My own homekeeping strategies

Here it is… how I organize my own meta-homekeeping. (can I say it that way?)

I’ve tried a lot of different techniques… how to organize your house, how to organize your time, how to keep your home running smoothly, etc. Also remember that I am quite the tightwad, so I didn’t pay for most of them (I purchased one book, and 2 tools). I have the general attitude that its not worth it if you have to pay for it (except a few really good books).
The main thing I’ve learned in all this is…. know thyself. Are you a naturally organized person? Are you a visual person? Do you like pen and paper? Do you have an iphone or such device that you keep about you all day? This is where the rubber meets the road and as you work through different methods you will find what you like, I’m sure of it. This is my personal progression….

Flylady

     I was a dedicated flybaby for several years. What I really took away from that time is routines and zone cleaning. She’s got other good stuff, but this is what stuck.
     If I keep going with my basic morning and evening routines, life runs so smoothly. As soon as I get tired, skip steps, add a few steps because I feel ambitious, get overwhelmed with trying to do too much… well, you get the idea. But routines are what I always come back to.  Flylady recommends 3 basic daily routines… morning, afternoon and evening/bedtime. I have found I work best with 2… morning and evening/bedtime. I’ve learned (still learning) to keep it to a few steps/items. E.g. for my morning routine, I’ve got a few basic things I do… get up, bathroom, brush teeth, get dressed, coffee. If I’m trying really hard, I have breakfast and read Bible on the list, also. Evening tasks include things like set up coffee maker (no compromise here), get out clothes for next day, get bags together for next day. At times, I’ve striven to have ‘sweep tile floor’ on that list, but that doesn’t last long. The idea is to use your evening/bedtime routine to get ready for the next day. The morning routine is to get ready for that day. My routines have regularly shifted around to include different tasks or different ordering at different stages of life, but I always come back to thinking about my routines. Keep in mind that you *do* have a routine, even if its not written down, or well defined. By writing it down, its easier to make it more refined and more efficient.
     Zone cleaning is about dividing your house into ‘zones’ and focusing on one zone each week. I used flylady’s basic zones to define my current home and the tasks related to each zone. If done right, this becomes a part of your basic routines of life and you just know when to do what. If you do it my way, its a helpful way to not feel too overwhelmed as you think about what you need to deal with this week. You’ve got your tasks that need to be done weekly (vacuuming for one) and then tasks that don’t need to be done but once a month (or less), like cleaning windows or switch plates. I listed cleaning tasks for each area of my home (living room, kitchen, guest bath), then lumped those areas into 4 zones. defined 4 zones for this current house and then listed the cleaning tasks for that zone. Now, I have 1 zone to focus on each week. Not that I actually do this all the time, but when I do do it, the house is nicer.

Large Family Logisitics

      I have really enjoyed Large Family Logistics, also. I use/like her Day of the Week plan, where one day is laundry day, one day is town day, one day is kitchen day, etc. I do better having a day focused to a particular set of tasks, though when I take this too far, I give myself more tasks than I have energy for. In all of this, there is a balance act to perform.

Confident Mom Planner

     At the New Year (i.e. Jan 2013) I picked up an ebook bundle from bundleoftheweek.com that included ‘The Confident Mom Planner”. This is a planner that you can print up that has each week laid out with repeating tasks assigned to particular days. I love the idea here, but I’ve found that I don’t like the way she spreads the tasks out over the week. E.g. when I vacuum, I’m going to vacuum the whole house. My house isn’t big enough to warrant only vacuuming children’s room and hall way on one day, then the living areas on another day. Perhaps if I had a bigger house, this might make sense. She’s got a good generalized task list, but I’d rather (theoretically, at least) create my own list with my own tasks that are personalized. You might not care. See… know thyself!

Planning Worksheets

     Now for the specifics of the actual day to day running. I LOVE planning worksheets. I’ve used who knows how many styles and structures while looking for the perfect planning page. I’ve not found the ‘perfect’ one yet, but I’ve found several that work quite nicely. You just have to use them. 😛 I’ve found planning worksheets to be quite customizable, flexible, but they provide some basic structure to the planning. I’m sure that if you google ‘daily (or weekly, or monthly) planning worksheets’ you will get some huge number of hits. I’m currently using the weekly planning page, the weekly menu planning page and the daily planning page from Organizing Life as Mom, an ebook I got in the ‘ultimate homemakers ebook bundle’. You can get these from here (http://lifeasmom.com/organizing-life-as-mom-redesigned-and-updated-ebook).
     She, author of Organizing Life as Mom,  suggests laminating the pages you want to use and getting them spiral bound. I’m perfectionist enough that I’m working towards that, but not yet there. I’ve laminated the planning pages I’m using, but I’m waiting to laminate my pantry stocking pages (a whole ‘nother topic!) till I think they are truly completed, then I’ll spiral bind them. Of course, that might be years away…. For now, I’ve got the pantry stocking pages in sheet protectors. The sheet protectors work much the same way as laminating… you can write on and wipe off, I’ve just found that lamination works a bit better. The wiping off is a bit cleaner and the writing on is more crisp. If you are using sheet protectors, use the matte style, not glossy. Glossy ones are hard to write on as the glossy plastic just doesn’t hold the ink. I use wet erase pens to write (I’ve read you can use dry-erase, but they don’t clean as well, I think). You can use the basic Expo wet erase pens, which work just fine. I, however, use Staedtler Lumocolor non-permanent pens. The point is significantly finer than Expo pens, so you get a much smaller mark and the colors don’t run at all. The pens are such that there is a bit of drag so it feels more like you are writing on an actual sheet of paper, which is something I really appreciate. If there are any teachers out there, these pens are great overhead pens… the fine points and sharp colors let you get so much more detail on overhead drawings and the sharp, crisp lines are great for viewers to see clearly what you’ve written. Can you tell I love these pens?
So, there it is. I’ve come up with a few more ideas, but what questions do you have? Other aspects of home keeping that you want to hear about?
(none of my links are affiliate links. They are direct links, based on my own recommendations, and I get nothing from your clicking or any purchasing.)

More on homekeeping books

I am intentionally violating the 500 word post recommendation. There is just too much to say. And maybe I have too many words to say it in fewer words…. anyhoo, here goes.

More on homekeeping books: the ‘how to go about homekeeping’ genre

I love me some coffee at strategic points during the day. As often as not, its just apart of the routine of my day and if I don’t have a good cup of hot coffee at particular points, it can really throw me off. Hot chocolate, hot tea, or chai (hot or cold) can sort of replace the hot coffee (note that its hot, not cold), but its not quite the same.

I have a routine. Its not really a schedule, because much of what I do doesn’t have a set time that it gets done, but things tend to happen in the same order. I’m fairly flexible, such that if something comes up, something gets thrown off, etc, I can float on through and complete my day fairly well. But, oh, am I so happy when I can stick to my routine.
I’ve found this to be even more important with a toddler around. Yes, yes, I’ve read this is multiple places, but its when you live it that the truth of it sinks in. Little Man likes his routine and life goes better when that routine keeps on keeping on.
Every how-to-go-about-homekeeping book I’ve read says the above in some way or another. Keeping house is very much about redoing the same task at some given interval. For example, you might shower each day before bed. And you might vacuum each week on Monday morning. Routine. How each book says it and how they frame it varies book to book. Every author will also declare that to work for you, you gotta think on it and adjust it to fit your life and circumstances.
Some of the books I want to talk about are e-books, and I plan to cover those in the next post.

Sink Reflections, by Marla Cilley

First up, Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley. I read this book once, in 2007, I think, with my ESL class. They were all mom’s and immigrants with school aged children (and some babies) and were struggling to adjust to life in the USA. Cilley’s writing style is laid back and is a quick read, so it was fairly accessible to my students. My love of flylady is mostly email/web based, but her book supports her online message quite well. She teaches about how to establish routines, such as morning or evening, and what kinds of things you might include in that routine. She takes the reader through, step by step, how to set up those routines and start on them. She teaches ‘baby steps’, small changes spaced out. For someone who feels a bit lost thinking about keeping house and overwhelmed at the enormity of the task, this is a perfect first book.

Large Family Logistics, by Kim Brenneman

One of my favorite books is Large Family Logistics (LFL). Don’t let the name turn you off, what she teaches works for families of all sizes and even singles. Brenneman, the author, starts with a comment about why she wrote this book. Its a story that is told by so many in this genre: ‘I didn’t learn it growing up and had to figure it out on my own or with a neighbor’s help. I wrote it all down so that you, reader, can learn in a more straightforward fashion.’ I’m certainly thankful that these women wrote down what they learned, I just wish that I had that neighbor who would walk along side me in this area. But that is a soapbox for another post.
Anyhoo, back to the book. Brenneman approaches life not as much on a daily basis as a weekly basis. She discusses designating each day for a specific set of tasks: planning day, town day, kitchen day, etc. She discusses the routines of meal planning, reading aloud, doing laundry and a slew of other tasks. And she talks about it in the context of… you’ve got a lot of everything. Lots of kids to read to, lots of laundry to do. Thus, if you are like me in that you’ve got *some* to do (but not necessarily *a lot*), you can assume it will take less time to whatever it is.
In part 1 of her book, she does discuss various family dynamics, routines, and attitudes that can either make life run smoother or make it run rougher. I love how she shoots straight and tells it like it is. She discusses Proverbs 31, goals, systems, self-discipline, attitude, how to deal with an interrupted day and a slew of other relevant topics. She has homeschooled her large family, and she discusses how home keeping and homeschooling work together.
Best of all, the book its self is printed on heavy, matte paper (no glare!), on 8.5 x 11 pages and printed in 13 or 14 point font. The book itself is quite non-threatening and approachable. Many chapters are only a few pages long — both because of the size of the book and that Brenneman doesn’t beat around the bush or wax eloquently (not that she is a poor writer…) on and on about the topic.

Other books that deserve a short comment

Home Comforts does address this ‘how to go about homekeeping’ question, but its a short section in the Beginnings chapter. Its useful and informative, I’ve just found that LFL addresses the topic in a more accessible manner. Its really a matter of author’s perspective and experience. Both LFL and Home Comforts are, I think, living books (going with a Charlotte Mason definition of ‘living book’ –see below for a comment on that).
Along the way, I’ve found a few other books that lend something to my thoughts on home keeping. An old favorite is “Nesting, its a chick thing” by Ame Mahler Beanland and Emily Miles Terry, “A Life that Says Welcome” by Karen Ehman, and Martha Stewart Living Magazine (when I can grab a free subscription!).
Things that have fallen flat: Real Simple Magazine, and most other magazines that are about ‘keeping house’. The attitude is usually that housework is drudgery and best avoided, but when you do have to do it, here’s how to do it with the least work. No thank you. I really like flylady’s sentiment: when you keep house, you are blessing your family, so don’t be a martyr. Home Comforts and LFL also take this attitude. MS Homekeeping Handbook does also, but to a lesser extent, since it is much more a ‘text book’.
Until next time, read a book. A homekeeping book. Then, come tell me something you learned, something you liked or what you need/want more on. Deal?
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3. Living Books

Living books are the opposite of textbooks–quality literature (either fiction or non-fiction) written by an author with a passion for the topic. The writer’s passion and expertise breathes life into the book, as opposed to a textbook that gives impersonal overviews of many topics.

Living books present inspiring stories that engage the minds of children and adults alike, providing characters our children can look up to and emulate.

– See more at: http://simplehomeschool.net/7-characteristics-of-a-charlotte-mason-education/#sthash.XFmcK9VC.dpuf

Homekeeping Books

Its not uncommon knowledge that books can be the source of a great deal of information. It helps that I love to read — even just the act of reading. That is, if I’m eating, I want something to read. I’m happy to read the cereal box if that’s all there it. Its very nearly a compulsion. Fortunately, it doesn’t go the other way, wanting something to eat if I’m reading.

Years and years ago, I remember asking a very old friend of my mom’s (as in they had been friends a very long time) how he knew what to read and how did he find so many good books to read. We both had an interest in China and I was amazed at the number of books he’d gathered on that topic (current trends, history, culture). He showed me how he starts with one book, perhaps someone recommended or it was found somewhere, that was good and went to its foot notes/end notes/references. He would look up those books and decide what he wanted to read. Then, from one of those books, he would sort through the references to find other books. I suspect that eventually you’ll have a list of all the books on the subject.
Homekeeping books are much the same; I will sort through and search out any books referenced in a book I enjoyed and found profitable. Unfortunately, most of the books referenced by these books are old, out of print and, possibly, rare. But really, that’s where amazon.com comes in handy. sort of. I like that I can see of those who looked at this item also looked at that item. But that is depending more on the opinion of the masses rather than an educated opinion, I think. I am always open to exploring more books and I’ve always got my eyes open for other homekeeping books that would have good information.
The other down side of the homekeeping topic is that the books all pretty much say the same thing, though the pictures are different, or the context or perspective is a bit different. The trend in the United States these days seems to be personalization, so that if something isn’t speaking to your specific situation, its of no use to you. Poppycock. Its worth developing the reading skill to be able to understand what someone is actually saying because you will find in many topics, everyone is saying the same thing. They are just using different words.
Enough of that soap box, I think.
There are several homekeeping books that I have found very useful. Some I have reviewed in the past, though I plan to run through them again in this project. The old reviews can be found here (https://mamarachael.wordpress.com/book-reviews/).
Of course, now I see the books I haven’t reviewed.
Homekeeping books seem to have two different niches that different books try to fulfill. The first niche is the general reference guide for caring for your home and belongings. Home Comforts and Martha Stewart Homekeeping Handbook fall this niche. The second niche is the ‘how to do it’ sort of guide. These books present a method (of sorts) on how to go about keeping house. Large Family Logistics and Sink Reflections are these sorts of books. There are a lot of ebooks that will fit, for the most part, in this second niche. Finally, there are books that are a subniche, e.g. The Naturally Clean Home. She covers how to make your own cleaning solutions, which fits nicely in the reference guide niche, but doesn’t cover all the topics that the larger reference guides cover. (I want to cover web based sources in a separate post.)
If you happen to be roaring and ready to go, check your local library for any of the books I’ve mentioned. I plan to cover the reference guides, their uses and their failings, in the next post. After that, I’ll cover the how-to-go-about-homekeeping books. Then I will cover the various web based resources I’ve come across. I will NOT be exhaustive, as there is SO much out there and, yet, I have so little time.
Until next time, keep on.