Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hospitality for the Energetically Challenged, Part 4 Schedule Your Time

In Part 3 of Hospitality for the Energetically Challenged, we spoke about realistic expectations on how much cleaning to actually do. We introduced some important Life Truths: building relationships is more important than pretending you are a supper mom, and love the friend, but avoid the sin.

Now we are going to get down to the nitty gritty and talk about how to schedule your time, in Part 4, Schedule Your Time.

Keeping Up During the Week
One of my biggest problems in keeping the house clean was not setting aside special time to actually perform the duties. I might know that I need to wash the dishes, vacuum, and freshen up the bathrooms, but during the day, between homeschooling, kid’s activities, cooking, and simply making sure nobody set the house on fire, I just didn’t have the time.

I had to create a daily cleaning routine. It started off simple with just identifying each day of the week as a day for a specific area.
  • Monday – errands (too tired to do that after co-op)
  • Tuesday – freezer cooking (don't do that anymore)
  • Wednesday – office work (HA)
  • Thursday – laundry (Must be done every day!)
  • Friday – general cleaning
  • Saturday – yard work
  • Sunday – rest

I still fall back on this schedule when my daily routine starts to get behind. We graduated to a little more complex system recently. We set aside 1 hour in the morning to do chores. We use index cards with all the areas of the house that have daily chores that need to be done. We each take a few cards for the week and take care of those areas. We very rarely get all of it done, but the thing is that at least once a week all those areas are being touched. This may not seem like much, or maybe it seems like a lot, but honestly it was what had to be done. (That was a flop.  Guess I better get a new post out there about how we do chores now.)

Keeping up with chores doesn’t exactly fit in with the Energetically Challenged’s lifestyle, so it seems. However, being one who is energetically challenged, I know that I would rather expend a little energy through the week in short bursts than all at once when I don’t really have it. This by far is the most important thing you can do. Choose a cleaning routine that fits well with your family and lifestyle. You may need to try many before you hit on the right system. (Now that's still true.)

 New Life Truth: A little goes a long way.

Evaluating What Needs to Be Done
With 5 very messy people in this home, we still have things that need to be done before the guests arrive above and beyond the list or repeated from the list. I put those things into my calendar with a reminder that those tasks are in preparation for guests. For instance, next Sunday evening is our Bible study. My list of “to-dos” so far is as follows:

  1. Bake brownies
  2. Make lemonade and tea
  3. Set out cups, plates, and forks
  4. Freshen bathrooms (no major cleaning, they aren’t going to take a bath)
  5. Dust common areas
  6. Run vacuum in common areas
  7. Take baskets upstairs (these are baskets at the bottom of the stairs that are loaded with kid’s stuff left laying about during the day)
  8. Straighten front porch
  9. Wipe down walls and doors where needed.
  10. Mop kitchen floor (and bathrooms if needed)
  11. Set out a couple of games the kids would like
  12. Straighten the living room
  13. Everyone declutter their own bedroom and make beds.
During the week I will schedule some time to do these tasks when we do the morning chores.

  • Thursday – wipe down walls
  • Friday – make brownies and freeze, dust common areas, straighten front porch
  • Saturday – take baskets upstairs, bedrooms, mop kitchen floor, straighten living room, run vacuum
  • Sunday before church– take brownies out of freezer
  • Sunday After lunch – set out games, make beds, make drinks, set out cups/plates/forks, freshen bathrooms
As a disclaimer, the first few times we did this, we were pulling all-nighters because during the week we weren’t taking care of the necessary cleaning chores. Don’t be discouraged the first time you get the house ready. You will eventually get into the cycle of cleaning and inviting, cleaning and inviting.
Remember: It is very important that you actually put this into your calendar. It will remind you of the high priority. If you just have a “to-do” list laying around, it doesn't show the importance as if each of those items were actually action items on your calendar.

In Part 5 of Hospitality for the Energetically Challenged, we are going to wrap up the series with some great Bible verses that apply to hospitality and fellowship and general inspiration to get you going.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hospitality for the Energetically Challenged, Part 3 What Actually Needs to Be Clean

In Part 2 of Hospitality for the Energetically Challenged, I introduced a new truth to you: the more invitations you make, the cleaner your house is. The cleaner your house is, the more invitations you will make. And, the more invitations you make, the deeper your relationships become. Seems pretty easy, right? It just kind of all takes care of itself.


I know ladies that wouldn’t even think about letting you into their home if there was a smudge on a window or one dirty dish in their dishwasher. God love these women, but I am not one of them. Unfortunately, I can go overboard on how clean I think my house should be to extend an invitation. I know my home isn’t going to look like a model home in one of those really ritzy subdivisions where the houses are way to big and the lots are way too small. But how much should I really be getting done?

Part 3, What Actually Needs to Be Clean, will explore how to set some realistic expectations.

What can I live with?

We need to find balance between immaculate and hovel that we can live with. Sure, I would love to have such a clean house that you could eat off of the floor. You know the type? They are the homes you see in magazines. However, I know that those pictures are created by an artist/technical guru who first takes great time getting everything just absolutely perfect, snaps the photo, and then takes it back to computer where they continue to manipulate the contents of that room. It isn’t a realistic view of how people actually live. Just like those skinny models that have been retouched more times than my nail polish (bad analogy, I bite my finger nails).

What I decided I could live with was the common areas being clean and decluttered. The common areas in the house are a must. It is very likely my guests will be in those areas. They include the kitchen/dining area, living room, bathrooms, and front porch. Unfortunately, our guest bath is under construction right now so that also means my master bedroom which is attached to the bathroom for the main floor. This may be a different list for you.

I scratched off the garage, the yard work, and the laundry room. If these areas are not picture perfect, I don’t stress. If we didn’t get our chores done in those areas it was simply a matter of running out of time to get the work done during the week. We will catch up on it next week. I had to ask myself what was more important, spending time with people, or running myself ragged?

The kid’s rooms, which are all the same floor, are a compromise. I was so tired of organizing little tiny toys that were just going to be dumped out during the kid’s time with their friends, I just finally gave up. I do still have them clean their rooms to the best of their ability, but it is their responsibility not mine and they are also still required to help out with a few other chores in the common areas.

Another compromise, or maybe I should call it understanding, I had to reach was how to actually clean a room. I know, how could I not know how to clean? Well, for some odd reason when I cleaned a room it involved not only the traditional cleaning rituals, but also I would reorganize, redecorated, and sometimes repaint. No kidding! I learned to let that go. I still do those kinds of activities, but I absolutely do not do them as a part of my cleaning to prepare for guests. They are totally off limits.

New Life Truth: Building relationships is more important than pretending I am have enough time in the week to be a supper mom.

How much can my family get done in the time we have available?

When planning our week or month, and looking at when we could have guests over, I always work from our master schedule which is my Hotmail calendar (Live now). I put everything in there the first moment I can. I do not let it pile up and do it on one day. The MOMENT I sit down at the computer after receiving a new item I enter it. (If I say it enough times with conviction it will be true.)  Or maybe I know that this is just a bad week to have someone over because by Sunday we will have trashed the house! I know how our family operates so I am careful to not try to load us down with too much. We can always go out.

I also know how much the kids and Hubby can realistically help with. If Hubby is going to be working most evenings, I know not to count on him to get the yard work done and hang that set of shelves that I have been bugging him about. Oh wait! I said that kind of stuff was off limits.  I know the kids are good for about 2 chores for the little ones and 3 or 4 for the oldest. I also know that if they are left alone to work together…forget it. It won’t get done. I have to make them work separately and supervise the little ones all of them. If I don’t have the time to supervise, it won’t get done.

New Life Truth: Don’t set your family up for failure.

What will my guests be comfortable with?

What are you comfortable with in other people’s homes?

Obviously, you want sanitary environments. Clean your toilets. Nothing is grosser than having to use a bathroom where there is some seriously bad stuff growing in the toilet. The kitchen should be sanitary. Of course, you may be in the middle of cooking a meal so things won’t be perfect, but no crusted dishes. And for Pete’s sake, no visible dirty clothes piles.

Do you really care about what is in their closets, under the bed, or in their cabinets? No. Do you care if their children’s room is messy? No, as long as there are no dirty diaper laying around (yes, we actually have had this happen in our own home, whoops). Do you care if their desk is cluttered? No.

Really what we want is someplace relaxing to sit, somewhere clean to eat, and some place we can go potty that doesn’t look like the men’s bathroom at the gas station. Use your best judgment.

Now, if you are reading this and saying to yourself, “I am OK with going to someone’s house that has dirty toilets, crusted on food, and dirty laundry piles in the living room,” I want you to know that I have sat in many a nasty house because I really wanted to be with my friends and although I wasn’t exactly comfortable, I wanted to be with them more. You will have friends that are OK with the mess. However, are you OK with it? Is your messy house going to distract you from a good time.  You need to be able to relax.

Every time I have ever had anyone over and I had those things wrong with my place, I apologized and just felt horrible that they were seeing how I actually lived. The point is the relationship. Your job isn't to judge them for judging you.  Your job is to be hospitable and there is nothing in the Bible that says that has to include cleanliness. 

What about those guests that I know are judgmental?

It is no fun inviting people over and then worrying every minute that there is something not good enough about your home. These are the kinds of guests who are best to invite out rather than invite into home. Let them judge the restaurant.

What I found myself doing is allowing their sin to become my sin. Their sin of being judgmental turns into something very ugly in me. I will stress my family out, become short tempered, have feelings of resentment towards my family for not helping more and resent the guest for being judgmental. Envy sneaks in there as well, because I believe that my home should be as good as theirs.

Until I was able to really accept God’s love for me and understand that His approval was the approval I wanted most, I would turn their sin into mine. Of course I don't do that anymore because I'm PERFECT. If you feel like you are in danger of doing this, love your friend, but avoid the sin.

New Life Truth: Love your friend, but avoid the sin. (It almost rhymes. It at least has good rhythm.)

Part 4 in this series, Schedule Your Time will explore exactly that, how to schedule your time so that the cleaning chores get done before the guests arrive.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Hospitality for the Energetically Challenged, Part 2 Invite People Frequently

Part 1 of Hospitality for the Energetically Challenged warmed you up to the idea of hospitality by showing you that hospitality is your responsibility not your neighbors. Although it would be nice if we were so popular that we received an invitation every week, month, or heck even once a year, if you really want to build relationships it is up to you to extend the hand of friendship. You won’t be sorry. 

In Part 2, Invite People Frequently, you will learn why inviting people frequently will actually cut down on the work you will have to do to get ready for company and make your job of hospitality much easier. 

I am sure there is someone reading this blog saying to herself, “DUH”. But for me it wasn’t so obvious.  

My House is Finally Clean…

…and I Don’t Want You to Mess it Up.

I remember not too many years ago my Mother-in-law came for a visit.  I want you all to know that I love my MIL, no if ands or buts, BUT in her excitement to be with her grandchildren, often the entire house can get destroyed in less than 15 minutes. This occasion was no different. She loves to bake with the kids so they had made something along those lines. There was flour on the cutting board; she walked it over to the kitchen trash and dumped it in and it all fell on the floor.  She doesn’t even say, “woops,” she just grabs her purse and says she is going to the store. She walks out and I am sitting there looking at this pile of flour on the floor and looking around at the other messes she has made in the house, and I am getting really upset.  It put me in a foul, unforgiving mood, and other issues that would have just rolled off my back ended up being “straws that broke the camel’s back” issues.

This hung with me for weeks, months, OK, years! I couldn’t understand why she had to wreck our house like this. I NEVER did that at her house because I am PERFECT! Over time I started to realize what the problem was. I wasn’t enjoying her company, I was enjoying my clean house.
The question then became, “How can I enjoy her company without getting wrapped up in the all the efforts I put into the house?”

It finally came to me when I was prepping for her next visit. “Just don’t clean the house,” someone told me (that would be my mother). How could I do that? MILs are notorious for judging you (as are mothers) on the state of your home. But I gave it a shot. I didn’t do quite as much. I did get all the clutter put away and get the house generally clean, but I didn’t wash walls, shampoo carpets, shine the silver, etc. I went to no greater lengths than if my best friend were coming over to hang out. She came and did the same thing she usually does and there were a few moments when I walked into a previously clean room and found huge messes, but I didn’t linger on it long because I hadn't put a lot into the clean house preparing for her visit. We ended with one of the best visits we had ever had. I even hated to see her go.

Did I learn my lesson? No.

…and Now I am Too Tired to Enjoy Your Company.

I had a birthday party for one of the kids last year (4 years ago) and I went to great lengths to get the house ready. Again, I worked my fingers to the bone and irritated my hip injury. By the time the party was going I was in so much pain that I really just didn’t enjoy it. All I could think about was when it would be over. I think that was the day that I finally decided that this routine of letting the house go, then bringing out the jackhammer to get it clean less than 24 hours before guests arrived had to end. (OH if only it would have lasted.)

…and I Scarred My Children and Caused a Divorce in the Process. (Not really my husband doesn't use that word.)

The other issue that is even more embarrassing to me than a dirty house is how I was reacting to my family. Because we didn’t have a good cleaning routine down and it was so infrequent, I nearly always had issues with kids griping about having to help. This is a whole blog series in itself, but I could get pretty infuriated over this. I do things for them constantly and when I ask then to do something for me I expect them to do it without complaint because I'm PERFECT. However, that wasn’t what was happening. Sometimes I wished I could just ship them off with their dad for a day out so at the very least they wouldn’t be tearing up what I had just cleaned, but I firmly believe this principle:

Thou must clean what thou hast destroyed.
You Are Who You Are

I wish, I wish, I wish, I was the kind of SAHM that had it all together and cleaned house daily, but I just am NOT. Let's just say I am working on it. Like I point out in my binder post, I have to come up with solutions that account for being a procrastinator and work around it.  I don’t and won’t punish myself daily or entertain thoughts of going back to work because someone out there who wants to control what I do with my day says I should do things their way.

However, for whatever reason, having company over really motivates me to get things clean. So, bada-bing, bada-boom, there you go, the answer to my clean house issue and wanting to make stronger connections. Just invite people over a lot! (This totally works even 4 years later.)

A New Truth!

The more invitations I make, the cleaner my house is, and the cleaner my house is, the more invitations I make, the more invitations I make the deeper my relationships become. 
WOW!  Who woulda thought?
I have been doing it backwards my whole life.  It went something like this: The more I clean my house...oh forget it, I hate to clean my house. 
That philosophy doesn't exactly make it easy to grow deeper relationships and in the end, that is what this series is all about. 

LAZY GIRL TIP #3: Hospitality is a tool we use to grow deeper relationships.

How Frequently is Frequently?

The frequency really depends on your schedule and what you think you would be comfortable with. If our schedule would allow, I would invite someone over every week. What I found out was that our schedule doesn’t allow for that. We are more flexible than others because we homeschool, but with extra curriculums, Bible studies, home improvements, etc., our schedule is still tight.  My husband has a full and part time job, and I have many volunteer activities on top of my responsibilities at home. We are very busy! Plus, we want to make sure we are spending some down time as a family where it is just us. (Listen to all the excuses! Now I say just do and make room one night a week.  Relationships are more important than sports.)

Sit down with your spouse and your family calendar. Then follow these steps:
  • Discuss and make a list of people you would like to invite over in the next few months. Don’t forget to leave room for at least one or two people you haven’t met yet.
  • Discuss how long it takes you to get the house as clean as you feel comfortable with having guests over, but no more. You don’t need to clean every drawer, closet, and storage area. 
  •  Look at the calendar and find one or two days a month a week that would allow you to invite company over. If you are daring like us, set the goal higher. We called it Friend Friday, but it was turned into Sundays. (Now back to Fridays.)
  • Keep the gathering simple. No need to invite every person you know on the same day. Just one family at a time. More on this in a later post.
  • Schedule one big cleaning task per day until the day of the invitation. Actually write it on your calendar.
  • Block out 2-6 hours (SERIOUSLY, it does take me 6 hours sometimes. UGH!) the previous day for cleaning the rest and use the day of the invitation to cook and primp. The better you are at keeping up with the cleaning, the less time you will have to spend the day prior.
  • In the event of a cancellation, ask someone else (just don’t tell them they were second on the list).
  • In the event that you can’t find anyone to come over, just enjoy the day with your family, playing games and watching movies. You deserve it!

The Snowball Effect

The more you invite the cleaner your house will be the next week. Not only does it help build relationships if you keep the flow of guest coming you will find that from week to week since you are at least doing weekly cleaning, that you are making progress on problem areas in your house.  Say for instance in your living room, the first week you just declutter and vacuum.  The following week you declutter, but there is less stuff because it hasn't been 3 or 4 weeks since you did that.  You now have time to declutter, vacuum, and dust.  The following week declutter, vacuum, dust and organize.  Who knows what it may lead to!

What If My House Just Isn't Going to Be Clean?

Have you ever heard of the park or a restaurant?  It doesn't have to be fancy.  You just need some place you can relax in and have great conversation.  Don't pick Chuck-e-Cheese.  Not only can you not hear in that place, you will likely come away with some kind of virus. Parks are great because you can use a shelter and set up shop for a while and it gives your kids some place to play.  Just keep in mind that weather could bring you back to your house anyway.  You might also go visit a local attraction. Some of our best conversations and most fun we've had have been away from our home.

So there you go.  Your new truth:
The more invitations you make, the cleaner your house is, and the cleaner your house is, the more invitations you will make, the more invitations you make the deeper your relationships become. And that is what makes life so good! 

Part 3 of the series, What Actually Needs to Be Clean, will discuss setting up realistic cleaning expectation. It is a fine balance between making sure your guests feel comfortable in your home while not punishing yourself with unnecessary tasks.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Contest and Review for Tattler Reusable Canning Lids

Homestead Revival just posted a contest to win Tattler BPA Free Reusable Canning Lids. YAY!

I have never used these lids, and as a matter of fact have never canned. However, my mom and I will be doing our first ever canning session this summer. We have been looking for good advice and good products to use for canning and these will be going on our list.

For just $20.95 you can purchase 3 dozen lids or $2.50 for 1 dozen, which are guaranteed to last a life time if used properly. I think that is pretty reasonable considering they can be used over and over again.

I have entered to win, but even if I don’t win, I think I will be placing my order ASAP.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hospitality for the Energetically Challenged, Part 1 But the House is a Mess

I was just reviewing some of my posts and found this unfinished series.  I am going to pick it back up again and make some changes since it's been...almost 4 years! Boy, I am such a procrastinator. 

I am restarting a series called Hospitality for the Energetically Challenged. I thought it would be fun to look at ways to be hospitable and entertain even when you are embarrassed about the state of your home and you really don't have the energy to tackle the hole your living in.   

My husband relayed a conversation that he had had with a coworker who is a foreigner. He was saying it is very hard to get to know people here and the reason he believes this is that they, the locals, never reach out. I guess we were all on the same wave length. We agree that it is up to the people who live in an area to send out the welcome committee when someone new comes to town, church, work, etc. Woops! In this case, WE are the welcome committee.

We started to evaluate what we could do to reach out more, especially at work and at church. So when it came time for New Year’s resolutions we made a doozy. We made a resolution to invite someone each week to our house.  I am sorry to say that we haven't kept up with our resolution very well, although we have invited more people over than ever before. What we found out was that we were a bit embarrassed at the state of our home.


Yes, yes, I know! I am a SAHM. I should have the house clean at all times and have fresh cookies and lemonade ready to serve anytime anyone drops by. I should get my spring and fall cleaning done within one week each season, as well as keep our family on a rigid cleaning schedule so that anytime anyone comes to the door I will feel comfortable welcoming them in for refreshments.

Yeah, right! Honey, I ain't June Cleaver...not even close! I don’t even own a string of pearls or a pair of high heels.

My carpet always looks like a pig has rolled on it and that's because I have 3 little piggies and 1 really big one who walks on my floor with dirty shoes. There are always dirty dishes and dirty laundry to be dealt with. And, for goodness sakes, even with my awesome binder system, the desk and classroom table seem to never be clear of clutter. Let’s not talk about our yard, our stinking dog, or the pool that has laid unfilled out in the yard for almost a year! (We got rid of the carpet in the main room, do school at the kitchen table which presents a whole other problem, the dog still stinks but not as bad, and the pool did make it into the trash.)

Ok, I am digressing into a confession session instead of good advice and ideas on how to be hospitable. So here it is in a nut shell:

There is always going to be something that could be better about your home. Get the log out of your eye, the chip off of your shoulder, and as they say around here, the corn cob out of your butt and invite people anyway. (YUK, I know).

So finally, one day I just got sick of going home after church alone (alone being relative, of course the kids and the hubs were there). I wanted to have fellowship and socialize a little...or heck, maybe a lot. I don't get out much, you know? The weekends used to be our time for hanging out with extended family or our neighbors back in Washington. There was rarely a weekend when there wasn't some kind of gathering going on somewhere within our circle of friends and family. I really miss that.

I screwed up the courage and invited a family from church to go out to lunch. They had been coming sporadically to our church and finally had settled on another church nearby. However, that church didn’t have much of a children’s program and they really wanted their daughter to have friends and activities at church. When they had come back to visit one Sunday we invited them out to Arby’s of all places – not even a nice restaurant. Later, these people told me that they were so grateful that we had done that. They said it really made a huge difference in their eventual decision to stay at our church to know that they had friends. Since that first invite, we have invited them over quite a few times, either to go out or to eat at our house.

LAZY GIRL TIP #1: Go out and let a waitress do the hosting.

The first time I did it, I wore myself out cleaning the house, but eventually I relaxed and figured out that they were our friends now no matter what the house looked like. They just wanted what we wanted, some good friends to hang out with. These people became become our friends all because we reached out first. Will this happen every time? No. But even if it just happens once a year or even once in a life time, it is worth the potential rejection or judgment to make new friends.

LAZY GIRL TIP #2: Don't wear yourself out cleaning.  Do what you must then let the chips fall (or lay as it may be) where they may.

Do I still worry about the state of the house? Yes, but I have found how to minimalize my anxiety and will be sharing with that you over the next few posts. Part 2 of the series will deal with how to get the house presentable without causing divorce or scarring your children for life.