Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

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Laundry & Dishes: Strategies for Keeping Up

Welcome friends.

This is day 12 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October. The first week of the series can be found here. I hope you are enriched by this series. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.


Let me take you on a little tour of my house.

Right now, I have laundry in drawers, laundry on the floor, clean laundry on our downstairs couch, dirty laundry in 3 big bins, laundry in the washer and laundry in the dryer.

I have dishes on the table, dishes in the sink, dishes on the counter, dishes in the cupboard, and dishes in the dishwasher.

In short, I am constantly chasing the elusive feeling of ever being done with anything. It’s not just laundry and dishes…it is all the tasks a mama must tackle again and again day after day.

I need to make dentists appointments (again) and buy new curriculum (again) and update a few of the kids’ wardrobes (again). No matter how recently I have finished a task, it seems like the same task is hanging over my head, needing to be done again soon.

Keeping up is really tough, if not impossible at times. For this reason, I champion the soul-care of mamas with fervor. You have to insert that time somewhere or you risk sinking into total discouragement. I speak from experience.

Today I want to share a few strategies to help any mamas who might be reading this that don’t know how to hop off the hamster wheel every now and then, and a few strategies that might help you feel a little less overwhelmed with all the doing of motherhood.

Strategy #1: Schedule your soul-care time in advance

Every mama needs to have a measure of vision and momentum to tackle everyday battles in the home with any success. This might be accomplished by carving out morning devotional time, exercising, having a coffee date or play date with a friend, spending an evening with a good book, or getting out for a date night with your sweetheart. If you wait for space to magically open up for these things, you will be waiting a while, so do yourself a favor and put some on your calendar ahead of time.

Strategy #2: Simplify your systems

This might include paring down clothing so that your laundry cycle only contains in-season clothes that are correctly sized for your people. It might mean serving lunch on napkins or family-style (sandwiches and finger foods are great for this). This might mean making a meal plan that allows you to prepare foods ahead of time in batches so you’re not staring at the stove at 5pm wondering what to eat. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed, I step back and ask: How can I possibly make this easier on myself?

Look for ways to streamline household tasks so you can spend less time doing what is necessary and more time doing things that you enjoy.

Some ideas to get you thinking:

Put a date on your calendar once per season to pare down clothing. Invite a friend to help you and offer to return the favor. Chores are always better with friends.

Keep a box or receptacle to toss items for donation that are too small, no longer wearable, not liked, or too big, and weed those things out continuously as you go through your regular cycle. I invite my children over 5 years old to voluntarily toss clothes in there that fit the requirements, and since implementing this, I have had some relief from this task.

Make a meal plan that includes spaces for breakfast lunch and dinner daily. You can use the same plan over again weekly, or if you are feeling more ambitious, make a meal plan for a month and reuse it again the next month.

Before serving a meal, prepare the sink with a soapy tub of water so at the end of meals, your kids can scrape their own plates and plop them in the water. Then, when you go to wash the dishes, there won’t be any crazy scrubbing to do.

When I am preparing to leave the house, I ask the kids to clean up 10 things from the floor, or I ask them to spend the last 10 minutes before departure times to re-set as many things as possible in our common area so whenever we return from our adventures, it is relatively tidy. They receive special treats for this, because it is a special treat for me to arrive home to a clean house.

Make a kit in advance for the car that contains non-perishable snacks, water, change of clothes, and anything else you might need out if you forget (or choose to forget) items on the way out the door.

These are just a few ideas (most of which I currently use myself) that may help you stay ahead of the tidal wave. Brainstorm some ideas of your own that can make your household systems easier!

Strategy #3: Communicate with your spouse

It has taken me a number of years of marriage to realize that my husband can’t read my mind. He also can’t read my clues, even if I think they are totally obvious. He needs me to say out loud (with kind words) what I need help with, and most often, he leaps into action to help me get caught up when I’m especially behind. I know that not every family has the same dynamic, so this may not yield the same results for you, but my point is that sometimes spouses are very willing to do what they can to help or encourage you if they know what you really need. Since I’m the at-home parent, I try to handle 90%+ of anything that needs to be done at home, but there are times I just can’t catch up without a hand, and communicating about it has made a huge difference.

Strategy #4: Involve your children in the process

Children are very capable of helping with household tasks. Sure, there is a stage where they undo every last thing you try to accomplish (hello 1.5-2.5 year olds…I know your game), but that stage doesn’t last forever, especially if you recognize early that even young children can be involved in the care of their home. I reserve a few tasks that I see as solely my responsibility (a personal choice) and all other household jobs are available for children to complete at my request. Age four is when I begin to require tasks to be completed to a satisfactory standard, but my kids begin helping alongside me at a variety of tasks when they’re 2. They love it. I love it. It also goes a long way to establishing strong work ethic, personal responsibility for the space they live in, teamwork, and character-building. It’s not all roses, for sure, but with diligent effort over time, you can have a team that is working together for the peace and order of your home.

Strategy #5: Take a shortcut when it is prudent to do so

Do you feel like you are doing dishes 20 hours a day? (I do!) Paper plates can alleviate a tiny bit of that. I don’t use them all the time, but if I’m in an especially overwhelming season or week, you can bet I’ll serve on paper plates a few times without any guilt.

Do you look at a closet clean-out or laundry pile and feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the job? Set a timer and hit it hard for 5 straight minutes. Then you can decide to keep going or walk away for a bit. Often, I will just keep going because I’ve found my stride, but when I need to walk away after the 5 minutes, I never feel bad about it, and there is always a good dent in the job when I come back to it. Or if you have a handy 8 year old around, ask them to start the job for you and see how far they can get in 5 minutes. Then when you jump in, there will already be forward momentum…not that I do this or anything. (Actually, I’m 100% guilty of this.)

One last help: I keep a convenience meal in the freezer at all times, for the days that my dinner plans just don’t come together. This might be a homemade casserole or a store-bought dish that can be popped in the oven at a moment’s notice. If my goal is to see that meal stay in the freezer for up to a month, it helps me stick with my meal plan, but never leaves me in a lurch.

So there you go, mamas. I would love to hear about your strategies for keeping up! Leave me a comment or send me a personal note!

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” Psalm 19:1-2


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