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,


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.}


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.


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!

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?

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