I did something new this spring.
After a chaotic few years of unemployment and unpredictable days, I have been desperate to get back into a routine. I wanted some regularity. I wanted something to help pick up the scattered pieces of my days and make them more productive. The problem? Nothing was working for me. I was constantly frustrated and defeated in my attempts. It felt impossible.
I’ll be honest. I’m a perfectionist. I love lists, order, routine and schedules. But I have a hard time not making the perfect list that is perfectly impossible to follow. What I need is simplicity.
So, I did something new. I threw away my schedule. I deleted all my various versions of homemaking rules. I stopped micro-organizing my days and to-do lists. I just cleared the entire thing and decided to start over with what I knew. I went back to the three things that have always worked for me in the past and modified them to fit my current life.
This year, we’ve had a lot of change — the kind of changes that call for a total reworking of any ideas of routine you might have had before. I’ve finally come to accept that I’m not ever going to be some sort of super woman who can keep the perfect home effortlessly clean and orderly, work part or full-time running my own business, be the companion my husband needs, and a new mom without help. Instead of getting caught up in the rather fascinating and tempting array of home organization binders and trying out dozens of new schedules, I decided it was time to throw away my expectations and rediscover the basics that I knew work for me. I call them my “three disciplines of order”.
1. A Time for Everything
I think this is where I struggle the most. I want to be efficient and productive and so I try to do everything — making dinner, cleaning the bathrooms, baking and keeping an eye on work — all at once.
The only thing that this ever seemed to accomplish was that at the end of the day is that I would have a dozen necessary tasks in various stages of completion. But my house and heart felt as scattered and unsettled as my day had been. Nothing felt like it was done as well as I wanted. Nothing ever felt like it was really “finished”. And I burnt a lot of cookies on top of it!
There is a difference between real efficiency and effective multi-tasking and trying to do everything at once.
So I just had to stop. I had to sit down and take a deep breath. I had to decide to focus on one thing at a time and make times for both my life as a wife and homemaker and my life as a working woman if I wanted to keep my sanity — and my house — from falling apart.
I needed help, and I knew that my tendency to micro-detail to-do lists would only overwhelm me. So I finally bought an app for my smart phone that would help me focus on organizing my day by simple routine and times for the important things.
The zone-focused, broken down into manageable tasks that would fit int0 15-30 minute slots, helped me make the most of my time between jobs, and to stay focused on one area until it really was spic-n-span. Plus, making those little petals fill in as I finished tasks was a bit motivating to keep with the plan!
It was just that one simple fact of making time for the different facets of my life that has made one of the biggest and most noticeable differences in the way that our home looks and how I feel at the end of the day. And it didn’t even take a week for my husband to notice that I was doing something new. Needless to say, he approves!
2. A Place for Everything
We live in a tiny, maybe 800 square foot rental home. We don’t have many storage spaces in this place, and even though we try to not keep anything we don’t actually need or use, it can be really hard to have a place for everything.
But I don’t think I have to convince anyone that taking the time to have a place for everything possible is going to make a huge difference in the way a house looks and feels. Thankfully, I married a super-organized and creative man who is always coming up with ways to manage our space.
Several times a year, we go through our closets and spaces and get rid of things. We try to make sure we keep a good balance of what is coming in with what is going out so we don’t get so buried in “stuff” that we can’t possibly keep up with it or keep it in order.
And I am learning that it makes those five minute pick-up times in the morning or night extra simple. It feels great to wake up to a house that is almost always mostly tidy and clean!
3. A Little Bit of Wiggle Room
Here’s a bit of reality. The best routines, the best schedules, and the best efforts aren’t always going to keep things in order. Life is, well life. It is filled with interruptions, unexpected things, and variations to the rule. We like to think we’re in control, but the truth is we aren’t. Things will happen. Routines will be broken sometimes. Not everything is going to go as planned. And that’s perfectly okay.
It can take as much discipline to be flexible with your routines as it can take to stick with them on a daily basis.
So, I give myself some wiggle room. I have expectations for my day, but I am learning to hold them loosely. I’m learning that my plans might be good, but that leaving room for God to alter them or completely rewrite my to-do list is important for balance and for my own character development.
It’s a good thing. It frees me from some of the self-imposed rules and regulations I try to give myself and helps me to focus on what is more important than how my home looks or if I bake bread on Monday or not. My family and the people God brings into my life need my time and attention more.
That little bit of wiggle room makes all the difference for me.
There isn’t just one way to find order.
All those hundreds of blog posts about how to clean your house in 15 minutes a day might have some great principles, but it doesn’t mean that their exact plan is going to be foolproof if you try to do it yourself.
You don’t necessarily need an app to succeed in finding routines that will help you keep things running smoothly.
What works for me might not work for you.
The principles might carry over, but it is up to each of us to find what exactly works for us in our homes and lives.
So if you are looking for order and discipline, don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to throw it all away and to start fresh, simple, and new again. Do what works for you and don’t let others guilt you into doing anything else.
In the long run, that’s the only thing that matters!