What I Noticed While Watching My Friend Be "Busy At Home"

Almost 2 months ago, you may remember that I flew back to Istanbul to sort, sell, and pack our belongings there.  Upon returning, I shared how instructive it was for me to spend a week in a friend's home there, as an observer of her normal household routines.  Mother of four kids (ranging from 8 to 20 years old), former homeschooling mom, sometimes classroom teacher, crazy-busy woman that she is, her house stays, more or less, tidy.

Several of you asked me to share specifics.  And I intended to.  At first it was true exhaustion & the return to "normal" life here with my family, and then it was sloth, and finally it's been a desire on my part to avoid conviction, that has kept me from writing about it.  But now, with vigor, here I go... let me share with you some of my observations as I watched a woman who, like Proverbs 31 and Titus 2, is "busy at home".  I'll just rattle them off as they come to mind:

***Please, if you have a newborn, or a couple of preschoolers in the house, or if you are homeschooling, keep in mind that her youngest child is 8 & that all of her children are in school 8+ hours a week, 5 days a week.  These are observations about HER life, not prescriptions for YOURS. ***

  1. She uses Mondays as a "reset" day.  After busy weekends darting here and there, attending church, cooking meals, carting kids back and forth to games and what not, she said she pretty much stays busy from the time the kids head off for school on Monday (around 7/7:30) until they get home from school.  She gets everything completely back in order... from the entryway with jackets, shoes, random paperwork, etc., to bedrooms.  The goal is to get everything back into a tidy, efficient, ready-to-use position.
  2. She strives for two loads of laundry completely finished each day, but at least requires herself to do one load of laundry a day. She folds them directly out of the dryer into baskets to avoid wrinkling.
  3. She irons one day a week.  As items that need to be ironed are washed throughout the week, she adds them to the ironing basket until that appointed day rolls around.  She said she likes to pick something fun to watch so that ironing isn't so dreadful.
  4. She fully cleans the bathroom- top to bottom- twice a week.  I always noticed that her bathrooms looked like new, even 5-6+ years into living in the apartment.  Now I know why.  :) She works hard at it.  She wipes down every surface multiple times and does not tolerate "build up" of gunk, mildew, or problem cleaning areas.  She gets down to the nitty gritty (from baseboards to ceilings) and deals with it 2x a week so that it never REALLY gets horribly bad.  And because she keeps it up, each cleaning really doesn't take very long.  
  5. She keeps up her dishes, and does not begin cooking a meal in a dirty kitchen.  Now, granted, she has limited counter space & is an excellent cook so for her, this is particularly important.  But it's a good standard.  I have always been a "dishes strewn across the counter" gal & it's a completely different feel in her kitchen.  She told me she just likes to start from a fresh position when she begins a meal.  
  6. She used free moments strategically.  Multiple times a day, in 2-3 minute blocks here or there, I saw her wiping down the sink area, just to keep things tidy.  I joked with her about her obsessive-compulsive cleaning habits, but in all seriousness, her kitchen stayed tidy & ready for use.  And it was directly tied to her habits of taking advantage of the spare moments.
  7. I noticed throughout the week that her default "position" was at the kitchen sink.  This may be the most important of all... not that we all stand around in our kitchens all day... but that her position was one that put her in a ready position to field meals, cleaning, and the family calendar.  Did you ever play baseball or softball?  "Get into position!" meant to hustle to the spot where you would be most advantageously used for the position you were playing.  THAT is what I saw in my friend Kelly.  She was "in position" for much of the day, doing dishes, preparing treats for her gluten-free son, checking out the calendar to be ready for what was coming, browsing a cookbook for something tasty that night, etc.  Her default position was one of busyness, not idleness.

Do you see why I avoided this topic?  It's convicting to think how much that last item on the list could not be used to describe my life.  Again, hear me, I'm not saying we should all be on standing with two feet on our kitchen mats all day... but it causes me to ask: is my default position one of joyfully attacking the work that falls under my responsibility?  Or do I put it off & delay with plenty of online or entertainment distractions?  

This reminds me of something my friend Bethany once asked: 
If my husband worked as hard as I do every day, would anyone want to hire him?  Would we have a paycheck coming in if he worked with the same level of effort and diligence as I do?

Anyway, I hope these observations have been helpful for you.  My friend Kelly is a stand-up woman, really a gem, and she is about 25 years into marriage & 20 years into parenting, and she has a lot more time than some of us may have... but she is an example to us as a godly woman who truly is a "keeper" of her home.  Because of her, their home runs smoothly and efficiently, and she is ready for company at almost any moment (and they host people--even large groups--often!).  Their home is tidy and enjoyable to visit.  I appreciate her example in my life, and I hope it's been a blessing to you to read these observations about her life.

Image: mrpuen / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Emily said...

Love this Jess. I fall into the mom of little ones category, but its a great reminder for me to use the time that I have as best as I can- and not get into the easy/lazy habit of sitting around.

Melissa said...

Ouch, my toes were stepped on. Thank you so much for posting.

Coralie said...

Thank you for this. I am 37, with a 4 y.o., 2 y.o., 10 mo. and a husband in seminary. I always used that as an excuse for the state on my home, until the Lord hit me VERY HARD with the 2x4 of conviction. This has been very helpful to help me implement the repentance.

BETHANY said...

This is timely ... and I thought so before you quoted me. ;) Those questions were asked by a woman at our church who was teaching a class on being a godly wife and I think they're something we should frequently ask ourselves.

Last year was so hard for us and the last couple months have been an attempt to slowly get back to normal. I confess, though, that I get tired and just want to veg online or do something comparably unproductive.

While it *is* important to have time to relax, I know that I often take too much time for that. The silly thing about it is that I feel less stressed and more energized when I'm productive.

If I'd set the timer for 20 minutes when I'm feeling unmotivated to work, then go bust out a bunch of work during that time, then I'd be happier when I took a break and less overwhelmed by the work I have to do when my break is over. Hmmmmm .....

Kelly said...

That's pretty much how I roll...although lately the bathroom is sorely lacking. I was much better keeping up with that when the boys were little...their bedrooms too.

Part of it is I don't want to go in their rooms through their stuff now that they are grown. And the bathroom is just gross and I want to farm that out to other people....I do it really well once a month...but mostly let the people that make it gross clean it up.

I remember when Isaac was about 4 or 5...he asked me, "Mom, don't you ever, ever sit down?" And that made me realize I needed to sit with my people more, and I did, and now I have time to clean and have time to myself and work some and and and....it goes all too fast!

Agnes said...

Great write up. Truly resourceful and helpful.

Cat said...

I've been waiting for this post, seriously. It's an area where I do feel convicted. Now, I do have little ones (five, between 2 and 11) and homeschool, and have some health issues as well, BUT, there is still so much more I could do. While my day might look different from your friend's, it could still be more productive (I would probably have my "default" position as the garden this time of year.). Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I LAUGHED OUT LOUD at the part "If my husband worked as hard as I do everyday, would anyone want to hire him?" GREAT POINT. I don't know what happened to me. I worked really hard in college; I worked 2 jobs and went to school full-time so I wouldn't have any debt. I worked so hard for so long, and when I finally quit my engineering job to stay at home I turned into a giant potato. If I don't _have_ to be anywhere or answer to anyone else, I just don't do it. I want my kids to be hard workers, but what kind of example am I setting? How do I get out of this rut? This was a good post. Thank you.

Tanya said...

Thanks for sharing this! I have also noticed that things run much more smoothly when I make the kitchen sink my "default position". I'm a homeschooling mom of seven with little ones and I have health problems, so I have to be realistic with my standard, but I find if I just hang out in the kitchen as much as possible the whole house seems to stay cleaner. I'm blessed to have a teenager who makes her default position the laundry room, so together we cover more territory!

Ruby, accepted in the Beloved... said...

Good stuff, Jess. I needed this, too! I tend to cycle through seasons of productivity that are tied to my pregnancies. It is very hard for me to break out of the resting mindset that I have when I'm fatigued in the first trimester or recovering post-partum. I have a wonderful, helpful husband & family, & I tend to depend on them too much to pick up my slack. I have to figure out how to transition through these seasons a little more seamlessly (ok, a lot more seamlessly!). I think Anon hit on something for me...I perform well when I'm accountable to someone (ie: boss, teacher, etc.). As Christians, we know we are to do everything as unto the Lord...that should motivate me far more than any earthly authority. There's something I need to think on.

Oh, & I love that picture Bethany shared...I've often thought of that myself, when I've compared my day to my husband's. I know he is a valued employee & a huge part of that is because he works hard & doesn't complain!