Friday, July 31, 2009

Household Organizer

I have been trying to slowly reorganize my household binders, and while I have a long way to go, I am going to try to share what I am doing. For the sake of full disclosure, my house is a mess right now, we have not followed a real routine at all this July, and I am so far from being able to keep my house in order it is not even funny! But, I am also striving to do better. I am slowly figuring out the things that will work for my home, my schedule and my life. I have heard many people say "I am not a list person" or "I am not into scheduling my life." I realize each of us has different personalities, but one of the concepts in MOTH is the idea that as a full time mother and housewife, my job is to run my household. My husband gets up every morning and works hard all day, I should do the same. When I approach home organization from that perspective, then I see the importance of creating a plan for accomplishing my job. No business would be very successful without a plan of action, and no employer is effective without a good job description. I would not try to run a business without evaluating and implementing effective methods, and if I decided to just play it by ear, I would probably fail very quickly. So, I am learning to look at maintaining my home as my job. I was first introduced to the whole "household management binder" concept through the FlyLady website. I started my "control journal" in a huge 3" binder. It was way too much - and was not very useful in the ways I needed. I think my first problem with FlyLady is the name "control journal." I quickly realized that control should not be my goal - every time I read that word I was reminded of how much trouble we cause ourselves when we try to control our lives. I like to be in control, I like to think I can plan my life, and have control over what happens. I know in my heart I cannot, and so I decided that my notebooks needed to have the goal of learning to live life in harmony with the church, letting God be the control and guide. With that in mind, I chose to use plain white binders that allow me to customize the cover of each with a saint and prayers. I have tried to find ways to remind myself throughout this binder to offer each and every task to God. So, my main notebook, my Rule of Life as it were, looks like this:

For the cover I chose the icon of Mary and Martha because I feel they are the ultimate example for us as women in learning the balance of life. They represent the practical needs in life, with the reminder that while these are all important, they are not the goal. Every time I pick up my binder, I am reminded that I must remember the one thing needful. The Bible and the church teach us we are to pray without ceasing, one of the most difficult tasks we are given in my mind. It is interesting to read The Way of a Pilgrim and follow his journey and the very structured and studious way in which the pilgrim approaches his goal of prayer without ceasing. He seeks prayer of the heart very purposefully, following a plan. With that in mind, I have spent a good deal of time finding saints and prayers that are meaningful to me and my daily tasks, and trying to incorporate them into my day in a very purposeful way. The back cover page of my binder has a prayer for mothers, and the prayer before commencing a task.

Within the binder I have four sections:
The first section is labelled Daily Routines and Reminders. Here I have a copy of my Daily Rule created using the Mother's Rule of Life as my guide. I also have a simple morning and evening routine. These are my goals, they do not always get done, but they are there to help remind me of what I am striving to make a habit. I also have my year at a glance documents filed here, along with my monthly bill payment schedule form. My year at a glance pages also include all birthdays and anniversaries. I am constantly updating these pages, and I have found it really helpful to have the reminders, especially for things like when my flowers are blooming. If I am going to have a baby shower or birthday party, it is nice to see at a glance which flowers I will have available for cutting. The bill payment page has each bill typed in on the day it is due. When I mail that bill, I use a highlighter to mark it as paid. At the end of the month I can just wipe the highlighter off and start over.

The second section is the Basic Weekly Plan. Here I have the kids karate and gym schedules filed, then I have my cleaning routines. I have a "laundry day", a "cleaning day", a "kitchen day", and an "errand day," and after each of those sections a list of things to be done on those days. I do not do everything on those lists every time (actually, I have not done anything on those lists in a month! but, that is why I am posting this, to get myself going again), I just try to work from that list doing a few within my allotted cleaning times on those days. I started with the FlyLady zone concept, tweaking it for me, and I am still working on checklists for each room.

There is a section for Emergency Numbers, where I keep important numbers, business cards and a print out of the FlyLady's Control Journal Step #19. I have learned the hard way that it really is important to know ahead of time who you will call if you have a household emergency - since when the flooding (in our case) or other emergency occurs, you don't have time to call around and get references or estimates, you take whoever answers the phone and gets to your house the quickest!

The final section is my favorite. It is titled Personal, and it is where I have my personal mission statement, Fr. Thomas Hopko's 55 Maxims for Christian Living, a letter my husband wrote me last Christmas and a list of reminders similar to the advice in my previous post. These are there to encourage me, to help me focus, to remind me of what is important. I would like to say I look at these every day, but that would be a lie! That is, however, my goal. If you can begin your day with prayers and a look at your mission statement, you can't help but be better focused on what is important each day. I also have a small notepad tucked into the pocket of the binder to keep track of errands I need to run, items I need etc.
This notebook does not contain food sections the way FlyLady does, because I have 2 separate notebooks (one feasting and one fasting) in my kitchen for that - I will post on those later. I also have my teacher's planner, and I am working on a series of notebooks similar to Mary's Cycles of Grace (though mine are not nearly as pretty :). Sounds like a lot of binders, I know, but the school planner stays in the school room, the cooking notebooks are on my pantry shelf with my cookbooks, and the main binder floats through the house with me (I like to keep it in my room to start my day, then take it to the kitchen to look over cleaning chores).

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Good Advice

Do you want to reclaim your time? Do you feel that you are pulled in too many directions? I know I constantly battle this issue. I will not claim credit for this advice - I gleaned it from many other wonderful posters. But, since for me preparing for the start of the school year is also a time of renewal and a time of reprioritizing, I thought I would share some of this advice that helps keep me on track.

1. Don't spend excessive amounts of time on appearances. Okay, yes, I like to look nice. But I have also learned how to get ready in under 15 minutes. I have found the quick hairstyles that work for me, the clothes that flatter me, and the make-up I need to feel confident leaving the house. Save the really elaborate stuff for that special night out with your sweetie!

2. Don't answer the telephone. This one is really hard for me. To me, the phone ringing is priority number one. Slowly, I have learned to realize that if I am reading to my kids, the call can wait. If we are about to sit down to dinner, the call can wait. In fact, most of the time, the call can wait. Why do we feel obligated to answer the phone?

3. Don't waste time shopping. I have finally learned to keep lists of my needs, and to fulfill them in the times when I have to drop my kids off for classes. Once a month I get my "day off" (read Mother's Rule of Life!), when I get to shop just for fun and for me. Other than that, I try not to have to run errands.

4. Don't read junk mail, or catalogues. Yes, I know, it is hard to pitch that catalog unopened, but really, how often do you find something you need that is reasonably priced and will work? Not often! So, pitch it and don't waste precious time.

5. Don't join clubs.

6. Just say no. Don't always feel obligated to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. Learn to say "let me think about it", then really think about it. Is this something that will truly help us achieve our family goals? I am not saying to be selfish, I do not think our world should revolve around our children - I just mean to really look at the opportunity, and evaluate how it helps you and your family become more Christ-like.

7. Don't waste time complaining about the little things. So often we spend our energy worrying about the silly little things that irritate us. This is a particularly difficult one for me. I must constantly remind myself to not worry about the little details - especially when I have no control over them.

8. Don't waste time on doubt. So many people spend much of their life worrying about the decisions they have made (or are about to make). Pray, think about it, make your decision, then don't look back. We cannot live our lives in the past. We can learn from mistakes, but we must not dwell on what I refer to as "should of, could, of would of".

These are a few of the things I like to remind myself of on a regular basis to keep me from wasting time on the unimportant. Hope they will be help to you too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ally - Feb 1998 - July 21, 2009

She was my first dog, or pet of any kind for that matter. My husband and I got her while still living in our first apartment. At the time, I was terrified of dogs, but he wanted a dog. After testing a whole litter using the Monks of New Skete's advice for selecting a dog, my husband chose her. He then dumped her in my lap for the hour drive home. I shook the whole way. By the time we got home, I was warming up to this cute little bundle on my lap. She has lived in every home we have shared, she was there for me many nights when he was working all night, she was there to greet each of our children when we brought them home from the hospital. My childrens' first word was dog. She was a great dog. She will be missed.

Her first photo

Greeting our first baby just home from the hospital

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

Service Projects

This morning the kids and I went to cook at Meals on Wheels for the first time in a long while. We used to go once a month, but when the baby came along we took a break. The older kids really love getting to do projects like this, but I am often at a loss for ways they can serve. A few years ago I spent days phoning various local organizations to see how we might volunteer, and was turned down by most groups. I would love to hear how other parents provide service projects for their children. What hands on ideas do you all have for teaching your children to help those in need?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Saturday Morning Blueberry Crumb Cake

In an attempt at being more purposeful in training my kids in their cooking skills, last week I let them each select recipes from several of my cookbooks. Then I scheduled dates on my calendar to teach them to cook the dishes they had chosen. The crocodile hunter wanted to make this yummy blueberry crumb cake from Barefoot Contessa at Home, and since we had a few berries left from last week's blueberry picking at the church, we enjoyed this dish this morning with breakfast. He did it pretty much on his own, and even got a bit of practice on fractions too!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Call for Input

A handful of moms and I have been working out plans for a co-op this fall. As a part of this group, we wanted to offer something similar to boy scouts and girl scouts for our kids. We have been planning to use the Keepers at Home and Contenders for the Faith programs - why reinvent the wheel right? Okay, now I want to reinvent the wheel. I am not a big fan of the graphics used through the program, and of course we will be adding our own Orthodox perspective, which got me thinking - can we create something unique for the Orthodox community that will fufill our needs? I expect this will be a big project, so I am not trying to have it ready this fall, and we will begin with the Keepers/Contenders programs. But, in looking to the following year, I would love to have something that fit our needs better. Here is where you all come in. I need input in two areas. First - I want to select a patron saint and color for each group. I am thinking St. Demetrios for the boys? but would love other ideas. For the girls I am considering Mary and Martha, or possibly Ruth. Second - if you were having your child participate in a program like this - what skills, virtues, areas would you want to see covered? Let me hear from you!

Friday, July 3, 2009

And then there were none .....

Just in case anyone has noticed, I have removed a few bloggers from my blog roll. I am beginning to feel like I am in an Agatha Christie novel, as one by one many of my favorite bloggers decide to slow down or stop blogging altogether! I think everything slows down a bit in the summer, and I realize there is a hard balance between benefiting from blogs and becoming overwhelmed by others and their seeming perfection. I understand everyone has to choose what is the right thing for them in the present moment. That said, I am sad to see some of them go. I am down to only a handful of blogs I read regularly, which is a good thing I suppose since it reduces the amount of time I spend on the computer. I did want to share with you a blog I just stumbled upon and love - Wildflowers and Marbles - get ready to be inspired to reorganize your school space and home after looking at some of her beautiful ideas. I am also excited about sharing some changes for our upcoming year as I am implementing several new ideas for organization and accountability. So, while summer is a down time, I am busily writing our plans and looking forward to posting as things begin to take shape (I am especially excited about math for the Queen, I am working on a set of plans around the characters from Beatrix Potter - her favorite!) So, keep checking in and hopefully I will be able to start posting plans and forms soon!