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Redefining Home Management

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Summer Focus: Kids!

Have you ever heard me say, “cleaning the house in the summer is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos?”  I heard that saying a few years ago and it stuck with me!  I know many moms get really overwhelmed by trying to keep up with everything around the house in the summer.  It can be overwhelming year-round, but adding in kids being home to feed three times a day and trying to deliver them to all of their activities can make it feel impossible!   

 

I am all about keeping the house clean and ordered and truly believe that promotes better family life and mental health for moms.  However, I have worked with kids on several organizing projects over the last few weeks and have been reminded that order is important, but it is not the most important thing.  Each of these projects started in a home with some pretty significant chaos… we were working to uncover beds, couches and floor that had become completely covered in laundry and clutter, making it almost impossible to use those spaces for their intended purpose.  

 

I’ll be honest, my first thought on the first couple of projects was… “this is going to be a long day working on such a big project with kids that clearly have no structure.”  OH MAN! I was WRONG!  In all three projects I worked with middle or high school aged kids that were incredibly helpful, polite, and  respectful towards me and their mothers despite several hours of being asked to help sort, carry, distribute stuff and even work on loads of laundry. 

 

It was such a good reminder to me of something we all forget as moms…  Just because our house may be cluttered or even downright dirty, it is not a reflection of who we are as a mom.  And when it comes down to our priorities… wouldn’t we all rather have successful, polite, obedient and amazing kids than a perfectly cleaned and ordered house.   It has been such a great reminder to me that spending time parenting my kids and growing a relationship with them is so much more important than my house… especially in the summer when they have more capacity for building a relationship with me.

 

The other thing I was reminded of in working with these three awesome families, is that kids are REALLY good at organizing and TOTALLY feel the same satisfaction as we do when the project is complete.  These kids engaged in the process, helped sort and categorize belongings, and expressed the satisfaction they felt in all they had accomplished. 

 

One boy said, “my sisters are going to be so excited when they get home.  We are going to be able to sit on the couch and enjoy the living room tonight.”   As I left he thanked me several times for all of my help.  His pride in what we had accomplished excitement for his family was so fun to see!

 

In another project we had been organizing a girl’s room with little involvement from her mom.  As we were nearing completion her mom came upstairs to check on us and the girl yelled at her, “Stop, don’t come in!  We’re almost done and I don’t want you to see it yet.”  Her face had a huge smile and she was so excited as she showed her mom her new clean and organized space that she had worked so hard on.  She told her mom, “I am going to keep my room so clean and organized from now on”.  We all know that may not be entirely true, but she realized what she had accomplished and was so proud and excited!

 

In yet another project, a high school girl worked with us in her parent’s room for several hours sorting, hanging up clothes, distributing things around the house…  None of the work was for her and almost none of the stuff was hers.  She cheerily helped the entire time without any complaints and grumbling.  She found joy in helping her mom and seeing a space in better order for her mom to enjoy.  What an awesome daughter with such a sweet heart. 

 

Seriously!!  3 amazing kids that reminded me how much our job as moms is NOT about our houses!

 

These projects also reminded me that we can make progress in our houses over the summer, and our kids CAN help us!  If you want to tackle a kid’s room, playroom or teen hang out space over the summer, set aside a few hours to work with one of your kids.  You will have much more success working on-on-one.   You can celebrate your success with a trip to the pool or an ice cream shop!  I know, sometimes it is easier if they know someone is coming to help and they have to be on good behavior because a guest is in the house.  However, most kids really do enjoy the final result of an orderly space to spend their time in at home.

 

Here are a few tips when organizing with kids.  

1. Start by sorting into 4 categories: Keep, Donate, Relocate & Toss.  Do it fast and keep it simple

2. Resist the urge to distribute “relocate” items while you work.  Just make a pile, or fill a box or bag and distribute all of it at the end.

3. Don’t micromanage the process.  Hold up clothes or toys and just ask them the category it goes in.  Throw it in the right pile and keep moving.  Hold back on sharing all of the stories you associate with their stuff… stay detached from the stuff and help them sort.

4. If they want to get rid of something and you don’t think they should… set it aside to asses at the end.   More on this in a minute..

5. Once you are done sorting, look at what is going to go back in the space and create a space plan.  

    1. What is used the most?
    2. How much do you have of each thing?
    3. Create zones for storing clothes, toys, sports equipment… zones help kids remember where things go  and recognize when something is out of place.

6. Evaluate if you need any new storage pieces to coral belongings.  Never buy before you organize… always sort & create a plan and then buy product.

7. Labeling items will help older kids remember the system.  Taking photos of the finished space and printing them out for younger kids will help them identify where everything goes when it is time to pick up and reset the system going forward.

 

Back to disagreements about what to keep…  One of the biggest challenges I see when kids and parents organize together is that they have different priorities of what should be kept and what should be “on display”.  If you tend to be sentimental and they aren’t… you can keep a small amount in their closet on a high shelf.   If you want to keep a lot of things… you need to find a space to store those things that you are responsible for managing.  I have seen many parents want to store their childhood memorabilia in their kids’ room because they think their kids will appreciate it.  I have also seen parents that are too attached to every one of their child’s toys and stuffed animals that their kids are living among clutter they don’t want but their parents won’t let them get rid of.   If your child is the one that wants to keep everything… set up a system with the things you both think they should keep.  Then, establish one space with a defined boundary where they can store and keep anything they want.  It might be a drawer in their nightstand, a basket in their closet, or a box in their room.

 

Enjoy this summer with your kiddos!  Let the house look like all you did this summer was eat Oreos with those sweet, respectful and responsible kids of yours.  Or, get your kids on board with creating order and making progress.  Either way, I hope you find time to really enjoy your kids this summer and parent them into amazing people!

 

 

 

 

Summer Travels

Are you planning to take a fun trip or two this summer?  I am super excited to spend some time in the Colorado mountains in August.  Growing up there, I never feel quite at home like I do sitting outside on a crisp, cool morning in the mountains.

I thought this would be a perfect time to share how I pack for longer trips (more than a few days).  I’m not someone that has a ton of clothes or loves to shop, but it seems like I want to take everything I own when I travel!  I am known for moving things to my husband’s suitcase so I don’t go over the airline weight limit.

A couple of years ago my sister-in-law bought me these Lean Travel bags for my birthday. LEAN TRAVEL  They aren’t something I ever would have thought I needed or voluntarily spent money on before I had them, but I love them!  

The BEST Packing Cubes for Travel 2020 | Jetsetter

I categorize my clothes (p.j.’s/lounge, activewear, pants, t-shirts, dressy) and each category is in a bag.  I use the Marie Kondo folding method Marie Kondo so that it is easy to see what is in the bag and rolling actually prevents hard wrinkles.

 

You can fill the bag REALLY full and then zip it up.  There is a second zipper to compress the contents, so that it takes up very little space in your suitcase.

 

 

Once I have everything packed, I stack them in my suitcase, leaving a little room for shoes and toiletries.

 

Unpacking at our destination is super easy, as I don’t have to pull out each item and sort through everything.  I typically hang my dressy clothes and then unzip the rest of the bags and utilize them to keep my clothes neatly stored in a drawer or an a shelf.  The slight germaphobe in me loves that my clothes aren’t actually touching the drawer or shelf at our destination too!

When it is time to head home, I make a couple of bags with dirty clothes and re-pack anything clean separately. 

I hope you are going somewhere fun this summer!  And if you tend to overpack like me, this might help consolidate your suitcases and keep things ordered while you are away!

 

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.