One of the most important lessons that I have learned as a mom is that it’s not necessary to have a perfectly clean home. The laundry does not need to be color-coded and ironed and put away instantly. Some toys sprinkled throughout the house is not really a big deal, and if I let some dishes go overnight my house will not suddenly melt into a disastrous oblivion.
The truth is, I am a terrible homemaker. I am better at building businesses and writing than I am at making sure the house looks spotless or figuring out something creative to cook for dinner. It’s not that I don’t clean, because I do, it’s that I’ve never been very good at organizing. And the more I embrace this part of me, the more peace it has brought to my life. If I invite you to my house, you’re more likely to get some chips in a bowl than you are a home cooked meal.
I was the kid who would shove everything under the bed when it was time to clean up, not because I was inherently lazy (I like to think I was efficient), but because I was genuinely so overwhelmed by the mess that I didn’t know where to start to get organized. My mom on the other hand was a “compulsive” organizer. She wanted things not only cleaned up in my room, but also organized.
So, when I would be so proud of my clean floors and cleared off bed, she would go hunting for the mess. She would look in my closet and under my bed and pull everything out again. And I would spend all day trying to figure out what to do to organize everything to her standard. It was exhausting. I don’t say that to rag on her. She was a single mom, who loved Jesus and was also a gentle parent. I didn’t get punished for it not being perfect, but I also had to organize it before I was able to go out and play or do the next thing I wanted to do.
It. was. exhausting.
I feel the same way as an adult. Unfortunately, many patriarchal norms have been placed on Christian wives to be the homemaker and the housecleaner. I don’t remember that in my vows but trying to live up to that standard and constantly failing has been frustrating at best. The pressures placed on us by the church to conform to the image of the working husband and hospitable wife has been unfair and not biblical. Thankfully, I have a husband who gets it, and after many years we’ve come to a much better place.
These are our children, this is our home, these are our messes, and so as a family we work together to clean it up. But in the seasons where it was just me and the kids and my hubby was gone all the time, all of it was too much.
I felt stressed all the time. I worked part-time from home, homeschooled the kids, and I was expected to clean every thing, figure out dinner, make sure the animals were all taken care of and not go insane. Those were the seasons where exhaustion set in and I needed to figure out how to make it all less stressful, less overwhelming, and to keep moving forward instead of retreating and shutting down out of self-preservation.
Here are my best tips to help you manage the household when it’s become overwhelming and you’re struggling:
- Throw away the dishes. Okay, not the real ones. But investing in paper plates, forks, knives, and spoons saved me 90% of the dishes and that alone made them worth every single penny.
- Trash the cookware. In the season when we lived on the land, aluminum foil, aluminum single use pans, and even sandwich baggies for leftovers in the fridge were a lifesaver. Being able to cook and throw the mess in the trash in minutes helped alleviate a lot of stress. Not to mention that grilling was easy in that season too.
- Go to the laundromat twice a month. If you have enough clothing, odds are you can get away with only doing laundry a couple of times a month. If you have a washer and dryer in the house, this might seem like a waste, but two hours at the laundromat to get everything clean versus trying to do it daily can be a big time and stress saver.
- Don’t fold or put away the laundry. When you have little kids, there is a lot of laundry. The process of washing, drying, folding and putting everything away is time consuming and never really ends. What if you cut out one of the steps? Instead of stressing about folding all the kids clothing, just leave it in the basket and grab out what you need each day to wear.
- Ask for help. Having family and friends who can help you get a break is another option. I have had the kinds of friends who would come over and help me clean because I needed the assistance and they wanted to help. I’ve had the kinds of friends who let me borrow their dishwasher and bring my stacks and stacks of dishes over to their house when I didn’t have one. It’s okay to need help.
- Downsize the stuff. A lot of the problem with managing the household comes when there are too many things and I spend my time consumed with picking up little things. The best option is to think about the things you own and have out and thin it out. This could mean having fewer decorations out at once do you’re not dusting as much or bringing other things to the thrift store to donate.
- Learn to say no. My husband and I once had a very busy schedule. We went from work to volunteering at our church a few times a week and those nights we were somewhere other than home in the evenings. When two people are working full-time, this doesn’t leave a lot of time to get the house cleaned up or take care of things for the kids. We’ve learned to say no, and we fiercely guard our family time now to ensure we don’t get caught in that trap again.
We believe that men and women should equally share in the household chores and childrearing, but this doesn’t always happen, so I understand that some of you mamas are left doing it all. The best thing you can do is to find a system that works for you and let go of how others do it. You don’t need to be Martha from the bible rushing around to do all the things. You can be more like Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus instead. You don’t need to color code the kid’s laundry, you can leave it clean and, in a basket, instead. You can get paper plates because it saves you dishes when you have two babies under 2.
If the dishes get left overnight, it’s not always the end of the world. If you have to ask for help, no one will judge you. Finding the things that matter the most and doing them will help you manage the household, reduce your stress, and start to thrive instead of barely survive.
My Prayer for You Today:
God bless you mama. Today I pray for peace in your heart. That all the stresses of managing your household would melt away in the presence of the Lord. I pray for unhealthy expectations to go and for your home to be set in right order by Jesus Himself. May you always know that you are a precious daughter of the King. He loves you and cares for you.