Saturday, June 21, 2014

Quiet in Our Own Land

“I gather you want to conquer the whole world,” replied the philosopher.  “What will you do when you have conquered all?”

“Why then,” said the king, “we will return and enjoy ourselves in quiet in our own land.”

“So may you now,” said Cineas, “without all this ado.”

So goes the story about King Pyhrrus, as told in Awake My Soul: Practical Spirituality for Busy People by Timothy Jones.  As history tells us, Pyhrrus won battles, but at a devastating price.  That's where we get the phrase "Pyhrric victory" - the struggles that end up ruining the victor.

Just something to think about as we go about our days.  Why do we do what we do?  Is it to conquer for the sake of conquest -- to get more but enjoy less?  Or is to live authentically with a love of peace and beauty? There is a time to go out and fight against injustice.  I, too, find ways to make a global and local impact, not for my own glory and gain, but for the sake of real peace and prosperity for real people.  As a writer, I live by the maxim, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” 

But then there is this family, this home, this quiet life that I treasure.  As they also say, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”  My kids aren’t babies anymore, but they still need me.  I still need to restore more calm and order to our chaotic little world. I still need to delight in the joys of the simple life.  I will take the quiet in my own land.

"The fruit of that 
righteousness will be peace; 
its effect will be quietness 
and confidence forever. 
My people will live in 
peaceful dwelling places, 
in secure homes, 
in undisturbed places of rest." 
Isaiah 32:17-18

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Order & Organization (What I Want & How I'm Doing It)

Order & Organization
What I Want & How I'm Doing It 

At age 50 with busy days and a big family, I’m pondering a life management approach of priorities, goals, motivation, strategies, plans, and practicalities. Perhaps the keenest lesson I learned in my college management classes is this: 
“The difference between efficiency and effectiveness is that efficiency is doing things the right way, and effectiveness is doing the right thing.” 
I’m still learning that thirty years later.  Yes, effectiveness is more important, but it’s not an either/or proposition. I need both. Here’s some of what I’m working on and how I’m doing it. I can’t cover it all in one post, but let’s start with Order & Organization, my most urgent practical need with seven of my kids still living at home. I am trying to initiate more order and develop systems for success. It may not matter much to them right now, but it matters to me.

Systems & Strategies

When I see a problem area that is stressing me out or hindering our progress, I stop and think about what solution is needed.  Sometimes it is a whole system, like setting up an equitable chore chart or deciding how to categorize a large book collection. 

Sometimes it is more simple. For example, my youngest daughter was always carrying the craft supply bins to the dining room table, but they didn’t always make it back to the shelf. I cleared off a nearby desk, and put all of the supplies on it so she can work there without moving the bins around. I also kept finding dirty hand towels and kids’ clothes on the bathroom floor, so I put a hamper (actually a small round trash can) in there, and it seems to be working. 


First: I am setting goals to organize the house area by area.  I already tackled the hall bath, the kitchen, the front hallway, though they still need daily maintenance. I am about halfway through my bedroom, our video collection, and the dining room / library. The other hot spots right now are the living room area, my closet, and eventually our storage/laundry room, which I’ve already been chipping away at bit by bit. I'll work with the kids on their bedrooms after we finish the public areas. When I declutter a room, I keep a large bin for items that don't belong. Then I completely clear everything from a small area (a cabinet, a closet, etc.), clean off the surfaces, and put back everything that really belongs there in an orderly way. 

Second: I am purging. I culled through a lot of the kids’ clothes and dropped them off at Salvation Army. Last night, I went on a rampage with the book cases. As a longtime home school mama and word nut, I probably have about a thousand books, if not more. We will never read them all, and they’re overflowing into much needed space. So I picked more than a hundred of them to try to sell at my favorite used bookstore or donate to the library bookstore.  That project is still a work-in-progress. I still have books to put away and shelves to rearrange to fill the empty spaces, and I still have those giveaway/sell boxes to organize and figure out what to take where, but those are projects for another day. I can’t do everything at once. I just wish I’d done this in time to sell them at the big local home school used curriculum sale a few weeks ago, since most of them are educational.  Oh well. 

Third: I am containerizing, mainly with baskets and plastic bins.  More laundry hampers, more trash cans, more drawer organizers… I even bought a medium-sized dark red trash can that matches our living room couches – but not for garbage. The teen assigned to keeping that room tidy shouldn’t have to go put away other people’s junk, but it still needs to be off the floor, end tables, and couches.  If one kid makes a big mess, they have to go in and clean it up themselves. However, I told my son that he should throw any other random stray stuff (except trash or dishes) into that container rather than trying to go hunt down the guilty sibling. If someone wants something, they can go look for it there, and when it gets full, we’ll clean it out and make people claim their stuff or forfeit it.


I function best with constant reminders of what needs to be done when. In my earlier years of motherhood, I made a lot of lists, and then lost or neglected those lists. My iPod Touch is by far the most practical gift I have ever received.  My brain has a buddy now. Seriously. I’m quite attached. It’s almost always either in my pocket or my hand. 

I recently started using an app called LifeTopix, which is amazingly comprehensive, though a bit intimidating initially. Those who aren’t prepared to figure things out to get the full power of the system might prefer ToodleDo, which is much simpler but doesn’t do nearly as much. I’ll write more about those some other time. For right now, I just want to say having an interactive To Do list integrated with calendar, contacts, multi-task projects, shopping list, notes, medicine logs, finances, maps, photos, and everything else is right up my alley. As soon as I think of something I need to do, I try to enter it before forget. I set alarms for tasks that need to be completed at certain times, such as taking my morning medicines, locking all the doors at night, or picking up a child from an activity or work. All for just $4.99, and my productivity level is definitely up! 

Home Assignments

We have a chore chart on the refrigerator. In addition to their own rooms and laundry, the five younger kids each have an assigned dish day and one daily chore for their family contribution (trash, living room, computer room, preparing dining room for dinner, cleaning up dining room after dinner). I do the kitchen, bathrooms, extra dishes, household laundry, supervising, organizing, shopping, and cooking.  I entered all of the chore assignments (mine and theirs) into my iPod app so I can remember to hold them accountable.

What I need to do next is give the kids more in-depth training on how to do their jobs.  There seems to be some confusion about what constitutes successful completion. In addition to the hands-on training needed, I’ve been working on a document to go over with them about basic family policies for not only doing the work, but preventing the need for it in the first place by just being sensible.

A Few Tools  

The way I see it, the tasks I do each day, whether paid or not, are my job. I want to be professional. Part of that is acquiring the tools I need for success. I already mentioned the iPod and the apps, as well as the containers, but here are a few others.

My desk and bookcases: I keep tweaking and it gets better every time. I try to keep everything I need to work within arm’s reach.  My drawers are now fully stocked with all sorts of supplies, and my bookcases have teacher resource books that I will use this next year as I home school my youngest daughter and teach group classes.   You can read more about my desk organizing project here: Organizing a Little at a Time ~ My Desk and Bedside Table

Labels: I use these so people in the house can not only find things but remember where to put them back. Not that they always do this, but here’s for trying anyway? I like labels that are attractive, removable, and just the right size for the job. I’ve put some on my youngest daughter’s dresser drawers, my desk drawers, clothes hampers, school supply bins, and containers in the kids’ bathroom.

New vacuum cleaner:  Our old one, purchased at a thrift store, is heavy, unwieldy, won’t click into upright position, has a floppy hose, and uses bags at an alarming rate. I can never find it anyway, because the kids move it around the house. Last week I indulged myself. I spent $35 at Walmart on a lightweight bagless Bissell Powerforce compact vacuum cleaner just for my room. It is narrower, so it fits into the tight places. It is easier to maneuver, which is good for my arthritic hands. And it stays where I put it, so I don’t have to go looking for it. It may be inexpensive, but that thing sucks the dust! Wow! Laugh all you want at me splurging on my very own vacuum cleaner, but my bedroom is my haven from stress, even if it is Grand Central Station at times.  It is so worth it to me.

Do you have any organizing tips or tricks?  Share them with the rest of us!

Grace and peace,

P.S. Related Posts on My Blogs