HOW TO MAKE A HOME ROUTINE THAT WILL SAVE YOUR SANITY

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A home routine was a concept that I used to struggle with as a young mother. I didn’t just dislike the concept of a routine, I also struggled with implementation.

I swung from one extreme to the other. In the beginning, I was hopelessly paranoid about how a home routine might dampen the creativity of the day, and I didn’t want to be a robot mom.

Once I realized that routines give structure without being stifling, I ended up building a routine that looked too much like a schedule and ended up trying to function just like that robot mom I was avoiding.

I’m not sure if it was my young age (my journey into motherhood started at age 21), or if it’s just my personality in general. But I usually end up swinging to both extreme sides of an issue before finding a comfortable spot in the middle.

Are you struggling to find a happy medium for routines in your own home? Let me share with you a few tips for developing a flexible routine that gets the job done without taking the heart out of motherhood.

HOME SCHEDULE VS. HOME ROUTINE

Like I said earlier, when I first got into the idea of having a more structured day, instead of implementing a gentle home routine, I created a ridiculous schedule.

The difference between a schedule and a routine is that a schedule is made up of time slots. It tells you when something begins and when it ends. A routine, on the other hand, tells you in what order things occur, but not necessarily start times, and definitely not ending times.

My first schedule was created in thirty-minute increments and began at 4 am. Four in the morning! I’m not certain why I thought that I was SO busy as a stay at home mother (with no vehicle) of three children (whom I homeschooled, meaning, I didn’t have to get them ready to be at the bus stop at a certain time), that I needed to get up at 4am.

But I did think that, and I wrote it on my schedule (in pen), and I think that I actually did get up at 4 am twice.

But do you know what happens to your schedule if you don’t start it on time? Nothing really goes right, so I was setting myself up for failure from the very beginning.

Instead of drafting an overly ambitious schedule, I would have done much better as a young mother to figure out a flexible routine that would maximize my time for the most important parts of my day.

Those parts include:

  • a Bible study time in the morning
  • some personal care time to get myself presentable
  • mealtimes
  • schooling time
  • time for cleaning and chores
  • time to relax

A routine is more about how you flow through your day, hitting the priorities, and less about the time to start/time to finish.

ANCHOR YOUR DAILY HOME ROUTINE WITH CORNERSTONE EVENTS

A cornerstone event is just a fancy way of saying “something that happens every day”. I use these daily occurrences to ensure that my routine has enough structure that I am not letting time wander away from me.

Some of the cornerstone events in my day are:

  1. Wake-up time for me, and a separate wake-up time for the children
  2. The time when I go get ready for the day
  3. Breakfast
  4. Morning nap time for babies
  5. Lunch
  6. Afternoon nap time/quiet time
  7. Martial Arts class
  8. Clean-up time before Dad gets home
  9. Dinner
  10. Bedtime

These times are flexible (except for outside activities and appointments like martial arts). If I start them a little early or a little late, it’s not a big deal. However, more often than not, they occur at the same time each day.

And these events do occur every day, with the exception of martial arts, or with the exception that we have an out of the home activity planned, like going to the zoo. These daily events anchor the day.

I know that I want the children to be at least half way done with their math by breakfast time. Daily chores occur around different meal times, with one time set aside each day to pull the house back together.

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Afternoon naps/quiet time is when I get to recharge my batteries and either get some work, rest, or exercise in. Some days, this is what gets me through a tough morning…knowing that if I can just make it until 1:30, I will get a break!

The children know and understand the flow of the day, which is important, especially for the younger children. Giving young children structure is one of the best ways to be a proactive parent, instead of reactive. This heads off bad behaviors before they have a chance to get started.

Did you ever watch that show, SuperNanny with Jo Frost, back about 10 years ago? I believe it may still be on, but I’m not sure.

Jo would transform a family full of bratty children, and reactive parents, into much calmer children with proactive parents. One of the first things that Jo did, after watching the family in action, was to hang up a family routine. She gave the house structure and order so that the children knew what to expect, approximately when.

WHAT TO DO WHEN THE HOME ROUTINE GETS INTERRUPTED

So, what do you do when the routine gets off track? Do you just throw in the towel for the day? No, not at all. You adjust it.

If you had a really restless night and didn’t sleep much, allow yourself to sleep in a bit. You can make up time by shortening your personal care time, or by serving cereal instead of a hot breakfast.

If you need to run morning errands because you are out of toilet paper, the baby may miss his nap. Accommodate that by moving lunchtime and afternoon nap time forward just 30 minutes to an hour, so that the baby isn’t too crabby to deal with.

What if you and the kids are engrossed in an afternoon activity and lose track of time and before you know it, Dad is walking in the door. The afternoon chores aren’t done, and neither is dinner.

So pull out a frozen pizza and fruit, and either get the house pulled together while it bakes, or push bedtime back a bit, and tidy up after dinner.

All is not lost just because your routine gets interrupted, even if it happens first thing in the morning. This has honestly been a difficult concept for me to fully embrace because of my perfectionist personality.

MAKE HOME ROUTINES WORK FOR YOU…

When you have an all or nothing mentality, it makes you want to just give up if you can’t have your perfect day. Don’t give into that temptation. Remember, your family is watching you. Teach your children, through your own example, that flexibility in life, and in routines is important.

Getting less done with a good attitude is way more important than getting everything done each day, and being a short-fused grump about it all.

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Have you struggled with finding the balance between a routine that allows you to accomplish your priorities, and still have breathing room?

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HOW TO TRANSFORM YOUR HOME LIKE MAGIC WITH A HOUSEKEEPING RESET

The past few weeks have been super busy in my family. I’ve been driving different kids to different places, going out for appointments, and the usual grocery shopping.

All of this additional time outside of the home has really taken a toll on my normal housekeeping routine.

I’ve been feeling perpetually behind, and getting frustrated with my inability to get back on top of everything.

One of the main tenets of housekeeping for me is that if I’m out of my routine, it will be harder to maintain the status quo. In my home, when everything is humming along as it should, it’s easier for me to be a better mom and a happier wife.

Then clutter and dirt starts to pile up, motherhood gets overwhelming really quickly.

I took the time a few weekends ago to do a thorough cleaning of my home. The older children were all gone for five hours doing martial arts, so it was just me and the younger children (4, 2, and 1).

I ended up spending about 3.5 hours deep cleaning, organizing, and throwing things away. When I was done, everything felt so amazing, and my home and my attitude had a huge reboot.

Although I am a huge advocate of cleaning as you go, little by little, sometimes, doing a big hours-long over-haul is exactly what you need.

Let me explain!

WHY DOES A HOUSEKEEPING RESET WORK?

You know how it is, Mama. Sometimes the messes can pile up faster than you can clean them up. A lot of the time, a small mess can attract a bigger mess, and it ends up turning into a giant mess.

And one thing that I have noticed more than anything else is that if I have a few messy spots in the house, everyone else in the house stops trying to keep things tidy.

Myself included.

It is so much easier to keep a clean home clean. There is momentum that keeps you going. A tidy, organized home inspires you to keep everything spic and span.

But, if the standards start to slip a little, the kids, and the husband (and ok, me too) naturally start to slip as well. Pretty soon you have an all out mess that 15 minutes of spread out tiny tasks.

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Spending a few hours re-setting the home is exactly what is needed to pull everything back together, and adjust the mentality in the home.

HOW DOES A HOUSEKEEPING RESET WORK?

It is easiest to do this if you don’t have your little children underfoot. If it’s an option, ask your husband to take the kids somewhere for three or four hours, and then get to work. But you know how it is, you have to do the work. Don’t fritter your time away online or on things that don’t matter. Get right to it.

If having your children out of the house isn’t an option, you can always shoot for nap time. If that isn’t even an option (it wasn’t for me when I did my major cleaning), then just go for it and do your best.

Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by less important things. Just clean, clean, clean. Throw away as you go. Keep a damp cloth close by. Pick up, throw away, wipe clean, and on and on.

Go room by room. Don’t leave a room until it looks like you want it to. You may not be able to do every room in your house, but by staying in a room until it’s done, at least you’ll be able to see the fruits of your labor.

If you flit around from room to room and never really finish anywhere, your efforts will be look diluted and it won’t *feel* like you accomplished anything.

UPKEEP FOR YOUR HOUSEKEEPING RESET

Once you get a room clean, it’s so much easier to keep it that way. All it will take are a few minutes every day to put things back into place, sweep or vacuum, wipe away some dust, etc. You won’t be starting from scratch and it won’t feel overwhelming anymore.

Make it a point to walk through the clean rooms everyday and re-set them. Keep them that way as much as you possibly can, and when you have another chunk of time, work on turning another room of your house that’s messy into one of the clean rooms.

If you are diligent, before you know it, you will have all clean rooms and then you will be in upkeep mode all of the time. Upkeep mode is a beautiful place to be. You feel ahead most of the time, and rarely overwhelmed by housekeeping.

TOY ORGANIZATION- FROM A MOTHER OF 9 CHILDREN

Our toy box used to be the equivalent of a black hole, you could find anything in there! It used to be completely unorganized, and a stashing ground for anything and everything, kind of like the junk drawer.

When I would tell the children to clean up the living room, they would basically just dump everything that was on the floor into the toy drawer, without paying attention.

I cleaned the toy drawers out a few months ago, and I was amazed by how many dirty socks, pencils, and crayons I found. I even found a school book that I had given up for dead.

This is just one more good reason why you must inspect what you expect.

There was no toy organization, what-so-ever. And the children really had no idea what was even in there. Once I got both drawers organized and pared down, the younger children acted as though they had received all new toys!

Here are the four steps I took to give our toy drawers a makeover.

TOY ORGANIZATION- 1. LESS IS MORE

I threw so many toys into the donation box. If the toy looked like it had seen better days, if some of the pieces were missing, if I never ever saw the children playing with it, into the box it went.

I probably donated as much as I kept! I was completely ruthless in what I kept and what I let go.

When I started, I had two large drawers that would barely shut and were packed full. When I finished, I had two large drawers that were about 1/3 of the way full.

The children can actually see what is available to play with now, and easily find exactly what they are looking for. It’s also much easier to spot items that do NOT belong in the toy drawer (dirty socks!!!).

TOY ORGANIZATION- 2. COMPARTMENTALIZE

I went to Wal-mart and bought a few small containers to keep similar groupings of toys together. The Duplos have their very own box (out of all of the toys we had owned, except for maybe Legos, the Duplos have gotten the most use!), the baby toys, the Bristle blocks, and the cars have their own box.

Being able to just grab the box you want to play with is so much easier than tracking down all of the pieces in a loose drawer. It keeps things much more organized.

We do have to spend about five minutes once a week making sure that the toys are in their correct box. This is just basic maintenance. I used to expect this to just magically happen on its own.

I’m coming to the realization that nothing is naturally organized, it all takes maintenance! Such a simple concept that took me over a decade to truly understand.

TOY ORGANIZATION- 3. KEEP IT SIMPLE

Keep your normal, every-day toy area very simple and low-tech. We keep any board games locked up in a different cabinet. The puzzles are kept elsewhere as well. Any toy that requires more supervision is kept out of reach.

In your daily toy area, keep the items that stand the test of time, that are played with regularly, that do not require helicopter supervision, and that won’t make a mess.

Save the arts and crafts, puzzles, and games for one-on-one play time. Limiting access keeps them special, and keeps mom from having a heart attack when she discovers her children being children and doing what children do (making messes and losing pieces).

When children are required to play with the simple toys that don’t flash, bang, or make electronic music, they may seem bored at first, but they will figure it out!

Make sure to ooh, aah, clap and praise over each Duplo or Lego creation, encourage the race car tracks, and tea parties, and before you know it, your children will be reaching for the low-tech toys on their own.

TOY ORGANIZATION- 4. ROTATION

If you have a ton of really great toys that you don’t want to get rid of, consider putting several sets away and rotating.

If you only have out three to four different sets or types of toys at a time, your child won’t get overwhelmed by choices.

Rotate the selection once or twice a month. Your child will end up appreciating the toys so much more, all of the toys will end up being played with, and your toy area will be so much easier to keep neat and organized.

I spent over a decade with a horrendously messy toy area. The result was children who were overwhelmed by choices, I was overwhelmed by the mess, and we never seemed to have enough socks.

The whole process of reclaiming the toy drawers took me about an hour one Saturday, and maintenance takes me about five minutes per week.

The time that I spent on toy organization may have been one of my best used time slots of 2016. If your toy area is totally overwhelming you, follow my four steps and enjoy the simplicity!

TIDYING UP-LEAVE EVERY ROOM BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT

You know that little concept that your mother or father taught you whenever you would borrow something from a friend or neighbor? “Always return it in better condition than you received it in.”

This is a fantastic concept and one that we should all make sure to pass down to our own children. But what if we tweak it just a little to become a concept that helps us busy moms with tidying up?

What if we were to further tweak it to train it into our children as well.

This is a simple concept, that if formed into a habit and repeated throughout your day, will have a major impact on the tidiness of your home.

It’s really quite simple. Every single time you leave one room of your house, stop, look around and find two items (one for each hand) that do not belong in the current room.

Pick up those two out-of-place items, and take them with you as you leave the room, place them in their rightful place, and go on about your business.

Do this every single time you leave a room.

If you are in a huge hurry, find two out-of-place items that belong in the room you were heading to anyway.

I am tidying up like this all day long. If I’m leaving the living room to go into the kitchen, I will grab the empty baby bottle, and my empty coffee cup, and place both in the sink.

When I am leaving the kitchen to come back into the living room, there may be a few Duplos that I can grab to put back in the toy drawer or a board book that needs to go back onto the bookcase.

If I see a discarded sock in the hallway, I place it on the stairs, and when I go up those stairs to lay a baby down for a nap, I make sure to grab it on the way up and put it in the hamper.

***Just a little note*** You know how stairs have the tendency to get junked up with items that you intend to take upstairs and put away? Train yourself to grab whatever is on the stairs every single time you go up.

Don’t allow yourself to just walk right by it, just grab it and put it away, then you won’t have to actually stop what you are doing one day and make an extra trip upstairs.

This concept really is unbelievably simple, but powerful. Think of how many times you go into different rooms of your house throughout the day. If you apply this concept, your house will stay mostly picked up all day long!

GET YOUR CHILDREN INVOLVED IN TIDYING UP!

You can’t really expect your young children to learn to do this on their own, at least not quickly. However, there is something that you can do a few times daily to amplify your own efforts.

A few times a day (usually around breakfast, lunch, and dinner), I will tell the children to stop what they are doing, look around and find three different things that are not put away. Then I instruct them to go put the items where they belong and report back to me when they are done.

After everyone has put their three items away I will look around. If it looks like we’ve still got a mess on our hands, then everyone repeats the exercise. I have nine children, so you can see that we usually only have to do this exercise once or twice for a huge impact.

If you have less children, you can just repeat the steps several times, just make sure to make it quick and fun. You could turn on some music, keep a smile on your face, and of course, work alongside your children.

This is just one more of my sneaky cleaning concepts that keep me from spending valuable leisure time on cleaning.

If I am tidying up throughout the day, we never reach a cleaning crisis. If we never reach that cleaning crisis point, everyone is happier, and the house is more orderly and enjoyable.

Win, win!

Being a Hot Mess Mama is a Cop Out

It’s time for a mom-rant…

Maybe I’ve seen one too many “hot mess mama” memes on Instagram, but it’s time for me to speak out on the idea that being a hot mess mama is your only fate if you are a mother.

This is an easy thing to accept, especially when:

  1. It’s plastered all over social media.
  2. You don’t know any real-life mothers who are out there killing it.
  3. You’ve tried so many times to get it together.
  4. You have no one cheering you on and encouraging you.

The logical conclusion is…If you are a mother, your hopes, dreams, and desires are all on the back-burner for the next 18 years, along with your personal hygiene, the cleanliness of your home, and the fulfillment in your life.

But NO! That’s the WORST conclusion!

It’s time to redefine motherhood, because we are all walking around with our own definition, whether consciously or not…

There are a few common thought traps that I see Moms fall into over and over again…

  • If I’m a Mom, my home can’t be clean
  • If I want my home to be clean, I have to do it ALL myself
  • If I make my children do chores, I’m STEALING their childhood
  • My children will NOT do chores, there’s nothing I can do to change that
  • Even if I do get my house clean, there’s not way to KEEP it that way
  • Not showering and being presentable has NOTHING to do with the state of my home
  • This is just the way motherhood is, and trying to do better is futile
  • NO ONE is able to keep a clean home, have children doing chores, and look cute all at the same time

There is not one shred of truth in ANY of those thought-traps. Every single one of them is a lie. I hate to say it, but if you have accepted any of them as truth, you’ve been duped.

But really, if we go ahead and redefine the word “Mother” as an accomplished, large-and-in-charge, capable, organized MASTER of the domestic sphere…that kind of changes things, doesn’t it?

Why? Because…

  1. You are thinking about yourself as an authority, and in a positive light, instead of in a defeatist mentality 👍
  2. You have heard many times, no one knows your children better than you, right? It’s because it’s true. No one is as uniquely qualified to get those same children working towards the common goal of keeping the family home in order as you too. 😆
  3. You are capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for. It’s time to start expecting more from yourself (and your children), and then seeing the AMAZING results. ❤️

Getting your children involved in doing chores is a FANTASTIC way to teach, demonstrate, and prepare your children for a PRODUCTIVE and INDEPENDENT life as adults.

So why would anyone write off the single most powerful way to help their children be successful adults? Why would you write off chores, an organized home, and and a more engaging home environment just because you haven’t quite figured out how to make it all happen yet?

If I flip this script for a second, I’m going to say this….

The women who become MASTERS at running their homes, the women who go DEEP in understanding the benefits of a well-run home, and the importance of home management being a FAMILY activity, …those are the women that are going to enjoy their years of “in the trenches” motherhood instead of wish away the time and resent the decades they spent with young children.

These are the greatest benefits I have seen to getting children on board with chores and treating the running of the home as a FAMILY JOB, not a MOM JOB…

1. Future Attitudes…
When you teach your sons to do chores and to actively contribute to the cleanliness of the household, you are actually teaching them how to treat the future woman in their lives…Do you want your sons viewing their spouse as unpaid house help? Set the standard today.

Likewise…you are teaching your daughters that they are NOT relegated to a future of servitude and being treating as nothing more than the maid, cook, chauffeur, etc. You are teaching her to expect MORE from her own husband and children.

2. Current Attitudes…

If you are currently being treated as the be-all end-all in your home…like if you want a clean house, then you’ll have to do it yourself. It’s time to STOP.

You are NOT the unpaid house help, you are the master of your domain, and it’s time to start acting that way. You deserve SO.MUCH.MORE.

But it’s NOT going to happen all by itself. Your children will NOT just wake up one morning and decide they’ve been taking you for granted and change. YOU must set the standard and require the change.

3. A Clean Home IS A Happy Home!

No, a clean home is not going to solve every one of your problems. However, you will be amazed at how much easier life’s challenges feel when you have a beautiful, organized space to come home to and recharge. The benefits of Home Sweet Home cannot be over-emphasized.

If your house does NOT feel like Home Sweet Home, the easiest thing in the world is just to buy into the Hot Mess Mom Mentality, and just give up!

If you aren’t interested in having more and in being better, then that really is what you should do. But I would like to gently suggest that you re-frame that attitude and start asking the question…

What do I need to do to get my own Home Sweet Home?

Maybe it’s time to study up and learn from someone who has accomplished just that, and then do it!