29 February 2012

Lessons We've Learned From a Month of Hard Work (Part 2)

Dear Lissy,
We're in the midst of a two day snowstorm. . .our first real snowfall this winter!  I must admit it was a little sad seeing my sweet snowdrops get buried, but they'll survive, I'm sure.  I wanted to finish up the lessons we've learned from redeeming our time in the afternoons.  We've spent 28 days (give or take) going through room by room and thinning out and re-organizing our belongings.

Working together toward a common goal is good for both a family's esprit de corp and personal happiness
I had no doubt that the three of you would obey and work hard during our blitz month.  I didn't expect you to get so "into" it, though.  The four of us have a real sense of accomplishment and unity after working together for a month.  During the last four weeks, you kids have taken ownership of our home.  You've each had blitz zones in addition to your bedrooms to keep up with each day.  A special bonus?  Dad was inspired by all our hard work and punched out several maintenance projects, too.
We've been happier and more content during a dark, cold, snowless month than we normally are even during the summer.  Having a purpose and a goal and working for it together brightened each of us up tremendously during a difficult time of year.

Take the time to clearly state (or even better, write down) what is expected, and then take the time to look at what each person has accomplished at the end of the day.
"Clean your room" has entirely different meaning to a 14 year old than it does to a 40 year old.  Taking the time to write measurable tasks like "Make the bed", "Empty the trash", and "Place all books neatly in the bookcase" is important.  Always express your expectations clearly and make sure your child understands.
We also all long to share our accomplishments and successes.  When a job isn't followed up, it probably will be done half-heartedly or not at all.  I took the time each day to look at what you'd done, praise you, and give any further instruction on the area that was necessary to finish the job well.  It's important as a home manager to inspect what you expect.

Stuff = Time, Clutter = Procrastination
This came as a big surprise.  It takes a lot of time and effort to keep up with stuff.  It takes far more time both to pick up and to actually clean.  Our entire house can be picked up in just a few minutes now.  I can clean through in about 90 minutes.
Clutter is simply a monument to your procrastination.
"Don't put it down, put it AWAY!" has become our war cry.  Maybe families that don't educate at home don't have as much trouble with this as we do, but when you've got four people in the house all day, every day, it can get messy fast.  Chop up one week of busy schedule, stir in a week of head colds, add in a few sewing, electronics, and lapbooking projects, and you have a recipe for disaster.  Double the recipe if you've got too much stuff to actually put everything away.

Aim for excellence, not perfection
My ultimate goal was to go through every room in the house, get rid of extraneous stuff, and re-organize what remained to reflect how we actually used the room. There are a handful of cupboards and drawers that I set up about five years ago that didn't need to be re-organized, but still need a thinning.  I don't have perfection, but the house is in excellent shape.
I also had to let a lot of deep cleaning and maintenance I would have dearly loved to do go by the wayside.  I would never have met my goal of having the entire house simplified and re-organized if I had added deep cleaning and maintenance projects into the mix.  There will be time for deep cleaning after school and  mud season are over!  Michael J. Fox, and actor of my generation summed it up beautifully when he said: "I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection.  Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business."  You can completely stress yourself and your relationships by insisting on perfection beyond excellence.

There is a difference between easy-simple and bare-simple
A bare home with no curtains, decor, or visible belongings would be very easy to maintain.  We weren't striving to redecorate our home to Danish modern, but to make it more functional and easier to maintain.

  • Each room has a purpose or is zoned into areas with a specific purpose.
  • We thinned our belongings to reflect what we actually need and use on a regular basis.  If two or more functional items served a similar purpose, we only kept one.
  • Our belongings each have a specific home where they should be put away.  If we obtain more, it either has to fit in the designated spot or something else has to go.
  • We no longer have overflow storage in baskets, tote bags, Rubbermaid containers, and boxes.  Everything is stored in closets, drawers, and cupboards or placed on shelves or hooks.  Extra items we wanted to keep but don't need for daily living (fabric, books, holiday & seasonal items) are all in labeled totes in the attic.
  • I downsized purely decorative items to include mostly those of higher quality or special sentimental value.  
  • We have a plan for restoring our home to order on a daily basis as well as a few simple rules to keep it neat as we go.
  • Switching to Mrs. F's laundry method allowed us to drastically downsize our wardrobes and streamline our laundry area. 
I still have a few drawers and cabinets to thin out, and we'll blitz the yard and garage later this year, but we've already noticed a huge difference in the spirit of our family.  A well managed home where there's room to learn, play, make a mess, and enjoy each other and friends is a gift.  I hope it's a gift that I will pass down to each of the three of you as you begin your own homes some day.

Much love for all your help and joyful spirit,

 Love, Momma

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