Monday, 12 March 2012

Sweet Simplicity

Yum! Look at the lovely surprise my husband brought home from work with him today! Strawberries in March! The cubs and I were very exicted to see these. And even more so, when we tasted them and discovered how sweet and juicy they were. Sometimes the simplest suprises can be the sweetest too!

I like to keep things simple here at our small home. Life is confusing enough without having to add to that by introducing overcomplicated schedules, ambitious menus, too many commitments or half finished projects. I endeavour to maintain an atmosphere and environment of calm and peace and order in our home, and most of the time I think I manage to achieve it! It may seem as if choosing the simple route is choosing the easiest, and in a way it is, because the simpler life is, the fewer elements there are to go wrong, but in order to live a simple life in the first place, you have to give plenty of thought to how to organise things. It won't just "happen" - you have to manufacture it. It's a bit like watching a duck swim across a pond. It may look effortless, but underneath the water, there's a busy wee pair of flippered feet paddling frantically away! A lot of work has to go into keeping things sweet and simple at home. That sounds like a contradiction, I know, but let me explain ...

A simple life is an orderly life, and for this to be possible, you do need to be able to think ahead. Part of being a willing helpmet involves being a good organiser, and that means having to have the self discipline and willingness to take time, regularly, to sit down and actually consider what needs to be done, to keep things running smoothly, and how best you can achieve this. It also means being prepared to stay on top of things by hard physical work - cleaning and cooking and tidying - even when you don't really feel like it.

I'm far from perfect - make no mistake. There are always going to be odd times when things don't run smoothly because I DIDNT plan ahead. One of the things I still have trouble with, and which I have to work on very hard, is take into account the fact that sinse the cubs have been at college, they aren't always able to eat their meals at the set times that we have always had (7 am for breakfast, 12 midday for dinner, or lunch as you may prefer to call it, and 5 pm for our tea, or evening meal). It is completely unrealistic to think that college students will be able to schedule themselves around their lectures and seminars to be present for all these meals every day at these times as they were when they were children and I was in charge of their timetables! It's been a steep learning curve for me to make sure I check the details of everyone's timetables (which are not all the same, nor the same every day) and schedule our meals accordingly. (My slow cookers have been very helpful in making these adjustments, as food can be kept warm for several hours in a slow cooker without spoiling). It's also taken me many years of prayer and study, primarily of Scripture, but also many well written manuals produced by Christian women such as Elizabeth George, Emilie Barnes and Stormie Omartian, to achieve the level of peace and order that we have now - and I am still working on it!

One of the most helpful tricks that I've learned, in managing to keep one step ahead, is to remember this simple saying - "little and often". It works for many things in life! A little prayer said often, for example, fortifies us whenever we feel as if we are faltering in our faith and in need of encouragement. Likewise, a little time spent in study of my Bible (in addition to the scheduled daily reading that I do each morning after waking) helps me to stay focused on God's plan for me as I go about my duties.

"Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed". (John 6, 27).

And of course, a little sweetness and affection, demonstrated often, makes husbands happy and children smile! But as well as seasoning all my activities with these small embellishments, I also apply this motto to my housework! I've talked about my Daily Treasures box before (and will do so again!), and how I employ the simple schedule system I've created in it to keep myself organised as I plan our meals and do my chores. The "little and often" housework duties aren't ones that I've factored into my Daily Treasures. They are the numerous small jobs that I do as I go along, as I see them, that mean that when it comes to doing a bigger chore, oftentimes I'll find that I've already got half of it done! For example ...

I wipe down the cooker after every single meal I've cooked in it (inside and out). Likewise the microwave and the sink. It may seem a lot of work, but it means that when I come to do my big kitchen clean, there's no horrible burned on food or stains or drips, to scrub away at, so a horrible big chore becomes a much smaller one, broken down into wee chunks spread out over time.

Every time I walk upstairs, or come down, I bring something with me that needs to be put away or used elsewhere.

When I get the laundry in from the washing line, I sort, fold and put it away (other than Little Bear's - she has been doing her own laundry, and often Cubby's, for years) immediately, leaving only the items that need ironing to be dealt with at the time when my ironing is scheduled.

Little Bear or I wash up, dry and put away, immediately after every meal - even if this means having to miss the football!

I clean our bathroom twice a day, every day. This, too, might sound excessive, until I tell you that this means it only takes me 5 minutes each time I do it, because it is always almost perfectly clean. I give it a deeper clean once a week and even this only takes an hour or so. The rest of the time, doing it this way takes far less time than leaving it and doing it all in one day.

Likewise, I sweep and hoover the entire apartment (apart from Little Bear's bedroom) every day, twice a day! I sweep in the morning, and hoover in the evening (when everyone's had time to make it untidy!). This way I never have dust bunnies to deal with.

If something needs putting away, it gets put away as soon as I see it needs doing.
I have a "bring forward" file for our paperwork. Once read, any post that needs filing goes into the "bring forward" file on the day that it is read, and once a week this filing gets put into the correct files in our "filing cabinet" (a small plastic box - I keep on top of the filing by not having too much at all!). Once a month I go through the filing to see if anything can be culled. Most people keep far too much paperwork. Check the regulations of your county or city council, and don't hang onto paperwork you don't need. This way you never get swamped by having days, weeks, months and even year's worth of papers to deal with.

Similarly, newspapers, magazines, flyers, out of date coupons, postcards and greetings cards are culled regularly. We never hang onto these things because with my "little and often" motto, I am putting out paper for recycling, every day!

I dust the living room, the room that gets the most use, every day. That way, as above, I don't have dust motes and cobwebs to deal with. I can flick through in a few minutes, and it always looks pretty and neat and clean. Our home isn't fancy at all, but it is clean and tidy.

To assist with this, we also don't have many ornaments or nick-nacks. Keeping down the clutter means it's quicker and easier to get through the housework, and a plain and neat environment instantly makes you feel calmer and more peaceful. Even just having one room like this (I honestly couldn't say I'd feel especially calm and peaceful if I had to spend too long in Cubby Bear's bedroom! Papa Bear's was just as bad when he was a cub too!) can make a huge difference to the atmosphere in your home.

Why not try my simple suggestions for an easier way to stay organised? Even just a few minutes each day staying on top of the chores in this way, will help you to feel more efficient and in control, and I can assure you that you'll be pleasantly surprised at how much EXTRA time you discover you will have bought yourself through your hard work, because your home is running smoothly! And when it seems as if that work is overwhelming, and the list of chores is endless, remember that it is God's will for us to serve Him joyfully, with a willing heart, and in so doing, we are pleasing Him and living out His plan for us in sweet simplicity.

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest". (Matthew 11, 28).