The Thing We Have In Common–Imperfection: 31 Days to Clean

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What a perfect topic in honor of my long hiatus from this series. I had hoped to finish this series by the end of the year, but I know that just isn’t going to happen. Because there is far too much that I need to do that doesn’t involve cleaning my home. However, the holidays are all about hospitality and togetherness. So I feel this series is still very valid, otherwise I’d be waiting until after the New Year when we all suddenly want to make our lives perfect by making totally unrealistic resolutions.

I once heard someone say that bloggers are part of the problem. We make life look so perfect. Well, I don’t think I’m often accused of that. But maybe it’s because I tend to lean in the other extreme. I can be brutally honest at times, so much so that we get phone calls at our house from concerned relatives. Really, I’m fine. I’m just trying to be real. Because anyone who is currently parenting children knows it can be rough. We all have our own strengths. For some ladies this is a clean home. Their houses always seem to look so put together. That’s not me. There are always toy trains on the floor. (These are more ubiquitous than Legos at our house), and typically plates in the sink and on the kitchen table. Baskets of laundry, sometimes both clean and dirty, can be found in the living room, kitchen and upstairs hallway. Even if I’ve just cleaned the bathroom, it won’t look or smell that way after no less than 15 minutes because that’s just how life with kids is. I honestly believe it takes me longer to clean the bathroom than it actually stays clean.

But I digress, this is a series to encourage us to clean. The point is, none of us is perfect and demanding perfect of ourselves is both unfair and unrealistic.

Mary Challenge

What are some areas of your life that you’ve been striving for perfection, perhaps due to comparison?  Pray about these areas and ask God to replace any lies with truth. The truth is, I am a homeschooling mom with two kids, ages 2 and 5. We live in a small, half a double. These are not excuses, they are facts. Because we are home a lot, my house gets messy. My children can pick up after themselves somewhat, but are too young to help share the full burden. This is my life right now. I am a good mom and a good wife, the condition of my kitchen floor is not a reflection of my worth as a human being. My house will never be clean and perfectly put together for as long as I have children living in my home. That’s OK. I’m trying to learn to embrace the imperfection and love the children anyway.

Martha Challenge

Clean and Organize electronics, shine the wood furniture.

This is a great challenge. But, if it causes you more stress than it produces peace, feel free not to do it. Because you need to do what gives you strength. If having that DVD shelf more organized makes you feel like your world is just a little more together, than more power to you. But if you really don’t care how it looks and it doesn’t bother you, then don’t invest energy in something that doesn’t provide you with any positive benefit.

As we approach a time of year when it’s really easy to become obsessed with glossy, magazine pictures of perfectly organized and decorated holiday homes, let’s remember that none of us really has that. But having people in your home, whether loving family or dear friends is worth any mess it produces. Experience matters more than image. Be hospitable, even if you don’t feel like your house is up to it, make sure your heart is.

 

31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way

Why Clean?: 31 Days to Clean

Created to Give Life: 31 Days to Clean

10 Ways to Give Life to Your Home: 31 Days to Clean

A Place to Put Your Feet Up: 31 Days to Clean

Priorities: 30 Days to Clean

The 6 List: 31 Days to Clean

The Curse – What We’re Up Against: 31 Days to Clean

Overcoming the Curse: 31 Days to Clean

Confronting Laziness: 31 Days to Clean

Feeling Overwhelmed: 31 Days to Clean

Limitations: 31 Days to Clean

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Limitations: 31 Days to Clean

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This is a very well timed chapter for me. Because lately I’ve been feeling very plagued by limitations. We’ve been starting our first few weeks of homeschooling, we attended our first homeschool co-op day, both the kids have been sick. My grandmother is ill and my husband is under a ton of stress at work. It’s felt crazy. The kind of crazy where I want to quit everything and move just to get away from it all. During those times, cleaning is often the first thing to go. There is a reason why I haven’t touched this series in a few weeks. I can’t blog about cleaning if I’m not actually going to do any, or so I thought. But this section has been a great encouragement me.

Life is filled with limitations and there is grace for that.

Mary Challenge

Let grace cover the areas you cannot change. Our house is old and requires repairs we don’t have the money for right now. Our kitchen is poorly designed and the appliances sometimes not fully functional. That means things don’t always go smoothly around here. We are on the halting road to homeschooling. So my kid are home. Which means they make lots of messes and we’re still working on providing proper motivation for cleaning up.

But I need to extend myself grace. I need to try and do something, even a small effort. Put away a load of laundry. Bake a double batch of muffins so my kids have an easier breakfast for a few days. Load the dishwasher right after meals instead of waiting until the end of the day. These are little things I can do to give myself hope, even within my limitations.

Martha Challenge

Wash your living room walls and dust the ceiling. With all due respect to the author, the way I’m going to extend grace to myself this week is by not doing either of those things. With all that is going on around here, washing down my walls is about as high on my priority list as knitting a coat for an invisible dog.

For all of you who think your life is too crazy to even begin addressing a clean house, take heart. It will get better. Take small steps today just to give yourself hope that better times are coming.

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31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way

Why Clean?: 31 Days to Clean

Created to Give Life: 31 Days to Clean

10 Ways to Give Life to Your Home: 31 Days to Clean

A Place to Put Your Feet Up: 31 Days to Clean

Priorities: 30 Days to Clean

The 6 List: 31 Days to Clean

The Curse – What We’re Up Against: 31 Days to Clean

Overcoming the Curse: 31 Days to Clean

Confronting Laziness: 31 Days to Clean

Feeling Overwhelmed: 31 Days to Clean

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Feeling Overwhelmed: 31 Days to Clean

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I don’t know any moms who can’t relate to this–feeling overwhelmed. I don’t know why it happens so easily to moms, especially when our kids are young. There is always more work than we have hours or strength, whichever runs out first.  Fortunately in this chapter Sarah gives some practical suggestions.

She seconds the Fly Lady’s suggestion to set a timer for 15 minutes and just clean, choosing tasks that you know can be finished in this amount of time. Things I find that work well here are emptying or filling the dishwasher, picking up toys, clearing a table or countertop, emptying old food from the back of the fridge. I’m sure there are other things, do what works for you.

The next suggestion is similar, just get moving. Any little amount of effort is better than nothing. Dealing with the mail as it comes in instead of putting it on the table. Rinsing the dishes right away and putting them in the dish washer instead of sitting in the sink until it’s full. (Can you tell this is a regular problem at my house?) When we are overwhelmed, it’s easy to just give up before we start. When we do that we underestimate the power of baby steps.

Keep your eyes on the goal. This one is so hard for me. All I see is the mess and I sometimes forget the point. I want my home to be livable but inviting. So if there are some pillows on the floor or a pile of books on the table, who cares? It shows we live here. But when there are so many toys on the floor that I can’t walk across the room, then something must be done. The goal is for my home to get to the point where we own items that we use and love, and maintaining our home only takes regular but short periods of time. If it takes me hours a day, something needs to change.

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Mary Challenge

Light a candle, (only for 10 minutes), sip a favorite beverage, close your eyes, and envision your big picture. Then write down your big picture. Ask God to help you physically create the vision for your home life.

This is a tall order. When I have just a few moments of quiet, my mind usually wanders to all the tasks that need to be done rather than my ultimate goal. But I’m going to try and focus on the big picture I want for my home. A place for everything and everything in its place. Owning only things we find both useful and beautiful. These two goals mean that I need to purge the things we don’t like or needs and be very careful about new items that come in. It also means that I need to focus on storage, and make sure I use that storage.

Martha Challenge

Living Room – Clean window treatments and wash inside of windows. This is timely in that I don’t know if I’ve ever really washed my windows and it has probably been a while since I washed our window curtains either. If the eyes are the window of the home I’ll try to think of this as clearing my vision of the future.
31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way

Why Clean?: 31 Days to Clean

Created to Give Life: 31 Days to Clean

10 Ways to Give Life to Your Home: 31 Days to Clean

A Place to Put Your Feet Up: 31 Days to Clean

Priorities: 30 Days to Clean

The 6 List: 31 Days to Clean

The Curse – What We’re Up Against: 31 Days to Clean

Overcoming the Curse: 31 Days to Clean

Confronting Laziness: 31 Days to Clean

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Confronting Laziness: 31 Days to Clean

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One of the upsides of working through 31 Days to Clean is that I have time to really meditate on each chapter. The downside is that I have that much longer to feel convicted. Laziness is a tough label. Not one that I would apply to many moms I know. It’s not acceptable. We can be overtired, overwhelmed, in need of some downtime but never lazy. That being said, I don’t want you to think I’m going say you should never take a break and relax. (That would be my first instinct. “Fine, you think I’m lazy? I”ll never sit down again, just watch and see). That’s not what we are talking about. I’m talking about our flesh. The sinful part of us that just doesn’t want to do what we need to do.

I really don’t want to deal with another sink full of dishes so I’ll just leave them for my husband to do. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this sometimes, or perhaps it’s the other way around in your house). I put off frustrating tasks like writing checks or making doctor’s appointments. I dread a trip to the grocery store with just me and the kids. Now these things are no always inherently bad. In our house, my husband does most of the dishes because I do all the cooking, and all the laundry. He does the vacuuming and I clean the bathroom. Yes, I could try to do these things by myself during the day, but so far this shared method seems to work. (Perhaps when we finally get around to the next chapter of His Needs, Her Needs on domestic support I’ll discover I’m wrong, but I’m going with it for now). What’s in question is the attitude.

Am I putting off this task deliberately as an intentional decision because I know another time would be better? (I’ve been known to put off paying the bills when my kids are screaming for lunch. Sometimes there is a good reason to wait). In which case, decide on a time you will return to the task or who will do it instead and how.  Or am I just avoiding dealing with an unpleasant task or one I just don’t “feel” like doing? My daughter and I talk a lot about this lately. She tells me “Mommy, I don’t feel like picking up my toys.” Then I get to explain to her that I rarely feel like picking up toys, doing dishes or even cooking meals. But I do it because it’s part of my job as mom. Helping around the house is part of her job as a kid.

As a mom, I have an amazing job. It doesn’t always feel like it though. Sometimes it feels like nothing but thankless drudgery. But letting laziness get a foothold in my life and attitude will not improve my situation. So I struggle with this daily and actually felt liberated to read that author Sara Mae feels the same way. We lazy girls have to stick together, or at least poke each other until we get a move on.

Mary Challenge:
“Every time you find yourself saying, ‘I will do it later,” I want you to stop and pray, asking God to give you a spirit of diligence. Then, with an obedient heart, go to work.”

I especially appreciate that Sara highlighted that we will fail in this task. But that is where grace comes in. God extends it to us and we get to try again and try to do better next time. I need to learn to do this especially with house work. Sometimes just doing the task immediately is better than walking by it undone day after day at least for my mental health. I also need to apply this to unpleasant tasks. Sometimes I just need to do it and get it over with.

Martha Challenge
Kitchen – Sweep, vacuum, and mop floors. Add some fresh flowers to brighten your day.

Well, my kitchen needs this anyway. So it’s not that big a deal to do it yet again. Fresh flowers is also an easy task this time of year and I know it always seems to give my house life.

31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way

Why Clean?: 31 Days to Clean

Created to Give Life: 31 Days to Clean

10 Ways to Give Life to Your Home: 31 Days to Clean

A Place to Put Your Feet Up: 31 Days to Clean

Priorities: 30 Days to Clean

The 6 List: 31 Days to Clean

The Curse – What We’re Up Against: 31 Days to Clean

Overcoming the Curse: 31 Days to Clean

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Overcoming the Curse: 31 Days to Clean

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Thank goodness there is an answer. After last chapter I felt a little bit own about how to manage the constant workload. Knowing it was normal helped a little bit, but didn’t really make me feel much better. Fortunately, this week we have some suggestions.

“We have to keep our eyes on the eternal value of our work.”

This is so hard sometimes, especially in the daily grind. It’s hard for me to see much eternal value in most of what I do. What good is laundry? Well, by washing clothes I’m keeping my children properly clothed for the seasons. I’m taking one of their basic necessities off of their minds so they can focus on other things, like learning and playing. When I cook healthy meals I am setting a positive example for their future lifestyles. When I get up early to exercise, I show them that healthy living is a priority in my life. Most importantly, when I set it all aside to spend time with them, I’m telling them that people are more important than chores. Yes, the work still needs to be done, but relationships are always more important. (When they get older we can discuss the fact that sometimes relationships require household chores to maintain them).

Mary Challenge

Look back at a time when God refined your character through difficult circumstances.  Write it down and thank him for his faithfulness.

Well if I’m being honest, it is a long list. But I’ll just highlight a few of them. When I was in my last semester of college, my husband lost his job. This was a good thing because it paved the way for him to go back to school. But because he was now in school full time, he took on a part time job of only 10 hours a week. I didn’t find my first full time job right after graduation, it took me a month or two. Then when I did it was a very low paid internship. Between our two paychecks we barely covered rent, let alone anything else. We had dinner with one of my college friends and her fiancé. At the end of the evening she gave me an envelope.

“Don’t open it until you are on your way home.” She told us. When we got to the car I ripped open the envelope to find a check for the exact amount of one month’s rent, and a scripture card that said.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7: 9-111

That was one of my earliest moments of realizing that God would take care of us. The next was when we bought our house and within a month we both had new jobs. Then when we decided that I was going to stay home, we realized that even living bare bones we weren’t going to be able to afford to live on my husband’s income alone. Three months before our daughter was born my husband received a raise with just enough money to allow us to get by. This is how it has always been with us. God has been gracious to us, we always have just enough but not much more. Five years later my husband now finally makes as much money on his own as we brought in with our joint income. Mind you, our cost of living his increased immensely, with two children, student loans to pay off and for the first time ever a *gulp* car payment. That last one really kills me, since we usually avoid debt like the plague.

As we approach the fall I don’t have as much money set aside for homeschooling as I’d like. Not enough for the curriculum that I picked out anyway. We are operating in the red on several areas of our budget and I feel discouraged just thinking about the Christmas season. But, I also know that God has always provided.

I realize that none of these are examples of life and death issues. But I also know that financial struggles are the kind of worries that really wear you down and can damage your relationship if you aren’t careful. As we encounter new financial difficulties at present these kind of experiences serve as milestones I can look back on and remember that God has been faithful it he past and he will continue to be in the future.

 

Martha Challenge

Clean out and organize your kitchen drawers. Well, we don’t have many kitchen drawers but the few we have are always a mess. So this week I’m going to try and get those in order, if only to make my life a little less hectic. (I’m seriously considering adding a baby latch just to keep the kids from messing it up when I’m done).

So as you go into this next week, when you encounter difficulties, try and remember a time in the past when God has been faithful in a similar circumstance. I know that it may sounds trite, but we need to remember what we’ve gone through in the past to help us continue to have hope for the future. So here’s to having our minds a little less cluttered in addition to our kitchens.

(Oh and for the record, the picture above is a sand castle my daughter and I built on the beach. It may have been temporary but the bonding time we had together has long term value. Consider it a metaphor).

 

31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way

Why Clean?: 31 Days to Clean

Created to Give Life: 31 Days to Clean

10 Ways to Give Life to Your Home: 31 Days to Clean

A Place to Put Your Feet Up: 31 Days to Clean

Priorities: 30 Days to Clean

The 6 List: 31 Days to Clean

The Curse – What We’re Up Against: 31 Days to Clean

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The Curse – What We’re Up Against: 31 Days to Clean

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Photo Credit: Dean Terry via Compfight cc
So I’m not sure this chapter was particularly encouraging but it is a good reminder. It’s just the law of nature that things tend toward disorder. Part of the tragedy of a fallen world. This is why so much of our work as moms and home managers seems so futile, it is all only temporary.

That being said, I appreciate that Sara highlights that work is not a curse. That’s right, work isn’t a bad and terrible thing. But the hard part about the imperfect world we live in is that much of our work is unproductive. That is the real curse. It also describes motherhood so perfectly.  Most of my time is spent doing things that will have to be redone again, sometimes in days other times in hours. The worst is when a task takes longer to complete than it actually stays done. (Cleaning the kitchen floor anyone?)

 Mary Challenge

Read Romans 8: 20-21 – What is the hope in the midst of the curse?

Well, I get that we have the future hope of heaven, but honestly hoping for death or the return of Christ is not particularly useful when you just want to get through the laundry. However, I think some of the hope within the curse is that we can pray for insight and still find peace. Sometimes we need the wisdom to recognize which tasks don’t really matter or learn to be at peace with leaving some things undone. This has been a huge struggle for me I the past. If I wait for the work to be done before I rest, it will never be done. So I need to practice regular rest, even if that means leaving tasks undone. But to do that successfully, I must have the ability to set aside my undone work and not obsess over it. No easy task.

Martha Challenge

Clean out and organize your pantry.

Ahh, my dreaded pantry. What our pantry really needs is a curtain because right now it is open to the kitchen, right behind the kitchen table. So my kids think it is a giant buffet. I need to get it better organized so that things don’t tumble down on me and perhaps keep the snacks a little more out of view.

Accepting that it will never all be finished and most of our work will need to be done again isn’t easy. But learning to do that may be the key to finding peace in the daily grind.

 

31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way

Why Clean?: 31 Days to Clean

Created to Give Life: 31 Days to Clean

10 Ways to Give Life to Your Home: 31 Days to Clean

A Place to Put Your Feet Up: 31 Days to Clean

Priorities: 30 Days to Clean

The 6 List: 31 Days to Clean

31Days1

The 6 List: 31 Days to Clean

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This post may contain affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

I love lists. Seriously I have them everywhere. Sometimes it’s the only way I feel like I can get my brain organized. I’ve used word documents, apps (though I still haven’t found one I like) and old fashioned legal pad and paper. The problem is my lists are never ending. Once a item is finished another item takes it’s place and there is never a feeling of completion. So the idea behind this chapter, The Six List, is appealing. If I only got six things done each day, what would they be? How would it feel knowing that I actually accomplished the items I wanted for once? Looks like I’m about to find out. Even if you haven’t been following me as I work my way through 31 Days to Clean, this would be a great challenge to join.

Mary Challenge

Print out the Six List and use it for six days straight. Put the items in order of priority and then do them in that order throughout the day. Whatever you don’t finish goes on the next days list.

Love this. I always have a list of things for each day, but they are usually too long and discouraging. But if I can get the top six each day, I’d probably have a better sense of accomplishment in my life. I’ll note that I’d like at least two of the items on my list to be quantifiable, meaning not maintenance tasks like dishes or laundry that always have to be redone. They should be once and done items that I can check off and forget.

Martha Challenge

Clean out and organize all of your cabinets

I’ve been dreading this one. I think I knew it was coming somehow. I hate my cabinets. They are too small, too awkward and always crowded. I’ve organized them before and invariably I still end up with things falling out on my head within a week or two. So this isn’t just about organizing the cabinets, but being able to maintain them that way.

So we’ll see how this week goes. Hopefully the Six List becomes a new habit that helps my life move more smoothly.

 

31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way

Why Clean?: 31 Days to Clean

Created to Give Life: 31 Days to Clean

10 Ways to Give Life to Your Home: 31 Days to Clean

A Place to Put Your Feet Up: 31 Days to Clean

Priorities: 30 Days to Clean

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