10 things I learned from cleaning my house

A few events transpired lately to cause a dramatic shift in the cleanliness and organization of our home. 

  1. Everyone in our house got sick. And it kept coming back.
  2. My nesting instincts kicked in.
  3. Our landlord came by for an inspection.

I'm a mother of two children ages 3 and 1, with a third on the way, I teach part time, and run this blog and a home-based business, which could all be excuses for why our home is a disaster. In fact, I have been using these circumstances to justify clutter and messes over the past few months. And there certainly were times when it couldn't be helped, such as the first trimester of my pregnancy when it was a rare sighting to see me out of bed.

However, for the most part, the mess, clutter, and disorganization of our home was a result of excess and lack of discipline and routine. 

Over the years, the amount of stuff we owned grew and grew until I reached the breaking point a few weeks ago when I felt suffocated by our possessions. With my third trimester baby bump, it was physically painful to bend over and clean up after the kids, and I felt like all I did was follow them around and clean, with little to no results. Our home still looked cluttered at the end of each day, and it was incredibly defeating. So I did what any hormonal pregnant woman would do - I texted my husband one morning through tears and curse words that I was getting rid of EVERYTHING in our house. Throwing it all away. Starting fresh. Nesting, guys. It's a real thing.

Not to mention, one member of our family or another has been sick since January. Our house needed a good spring cleaning and scrubbing down. When our landlord texted to say he would be stopping by to check the status of our place before renewing the lease, it was the final straw. So we spent an entire Saturday going through every closet, drawer, and bin. We threw away or set aside to donate bags upon bags of clutter that we didn't even know was occupying space in our lives. We ruthlessly culled our children's toys down to the most played-with toys that inspired imaginative play (while they were napping of course). In the spirit of Marie Kondo, I thanked and released a few mementoes from my time abroad in South America. We figured out how to sell our old iPhones, and bid adieu to electronics that no longer worked or had a purpose. We got our carpets cleaned, and scrubbed down every surface, nook, and cranny of our rental home.

The relief and pride my husband and I both felt at the end of our cleaning and organizing spree was palpable. With a little time and a lot of elbow grease, we transformed our home into a haven instead of a source of stress. And while we are by no means done (the garage is our next project to tackle), it feels like the beginning of a new way of living. 

Here are a few things I've learned from decluttering and deep cleaning our home in the past few weeks:

1. Living in a neat, clean environment inspires you to be better in every area of your life.

2. Getting your children involved in the process in paramount. Tell them what you are doing, give them age-appropriate responsibilities, and show them how and where to put away the toys you have kept. They will get excited about keeping a clean home.

3. Most of the clutter we had was a result of not making a decision about something, or being too lazy to take action. The iPhones in my desk drawer were a prime example. We had gotten new phones about a year ago, but didn't know what to do with the old ones. Instead of researching how to handle it right away, I just stashed them away to deal with later. 

4. Almost nothing is as peaceful as a clear surface. Empty counters, floors, and coffee tables are a beautiful thing.

5. I'm a better housekeeper when the clutter is gone. I'm much more inclined to vacuum, dust, or wipe down surfaces when I don't see junk everywhere.

6. A place for everything and everything in it's place. Yes, it's a cliche, but it's a cliche for a reason. it feels really good to know exactly where the scissors go instead of just stuffing them in a junk drawer. 

7. It takes practice. If your current habit is to set something on the counter instead of putting it where it belongs, it will take practice and discipline to change that habit. Don't be discouraged if you find yourself falling back into old habits. Keep working at it!

8. A mindset of abundance and gratitude staves off the desire to bring more into your house. "We have everything we need and more."

9. I need a printed out schedule to do chores. I used the free printable from Clean Mama, and put it on the fridge. Mondays are for wiping down bathrooms, Tuesdays are for dusting, etc. etc.

10. We're trying a new habit. Every night after dinner and before we put the kids to bed, we will do a 10 minute family clean up, vacuum the carpets, and clean the kitchen.  

I wouldn't dare call us minimalist. We still have far more than we need, but I'm learning that it's a journey. It's a shift in perspective from always needing more and feeling frustrated in your surroundings to joy and contentment in the space you're in with the things you have. 

simple systems: organizing schedules

Staying home with my children. Teaching part time. Building

my business

at night. I truly thought it would be the best of both worlds. I pictured slow mornings with the babies, finishing my coffee, playing blocks and puzzles with my toddler, gazing into my baby's eyes while he cooed back at me. Then I could get glamorous in my pencil skirts and cardigans and pass the children off to someone else while I shared my passion for the

Spanish language

for a few hours. I would work my side hustle in the evenings with vigor, pursuing my other passion of helping others look and feel their best.

And some days are actually like that. Other days...aren't. Other days are me running out the door 10 minutes later than I intended, a hurricane of sweat in the Florida heat. Some days I happily escape to teach after a morning spent scrubbing marker out of the couch. Some nights I collapse into bed at 10 p.m. after

finally

 completing my lesson plans and correcting, feeling guilty for not even touching my business. Not every day is idyllic, but I am so thankful that there are so many ways I can use my talents to serve others and provide for my family. 

One thing stood out to me very quickly this fall as I stepped into my new role of being a mother of 2, part-time teacher, and part time business owner: my organization needed serious improvement.

So many people advocate using your phone calendar, passion planners, or other intricate systems. I knew that in this stage of my life, there was no way I could stick to most of those. I never bothered to open the calendar on my phone, and I needed to keep things simple. 

I have finally developed a simple system that works for me. I'm sharing it here in the hopes that it will help someone else find their organizational sweet spot! Here's how I juggle faith, family, work, business, and down time.

1. The Family Calendar

We use a dry-erase calendar in the kitchen where we write in church and school activities, doctor appointments, social events, going to the gym, and family time. It's that whole

metaphor

of filling a jar with the big rocks first (the most important things in life), then the pebbles (other things that matter), then finally filling in the open areas with sand (things like Netflix). The most important things MUST be scheduled in first before filling the open areas in our schedule. That means spiritual life, and family time take priority. Next comes scheduled workouts, work time, and family budget meetings. Finally, social events are added in. 

2. The Desk Calendar

I purchased a large desk calendar for my workspace to manage my lesson plans for teaching, appointments for my business, and Wellness Nights I book with friends. I also copy many of the same things from the family calendar, because I know I will need to see it in several places. This is my personal calendar.

3. The Planner

I found an inexpensive small day planner at TJ Maxx to carry in my purse in case I need to keep track of dates while I'm out. I honestly don't remember to open it up much, which is why I needed the desk calendar - it's open, in front of me, and hard to avoid. The planner is more of a backup. 

4. The iPhone

If something is

really

 important, I set an alarm on my iPhone to remind me a day or two in advance so I know I won't miss it. 

5. The Notebooks

I have 3 notebooks - miscellaneous, business, blog - to keep track of ideas I have for each area of my life. The miscellaneous one holds shopping lists, to-do lists, Pippa quotes, and the like. The business notebook keeps track of my income producing activity and ideas for growing my business. The blog notebook is so I can write down blog post ideas as they come, and brainstorm, organize, and edit content.

As you can tell, I prefer hand-written to electronic when it comes to organizing my life. The act of writing it down helps me remember, and I have found that I am more likely to look at a physical item rather than open an app on my phone. This system can be somewhat redundant, as I am writing some calendar items 3 or 4 times, but it keeps me from being a flake. I need that - others may not. 

The most important thing I learned through this process is to find the system that works

for you

. To make something a habit, it must be convenient, and in plain sight. As badly as I wanted to consolidate my planning to electronic devices to save paper and space, it just wasn't working for me. I didn't find it convenient. I never checked it. Find the simple system that your family can stick to. It feels good to no longer have the nagging feeling that I'm forgetting a doctor appointment or deadline - it's all right in front of me.

How do you organize your family schedules? Do you prefer paper and pen, or electronics?

3 ways to start monday off right

I always used to the think the command to remember the Sabbath Day meant to go to church once a week - maybe even Bible Study with coffee and donuts! The more I read and study Scripture, however, the more I'm starting to see that God has designed a day of rest for our benefit. For awhile I got defensive about this concept, wondering how God expected me to do nothing at all for 24 hours, when I was barely keeping up with my regular tasks the rest of the week. I think, though, the idea is not to count the number of steps we take on a Sunday, lest we break the Sabbath law, but rather the spirit of drawing closer to God, giving our bodies and minds a chance to rest and refocus so as to enter our week refreshed and ready to give work our all.

In that spirit, I try to avoid income producing activities on Sundays, spend quality time with family, and read a little extra Scripture. And, though it may not seem 'restful,' I also try to prepare myself and my family for the week by doing a few extra chores. I love blasting hymns, or Christmas Carols, now that the Holiday season is {almost} upon us, putting on some clothes with an elastic waistband, and taking a few small steps to make sure our week runs smoothly.

1. meal prep + chores

This does not have to mean making six freezer meals on a Sunday afternoon (although that would be awesome). For me this simply looks like planning out my meals for the week, and chopping my veggies ahead of time both for meals and snacks. It may or may not also include a deep clean of the fridge and a fresh loaf of pumpkin bread.




For us, the extra chores are washing towels and bedding, vacuuming everything, actually folding the baskets of laundry that were forsaken in the midst of a busy week, and possibly reorganizing a drawer, shelf, or closet.

2. quality family time

My love language is quality time, so if I don't get that extra dose of family time on the weekend, I'm already feeling depleted going into a busy work week. It's not always possible to sequester your whole family at home on the weekends, so it can be as simple as a nice long family walk, a board game, or snuggling in bed reading together. I always find that I'm much happier to jump into a busy schedule when I have taken the time on the weekend to refresh my body, mind, and relationships.

3. plan everything for the week

And I mean everything. Especially for people who have unpredictable schedules (ahem, children), it is super important to write down the most important things that must happen in your week. I write down when I will work out, and what that workout will be, what my morning devotions will be, what meals we will eat, budget meetings, blog posts, business hours and phone calls, and of course lesson plans for school. Thanks to a tip from my sister Molly, I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go, so I can keep a running list of things that need to get done, things I need from Target, blog post ideas, things I need to talk to Justin about, Christmas gift ideas, etc. I also keep a small, cheap planner from TJ Maxx to keep track of dates, like doctor appointment, scheduled meetings and phone calls for my business, and important deadlines. If you don't plan to fill your time with your priorities, it will quickly get filled up with scrolling through social media, scrambling to get things together last minute, and walking into a room but not remembering why. Know where your week is going!

via Ziglar.com
And there you have it! That's how I utilize my Sunday to prepare for the week. What are your best practices for making sure your week runs smoothly?

my virtual magazine: stress and simplicity



We don't get the newspaper. I don't subscribe to magazines. Instead, I like to look at the internet, specifically blogs, as my own free, personal, and virtual magazine each morning. I love that I can pick and choose what is applicable to my life at that moment, and what isn't.

This past week was a stressful one, so articles and posts related to stress and simplicity really spoke to me. I am determined to face this week with a short list of priorities for each day, so I don't find myself overwhelmed when Pippa goes down for her nap. I also realize that I am living in the future instead of enjoying the day that God has given me now. These articles all give some excellent tips for finding joy, rest, and simplicity in even the busiest, most stressful times of our lives.

This devotion was the perfect way to start my morning. 

Sometimes we go through stressful seasons of life. Here are 5 non-negotiables to get though each day.

I love the idea of minimalism, but it's easy to get carried away with legalistic rules that make minimalism more stressful than freeing. Here's a guideline than can help.

Ladies transitioning between maternity, nursing, and different sizes of "regular" clothes can relate to my struggle to keep things simple. Here are some good tips.

Spring cleaning! I'm in spring cleaning overdrive right now with a cross-country move and a new baby in the near futures. This article is filled to the brim with practical tips for decluttering, organizing, and storing things in your home. 


storing baby clothes

Am I the only one who found baby clothes super confusing at first?

For example, why are some brands 0-3 or 3-6 months, and others just state 3 months?

And does that mean they should wear it up to 3 months? Or that they should start wearing it at 3 months?

Why do some brands barely fit at the beginning of their intended time frame, while others drown the child far past their expiration month?

I couldn't figure out what the baby was supposed to sleep in. A onesie? Full length pajamas? Just a diaper under a swaddle?

Partially due to this confusion, I really struggled with my clothing storage systems this past year. Other challenges included living in a small apartment with limited storage space, moving to a new apartment, receiving tons of hand-me-downs from family and friends (thanks!), and not wanting to get rid of anything just in case.

Our first apartment was a one bedroom. That meant no nursery, no closet for baby clothes, and nowhere to store baby clothes that no longer fit. Basically, it forced us to get rid of a lot of our own clothes in order to make room for a few drawers of baby clothes.

We were so thankful to move into a two bedroom (although we could have made the one-bedroom work), but I have been exceptionally poor at managing the additional room and closet. I kept everything. I let chaos reign. We let our things expand to fit the extra space. Rookie mistake.

Not to mention we have not allowed ourselves to spend any additional money outside of essentials this past year, in order to pay for our upcoming trip to London! That meant no purchasing organizational buckets, cubes, baskets, or shelves.

This was the unfortunate and embarrassing result:


Thankfully we have finally paid for the trip, and I felt we could spend some extra cash on a shoe shelf and storage bins. With a bit of inspiration from A Bowl Full of Lemons, and armed with coupons on my Target Cartwheel app, we made the obligatory Target run to get our lives Pippa's closet in order.

I ruthlessly culled the masses and masses of clothes we had acquired as gifts and hand-me-downs. I kept only my favorites, threw away the onesies destroyed by spit-up and other various baby messes, and made a donation pile for the still functional clothes we simply have no space for.

Here is the finished result:


Thanks to the generosity of others, and not counting medical bills and formula, we have scarcely spent a dime on this baby - yet somehow you would think we had 10 kids running around from the amount of baby things we have!

And so we continue our purging and simplifying blitzkrieg through the apartment. Next stop, the kitchen!

Any good advice on storing baby/kid clothes in a small space?