Am I the only one who hasn’t gotten my spring cleaning done? I doubt it. Once spring arrives, I find myself getting busier. But I’m determined to give my home a good spring cleaning before we have my son’s graduation party at the end of May. If you’re motivated to get your cleaning done too, read on.
Part of The Organized Homeschool Life
Spring cleaning is one of the challenges in The Organized Homeschool Life. I think it’s important to get the kids involved in the process, as I recommend. One of these days they’ll want to get their own homes freshened up this time of year.
While I love all the spring cleaning checklists that you can find on Pinterest like these from SheriGraham.com, I find they can be a bit overwhelming. I’d love to have my entire home clean and perfectly organized TODAY, thank you. That isn’t possible, but it doesn’t keep me from being frustrated.
What’s the answer to the desire for a perfectly spring-clean home? Doing a little bit every day. I recommend just 15 minutes. If your family members help you, your time will be multiplied. Okay, if a toddler is “helping,” your time won’t be multiplied. But you know what I mean.
How to Spring Clean Konmari Style
The book The Magic Art of Tidying Up inspired me to declutter. I’ve written about my passion for her method of folding clothes before. But the KonMari method of determining what sparks joy can also help us complete our spring cleaning.
Of course, we can ask ourselves the question of each item we touch in our 15-minute spring cleaning sprints (“Does this spark joy?”) and use it to declutter and simplify our homes. I prefer the question: Do I love this? Of course, not every item that doesn’t pass this test has to go. I’ve had a microwave I haven’t loved for years, but I was stuck with it until died recently. When it comes to standard clutter, though, the question can be very powerful.
What about washing windows, beating rugs, dusting shades and ceiling fans and the like? How can the KonMari approach help with these cleaning tasks?
FLYLady helped me think differently about my home with her Home Blessing Hour. Rather than engage in the drudgery of dusting and mopping and cleaning toilets, I was blessing my home. As I changed my thinking about cleaning, I realized I loved my home. I had the privilege of owning it and caring for it. What a change in perspective!
So now when I clean, I can ask myself if I love my picture window as I clean all the many fingerprints left on it. As I beat rugs, I can think about how much I love having my children, my friends, and their friends in our home. As I dust shades and ceiling fans, I can ask myself if I love having a comfortable, private retreat from the world for me and my family. My answer will be a resounding yes!
If you’d like a cheat sheet for KonMari-style decluttering as you go about your spring cleaning, MakeSpace has provided you one. You can check out their self-storage locations here.
What’s your top priority for spring cleaning this year?
As homeschoolers, we can find it difficult to minimize the collection of stuff. Here are a few reasons why:
- Books are often our greatest treasure; we can’t imagine giving them away
- We may have more than one child or might have, so we figure we will need the toys, the clothing, and the curriculum again soon
- We need to save two-liter bottles, empty milk containers, and toilet paper rolls for those experiments and crafts that use “what you have on hand”
- We may do unit studies and could use just about anything as a prop or costume
- We don’t want to waste money living on a single income or just to be good stewards
Although we can come up with good reasons to keep our stuff, there are also good reasons to get rid of it:
- If we keep buying bookshelves, we will have to buy a larger house
- Organizing hand-me-downs can be very time-consuming
- If we save too many recyclables, we might start thinking that having 20 cats is normal, too
- It’s no use saving so many things to use for unit studies if we can’t find them
- Clutter can cost us emotionally, socially, financially, and spiritually
We can’t clear years’ worth of clutter in a week, but we can get a good start on it. This week:
#1 Make a List of All Gifts Received for Christmas
I receive a few gifts for Christmas, but I buy most of my clothing and other items I need at the end of the year because of sales. If I don’t declutter as much as I take in, it won’t take long for me to look like a hoarder. The same goes for the kids.
Enough time has gone by that it will be an interesting exercise to have your children make a list of everything they’ve gotten during the Christmas season. I’m providing a form for subscribers for this purpose. If they can’t remember, what does that tell them about the real value of things?
#2 Collect Items to Declutter Based on Your Gifts Received List
The idea is to do a one-in, one-out exchange. If you got a new sweater, an old one is decluttered. If the kids got a new game, an old one is given away. If you can’t do that for some reason, just declutter any item in exchange for the new one received.
I had a very difficult time with this where the kids were concerned for many years. One child would get a toy as a gift and everyone played with it. This is great until it comes time to declutter. The teen no longer cared about the younger kids’ stuff, so he would want to declutter it, much to his siblings’ dismay.
I now lay two blankets on the floor when we are decluttering kid stuff. One blanket is for anything any child wants to give away. The other is for trash. The kids enjoy going through their stash of toys and games and putting items on the blankets. As a child sees something on the blanket he wants to keep, he rescues it and returns it to storage. As the process continues, he may change his mind and return it to the giveaway pile, however. Sometimes kids are ready to release things when they feel free to choose. I may also rescue items from the blanket that I want to sell or keep for grandchildren (I’ve changed my mind about many of these latter items with my husband’s encouragement.)
#3 Put Unwanted Books/Curriculum Aside or List for Sale
Once, when I had more books than bookcases, I went through boxes of books while on the phone with a friend. I would explain to her why I was keeping each book. It wasn’t long before I realized that I didn’t need to be everyone’s library. So much of the time I was keeping books in case someone wanted to borrow them. I encourage you to ask yourself why you’re keeping books and release those that hold no interest, no sentimental value, or will not be read again.
Can we talk about releasing curriculum now? It’s tough to admit you spent hundreds on something you hate or that your kids will never be cute little kindergartners again, but you’ll have so much more peace in your homeschool when it’s out of sight. If you declutter something you end up wanting again, you can always buy it (or borrow it) again.
At this point in the school year, you know which materials you purchased that just aren’t working. Box them up to sell at spring or summer used book sales or list them for sale now. Check out my post on the best places to sell used curriculum.
#4 Deliver Unwanted Items to Charity, Consignment, or the Post Office
Unless you’ve determined that later in the year is a better time to offload your unwanted items, do yourself a favor and send them to a new home as soon as possible.
In our area, many charities will pick up donations. I usually prefer to free up space by sending my husband to the drop-off location (which he gladly does).
My favorite resource for decluttering inspiration is FLYLady.net or her book, Sink Reflections. My one claim to fame is that I have a blurb on the back.
What’s the hardest thing for you to let go of?
Next week’s challenge is the Organized Computer Challenge.
These are the previous weeks’ challenges:
Week 1: Daily Devotions Challenge
Week 2: Daily Routine Challenge
Week 3: To-Do List Challenge
Week 4: Memory Keeping Challenge
Organized Homeschool Challenge
One of the things that appealed to me about homeschooling was that I wouldn’t have to have a schedule. I relished the idea of getting up when I felt like it. I also tried doing laundry and dishes and teaching when I felt like it when I started homeschooling. The problem was I didn’t feel like it very often! Something needed to change or I felt I would have to send my kids to school.
What changed is that I came across some emails by a woman named Marla Cilley — aka FLYLady. She gave me an alternative to a rigid schedule in her morning and evening routines. It seems so obvious that life runs more smoothly when you have an organized pattern of activities, but it wasn’t to me. The impact of loading and running the dishwasher each evening was huge. So was scheduling errands and doctor’s appointments on the same day of the week. There were many other benefits.
But when it came to school work, I was very much influenced by Managers of Their Homes. I wished I could be as super organized as Teri Maxwell so I initially created a packed schedule to manage my growing family. Then I was very frustrated that I never EVER followed it to a tee. I returned to a routine for schoolwork, but then managed to take the routine to an extreme, too. Today I use a fluid combination of a schedule and a routine, helped along by my children keeping me accountable. In other words, “Mom, are we going to start school?”
Your Challenge for This Week
#1 You and Older Children Track Your Routine or Schedule
The biggest mistake I have made where routines and schedules are concerned is trying to make too many changes at once. Rather than trying to plan the ideal routine, see what you’re doing right now. I really dislike time tracking in general, but an overview of what you’re actually doing is a very good idea. Older kids can definitely participate in this as time management is an increasingly important skill in our culture. Best not to let them record what you and others are “actually” doing in their opinions. 😉 You can track on paper listing the hours of the day on the left and your basic activities on the right. If you have subscribed to Psychowith6, you will have access to subscriber freebies that includes a form for tracking your routine this week.
#2 Keep Tracking and Choose One Schedule Change to Try
The book, The House That Cleans Itself, taught me to use what’s already happening to my advantage. Let me give you an example to clarify. Let’s say that you’d really like to do family devotions after dinner. But you see from tracking your schedule of actual activities that you tend to watch movies as a family instead. You could a) watch Christian or biblical films at that time, b) discuss secular movies from a biblical worldview, looking up verses, or c) you could choose a better time for family devotions. Trying to enforce more than one schedule change will likely frustrate your family and drain your energy. Pray about the change that would have the biggest impact. You have plenty of time to make more changes as this one becomes second nature.
#3 Keep Tracking and Plan a Time to Evaluate Your Schedule Change
You may not want to keep tracking (I get it!), but the days fluctuate and you may see some important patterns that have to be addressed. Implement your one change (older kids can choose an individual change also) and put a note on your calendar or use the reminder function of a smart phone to assess how well it’s working. This is the step so many of us leave out. Assessment keeps changes in the problem-solving realm, rather than the blaming realm. If it’s working, wonderful. Discussing it with the kids (if it impacts them) will teach them how to problem solve and manage time. If it’s not, it’s important to determine why not and brainstorm potential solutions. Don’t give up assuming that you’re just not organized.
#4 Keep Tracking and Choose a Schedule Format
Continue tracking today and through the weekend if you’d like. Save this information for next summer when we will be working on your homeschooling schedule in depth. Decide on how to keep your schedule or routine visible. I have my HomeRoutines app on my phone, a schedule in my homeschool planner and the kids’, and I have it posted in the kitchen and school room using magnetic frames. Are you getting the idea that I don’t want to forget? One change I plan to make is to acknowledge that the schedule/routine can be regularly updated. I have the file on Word. It doesn’t take much to update it and reprint.
I would love to know the one change you’re implementing this week!
Find all the challenges at the Organize Your Homeschool page and get all the free printables you need here or by clicking the graphic below.
This is Week 3 of a Year of Living Productively
This week I tested the ability of routines to help me get more done. At the end of last week’s post I shared my approach. I have morning, school, afternoon, evening, and weekday routines in my HomeRoutines iPhone app. I had to do a little tweaking of the routines I’d created previously in order to fully test this productivity hack. Here’s what I learned.
How Routines Saved My Sanity This Week
- Motivated me to finish the mundane. I was super excited to put this hack to work, especially after I tweaked the routines. Being able to click a star on my app after doing things like showering was motivating. I know. I’m weird. I buzzed around like a bee at the beginning of the week, trying to complete as many stars as I could.
- Extremely effective in keeping the day moving. As I thought about how to change my routines, I realized that I often get stuck on a school subject for too long. I added Spanish to the daily schedule, rather than trying to do two longer sessions during the week and it’s working beautifully. The HomeRoutines app has a built-in timer and I found myself really enjoying that. The kids and I clean ten minutes per floor in the morning. As a result of thinking about routines, I started spending time filing during my ten minutes in the school room. In the past, I left that for a weekday and couldn’t seem to get myself to do it. I enjoyed seeing how much I could get done before the timer went off. Giving myself permission to check off a star if I’d done any work at all on the task made a difference, too.
- Prevented procrastination. I thought about blowing off a mail task I had to do, but decided to really try to stick with the routine. I did it and wondered why on earth I procrastinate on mailing stuff! It’s no big deal.
How Routines Made Me Crazy This Week
This was an unusual week with a holiday and a snow day. I kept feeling like I should be doing school as usual, but didn’t. The result was I didn’t do much, but didn’t enjoy it. I doubt that this was the result of routines, however.
- I wasn’t sure what tasks were most important and I was stressed. I was only focused on my routines, so didn’t know what critical or just important tasks I should be working on. And I didn’t factor in enough time in my routine to figure that out.
- I resisted the routines. Routines worked beautifully in the mornings I was doing school. Afternoons and evenings were another story. When I get started on something (like writing or clearing email), I really don’t want to stop. Nirvana for me is a day that I can do anything with no obligations whatsoever. Having a routine that I *should* be using felt like an obligation. Besides, it wasn’t very practical. My son’s birthday was this week and with the snow, we felt like watching a movie later than usual. That meant I couldn’t follow my evening routine or at least that I didn’t want to.
Did Routines Help Me Get More Done?
They definitely did! That was especially true when I used them. I’m happy enough with them that I plan to keep using my morning and school routines. As for afternoons and evenings, I’m not sure. It may be that subconsciously, I want to be free to do what I want at these times.
I don’t currently use the HomeRoutines app, but routines are an essential part of my life. My current morning routine for example, is exercise, write, breakfast, devotions, shower, chores, and school.
The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 4
I heard about Ann Vosskamp’s Daily Planner on Next Gen Homeschool. I love that these forms give you a visual overview of the day. Yes, they’re paper! There is a weekly planning page I will use as well. I purchased a beautiful floral clipboard with a folder and notepad inside to store the pages from Target. I can’t find a link, sorry! I think adding this paper overview to my routines will really help–especially with knowing what HAS to be done.
If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Download Ann Vosskamp’s planner pages or choose another template like this one that gives you an overview of your day and week.
Click here to see how Ann’s paper planner worked for me.
If you’ve tried using routines to increase your productivity, please vote in the poll below.
Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:
A Year of Living Productively
Week 1: Paper To-Do List
Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants
This is Week 2 of A Year of Living Productively
I wanted to know if categorizing my tasks by importance and urgency using Stephen Covey’s matrix from First Things First would increase my productivity. I chose to create labels for each quadrant using IQTell. I spent quite a bit of time assigning my tasks to these categories and here’s what I discovered about this productivity philosophy.
How Covey’s Quadrants Saved My Sanity This Week
I know I already understand what’s important and I do important things. I had about twice the amount of important and non-urgent tasks as I did important and urgent tasks. I don’t think that’s because I am not spending enough time in Quadrant II, however. I am with my children, and to a significant extent, my husband all day. Next to my time set apart for devotions, they are my top priority. The tasks in Quadrant II are generally related to writing and organizing. There are just a LOT of things I should get around to doing in those areas. And I do spend a lot of time doing them. All of that to say, knowing what’s important in your life is paramount to choosing tasks. Committing to spending time doing those important, non-urgent tasks is also vital. I have both of those down, but there are problems using this philosophy as your only productivity method.
How Covey’s Quadrants Made Me Crazy This Week
I already have my tasks tagged for priority. The Important/Urgent tasks correspond to my must-do tasks with due dates. The Important/Not Urgent tasks correspond to my should-do tasks with no or longer-term due dates. The labels added nothing new.
I was overwhelmed. Using only the categories to work from, I had 40 important/urgent tasks and 80 important/non-urgent tasks. As opposed to last week when I tested paper and felt motivated, this week I didn’t want to do anything.
I don’t put unimportant tasks in my task list. I don’t write down “surf the web” or “spend an hour on Facebook.” I just DO those things. The matrix had no effect on whether or not I engaged in certain activities.
Importance is confusing. Even the activities that most people would label unimportant may have been important to me at the time. Didn’t I learn something and relax after a busy day? Social media is important to me, whereas it isn’t to other people.
Did Covey’s Quadrants Help Me Get More Done?
Unequivocally, NO. My productivity took a nosedive. Was that because I didn’t use paper? I’m certainly willing to entertain that possibility and plan to test other paper approaches this year. For me, though, Covey’s quadrants are more of a philosophical approach to tasks that have nothing to do with how much you do–even important things.
While I don’t organize my tasks in a task list by priority, I have a new appreciation for focusing on the important, but not urgent tasks. My current approach is to schedule these types of tasks as early in the day as possible so I get to them.
The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 3
I was reading Blog at Home Mom this week and author, Christin Slade reminded me that when I abandon routines, my productivity and my life suffer–even though I tell myself I’ll be fine. FLYLady‘s routines were the very first productivity approach I used. Before I found her, I did things willy-nilly. Even when I put things on a calendar, I wouldn’t check it before I started my day. Dishes, laundry, cleaning were done “whenever.” So profound were the changes in me after adopting routines, that I wrote an article about it for Woman’s Day magazine, began speaking about it, and was inspired to write So You’re Not Wonder Woman?.
My original routines were written in a notebook. When I got an iPhone and the HomeRoutines app came out, I gave it a try. I really liked it. I added more steps to my routines that I thought would help me get more important things done. The only problem I had was feeling bad if I didn’t do every single part of my routines. I quit because of my perfectionism. But I’d like to try it again with a new attitude. This time, if I do any part of a routine step, I will give myself credit. AND my goal will be to do half of my routines. If I do half of them, I will be doing considerably more than I’m doing now.
If you’d like to join me for a week, here’s what you do. Make a simple evening and morning routine on paper. If you want to go hog wild and have a school/work and/or afternoon routine, I can hardly say no. But I think you’ll have better luck sticking with short morning and evening routines. The HomeRoutines app is $4.99, but I’m not encouraging you to buy it until you determine that you like working with routines. Include steps in your routines that will help you organize your tasks and will help you feel on top of things. Loading the dishwasher each evening was a huge step forward for me. If you already do things every evening and morning, add a couple of new tasks to each routine. Make them as small or as broad as you need to (i.e., load dishwasher or clean up kitchen). I would list my routines for you, but I’m pretty sure you’d freak out. I’m psycho, remember?
To see how my work using home routines went, click here.
Week 1: Paper To Do List
I was recently asked how I was able to write for Woman’s Day magazine and thought many would-be writers might have the same question.
While I’ve always been a writer, once I was in the midst of diaper changes and a very part-time clinical practice, I didn’t think my dreams of being published could be fulfilled. While I am far from being a full-time freelance writer, I have enjoyed seeing my work in print and have even enjoyed getting paid to do something I love.
I’m not going to give you the standard advice about perusing The Writer’s Market guide or the The Christian Writer’s Market guide and then sending off good query letters. I’m not going to do that because that isn’t how I was published. That certainly isn’t to say that it’s a pointless approach; it isn’t. It just so happens that I spent hours fantasizing about which periodicals and publishing houses I would send my work to, but never did. I understand from other writers that pursuing publication in this way can be both rewarding (a presenter at a writer’s conference I attended was making over $100,00 a year as a freelancer) and frustrating (with long wait times and lots of rejection).
I’m going to tell you the atypical way I was able to get published because I believe it can work for you, too.
Let People Know You Want to Write. In my first job as a psychologist, I made sure to let our clinic supervisor know that if there were writing or speaking opportunities, I wanted them. Tell your pastor, workplace, organization, or municipality that you’d be glad to write for their newsletters, blogs, and more. I’m not talking about knocking yourself out to put “writer” on LinkedIn or marketing yourself aggressively. Simply mention it!
Write What You Know. We often try to write what we think will sell, rather than what we know. To get published, start by writing the information others ask you for. Because I was a psychologist, I was often asked for information on a host of relationship and mental health issues. My church was the first to ask me to write for them. Without any action on my part, a parachurch organization asked me to write an article for its family newsletter. Are people asking you how you make delicious homemade bread, stay so fit, or organize big events? Write about it.
Give it Away. I wasn’t paid anything for my work for quite some time. Honestly, seeing my published work was payment enough! Share your writing with others for free and let it be reprinted without charge. Early on, you want as many people to have your name in front of them as possible. The combination of these three steps led to my being hired to write booklets for another parachurch ministry. I was well paid and rewarded by seeing my work in our pastor friend’s office in another state.
Write in Love. The reason I was able to write for Woman’s Day, a magazine with a circulation of 6 million at the time, was because I responded to a request for nominations of women who make a difference in their community. My nominee was selected as a winner and I was invited to New York to meet the editors of the magazine as well as the First Lady who would be giving the award. My friend, Deb, was able to write for Woman’s Day after responding to their online request for bloggers on The Happiness Project–an idea she loved. She also responded to a request for bloggers by her favorite store and is now a regular HomeGoods contributor. Respond to and write about people and organizations you love and you may end up published, too!
Pray for Publication. If the Lord wants you to be published, He will make a way. When I learned I would be meeting with the editors of Woman’s Day, I prayed about a topic idea. Immediately, I thought of FLYLady (the online organizing system I was using at the time), but she hadn’t responded to an email I’d sent her. I prayed about it and that day, Marla Cilley emailed me back. I was able to pitch the idea to an editor and received a rewarding contract several weeks later.
I believe publication is possible for any aspiring writer no matter the competition, the changing nature of periodicals, or the writer’s season of life. Do you have other suggestions for aspiring freelancers?