21 February 2012

Lessons We've Learned From a Month of Hard Work (Part 1)

Dear Lissy,
Late in January we decided to re-organize and simplify our home.  The upkeep was overwhelming, and all of my organizational systems were designed for a home full of toddlers, not teenagers.  After a string of construction projects upended nearly every room in the house, we were all ready to tear our hair out.

I decided as part of my One Golden Day goal to redeem the afternoons.  I had fallen into the sloppy habit of using afternoons as "me" time instead of working.  I enlisted all three of you and we started cranking every weekday afternoon from 1-4 p.m.  Here's what we've learned. . .

There is ALWAYS a valid reason why you can't work
A string of valid problems -- the never-ending sinus infection, a leaky ceiling in the sewing area, a broken foot, ministry demands, and a hundred other less worthy excuses --  meant that a lot of the normal work that needs to be done to keep a family running smoothly had been left undone during the past couple of years.  During this 28 day blitz I worked through with a head cold, a demanding school schedule,  the winter round of doctor/dentist/orthodontist/optometrist appointments, additional ministry responsibilities, and a bunch of drop-in company.  The most important lesson of this month for me:  You make time for what's important to you!

Less is More
We've gotten rid of so. much. stuff.  I've ousted furniture, toys, books, clothing, knick-knacks and artwork, kitchen gadgets & appliances, linens, and serviceware.  Our newly streamlined house has a spaciousness that puts us all in a place of grace.  Deep peace and power accompany simplicity.  There is also an insane desire to redecorate -- I'm hoping that will pass.

In All Labor There Is Profit
I tend to be hyper-organized and knew that 2011's "Just Do It" philosophy was going to be important for this project.  Each day I chose a few places to hit, and at the end of the month, every room was simplified & organized.  Because we all pitched in and worked hard, the job got done.  It got done a bit haphazardly, but it was done before our finish date.  In the past I would have spent hours making checklists, and detailed to-do lists for each person.  Good ol' fashioned, callous-making, backbone-breaking work got the job done just fine.  The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

Starting is The Hardest Part
There was more than one time during the past few weeks your Dad kissed me on the forehead and demanded I stop working and go to bed.  Once I get started, I'm the Energizer Bunny.  But, oh, the getting started nearly kills me every day.  The accountability I had to the three of you to keep up with the plan was often the only thing that got the ball rolling.
I got especially overwhelmed by areas that needed a lot of work rather than a quick re-do.  Often I would have one of you pull everything out of a squirrel's nest, sort it into categories, and wipe down the containers and area you had just emptied.  I'd come through once you were done, purge out everything we didn't need, and replace the rest into the newly-cleaned area.  Splitting up the job that way made it much easier for all of us.  The old saw is true:  Well begun is half done.

It's Far Easier Keeping An Area Tidy Than Getting It Tidy
Each day we went back through the areas we had already blitzed and made sure they were still neat and organized.  When an area that we had organized wasn't working, we changed it so it would.  By the end of the second week, it was taking us 15 minutes to get the whole house looking its best.  Now the four of us can have everything spifferoo in 5 minutes if we keep up with our regular mealtime and laundry routines.  It will always be a lot of work to keep our 130 year old home clean, but we've made it easy-peasy to keep it clutter free.  We've all learned during the past month that it's easier to keep up than to catch up.

We've been richly enjoying the freedom that comes with discipline, the joy that accompanies obedience, and the wisdom that comes with doing what you know to be right.  I wish the systems I set up when we moved here 12 years ago had still been humming along nicely so that we didn't have to do a big overhaul, but I'm glad you've been part of the process and learned how to simplify and organize.  It will continue to be a process of growth for us in the weeks and months to come, I'm sure.  I have several more lessons I'll send you in another letter.

Simply loving little you!


  1. "Deep peace and power accompany simplicity." Great!
    I like that the post is written to your kids -- need to poke around more on your site!

  2. Wow. Have you redone your website? I have you on feed so haven't been here in a while - if so it looks lovely... if not... oops!
    I'm desperate to declutter and you've given me an idea - since I work all day I'll make a mental inventory of what I need in each room, and will dump the rest on weekends.