13 January 2015

Dear Lissy...For the Boys!

Many of you have already purchased the The Girl's Guide to Home Skills STUDY GUIDE COMPANION (The Homemaker's Mentor) (Volume 2) that I contributed a couple of chapters to this summer.  I was also privileged to work with the Erskine family this fall in creating a book of lesson plans for teaching young men homemaking skills.  The Big Book of  (Slightly Dangerous) Lessons for Boys e-book is half price for a limited time! An outline and sample chapter are free, too.

Order Book Here

Note:  I was paid generously for my work in researching and contributing to The Big Book of (Slightly Dangerous) Lessons for Boys at the time it was written.  I will receive no payment for future sales.

31 December 2014

Resolution Resources: Lose Weight

Dear Lissy,

Losing weight is always at the top of my mind/resolutions.  Some years it's "Yes!  I am stoked.  This is happening this year."  Other years my thinking is more along the lines of "Meh.  I know I should do something, but I am so tired of this merry-go-round."

21 December 2014

Resolution Resources: Get Organized!

Dear Lissy,

Personal and home organization is another top five resolution.  Living in a messy environment is incredibly stressful on a personal level as well as for relationships.  Once again, Supermom plans aren't going to solve the problem long term.  Let's look at our original parameters to make organization a regular part of our lives....
Montessori style shelf available here

Make small daily exchanges, even for big goals.


  • Don't put it down, put it away!
  • Don't go from one room to another with empty hands.  EVER.
  • Set aside 14 minutes a day to organize instead of promising yourself an afternoon.  Don't believe me?  Set a timer for 14 minutes and work on your inbox or a drawer in your kitchen.  You'll be surprised!
  • Commit to re-homing just 1 item a day from your home instead of going through once or twice a year.  Most towns have freecycle or "yard sale" pages on social media that allow you to advertise just an item or two, or start an E-bay store. Keep a box in the mudroom or hall closet for Goodwill donations.
  • Set aside a few minutes in the afternoon and/or evening to have a family "bangerang" pick-up through the whole house and return any items to their homes instead of waiting for the weekend.
  • Rotate your children's toys instead of letting them have access to every toy all the time. We limited toys to one toy/set for every year of age in the play area, and rotated toys every month or so.  Puzzles, games, art supplies, and videos were in closed cabinets outside the play area that required a parent's help to access. Children are happier and play better with fewer toys.
  • Gift items to your children in storage containers instead of the original box.  Keep the box size and type consistent so they'll stack.  Flip top storage containers tend to work better than those with separate tops.
  • If you purchase an item, another item of the same type has to leave your home
  • Keep your homeschooling, sewing, and arts and crafts supplies organized into project totes. I picked this tip up from a friend in quilt guild, and it changed the way I purchase and organize.  
    • The old way:  Purchase supplies, books, patterns, and tools on a deep discount, and store them until I decide I want or need them for a project or class.
    • The new way: Purchase/obtain only the tools, material, and book or pattern I need for my current project (and maybe one more in the planning stages) and store all of the necessary items in a single tote that I can pull out when I work. For classroom purposes, 1 storage tote contains all the books, videos, manipulatives, and tools or equipment for one subject in one grade level. Create toolboxes for frequently used items -- sewing baskets, pencil boxes, etc.  All scraps and leftovers in the tote when the class or project is done are processed intentionally and filed/sold/discarded.  I just deleted three paragraphs of bullet points on how to implement this system:  I'll write another letter after I finish this set on Resolution Resources and link it here.

Make exchanges whose input can be measured.


 For organizing purposes, you have two available metrics:  time or space.  Set small goals that have one of those two metrics.  "I will organize my sewing supplies for 14 minutes today," or "I will organize Eggbert's puzzles while he naps today."

Make organizing plans for today only, but set goals for 28 days.  When you write out your Daily Plan, you already know how much energy and time you have available that day.  You're not going to sort and re-organize 6 totes of books if you've been up all night with a sick child, or have three dentist appointments scheduled for the afternoon.
  • Big Goal:  During the month of January, I will organize all of my schoolroom books and supplies into totes by subject and level. 
  •  Little Step:  "Today I will sort and box all of our reading material by level."
  • "I'm going to get all of our school stuff organized this year." 
Can you see the difference?  If I set a goal of organizing all of our school material into totes by subject and grade this month, I know I need dozens of small boxes/totes on hand, and I can set a task that works toward that end goal each day.  The second resolution gives me no focus or motivation.  It only took a few seconds more to think about and write Big Goal/Little Step than it did to write the resolution.  I didn't spend an hour planning out each day, I just jumped in with a reasonable step toward my goal that I know I have the time and energy to accomplish today. (See my letter on our month of hard work.) Tomorrow I'll write another little step, and so on, until I get the job finished.  When I was first married and out on my own, I'd write down ALL the little steps at once, assuming I'd have the identical amount of time and energy for the project each day.  It took me a long time to learn to take things a day at a time.

Create or join a support and accountability group. 


This one definitely falls under "create," but I guarantee if you put out a 28 day challenge on any social media platform, you'll have half a dozen friends who want accountability and encouragement for organization projects.  I suggest taking before and after pictures each day and posting them as a means of accountability in this area.

Once again, by the yard it's hard, by the inch, it's a cinch! Build solid, small habits and watch your organization soar.



19 December 2014

Resolution Resources: Manage My Time

Dear Lissy,

Every resolution you make will require the expenditure of time, money, or both.  Learning to redeem the time is one of the most elusive and valuable skills you can possess.  As I prayed and thought about this letter, I decided to call my momma.  I admire my mom's time management skills and philosophy more than she will ever know.  She doesn't live out of a Filofax, but her home is always tidy and welcoming, she's dependable, and she's giving.  Above all, your grammy possesses a gentle and quiet spirit that ministers to everyone around her.  She gave up a few of her secrets that fit well with our three part plan for making reliable resolutions:

Make small daily exchanges, even for big goals.


  • Grammy's first piece of advice was to keep a running to-do list where you dump everything that is rattling around in your brain onto paper.  This is as much for your own peace of mind as it is to ensure that everything gets done. (She also has a basic wall calendar to record appointments and events)
  • Creating a daily to-do list with a handful of "have-to-do's" instead of a bushel of "hope-to-do's" is another key area we chatted about.  You can always pick a few items off the running to-do list if time permits, but having a realistic picture of what must be done helps you make better choices during the heat of the day. 
  • Finally, Grammy completes urgent tasks first.  As she put it, "If there's something that has to be done before I can go to bed, I do that first." Once your urgent tasks are out of the way, you'll have the patience and energy to deal with other items on the list or schedule busters from your husband and kids.

    Keep in mind that the Real Goal isn't a Pinterest worthy color-coded planner, but the hospitality, peace, and patience that your grandmother has demonstrated in her life for more than 40 years.  

Make exchanges whose input can be measured.


We love to measure our worth by how much we can get done, but the quality of our relationships and attitude far outstrip our productivity in eternal value.  

How do we measure input with time management?
  1. Create a Daily Plan.  Call it a to-do list, a Daily Docket, or nothing at all, but move all of your Routines, Appointments, Tasks, and Events (RATE) to one piece of paper you refer to throughout the day.  I choose to use a bullet journal format, but I've used everything from a Day-Timer to a sheet of notebook paper on a clipboard in the past.  If I create a daily plan either the night before or first thing in the morning, I count that day a success.  Just the act of putting my plans on paper creates a sense of peace and focus that is vitally important for me as I run our household.  I can instantly see where I can fit in a request for my time, or have the freedom to say "no, I can't fit that in today."  
  2. Meticulously maintain the feeder sources for the daily plan.  If my brain is hacking up forgotten tasks, appointments, and to-do's, I get off plan pretty quickly.  Ditto if I have an "emergency" from one of the guys.  I can only make an effective Daily Plan if my sources are reliable.
    • Do I have a single calendar where every appointment and activity is faithfully recorded?  
    • Do I have a running to do list so tasks that need to be completed are visibly in front of me while I make up my Daily Plan?
    • Is my tickler up to date?
    • Have I asked Daddy if he has any errands, double shifts, or tasks he needs done this week so I don't get blindsided with something that has to be done that day (or minute!)? 
    • Do I have the boy's club, school, and work schedules for the week?  If they need some weird item for a science experiment, or a pot of spaghetti for a late night at robots, I need to know in advance.
When I have a Daily Plan that I'm confident contains the routines, appointments, tasks, and events I need to accomplish for my day, I'm a different person.  And when Momma's happy and peaceful?  Well, you know what a difference that makes. When a schedule buster comes booming through the door, I can either send it packing, or rearrange my plan to accommodate it.  Either way, the day is a success eternally.

Create or join a support and accountability group.

Ever had a home in C.H.A.O.S? (That's shorthand for "Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome.")  God has set up a support and accountability structure for time management called "hospitality."  We are to be entertaining strangers and friends, and showing that same kindness and love to our own family.  We have the older women in our ministry we should be hosting in our homes regularly to help us navigate the difficult waters of managing a home and family well before God.  I don't care for entertaining Martha Stewart style at all, but I love having people in my home for encouragement, ministry, and consolation.  My schedule can become overloaded and our house can deteriorate into shambles inside of a week if I'm not intentional about hospitality.  Grammy has people in her home continually since before I was born, some of them for weeks at a stretch.  She manages her time and home so that even when Gugs brings someone home unexpectedly, she's not kerfluffled at the inconvenience.  I'm glad that I've had that example before me since I was itty-bitty.

Managing your time -- and your family's time --  is challenging.  I encourage you when you become discouraged to think back on the time you spent in Grammy's home, and seek to follow her example of loving hospitality and peace.

Love you for all of time,