Okay, so I'm a very creative type of person. For much of my life I refused tothink of myself as someone who could be orderly. But as I've grown in my understanding of God I'm coming to see that He is both the ultimate personification of Creativity and Order all at once, without conflicting Himself at all! Realizing this, I'm free to stop putting myself in a certain 'camp' and come to see that I can have it both ways. Really.
So, on order in the home, I think the first thing to realize after the nature of God is that our homes should be places of purpose where we live by intention. Not by default and not just because, well, we need a place to sleep. When your home has a mission or a set of goals-- a vision-- you will be able to better see what you need to achieve those things. If you have a Christian household, then your first goal is like mine: to live in service to God (and all of the unique specifics will spring from this one.)
The next thing to come to grips with is that life is a process of growing and changing. We have dynamic lives and dynamic families with many changing variables. Our pursuits will change, our families will grow as we welcome new members (each with their own growth spans and changes!), shrink as we see brothers and sisters start their own households, Grow to admit our parents or family or friends in need, and, if a powerhouse of faith, will include large and/ or long term hospitality and home industry. Through all of these different demands, our homes will need to shift in structure physically and in management in terms of supply and time spent. For me this means just when I get a grip on things the tiger is only gotten by the tail and I have to whip around and begin again! But that's okay. Order is basically problem solving which is really creative thought. Everyone is a creation of God in His image and so long as we are healthy in our minds we can all problem solve to one degree or another.
While our households are filled with little lambs, we need to give ourselves some grace. Most gifted mothers I have heard speak or whose writings I've read testify to not recalling much of the years of being up at night nursing and wading through the dirty laundry. This. Is. Normal. While we are in these years we can still do our best, but it's unreasonable to expect magazine homes or polished children singing in three part harmony ala sound of music. When we give ourselves grace we will enjoy the sticky fingers, ant farms, cardboard box houses, and the ballpoint pen wall murals. Childhood will only pass this way once and they need us to be peaceful and loving (which doesn't mean without discipline, but that's another topic). Use this time to learn the nature of God's patience, long-suffering, and gentleness and keep this time in your heart to treasure always.
I can't yet speak to having older children as mine are all well under ten. But I can say that at about age five or six the average child begins to be able to care for himself. He takes himself to the bathroom, feeds himself and cleans off his plate, ties his own shoes and can do some beginning self-care chores (making his bed, putting away his clothes, picking up his toys). By this age he can also begin to entertain his younger siblings and this begins to allow your arms to be more free to prepare a meal or... um, write a blog post like this one.
Once children can be at least a little autonomous, you have fewer excuses for letting the floor go a month between moppings. It's time to begin to regiment yourself to keep up with these types of tasks. And, I'm hoping this will lead to these types of chores being something I can train the oldest to do on request or by a schedule so my life is even more free in the next few years.
On Clutter-- It happens. Rather than letting it frustrate you and make you a meanie or a despondent individual, it's better to evaluate the clutter as you continuously work through it. Keep the broken and nonsensical things weeded out into the trash so they don't keep you and your family from enjoying the things that are more worthwhile (but respect even the broken things of other people. help them consider what to do with their own things and remember that they can learn how to evaluate in time too). As you sort your things, consider if there are better ways of storing or distributing the things.
Because I have many preschoolers, I came to realize that having everything where they could reach was just a bad idea. They are too little to resist pulling everything out and too little to be able to sort through and pick up things. So I put up most of the art supplies and games and toy sets, and they can have them one at a time by request. These play things will last them thirty minutes or up to two hours of play and then it is time to put them away. Because they only have one thing out it's easy to pick up and there are no tears. Of course I still have many things where they can reach freely and these things can pile up on our floors. Our play kitchen, stuffed animals, doll houses, 'guys box', legos, duplos, wooden blocks, dress up box, kids books, and crayons and paper are certainly more than enough to chase around our house!
When I was a kid, my dad had this thing he started saying that I didn't really appreciate at the time. He would say to just pick up three things every time you went through a room on your way somewhere else. I have to say this really works! There's no extra effort involved other than on the part of your brain, and even that becomes more automatic as you make it a habit. So if the phone rings right now (I always wait for the answering machine and screen my calls) I will grab my dirty clothes and the kids books and two baby toys that I see right now in my room and take them downstairs with me. It didn't clean up my whole room, but it certainly helps keep it more manageable.
Something someone said at our homeschool ladies luncheon this summer was really helpful to me for envisioning order in my home, particularly because I'm a bit of a pack rat. She said everything we keep should have a purpose, and if it's not serving that purpose it becomes deadweight around our ankles, preventing us from serving the Lord with all we have. This was fantastic! My home is a base of operations. I'm free to collect newspapers and glass jars and ribbon ends and odd bangles- if they have a purpose. If they begin to sit without use or even a plan , then it's time to let go and make room for something we are using. I started looking at my stuff and saying, use it or lose it! This has meant that I'm doing a lot of projects I put off, donating things to others.... or filling up my recycle bin very quickly! It also has made me look at my accessibility to my storage and I now have some plans in mind for how to make them more accessible so I'll use the collections I have of say, fabric, instead of just buying more because it's easier to reach the store's bolts than my own!
My home is still very far from perfect, but it is far better than it has been in the past, and I feel able to breathe and to do good in my home for my children, and by little bits, for my extended family and community. If you get a vision for what you want to do with your home in the next few years, you can begin to prioritize how to improve on it and what to keep in it and the resources God gives us for this time will cease to be a stagnant waste and begin to be as good as gold! Right now we are gaining the value of education from our home as we teach our own children and improve our own skills. Chris gets a small additional income editing video for his brother's business from his home computer. Soon I look forward to making salable art work and crafts from home and eventually I will also be feeding us in part from our garden (right now my garden is more of a... test bed). These are manageable near future goals. We have bigger longer term ones too, and God-willing, we'll be striving for those soon enough! You may have different specifics and different gifts and applications. But essentially, it's my hope that in not too long, our house will produce more than it consumes, multiply in charity, train little hands and minds to work diligently and equip them to set out with strong households, and if at all possible for our home to help other families to do the same.
Thank you for reading and I hope this makes some sense and helps someone else in big and small ways! Keep God always at the focus, let Him work in you through Scripture and through the Holy Spirit and through consideration of encouragements and chastisements of other believers, and everything will come into place in His time! Glory to God.
(and now it's time to get back to feeding the lambs!)