents, service opportunities, personal growth… and we really fall short of “the simple life”.

 

Yet, I would argue that our society is being damaged by the declining existence of the SAHM.  So what do we do?  How do we preserve this way of life? 

 

Define YOUR purpose.  Not your friends purpose or your mom’s purpose, YOUR purpose.  Define for yourself why YOU want to stay at home.  Which of the “nine lives of a housewife” are your calling?  Then, TALK to your husband.  Ask him why HE supports this arrangement.  If your ideas don’t match up, or he thinks you can live two or three of the “nine lives of a housewife”, talk through the realities of that. 

 

If you both value your children engaging in educational and cultural activities, then something at home has to give.  If he supports your calling to serve or your pursuit of personal goals, then your ability to manage the home and pour into your kids will be affected.  There is no right answer here!  You are only seeking to define your family dynamic and set reasonable expectations.

 

If you are going to pour into the kids all day, talk about how he can support you in managing, cleaning and ordering the home when he is there.  Do you need him to give you a break from the kids so you can take care of the house, laundry, and errands.  Does taking care of the kids completely stress him out and he would rather come home and do dishes and laundry.  Or maybe you can afford to hire help with the house while you engage in growing your children or serving your community. 

 

Or maybe you want to pour into your kids, and your husband isn’t on board with that being your purpose.  That is HARD, a tough conversation that requires compromise and the adjustment of expectations.  Sometimes this feels like an impossible balance that leaves our marriages in jeopardy. 

 

My prayer is that every marriage is comprised of two people that love and support one another and are willing to compromise their own ideas and expectations for the good of the other.  However, I know that is not always our reality.  But, I do know this… not having that conversation, not defining what our roles look like, not having expressed and understood expectations… that always sets us up for disappointment, frustration, arguments and heartache.

 

 

 

Dessert Plates, Salad Plates, Dinner Plates & Platters

It’s funny how God works sometimes.  At the beginning of 2017 I started to feel like God wanted me to reprioritize my life, and refocus on myself a little.  I was loving my work, my clients and employees; but my joy tank was feeling a little low.  You see I’m an introvert, I love time in solitude.  But, I also NEED real, deep and meaningful relationships with women in my life that challenge me to think, act and live the way God has called me to.  So, I committed to a women’s Bible study at our church, and began to carve some time out of OH! to care for myself in the ways that I know make me feel joyful, purposeful and connected.

 

I was actually a little scared to carve out some time for myself during the day.  I worried that I’d realize I wasn’t balancing my life the way I should and that God would call me to work less and be home more.  I always knew my gifts and passions were around being a housewife and mother, and I was beginning to wonder if either of those roles were key factors in my identity anymore. Funny how God works, as I am realizing that God wasn’t nudging me away from OH! at all!  He was reminding me of my passion and the priorities He has for me.  God wanted to remind me that my joy is not in my circumstances, but in my confidence in Him and His purpose for my life.  I know that I am doing what he has called me to, and even when it feels like nothing about my life is organized, I still have joy and contentment because I know that I am following His calling for me!

 

In recent months several opportunities have arisen for me to have this conversation with other women, and I am realizing the common struggle among us to find joy and purpose in a world that has so many expectations!

 

I recently went to a luncheon with an excellent speaker that talked about being busy.  You may have been there, as it wasn’t a small affair!  It was a very interesting topic – this notion that we have all become too busy and preoccupied.  I recently did a study on the book “Present Over Perfect” as well.  “Being too busy” seems to be one of the most common complaints and points of discussion among women today. 

 

I’ve been giving it a lot of thought lately, is my busy bad? Everyone keeps talking about not being so busy.  When people ask “how are you?” we don’t reply with “great” or “not good” – we say “I’m just so busy!”  Well it’s true for many of us, but is that good or bad?  Doing nothing is probably worse than being busy, but being busy with things we don’t care about is actually probably the worst thing of all. 

 

I think it isn’t so much about how much we are doing.  I think it is more about how much what we are doing is what we feel called to and passionate about.  How focused and present are we for the things in our life that are our priorities? 

 

We’ve all heard the analogy, you only have so much room on your plate.  Well that is so true!  But I’m realizing that it isn’t just about recognizing we have limits.  You see, I’m a bit of a platter.  I was born that way.  My husband, well he’s more of a dessert plate.  I think there are salad plates and dinner plates in the world too.  I like a lot on my plate, multiple things whirling around in my head at all times.  I said this to a friend and she said she would call me more of a smorgasbord.  But I’m a happy smorgasbord! 

 

Here lies the problem… when I compare my plate to the size of another person’s plate.  Isn’t that so often our downfall… comparison.  It is easy to think as a dessert plate that you are missing your purpose in life, failing to show up and be an active participant in your own life with the ability to impact the world around you.  As a platter we hear that our culture is too busy, that we aren’t present as we rush about just being doers, that we need to stop doing so much and just be.   No wonder so many of us have lost our joy.  We are constantly looking at what others are doing that we aren’t.  We feel like we should be doing more to volunteer, serve and mother.  Or, we feel like we should be doing more to be present, still and available.  No matter what, we feel like we should be doing more of something.

 

I also think it is worth noting that for some, attempting to not be too busy becomes another item on a never-ending “to do” list of all the things we think we should be doing and we’re not.  Instead of finding peace and contentment in the life we were created to live we attempt to define our priorities by the standards of the world around us.  Standards that change and are ill defined. 

 

When I am still, and present and available I find myself doing things with and for others – those that I love.  Things like puzzles, bike rides, longs walks and cooking special meals.  When I am busy doing things that are tied to my priorities in life, I find myself doing things with and for others – those that I love. Things like leading my daughter’s Bible study, coaching my kids in soccer, enjoying date nights with my husband, or bonding with my core family and my church family on a mission’s trip. 

 

Do you see what I see?  I keep finding myself doing things with and for others – those that I love.  That my friends brings me joy, much joy!

 

I think the key is not so much in being busy or less busy.  We all have a different sized plate, and we need to define what kind of plate we are.  Once we know what kind of plate we are we can determine what to fill that plate with.  This is where I think defining our priorities is so important.  If we have room for 3 things on our salad plate or 10 things on our platter, we will only find joy if they are the right things.  Defining our gifts, passions and priorities allows us to fill our platter or plate with the things that bring us joy. 

 

As we learn to be content with the size of our own plate, and fill it only with the things that God has called us to in our own lives, I believe we will find the peace and joy we are looking for!  

 

 

 

A New Chapter

It has been a looooong time since I’ve written a blog post.  I guess you could say I fell off the wagon.  I lost my passion for it.  It just didn’t seem to make it to the top of the priority list.  I have been thinking about that a lot lately, and have had numerous conversations with friends and clients about what role our passions and priorities play in determining how we spend our time.

 

You see, when I first started this blog it was all about organization and DIY projects.  As Organized Housewife has grown, it has become more about organization and maintaining peace and order in our homes than DIY.  I realized that there are a million talented bloggers out there doing super cool and creative DIY projects that make their homes beautiful, organized and the envy of every blog reading momma out there. 

 

We see the amazing blog posts and Pinterest boards and get inspired – actually I call it envious, but it’s really quite closely related isn’t it!  The realization hit me that I was contributing to the epidemic of everyone wanting their house to be as fabulous as the latest staged photo on a bloggers website that committed countless hours to such endeavors.  I love looking at those blogs, getting inspiration (yes, being envious) and even taking a few ideas here and there. 

 

However, that isn’t where my passion lies.  My passion lies in helping women see their worth, knowing who they are and what God created them to be and do.  I want women to see themselves as God does. I want women to know that we are all created to serve our families, our friends and our communities in vastly different roles and capacities.  We can find joy in the calling God has for us when we… find our purpose, put behind us the guilt we feel for not being who we thought we should be, and when we end the comparison of ourselves against what we see others around us being and achieving.

 

So, here goes a new chapter of the OH! blog.  You won’t see many posts about organization or DIY projects – that’s my day job these days – that I love by the way!  This blog will be a place to share what I’m learning from God, fellowship and clients along this journey.  If you want to come join me I would love to have you!  Like Organized Housewife on Facebook to see when new posts are added, or check back periodically to read my ramblings!