I saw a Buckets comic a few years ago that illustrated the dilemma facing many homeschool moms. The bathroom is spotless, everything is put away in the living room, and the wife is thinking, “The house is immaculate, and it’s going to stay that way!” However, her husband and two young children are standing outside, pounding on the locked front door as he shouts, “C’mon, Sarah, let us in!”
The thing that discourages many homeschooling moms most is not the teaching, but the housework. One exhausted mom told her husband, “I can either teach your children or I can feed them—but I can’t do both!”
Certainly, our homes would stay cleaner if no one lived there, but what profit is there in an empty home? Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.”
What many rookie homeschoolers fail to realize is that homeschooling adds another twenty to thirty hours per week to their present workload. In addition, those little blessings that are now staying home all day are, by their very presence, increasing the amount of housework Mom faces.
Most of us would never consider sending our children away to school so that our homes would be more orderly. Instead, we must find strategies that will allow us to keep our blessings home and keep our homes blessed.
Declutter Your Home
The more you own, the more you have to clean (or clean around!). Simplify your decorating to minimize dusting. Remove excess furniture, clothing, sports equipment, etc., so you can enjoy things that are important to you. Use the three box method to go through each room. Designate one box for throw away, one for give away, and one for put away (for items that belong in a different room).
Limit the number of toys available to your children at any one time. When a child sees a toy every day he gets tired of it, even if he never actually plays with it. Place some toys in storage and rotate them; these toys will seem fresh and exciting when you bring them out.
Make it easy for children to put away their own toys. Use smaller containers for toys with small pieces; then your child won’t have to dump his big toy bin to find what he is looking for.
Adjust your standards, if necessary. It is not necessary to have a magazine-perfect house. Determine to pass the Great Love Test, even if you can’t always pass the White Glove Test.
Develop routines, and you will be able to exercise hospitality anytime. Abandon the idea of Stash and Trash Cleaning when someone is coming over. Instead of having a nice clean home only when guests are coming and you’ve spent two weeks digging out, commit to doing a little each day. After all, aren’t your own family members worth it? Maintaining a clean, orderly home takes less time than cleaning a dirty one. Why not do it a little at a time instead of all in one exhausting, emotion-wrenching session? Clean as you go.
Clean the biggest area first—the floor, followed by the bed or table, then smaller surfaces. Think about what will make the greatest impact if it is tidy, and then start there.
Never leave a room empty-handed—take hitchhikers that have landed in the wrong rooms back to their homes as you’re passing through. Don’t waste steps fetching glass cleaner from the kitchen when you know you will need it in every bathroom every week; keep duplicate cleaning products where you use them.
Utilize Your Staff
Some of us have the idea that doing housework is our job. We believe that only we are capable of doing the job right. This thinking places a tremendous burden on us; it is an invitation to exhaustion, at the least, and bitterness and resentment if left unchecked.
I don’t know a single mom who hasn’t dreamed of having live-in staff to handle housework, laundry, and cooking. We often forget that God has given us staff to help us. Some of that staff is mechanical, such as a vacuum sweeper; some is electronic, such as a microwave. But our most important staff are those living in our home—our human staff.
It is not selfish to teach your children how to run a household—it is essential. Sure, it’s easier to do it yourself when they’re young, but they need those skills every bit as much as they need academic learning. Teach them that your home is not a welfare institution—everyone who lives in it is expected to contribute to keeping it tidy.
Any child who is able to walk should be taught to pick up after himself. We increased our boys’ responsibilities as they aged. The four-year-old had four chores each day; the twelve-year-old had twelve chores, some daily and some weekly. Remind them that they are not helping you with your work—they are helping with the family’s work. When everyone does his part, the whole family can enjoy relaxing together.
Too little rest contributes to stress in ways we don’t always recognize. Make it a part of your family’s routine that everyone (including you!) will lie on their beds and read or nap quietly for fifteen to thirty minutes after lunch. You will be surprised how this will refresh you, much as rebooting your computer makes it work better.
Don’t fill your Sunday with so many activities that you don’t get a rest. I found that the week went much more smoothly when I avoided housework (other than meals) on Sunday. God knew that we needed a day of Sabbath rest; we should celebrate this gift with joy.
What will you do to decrease stress by changing basic habits and attitudes? Will you resolve to reduce clutter? Clean smarter? Enlist your children to work? Get more rest? Choose one step and take action today for a more relaxed tomorrow.