30 November 2017

Keeping House for One: The "Daily" Dilemma

Dear Lissy,
Good morning, Sweetie!  December is bringing a month of near insanity, so this will be my last letter for a little while.  We started this series by dealing with the biggest time and budget buster, meals.  I then wrote fairly long letters adapting my 2D weekly plan and 3D space & storage principles to apartment living.  Today we'll dive into the simplest but hardest facet, daily time management (4D) and apartment upkeep.

Clean As You Go
Cleaning up after yourself as you go is the simplest way to keep up with your apartment.  The requirement here is leaving yourself enough time to do a quick pick up.  If you have to leave your apartment by 7 to get to work on time, and it takes you 45 minutes to get ready, it will take 55 minutes to clean as you go -- you can't hit the snooze button 3 times.
  • After you shower and get ready, swipe down the shower with a squeegee, wipe down the sink and commode (in that order) with a disinfecting wipe, hang up or straighten bathroom items, and then leave the bathroom.  
  • Wash all your dishes after every meal, camping style.  Put the leftovers into Tupperware, wipe down the counter and appliances, and Swiffer the floor.
  • Don't leave the living area until you've picked up and straightened the room.  
  • If you're working on a craft or project, pack it away at the end of the night.
  • Leave your sleeping area neat and hang or put clothes in the hamper. 
  • Extend this principle by using your commute to either work or church to run errands. 
The same principle is true at bedtime.  If you fall asleep in front of the tv or reading in bed, and leave the apartment a mess, you're not going to have time to clean it in the morning.  Do up the dinner dishes before you relax.  Bangerang your apartment and set your things out for tomorrow before you snuggle in for the night with a book or show.
If you can train yourself to never leave a room messy, the weekly chores take almost no time at all, and can even be skipped once in a while.
Saying "Yes" is Always Saying "No"
If you say "yes" to one thing you are always saying "no" to something else.  We've taught you to value relationships over things, and to think of others.  Keeping up your own apartment, especially if you don't have a roommate, can feel selfish.  It is not.  You are an adult now--your home is an extension of your outward self, just like your clothes or personal grooming.  
A messy apartment hinders your ability to minister. A lack of discipline maintaining your space means you may slip into bad habits elsewhere:  staying up far to late reading or watching a show, eating poorly, neglecting exercise. You have less energy at work.  You may choose not to use your home to minister because it's too much trouble to clean.  Skipping church services or activities is tempting because laundry or the kitchen has reached a stage where it has to be handled. 
When you choose not to maintain your home to a level where you are able to maintain personal discipline or minister to others, you are saying "no" not just to yourself, but to your employer, your friends, and your church.  
What about last minute crises or opportunities?  Plan for them.  Set aside one evening a week for either catching up on housework, getting together with friends last minute, or just getting an early night in.  If you have to bump something to that night, it becomes your #1 priority -- no more bumping!  If the week is light, and it ends up being a truly free night, enjoy the extra time.

Finally, learn how to say no. A gentle, "I'm not available this time, but please feel free to ask me another time," or, "I'm so sorry I can't help you with that this time," is best.  Telling anyone that you're saying "no" because of housework will sound heartless -- they can't see the big picture.  Anyone who questions (Nosy Nancy) or pushes past your initial decline (Bossybutt Bob) should be given a firm:  "I'm sorry I wasn't clear:  I can't help you this time."

Routines are Your Workhorses

Establish daily routines for morning, after work, and before bed that take all of the daily tasks into account.  You don't need to put most things on your to do list -- just make them habits.  I keep these written down in plastic sleeves so I can pull them out and reboot when my routines fall apart because of busyness or sickness.

Learn to Write CEO To Do Lists

As a newlywed I worked for a demanding office.  One of the things that intrigued me was the manager's daily sheet.  Our office secretary had to go through her tickler and inbox and lay out our manager's day with appointments, meetings, and to do items all organized for him into time slots. He arrived about half an hour later than we did, and would use the sheet to stay on task all day.  If something had to be bumped, she was responsible to get it rescheduled for another day.  Unless you're in an executive position, you won't have the luxury of a personal assistant.  You can, however, create a daily sheet for yourself that will keep you running smoothly.  At this writing, Google Calendar does this seamlessly, but I'm sure there are plenty of apps and calendars that provide the same functionality.  Don't be afraid to say "let me check my schedule," or "let me add that to my schedule before I forget," and pull up your calendar on your phone.  Quickly skim 5 To-Do List Hacks to maximize your to-do list.

Give Yourself Grace and Space to Grow Into Your New Life.

Just like learning any other complicated skill (remember learning to drive?) you're going to have some bumps and starts when you begin running a home.  If you expect a seamless transition from college to career, adjust your expectations, lickety-quick!  It takes time to figure out your own preferences and energy patterns.  
  • Do you prefer to just bang out your to do list before you sit down at night so you can relax, or do you need some crash time to recover from work?  
  • How much sleep do you need now that your schedule has normalized?  
  • How long does it take you to go from sound asleep to punching in at work?  Do you ever have to bring work projects home?
  • How long does it take to go from punching out at work to a full belly and clean kitchen at home?
  • How often do you need time with church family or friends to keep you energized and connected?  
  • How much alone time do you need to feel centered?
  • When do you like to workout?  Have your devotions? 
  • How are you and your roommate going to split up the chores?  The space? How will you handle different standards and expectations?
Not to be unkind, but you're probably going to discover the answer to these questions by making wrong choices.   Even once you've established patterns, changes at church or work or a different roommate can upend your whole rhythm.
If you have the ability, once or twice a year take one day of earned time to create a two day mini break in combo with your regular day off to go through your apartment and car and bring everything back to a good level. Turn off your mobile, crank some tunes, and get to work.  This mini break is unbumpable -- no exceptions.

Again -- for the last time -- progress is more important than perfection!  You are deeply loved by your Heavenly Father and us. Nothing you do or don't do changes that. God is more than enough, and His grace is sufficient to every need.  Even if I don't live close enough to help you through this transition, God is there.  Every answer is found in the Word -- even for something as earthly as time management and your budget.

Love you more every day,



  1. Dear Rebecca, just wanted to drop you a quick note to say hi! I've read your blog since it began, then as a 15 year old, now as a 22 year old :) I know you write these for Lissy, but I've found it to be an invaluable resource that I still refer to when I need help with time and home management or studying the Word. Hope you are all doing well! God bless!

    1. Are you Aussie Annie? I've missed talking with you--you're still on my Friday prayer list! Love and hugs from Lissy and I. She's 15 now if you can believe it :)

    2. I am indeed! The consistency of your prayer life is incredible! Thank you so much. Wow, she has grown up quickly! I'll be praying for your family. Perhaps I'll send you an email at some point?

    3. Please e-mail--I'd really like to catch up with you!