By Hilary, Contributing Writer
Before becoming a mother and full-time homemaker six years ago, I hadn’t realized how moms have something to do all.the.time.
My calendar doesn’t have to be filled with a lot of commitments – it’s hard enough work managing a home and family.
For me, it’s been challenging to accept the fact that I might as well count on continual changes, especially when it comes to my children’s development and moods. Before becoming a mom I was used to the predictability of adult life; I never thought to anticipate almost daily differences.
Fortunately, I’ve found that I don’t have to feel unsettled with unpredictability. Even though I know my children change – and our routines change – some habits have helped me to find peace in my life as a busy mom and homemaker.
Regardless of the season of motherhood I’m experiencing, I’ve found seven practical ways to joyfully manage my home:
1. Spend time with God. Every day.
My time spent in His Word has varied over the years – I used to prefer right before I went to bed, then I switched to mid-afternoons when I was a college student with plenty of leisure time. I’ve soaked in the Word while eating my breakfast before work, grabbed small chunks of time when my infants were napping, and in my current season I’m waking up before everyone else in my family to start my day with my Bible.
Without spending time with God each day, there’s no way I can be a wife, mother and homemaker who is abounding in love, patience, kindness, or gentleness – all the things I desperately want and need.
2. Make a daily to-do list.
My daily to-do list is pretty basic – typically it includes spending time with God, homeschooling, writing blog posts, and cleaning. I even need reminders to wash the dishes or do the laundry because strangely enough, if they’re not written down, I forget about them. (I guess I’ve developed the ability to overlook the piles!) Or, I procrastinate until right before my husband comes home.
I’ve always been a list person, and while my scrawled chores are only on scrap pieces of paper, they give my days much purpose and direction. I can accomplish things because I know what needs to be done.
3. Learn to say no to potential commitments.
I thrive when I have things to do and places to go – but I’ve found that I can easily get exhausted and downright grouchy if I have too many plans for days on end. I’ve learned to evaluate our invitations and decide what’s best to do. My husband and I choose to limit our children’s activities and prefer to let them have plenty of free time to play and just be kids.
When I make an attempt to stay home more often, I avoid rushing (and nagging my kids to hurry), I save money and stick to my family’s budget, and I have more time to keep up with work at home.
4. Keep at least one room clean.
I’m not exactly sure why it’s so difficult to keep even one room clean with children in my home. But it is.
After a long day at work, I know my husband finds a lot of peace when he comes home to a clean house. While I can’t keep every room in our house clean, I do make sure to pick up one or two rooms in the late afternoon.
I also tend to feel a lot more on edge when my entire house is out of order – when this happens, I take about an hour of concentrated, quick cleaning to feel less of a mess. And since the messiest rooms tend to be my children’s bedrooms and playroom, I close the doors when the clutter is epic.
5. Have a rough idea of a weekly menu.
Menu planning isn’t a difficult concept, yet it’s a routine that just doesn’t come naturally to me. As much as possible, though, each weekend I try to make a basic weekly menu. I plan seven dinners and know what I’ll need to pick up at the grocery store – or pull from the freezer.
I like to give myself flexibility to pick what meals my family’s in the mood for each day. Yet I’m grateful when I know my kitchen is stocked with all the necessary ingredients and I don’t have to start brainstorming meal ideas at 4:30 p.m.
6. Make sure dinner dishes are washed before bed.
Very rarely, I go to bed for the night and leave my kitchen full of dirty dinner dishes. (This happened the night I went into labor with my son, and my nesting senses drove me crazy during my hospital stay as I wished I would have stayed up just a little later to clean up my kitchen.)
As tired as I may be after I put my children to bed, I know I need to wash my family’s dishes for my own peace of mind. If I don’t, waking up and seeing a huge pile of dried-on, crusted-on dishes gives me a really bad start to my day.
As a side note, I don’t follow strict daily routines, but I do think it’s important to have certain routines – especially for cooking and clean up, mealtimes, and personal grooming. For example, every morning I make my bed as soon as I get up. I try to wash our dishes after each meal and be dressed – yoga pants don’t count – by lunchtime each day. (Since I homeschool my kids, I have more leeway.)
7. Make time for cuddles – and playing and reading.
Marching through each day with a to-do list and series of routines is no way to fully enjoy the life God has given you. With my own family, I’ve tried to be more intentional about enjoying time together and counting on spontaneity.
Sometimes, my young children just want me to play with them and their toys. (As much as I don’t exactly know how to play with Squinkies, I do it anyway.) Reading together is another great way to connect.
I also make sure I get plenty of cuddles and “I love yous” in each day – because before I know it, my current season of motherhood will pass and my children will be far too big to snuggle on my lap.
What are some practical ways you joyfully manage your own home?
Hilary Kimes Bernstein is a Christ follower, wife, mama, and journalist who writes about making healthy decisions that honor God and happen to help the environment at Accidentally Green. She’s written two eBooks, First Bites: How To Instill Healthy Eating Habits During Your Baby’s First Year, and Accidentally Green: How and Why One Family Began Making Healthy Changes That Honor God and Help the Environment.