Q&A: How to Manage Your Home When Life Gets Chaotic

Friends, I’m starting a Q&A column on the blog! Here’s how it works – you email in to ask me any housekeeping question you have, and I’ll answer it. About once a month, I will choose one question & answer to share on my website to help other readers going through similar situations.

First up is Jen from Australia:

Hi Davonne,

I am a homeschooling mum in Australia. I have 5 children (13 years down to 4 years, 3 girls and 2 boys), and an amazing husband who sadly has cancer.

Would you have any suggestions on how I can get into a better, realistic routine with 5 kids and an unwell husband? I really struggle with getting a balance of cleaning and teaching as well as decluttering. I often feel like I’m just surviving rather than really living.

My house often looks like a bomb has gone off inside – not to even get started on the pets (4 guinea pigs, a chicken, 2 rabbits and 2 dogs!).

A major hurdle for me is my anxiety. I get stressed easily and it’s often easier for myself and my family if I avoid things. But that only makes things worse. I know I have to face my fears and that the cost of fear is too great in the way of time and energy, but I haven’t been able to find a good balance.

Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

God bless,
Jen

Jen,

I am incredibly sorry that your family has been walking the difficult path of cancer. I can’t even imagine the heartache and fear that must accompany all of the unknowns you’re facing, and I’ve added your family to my prayer list.

I do have a few suggestions that I think may help you to allow breathing room in your schedule and cultivate a culture of peace in your home.

1) Simplify your housekeeping.

I want to encourage you to take a week off your normal routine and work through the biggest time-wasters in your home. Is your laundry mountain costing you precious time every morning? Start there.

Maybe you’re wading through clutter piles in the classroom area – if that’s the case, roll up your sleeves, grab some trash bags and purge, purge, purge!

Whatever areas in your home are causing you the most stress, declutter those. Any time you lose from taking a few days off your normal routine will quickly be gained back because of higher efficiency after you declutter your main problem areas.

More encouragement about housekeeping simplification:

2) Enlist help.

I’m a firm believer that if we’re not making the messes alone, then we shouldn’t be cleaning alone, either. Everyone in the house should be helping at clean-up time, and older kids can do more than just pick up their own things – they can also scrub bathrooms, fold laundry, and help with yard work.

Nobody’s childhood will be ruined by spending an hour a day on chores. Quite the opposite, in fact. They’ll appreciate their free time all the more if they’ve done something to earn it!

In addition to your own kids pitching in, consider trading days with a friend, allowing grandparents to take little ones for the afternoon, hiring a cleaning lady if it’s in your budget, or even just turning on a movie for the kids so you can get 90 minutes to speed-clean.

{Related: 6 tear-free ways to get kids to clean and how to get your kids to willingly pitch in with chores.}

3) Simplify homeschooling.

Sarah Mackenzie has a plethora of incredible resources to help with this. All of her podcasts are so refreshing, but the very first one discusses teaching from rest and simplifying the homeschool day.

I also highly recommend watching or listening to the Teaching from Rest book club videos.

All of those resources are completely free and can be listened to like a podcast while you’re driving or doing simple household tasks, so the videos don’t even need to take extra time out of your day.

One of the things I’ve heard Sarah say that has really stuck with me is to keep simplifying the curriculum until there’s peace in your home. I just love that!

She even gives step-by-step instructions about how to accomplish doing so in her master class about education in an hour.

And if you only do one thing I suggest today, then please make sure it’s this: read the Teaching from Rest book by Sarah Mackenzie. I read the book over summer break and never before have I been so blown away and challenged by something that isn’t pure gospel. Teaching from Rest is absolutely transforming my own homeschool in huge ways, and I know it can transform yours, too.

{Related: 5 books every homeschool mom should read.}

http://www.davonneparks.com/homeschool-mom-books/

4) Streamline your schedule.

While it’s good and fun to participate in outside activities, there are seasons we need to spend most of our time at home. It’s difficult to fold laundry, put better systems in place, and teach school lessons if we’re not actually home to do those things.

It’s okay to say no to outside commitments, to finish out the sports season but not sign up for the next, and to make do with what you have at home instead of running to the grocery store for one item.

And saying no to educational field trips, playdates with friends, or even ministry opportunities isn’t always easy, but sometimes it’s needed so we can say yes to our homes, to time with our children, and to having a little bit of breathing room in our days.

5) Offer yourself grace.

As much as we’d love to, we simply can’t be everything to everyone. And that’s okay! God never designed us to be everything, because He is the everything. It’s our job to simply point the way to Him.

Additional reading about offering yourself grace:

6) Rest amidst the undone.

If we wait until everything is perfectly finished before we rest, then we’re never going to rest. And we know that if we want to pour out to others, then we must refill our own cups first. But sometimes that’s hard to do!

So I want to encourage you to practice – take a bath instead of a shower, spend 10 minutes reading a chapter from a book, go for a short walk by yourself, or lay in your room with the door closed and the lights off. Giving yourself time and space to breathe and pray will go a long way in helping to calm your spirit.

{Related Reading: How to care for yourself without being selfish and 8 books that will help you break free from a too-busy schedule.}

7) Nurture your marriage.

With five children in the house and a serious illness, it can be easy to push marriage to the back burner. But it doesn’t take any longer to put on a nice outfit than it does to put on a frumpy one, so wear something pretty and do your hair and make-up on occasion.

Read this article about when marriage is so tough you need a helmet. Also make regular date nights a priority, even if it’s just playing a board game or holding hands on the porch after the kids are in bed.

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I hope this encourages you, Jen. I’d love to hear what you’re doing that breathes life and peace into your home. Thank you for reaching out and God bless you!

Readers, don’t forget to submit your own homemaking question to Davonne@DavonneParks.com – I can’t publish all of them but I do answer as many as possible!

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Tidy Up Friends, Jen recently emailed in to share the sad news that her husband has passed away. She still wanted me to share her question and my response in hopes that it might encourage some of you. Will you please say a prayer for Jen and her sweet children?


How to Get Your Kids to Willingly Pitch in With Chores

I’ve been mulling over this question for awhile, wanting to answer, but afraid to say the wrong thing. And then last week I told you that while I may not have the perfect answers, I’m going to do my best to help, to encourage, and to inspire.

I promised to stop backing away from the hard stuff.

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So here we go.

“I am a stay at home mom and I do understand that it’s my job to take care of the home. However, am I wrong to say that it’s the entire household’s job also to keep the house standing? I just feel as if I get taken for granted. How do I change this? Can I change this? I can’t keep the house going on my own.

“How do I get everyone to realize that I just did the dishes and the respectful thing to do is to clean your dish so the sink is once again clean? That way one dish doesn’t lead to another then another and another… next I have a sink full of dirty dishes once again.

“Your blog has given me some faith that maybe you could help!” – Danielle

Danielle, thank you for your kind words and for your patience in waiting for an answer! I’m not responding to this question as the queen-of-having-perfect-little-helpers. Not at all.  I’m answering your question more as an “I’m right there with you!”

Throughout my nearly ten years of motherhood, I’ve worked part time in an office, worked from home, stayed home completely, and am currently working full time outside the home. Switching gears so many times has taught me that while the dynamics of who does the most housework may change from season to season, the underlying issue is this:

We are training our children for adulthood.

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The answer to your question isn’t the perfect chore chart or some sort of amazing super-secret method. In fact, the answer isn’t really an answer at all – it’s simply more questions:

Are you speaking to your children’s hearts? Are you taking the time to teach them why taking care of a home is important? When the sink is full of dirty dishes, what is your response? Are you frustrated while you wash them yourself or are you using that opportunity to gently call your children in so you can work on the dishes together? Are you teaching them that they’re blessed to even have dishes?

Yes, we are to be good stewards of our possessions. And yes, stay-at-home moms should generally be doing a larger portion of the housework than a woman who works full-time outside the home. But the hard truth is that if we feel like we’re being taken for granted, it’s a sign we’re bearing too much of the load on our own.

Training takes time. It’s hard, discouraging, and repetitive work. But eventually, the training sinks in. It pays off. And though it may not feel like it right now, your children will eventually notice. And it may happen sooner than you think.

Proverbs 31:27-29 “[The virtuous woman] looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.”

What encouragement and kind advice do you have for Danielle as she works to help her children develop good housekeeping habits?


3 Simple Housekeeping Tips to Inspire Busy Parents

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After I unburied myself from my messes, I promised that I’d help others dig out from under their clutter, too. But sometimes that’s hard. Because clutter isn’t always just about a messy room.

Clutter is often a symptom of something much deeper. Childhood loss, financial strain, deeply-ingrained habits, depression, chronic illness, and marital stress are all circumstances that lead to clutter.

So a few months ago, I turned away. I stopped digging into the difficult topics because they hurt. My heart ached for the women who cried out to me in letters, asking for help. I gave quick, peppy answers and ignored the deeper cries because that was easier.

I’m sorry. And no more.

I may not have the perfect answers, but I’m going to do my best to help, to encourage, and to inspire. We tend to hold on to things while trying to fill holes deep within our hearts. But no heart is too wounded to be encouraged, no home is too far gone to make progress, and no success is too small to celebrate.

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Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble.” Romans 12:15-116 (NKJV)

Sometimes, life is hard. Change hurts. But after the hard, after the hurt, is something beautiful. And I’m ready to be right here, talking about the hard stuff and cheering you on.

Today’s hard question is from Danielle.

   “I’ve led such an unorganized life that I have no idea where to start. I tend to bounce from room to room because I get overwhelmed! I’m almost at the point of a panic attack! I suffer from depression which hasn’t helped, but I want to overcome it. I don’t want something to take such control of my life that I’m consumed by self loathing and sadness.” – Danielle

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Danielle, I am so sorry that you suffer from anxiety and depression.

When depression becomes deep, just getting out of bed in the morning is a huge ordeal and housekeeping can feel nearly impossible.

I recommend reading Conquering Depression: A 30-Day Plan to Finding Happiness by Mark A. Sutton and Bruce Hennigan. This book goes through a month-long study on depression, with tips and strategies to conquering the depression. {The Kindle version is on sale for $0.99 right now!}

 

conqueringdepression

Conquering Depression covers topics such as things you can do to relieve depression on your own, when to find outside help, and what to do when there is a chemical imbalance. Each chapter is short and to the point, so the book only takes a few minutes to get through each day, and offers hope from day one.

When you start feeling depressed, talk to your spouse or a friend, or seek help from a counselor in addition to reading through a helpful book.

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To help you receive encouragement when you’re feeling overwhelmed, I invited you to join the secret Facebook group.

Plus, here are a few quick tips about handling overwhelmed feelings:

1) Only focus on one room.

You may choose the room that bothers you the most, the room that’s the easiest to clean, the area company first sees when they arrive, or any other room you’d like. The room itself doesn’t matter nearly as much as just starting somewhere and giving yourself a success!

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2) Just do something.

You may not have time to clean your entire kitchen, but you could unload and reload the dishwasher. If you can’t organize your entire dresser, you can declutter one drawer. It doesn’t seem like much, but all of these little minutes help add up to make a huge impact!

3) Give yourself grace.

It’s easy to feel discouraged when we’re not making progress as quickly as we’d like. But we can give in to those discouraged, paralyzing feelings or we can push through and refuse to give up!

I hope this helps you, Danielle! You also asked some great questions about who should be doing the housework. I talked about that a little bit here and I plan to address your specific questions in my next article.

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What tips or encouragement would you like to share with Danielle for when she’s feeling overwhelmed or anxious?

{To submit your own questions, go here.}

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Voting!!! Get Organized Challenge Feburary 2015

I’m so excited to show you some amazing transformations this month! These ladies have worked hard to make their homes become inviting spaces and they all did a fantastic job. Vote for your favorite! The $100 prize is generously sponsored by Grape Vine Studies.

{Polls will be open until Monday, February 9th at 11:59PM EST.}

Transformation #1 – Lara from Oklahoma

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Transformation #2 – Jen from Wisconsin

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Transformation #3 – Jeni from Minnesota

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Transformation #4 – Jenny

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