Thursday, May 9, 2013

Theology of the Home - made practical

Two weeks ago, I talked about why we ought to care about how our homes look. I challenged you to think about how our homes speak about what we believe about God. And I told you that I'd be back to share my thoughts on how we can move from chaos to order in the home.

I've been following Crystal over on for many years. I've thought it was great how she would challenge her readers to tackle particular projects in their homes - deep cleaning, surface cleaning, busting clutter, etc. The problem for me was that I was working a full-time job and didn't have time to do what she laid out every day. Even though she had an option that didn't require as much time, I was busy cooking supper as soon as I came home from work, and after that it was time for bed. And we were hardly ever home on the weekends.

You'd think with most of our life existing outside the home, that our home would be the pristine picture of perfect. Far from it. And it drove me and my husband nuts, but we just "couldn't find the time" to tackle it.

Then, I somehow stumbled across this post on The Prudent Pantry. I don't think she said anything that I hadn't heard elsewhere, but sometimes we just need to hear it said a particular way in a particular moment.

I walked away from reading her post with the outline of a plan in my head. I talked with my husband about it and he agreed that we could give it a try.

My takeaway? Make a list of everything that needs to done in the house. Not because you plan on getting it all done at once, but so you can make a gameplan.

My husband and I actually had a weekend at home, and we decided to make it count. After making a list of everything that needed to be accomplished, things already looked less intimidating. We decided that we would work in hour long increments, followed by an hour long break. We would tackle two increments on Saturday and three on Sunday.

A 1:1 ratio of work and break. That's not bad at all. That idea was my husband's, I thought it was excessive ahead of time, but it worked out great by helping us not get overwhelmed and be able to rest and recover (particularly needed for this pregnant momma!) If we had bitten off more than we could chew we likely would've been discouraged, and our task would have been left incomplete.

We had the total list, we knew our time schedule. Next, we decided what we would tackle when.

We went about this in two ways: if there was an area that either one of us felt was a "problem area" (aka it really stressed us out that it was a mess) it was given high priority and put into the game plan first. That doesn't mean it necessary was taken care of in the first increment, but that everything else scheduled into that increment was placed there around the high priority item.

The other way we decided what to schedule was by asking ourselves (1)what would show the biggest impact to the overall appearance of our apartment, and (2)what needed to be taken care of so we could have access to other items on the list?

This is going to look different for each person depending on the layout of your home, and what kind of a mess you have. How much you can fit into an increment also depends on how many people are working on cleaning up, and how many people contributed to the mess to begin with. eg, do you have three children, but only you and your spouse are cleaning up? If so, are the children in the house while you clean, or are they out of the house with friends and family? Is your sister coming over to help you tackle the mess? Talk about these things before you get started so you aren't blind-sided and can make the most efficient decisions to kick-start your way to clean.

After we had mapped everything out, we set the timer for 60 minutes and went to it. Don't be surprised to find the timer beeping and you still carry forward with momentum for a few extra minutes to wrap something up. I would encourage you not to count your momentum as a part of your break time, though. Make sure you give yourself the full amount of your break time for a break.

You just worked hard for your increment. You need to re-energize before tackling the next one. Enjoy looking at what you just accomplished. Watch a TV show, read a book, take a cat nap. Rest. Then move forward.

This is what our increment list looked like:
(Sa=Saturday, Su=Sunday. I1, I2, etc = Increment 1, 2, etc)

-- Clean off the bar (and take care of the box behind the bar)
-- Put away piles under the bar
-- Put away piles in front of the TV

-- Clean stack beside both sides of the couch
-- Clean the stacks of paper off the futon and file
-- Clean off the balcony and clean out the 5 gal buckets
-- Take the "garage" stuff to the "garage" area

-- Take care of jewelry/straighten dresser/put away purchased gifts
-- Clean off desk
-- Clean the entryway to the bedroom

-- Clean up all the gift-wrapping stuff, put away neatly
-- Clean off 2nd desk
-- Shred box of paper

-- Go through two boxes (filled with misc stuff) and shred/trash/donate/put away

-- Review/walk-through
-- Vacuum

Hubby also had an extra increment to deep clean the bathroom, and I had "an extra increment" but it was broken up because I had to start, switch over, and fold laundry.

We didn't get everything done from our Master list, but we actually knocked out most of it. What we didn't get accomplished over that weekend, we listed out and decided that we would tackle in half-increments (for us this means we set the timer for half an hour) when we got home from work each day. We would also maintain what we had accomplished. It's much easier to put your jacket up at the end of the day if there's not already a stack of jackets to add to, to put your jewelry in the proper container if your dresser isn't littered with the stuff. It's much less stressful, and really doesn't take that much time.

Have we actually tackled a half-increment every night? Of course not. Life happens. But we have maintained our new order. And we have checked a few more things off the master list.

It's freeing, really. We know exactly what needs to be taken care of, and we're much, much less stressed now that things are mostly in order. We get irritated with each other less, we smile more, and our schedule is more flexible to let friends or family pop over last minute without feeling like we need to hide a ton of stuff or be embarrassed at the state of our home. (or set out the vacuum to make it look like you were just about to get to cleaning - you know what I'm talking about! ;-) ) We're happier now. Sure it sounds strange, but it's true.

Of course we still have work to do, but we are actively working on aligning our home in God's order. God sees your efforts and smiles. You might not be able to dedicate an entire weekend to kick-start your clean, but you can do something.

Maybe you have 20 minutes while your kids take a nap to clean your bedroom, or to fold the laundry that's been sitting in the basket and put it away. Do what you can to convert your home from reflecting Satan's chaos to showing God's order.

What steps have you/can you take to creating and establishing order and cleanliness in your home?

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