By Tracy Klicka
When I began homeschooling my first child in 1990, I had no idea that within ten years I’d be teaching seven children or that my husband would have progressive MS. What started out with simple to-do lists and short, daily pick-ups around the home soon became inadequate for homeschooling a large family with a seriously ill spouse.
I needed principles more than a system, so I learned what the Scriptures and organizational experts had to say. I was hoping to find ideas that gave me greater flexibility and didn’t require too much time to implement and maintain. I never wanted to sacrifice relationship for the sake of organization!
“I never want to sacrifice relationship for the sake of organization.”
Start with Principles.
Just as God directed Adam and Eve to exercise dominion in the garden, we are called to exercise dominion in our home. We are to make it useful, beautiful, and productive. Investing some thought and planning in this is worth it. (Genesis 1:27-30)
- Because we are made in God’s image, we reflect it by doing things properly/decently, and in an orderly way. This may be harder for some of us than others, but it’s something we can all strive for. (I Corinthians 14:40)
- In whatever we do, even in the little things, there is a blessing in being faithful. (Luke 16:10) Having a plan helps us with this.
- Taking stock of what our family’s needs are and seeking to meet them is wise for us and good for them. (Proverbs 17:23-24)
- Because we have only twenty-four hours in each day, we are to be careful in how we use our time and spend our days. Doing so makes us wise. (Psalm 90:12; Ephesians 5:15-17)
- Our lives are in God’s hands, and we can rest in knowing there is time for all we need to do. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
- The idea of stewardship doesn’t just apply to how I spend my money. Caring for my home and my family is also part of my stewardship responsibility.
“She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.” –Proverbs 31:27
Evaluate the Atmosphere and Environment of Your Home
Atmosphere refers to how others feel in your home. Is your house inviting—clean and neat—yet still livable? Do family members feel relaxed or uptight there? Do your kids get the sense that your things are more important than they are? Does your home convey an expression of openness, beauty, and warmth?
Environment refers to the setting of your home, those things that influence you when you’re there. Can family members easily find what they are looking for when they need it? Are learning tools readily available to your children—books, music, art, creative outlets? Is there a place in your home where older children have the freedom to work on a creative project without fear of it being disturbed (or destroyed!) by younger children? Does your home encourage reading, observation, learning, and discovery?
Tackle What is Getting in the Way
Emilie Barnes, who has written more than a dozen books on time management and home organization has great ideas for both. Here are just a few that really helped me make my home and our day more of what I wanted it to be:
Principles to Apply in Organizing Your Home
- Identify problems. Write them down and choose five areas that need work. Set realistic goals, start small, and build faithfulness in tackling them.
- Eliminate Clutter. Paper is my worst enemy! I never seem to have enough time to organize it all, so I make piles. Because clutter is a universal disruptor, eliminating it is probably the most important organizational goal to continually work towards.
- Have a place for everything and everything in its place. The more “homes” you give to everything in your home, the less stress, wasted time, and distraction you’ll experience. Use shelves, containers, bins, and organized closet space to house school, office, baby, and medical supplies; toys; and learning tools. Besides reducing stress and increasing efficiency, you will be teaching your kids to be more organized in thought and practice.
- Keep items where you use them—“Who took the scissors?” “Where did the tape go?” “Give me back the calculator!” If several family members regularly use certain inexpensive items, purchase enough for each member, or put them in several locations where they are regularly needed. When I had six kids ages seven and under, with four in diapers, we had four separate changing stations in our house!
- De-junk often. There is a wonderfully healthy movement to simplify our lives and our homes. Getting started can feel overwhelming though, so write down a plan and start with one room at a time. Making it a family affair can be fun!
Principles for Ordering Your Day
Emilie Barnes said, “If you can’t manage your time, you won’t be able to manage any other part of your life.” With that in mind, how can you make the most of the time you have each day?
- Plan and prioritize—You don’t have to plan to fail, but you do have to plan to succeed.
- Don’t procrastinate—Whenever you say, “I’ll do it later,” you usually won’t.
- Do the worst first—Run toward the battle, mom! You can do it!
- Use your spare minutes—In just five minutes, you can clean out your purse, go through the mail, make an appointment, grade a child’s test, write a thank-you note, or pray for a loved one.
- Learn to take small bites—Break bigger projects down into smaller ones so you aren’t overwhelmed by the enormity of the task
- Make decisions promptly—Avoid handling the same paper, issue, or problem over and over.
I’ve encountered both born organizers and messy moms. There are strengths and advantages to each type.
If you are a messy mom, be encouraged! You tend to value relationship, but you need persistence. This builds character and leads to results. And your commitment to this is a great example of diligence to your children. Don’t give up!
If you are a born organizer, your biggest struggles are probably learning to give up control and not finding your identity in a clean home.
Finally, remember that even when we organize and plan, things are going to go awry. We won’t cover all the schoolwork, things will still get broken or lost, and we’ll get behind in our to-do list. That’s why it’s good to remember that our treasures are not in the “stuff” of life. They’re in our relationships with those we love—God, our family, and our friends. If love is behind what we do, it’s all good.
Tracy Klicka Mackillop is a former homeschooling mom of seven adult children. She is a writer and speaker and serves as director of development for the Homeschool Compassion (the charitable arm of HSLDA), which helps families homeschooling through hard times. Out of many personal hardships, but with joy in God who is good all the time, Tracy loves serving and encouraging homeschooling families. This article first appeared in the Virginia Home Educator, Fall 2018.