Most of us, as wives and homeschool mothers, want to have a home that is clean, orderly and runs smoothly; however, most of us do not. Many of us are too busy with outside activities. Most families today live amidst chaos and disorder.
Over the last few months I have been in several women’s homes. Most have been in utter shambles! I can honestly say that on the very worst day of my years of being a wife and homeschool mother, my home never looked even half as bad, and these mothers KNEW I was coming!
My biggest surprise was that the “stay at home” mothers’ homes looked like they worked outside the home. That’s because these mothers were NOT “stay at home” mothers. These women spent many hours, too many hours, out of their homes. For the most part, their days were spent in outside activities. They didn’t take their homemaking seriously or erroneously believed that they were their children’s teacher; therefore, their homes were not a priority.
I especially pity the husbands, who provide for their families with the financial means so that their wives do not have to work, but they are benefiting or reaping very little for their commitment. (For more information on the destruction of a woman working outside the home, see Lesson 13, “The Ways of Her Household,” and to learn how your helping provide will rip the manliness out of your husband see Lesson 9, “Helper Suitable” in A Wise Woman Builds Her House: A Workbook for Women available through RestoreMinistries.net.)
Not only were these homes neglected, but also their lives were in chaos. Meals were thrown together or were often fast food. The laundry was in piles thrown around the bedrooms and the laundry room looked like an abandoned thrift store. Even the cleanliness of the children was often neglected.
Prov. 7:11 tells us that a harlot “...is boisterous and rebellious; Her feet do not remain at home....” When you fall into the trap of busyness outside your home, you are tearing down your own house. Neglecting your home is just one part of “foolishly tearing down your home with your own hands.” (Prov. 14:1)
As an older woman (and, yes, I AM older), I am admonished to encourage or teach you this list found in Titus 2:3-5: “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the Word of God may not be dishonored.” However, to teach it, I must FIRST live it!
If you have neglected your home, then right now I ask that you please ask the Lord
(do it right now) to forgive you and to lead you toward changing your life this very moment.
“By wisdom a house is built,
And by understanding it is established;
And by knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches.”
It is my prayer that with the wisdom that you have just gained, by understanding His desires and ways, you will be filled with what is indeed precious (your children) and pleasant (a contented husband), for in these things will you truly be rich.
But before we get into the practical applications of getting your home in order, it is more important that we look at the spiritual aspects a bit more. For it is better that we go to the root of our problem rather than “pruning” the bush. Unless we pull out our sins at the root, we will continue to reap bad fruit. As a matter of fact, by cutting back the limbs, we actually encourage growth since this is really pruning the plant. So let’s look at the root of the problem. Let's look first to God's Word…
Disorder and every evil thing. Is there sin in your life that is keeping you in disorder? James 3:16 tells us: “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exists, there is disorder and every evil thing.” Are your ambitions causing you to devote your life and your lifestyle to so many outside activities and commitments? Are you exchanging peacefulness for disorder? This disorder in your home causes strife, and strife is what will inevitably and eventually lead you and your husband to separate and divorce. Prov. 17:1 tells us: “Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife.”
So many mothers, especially homeschool mothers, have their children in multiple activities. The parents’ motivation to have their children in sports and other hobbies is rooted in pride. Parents love to boast about their children’s accomplishments to friends, family and even perfect strangers. In 2Cor. 12:9 Paul tells us the only type of boasting that a Christian should do: “...therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
Your pride, and the pride that you are breeding in your children, is dangerous. Prov. 16:18 tells us that “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” If you are not aware of the dangers of the concept of self-esteem, I would strongly suggest that you read A Wise Woman Builds Her House: A Workbook for Women (available through RestoreMinistries.net).
Not a God of confusion. We know God is not a God of confusion; therefore He does not want us to live or run our homes or our lives in confusion and disarray. 1Cor. 14:33 says, "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace…" How peaceful is your home? Is there constant yelling and rushing about to get to church, to get their chores finished or to get to practice on time?
It is right and proper as a wife and homeschool mother to “look well to the ways of your household” (Prov. 31:27), to set “peace” as your administrator (Isa. 60:17), by remaining at home (Prov. 7:11) in order to bring glory to God instead of dishonor or blaspheming His Word.
Having a plan and setting a routine for doing things is important in all homes, but much more is needed when you have children and especially when you decide to homeschool them. The more children and the more outside activities and responsibilities you and your children have, the more planning is needed.
The Key to a Well-Run Home
The key is to set certain times for rising, going to bed, meals, schoolwork and chores and to do the same tasks in the same order every day without stress or rush.
SHE rises! "She rises while it is yet night, and gives food to her household and a portion to her maidens." Prov. 31:15. Every morning I check my monthly menu. I prepare breakfast and begin preparing or laying out the ingredients for lunch and dinner. I use a crock pot as much as I can so my dinner is ready on time. The house smells wonderful all day! Our formal dining room table is set for dinner after each night’s dinner with a linen tablecloth, cloth napkins and candles.
An excellent wife who can find? She is usually sleeping in! There is no way to stay ahead without being an early riser. Some are naturally so, like myself; however, motherhood requires you to adapt just as I have had to adapt to a husband who likes to stay up late. For years I suffered from sleep deprivation; then I began praying (yes, without a word!) that My husbandand I would be on the same sleep schedule. My husband now wakes up early and cannot go back to sleep! Now he is the one who pushes to get into bed right after the little ones lie down! I am like my father; I get up with the chickens. I normally rise somewhere between 4 or 5 a.m. Do not fear getting too little sleep - God only warns us about getting too much sleep!
Food from afar. I "bring food from afar" now only once a month since I was blessed with a deep-freezer. I only shop once a week for fresh ingredients. I put together a month’s menu many years ago and revamp it every three years or so. You’ll find out how to do it in workers@home: Making the Most of Your Time. It is not a plan to cook for a month (I tried that and my husband complained about “eating leftovers” every day!); it just helps to “know” what is for dinner and to not have the same meals so often. It is also VERY flexible. You can skip a meal or insert something new very easily. Usually our once-a-month shopping lasts 5 weeks since we are often asked to eat out on the spur of the moment.
Family meals. One of the most important tasks as a wife and mother is to prepare a nice evening meal that is not hurried or "fast food.” It should be a time that the family looks forward to and a time set aside each day to talk about the day. Have a dessert also planned (from a piece of fruit to a little mint to something bigger like pudding, cake or cookies!).
Look ahead! Don't wait until 4 p.m. when everything is in a crazy state to wonder, "What should we have for dinner?" (The house is a disaster and the baby is just waking up from his nap.) Check your menu before or just after breakfast, no later. If you have an older daughter, delegate this job to her. This is wonderful training.
Make it easy! Plan special big meals occasionally (like a big Saturday breakfast) but don't be afraid of simplicity also. I use paper plates almost every day for lunches. Oh yes, I believe in energy conservation — mine! And I do care about the environment — our home environment of peace and less strife!
For almost 20 years I have had a system that I have used and improved over the years. It was first used for me, and then later, I expanded it to include my children's daily tasks. It is very flexible, easy to change, easy to pick up again when it has been neglected, easy to revamp if a child is gone or sick, and easy to monitor.
Supplies. To get started gather these items from an office supply store:
1. One package each of blue, yellow, green, pink and white 3x5 cards.
2. A 3x5 card file.
3. 2 sets of dividers:
a. Numbers 1-31 (to represent the days of the month).
b. Monthly cards (Jan. - Dec.).
4. Large colored paper clips or clothespins.
Blue — daily chores. If you have a chore poster, write down EACH of those tasks on a separate blue card if it is to be done by your child every day. Everything you do daily is written on a blue card. As you go through your routine, write down each chore or task, anything you do or tell your children to do on a daily basis. For example, making beds would be a blue card since it is done every day. Personal hygiene would be listed on ONE blue card such as:
- Get dressed.
- Fix your hair.
- Put on deodorant.
- Brush your teeth.
- Make your bed.
Write the person’s initial in the upper right corner. (If all your names begin with the same letter, give each child a number according to their birth order).
Labeling. To designate which day, which child and any other specification, on each card, I offer the following suggestions:
How to designate which child will do the job. I decide who is the youngest child capable of doing the job. (Always begin at the bottom, the youngest child available, and work up.) Most mothers start at the top and burn that child out. That child usually marries and eventually ends up hating you! Chores in our house begin at four years old. Before that age you spend far more energy getting them to do it properly.
Blue card. On a blue card you may want the task done M through F (M-F), or only Mon., Wed. and Fri. (M,W,F) such as laundry, or just Tues. & Thurs. (T & Th). Write this in the upper LEFT corner.
Yellow — weekly chores. As you go through your weekly routine, write down each chore or task (again anything you do or tell your children to do) that is done on a weekly basis. Write each weekly chore on a separate yellow card. For example, a changing-the-sheets card would be yellow if you do it once a week.
Tip: Stack all sheets and pillowcases from one room together and tie with a long ribbon or put into a special bag. Keep them in the bedrooms, on a shelf in the closet. When the sheets need changing, the bed is stripped and the neatly tied sheets are put on. The dirty sheets can be put in the wash along with the ribbon. When the sheets come out of the drier they are folded, stacked, tied up in the ribbon and placed back on the closet shelf!
Yellow card. On your yellow card, you would write any weekly task. Write a Mon., Tues., or Wed. etc. on the upper LEFT corner. Tuesday is when our 9-year-old washes all the towels.
Green — monthly chores. As you go through the month write down each chore or task (again anything you do or tell your children to do) that is done on a monthly basis. For those tasks that are done 2 times a month, be patient. We will get to that just a little later.
Green card. On a green card you would write the day of the month such as the 1st, 15th or 24th, etc.
The day of the week is written in the upper LEFT corner. Write the day the task is to be done on the blue, yellow or green card.
Say it again. Begin by thinking what you tell your children every morning over and over again beginning from when they wake up. Write what you usually say over and over on a blue card. If you have a chore list you've been using, write each task on a separate card.
For example: Make your bed & tidy your room would surely be on a blue card. Scrub the toilet or scrub the sink would probably be on a yellow card. Wipe down the top of the refrigerator could possibly be on a green card.
Be specific. You can write out the explanation for how the task is to be done, i.e. under “get dressed” you would write “please check with Mom on what to wear” (if this is a problem you have with a particular child).
Can't read yet? If your children are too young to read you can simply draw stick figures showing the task, or cut out pictures from a magazine.
Can you explain in more depth what you do? For weekly chores, I break them down into easy tasks. Instead of Tues. clean the bathrooms, write Mon. John clean the sinks…Tues. Bob clean the toilets (since he's the guy who always misses)…Wed. Tom scrub the bathtub (and do it after your shower while you're in it and still wet)…Thurs. Cindy and Sue do the bathroom floors (the older one washes, the younger one dries) and Julie clean the mirrors (she usually is looking in them anyway). Divide these jobs up among your children depending on their age and ability. Divide them up to spread out the work over the weekdays, keeping in mind days you may be gone in the morning.
Once-a-month or every-other-week jobs. Use a green monthly card. When I see something that needs to be done not “once a week,” but “every other week,” then I make a green card such as: “wipe fingerprints off the doors throughout the house (toddler high).” Another example is a green card for boy's haircuts. (I used to wait until everyone started to really look shabby. Now I maintain that nice clean look by cutting their hair once a month.)
Each time I notice something unorganized or unclean (such as a particular closet or refrigerator) I put it on a green 3 x 5 card. Put that day of the month on the top left corner. After I do (or someone does) the job, then I put that day’s date (number only, i.e. 17th) in the upper LEFT corner. If it is a twice-a-month task make two cards. On the top of one write the 17th, then add 14 days to the date. So you would write 31 on the top of the second card. (However it would be better to write the 1st since every month doesn't have 31 days.)
If a card falls on an inconvenient day (a weekend or birthday or whatever) put it into the next convenient day and do it! But when you are filing it back, place it in front of the right day listed at the top left of card, not the day you did it last.
Another note: it is better to "maintain" cleanliness than to attack a disaster. If you weekly wipe off the refrigerator shelves on Tues. and wipe the door (inside and out) on Fri. you will not have to completely clean your refrigerator each month. We eat all leftovers (don’t forget to set up your food bar) the day before I grocery shop. I can easily wipe off those empty shelves to maintain cleanliness.
Card file. Once you have all your cards, what do you do with them then?
Green — monthly cards. First put all your green monthly cards into the date that is on the card (i.e. put the 17th in front of the 17th card and the 2nd in front of the 2nd and so on).
Yellow — weekly cards. Next make piles with the yellow cards Mon. through Fri. (Secret: I take the weekend off from chores.) Place these in the proper day by looking at a calendar. If Mon. is the 12th, then put the Mon. cards before number 12 and put Tues. in 13, Wed. in 14, etc. What you have left are the blue daily cards.
Blue — daily cards. Make piles, looking at the initials (oldest to youngest, left to right) with the daily blue cards. Hold them together with a large colored paper clip. Each child has a different color to help identify him or her easily.
Every morning. Each day get the day's cards that will be found in the front of the file, in front of the day. In other words, if today is the 24th then that group of yellow and green cards will be in front of number 24. You will take them out and put them into the child's pile.
In the front of the pile of each person's blue daily cards you should have a white card. This is a prayer card that reminds them of what they should pray for every day. It also could list prayer requests from others and should include their friends’ salvation. They pray with one another or with you, to encourage “praying in agreement” and feeling comfortable praying out loud in front of others.
The last card will be pink and has the word DONE written on it. You can make this a dessert card or a treat card. This puts the responsibility on them, taking it off you! They want their treat or reward, so when they come for it, ask to see each done card, and just to make sure, go through each card asking them if they did it.
One more time. Each person has a stack of cards with a colored paper clip on it. First is the white prayer card, followed by the blue cards. Next are the yellow and green cards and lastly the pink "done card."
Pink cards. I use one pink card to indicate the stack DONE. The other pink cards are used for birthdays (see below). Write one pink card now that says MOVE NEXT MONTH’S CARDS and put the 25th in the upper left corner. Put it in front of the 25th card divider.
Keep them together. Keep a special container to hold the clipped-together cards. All cards must stay there; no one is allowed to carry their cards around. My children's cards are in an old plastic mail holder.
Teaching them the method. Tell the children that as they finish a task, the card is put behind the pink card. Once they pray, they work through each one. You may tell them they must complete each task in the order in which you put the cards (to learn obedience) or you may allow them to do the tasks in any order (to teach organization). It is important however that you do have a time by which they are expected to have the tasks completed. It could be by noon, by 3 pm., before they go outside to play, before dinner or by morning. However, do not say the tasks must be finished before they go to bed, or you will have the latest bedtime ever!
Making it work. The method only works if you put the cards out every (weekday) morning and you enforce (through punishment) if the tasks are not done. Periodic inspections are important. Also, if you make them do it over for being too lazy to do it right, it will speak loudly and clearly! In addition, if they ever put a card that is incomplete behind the pink card, it is a LIE. Punish lying severely. A LIAR is an abomination to God!
Flexibility and special circumstances. Because you have all your chores on 3 x 5 cards, you can easily move any card to any particular day. If you're having company and you want the floors washed the day before your guests arrive, you could move that card to that day. If you find that during the summer you need to vacuum more often, you can make more vacuum cards. Then at the end of the summer, throw them away. The most important thing to remember is that you want to maintain cleanliness rather than always waiting until there is a giant mess.
Using 3x5 Cards for Homeschooling
For many years I incorporated the children’s homeschooling tasks into my 3x5 card system. Now I have a separate set of 3x5 cards. It makes it easy to keep your child moving from subject to subject working on his own.
Again, if the task is to be done every day, then use a blue card:
Read your Bible
Listen to Bible memory tape
Read 2-3 chapters (or a certain number of pages) in your reading book
Do one math lesson
Do typing lesson for 15 minutes
Trace and cut out one state and paste
For subjects that have different day requirements, write it this way:
History - High School
M - Listen to biography
T - Research biography
W - Make up outline
Th - Write report
F - Written report due
Writing - 4th through High School
M - Draft a letter
T - Check for content, adjectives and adverbs
W - Check for spelling, punctuation and grammar
Th - Rewrite in your best penmanship
F - Address envelope and mail
Other Ways to Use 3x5 Cards
As I began having more children, it became necessary to get more organized. Below I have a few more ways to use 3x5 cards to organize your life. Purchase more dividers and write the category.
Get ready cards: Diaper bag, your purse, couple getaway, emergency bags for the car. Make a list of what you need on a list you check as you pack or as you restock.
Special trips. Each year we take a river trip and stay in a cabin. I made a list the first year and add or delete things right after the trip. Each year I simply check my list from the previous year rather than starting from scratch.
Out to eat. We found that we, like others, are creatures of habit. We seem to order the same things at the same restaurant, so I made a card for each restaurant and listed what each person orders. It saves time and confusion, especially with large families. It also helps with small families whose children get in the habit of ordering WHATEVER they want! The indulged child thinks nothing of the price or the size of the portions when they order for themselves.
If you really think you can’t afford to go out to eat, or it is becoming too expensive, start ordering for your children. Also, stay away from the kids’ menu or the kids’ meals with the prize. Don’t order adult meals for your children; they make kids fat! Have a child share a meal with you (it will keep you thin) or pair two children together with an adult meal, which is usually much cheaper, unless kids eat free or for 99¢.
Books. I tend to borrow and lend out a lot of books and it is extremely hard to keep track of them. So I write the name of the person and the book, audio or videotape, or school curriculum and put the card in my file to remind me to ask for it back. Most people don’t mean to keep our things. It happens when they borrow it and forget to even use it or read it. Then it sits forever somewhere. Then when it is discovered they either forgot who they borrowed it from, are too embarrassed to give it back because it has been years, or you or they have moved away. Do everyone a favor by using this method or one of your own.
Birthdays! In the month section (Jan. - Dec.) write one card for each month and list everyone’s birthday on it by the day, then the name and lastly the year. You can also write the day you would need to mail a present or card to them. When that month comes up, place that birthday 3x5 card in the first date listed. You will be reminded to either call them or send their gift.
Tip: I buy birthday and Christmas gifts (and cards) ahead of time when I see a great deal. I write down on a card what I bought, whom it is for and where I hid it and put it in the month of the birthday.
Parties or other engagements. There is nothing worse for women than to wear the same dress around the same people, because you can't remember what you wore last time. (Does this happen to you, or am I the ONLY one getting old?) I write down what I last wore on a card and then move it to the next time I will be going. For example, you write down what you wore to the last homeschool meeting, then place the card in front of the date that the next homeschool meeting will be. After the next meeting, do the same thing.
Bathroom linen closet. In our old house, our one bathroom had only one small cupboard in which I could keep toiletries, medicines, bandages, etc. It was almost impossible to find anything until I used my cards in conjunction with plastic gallon ice cream buckets with lids to sort and store the stuff. I numbered each bucket and wrote out a corresponding 3x5 card with the number of the bucket and ALL the contents and where (which of the three shelves it was on). When my family needed something, they would bring me the cards. I would find it within a minute and tell them which bucket it was in and on what shelf they would find that bucket.
Home videos. When we got a video camera I was thrilled. But locating an event we wanted to watch was frustrating. So I documented the main events in the video on a white 3x5 card. I numbered the tapes with 1-10 and numbered a corresponding 3x5 card. If I knew the date, then I wrote it down (or guessed the date), followed by the event like Axel’s 10th birthday, Macy's first steps, soccer awards, vacation Ft. Walton Beach. (I didn't know about the button that marks the date on the film for a couple of years!) Now we can find anything.
There are many more ways to organize your home and homeschooling, with much more explanation, in workers@home: Making the Most of Your Time.