A common theme among tired mamas is the dreaded feeling of overwhelm. Laundry. Dishes. Cooking. Cleaning. Over and over and over again. We sometimes walk a fine line between the daily rhythms of grace and the cacophonous craziness that knocks us off balance. Perhaps it’s my almost twenty years of military experience, perhaps it’s the example of my own mother who steadfastly managed our home…perhaps it’s both…but I’ve come up with a proactive approach to keep my household flowing in rhythms of grace. Some of these tips come from my own experience and practices, others come from mothers I’ve met over the years, and still some others come from FlyLady’s recommendations.
Laundry Tips: One load a day keeps the crazy away.
- Every stitch of clothing and dirty towel goes into the washing machine, all day long. At night, when everyone is in fresh, clean pajamas, run the washing machine on cold water. Go to bed. After decades of not separating my laundry by colors or fabrics, I’ve never had an issue. (At most, wash the whites/reds separately.) When you wake up in the morning, put the laundry in the dryer to tumble on low heat. Forty minutes later, I take everything out and have the kids help fold their laundry. Since I’m only washing a day’s worth of clothes, the folding and putting away never takes long. All of the laundry is done before 8:00am, every single day.
Dishes Tips: Skip the sink and go right to the rack.
- If I can keep my sink empty, the rest of the kitchen seems to follow suit. When my sink runneth over, so do the countertops and tabletops. Crazy how that happens! Put every plate, cup, fork, and dish directly into the dishwasher–all day long. After you turn on the washing machine in the evening, run the dishwasher, even if the racks aren’t 100% full. If it happens to fill up halfway through the day, run it right away. When it beeps to tell you it’s finished, let the steam out and close a dishtowel inside the dishwasher. (You can fold it over the dishwasher door, half on the outside, half actually inside the dishwasher. It will dry your dishes faster.) Check them after 30-45 minutes and unload them. Waking up to a clean sink, free of dirty dishes, helps start my day off right! After you put the laundry in the dryer, unload the dishwasher. All of the dishes will be clean and put away before 8:15am, every single day.
Cooking Tips: Mindful menus make the meals.
- Choose seven to ten tried and true favorite meals–healthy, nutritious, and loved by the whole family–and make a menu. You can do this every week, two weeks, month, or seasonally, depending on how much variety you want. Filling all of the nutritional gaps, I plan dinners that will make everyone in the family happy. Smoothies are a great way to ensure my kids get all of the fruits and veggies they need, and those can be served at breakfast, lunch, as a snack, or as part of dinner. In our house, we have charcuterie Mondays, taco Tuesdays, grilled chicken and veggie Wednesdays, chicken and rice stir-fry Thursdays, homemade pizza Fridays, breakfast for dinner Saturdays, and leftover or grilled cheese Sundays. Utilize an Instant Pot in the afternoons to put your meal prep on autopilot.
Cleaning Tips: Swish and swipe to save your sanity.
- Each morning, after finishing the laundry and dishes, run a toilet brush around each toilet bowl. Definitely clean all of them weekly, but you can keep toilets looking clean by swirling a brush around the bowl after the first morning flush of the day. I keep toilet brushes next to each toilet in my house, so it takes minimal effort on my part. In the afternoons after you’ve fired up the Instant Pot, have your kids (even the toddlers) help you with a Home Blessing. Turn on fun, upbeat music and set a timer for fifteen minutes. Tidy up the main areas of your house before dinner–clean off countertops, wipe down the table, put away toys. You don’t need to worry about laundry or dishes, because those were done hours ago! This method doesn’t deep clean your house, but it keeps your home presentable for unexpected guests, and it’s ready for a deep cleaning whenever you actually get the time.
Spiritual Practices: Focus on what you CAN do, and lean into Jesus.
- There was a while I couldn’t manage to have the idyllic devotional times that I’d enjoyed before having children. Rather than lamenting what I couldn’t do, I embraced what I could do…and left my inadequacies at the feet of Jesus. My kids and I listened to Seeds Family Worship music as we did chores or played games. I kept Andrew Peterson’s music on in the background for hours and hours at a time. His songs of scripture wafted through the walls of our home and encouraged me to keep going in the midst of my exhaustion. Rather than carving out a specific, stringent prayer time, I inhaled and exhaled Jesus with every breath; I listened for his gentle leading in the quiet moments, and I shared my heart with him all throughout the day. Those daily, mundane tasks of loading and unloading, cooking and cleaning, are invitations to prayer.
Don’t add to the overwhelm by trying to do everything all at once. Choose one thing to focus on, and work at it until it becomes a habit. Then, do the next thing. The old adage is true: Slow and steady wins the race. Within six weeks, you can calm the storm of weariness and find Sabbath margin in your home. Rest in Jesus, sweet friend.