Top 10 Things I’ll Never Like Doing

Top 10 Things I Hate Doing--can you relate?I once heard that the definition of maturity is deciding to do things you don’t want to do because they need to get done. If that’s the case, then I’m super mature. Because I feel like I spend a lot of time doing things I have to psyche myself up for. In fact, I think that’s why I was so exhausted at the beginning of this summer–I feel like so much of my life for the last few months has been slogging through instead of doing things that I actually wanted. This summer I took some time to relax and go camping with my hubby and I feel ever so much better.

But I asked on Facebook last night, “what do you do that you don’t like doing?” And I got some great responses!

So today I thought I’d share ten things that we do that we don’t like doing, and likely never will like doing, but have to get done–along with some thoughts on how to get these things done faster and easier!

1. Cleaning the Toilet

The #1 answer on Facebook was cleaning the toilet. We just don’t like doing it. And when you have little boys (or several big ones) it gets even grosser. But there’s something about having a bright, clean white toilet bowl that makes you just feel better.

How to lessen the pain: Keep the toilet bowl cleaner right next to the toilet, and any time you notice that it’s getting gross, just squirt some cleaner in and move that brush around, and it won’t ever get to the disgusting stage. Also, little kids really love cleaning toilets. Maybe not every little kid, but enough that I’ve noticed a trend. If you can catch them when they’re around 5 or 6 and get them started, they may start to adopt it as “their” job. There’s something about scrubbing with that brush and making all those bubbles. So teach your children to clean a toilet! Leave a basket of rags by the toilet along with some safe cleaner so they can wash down the toilet seats, too. We may not like cleaners being visible, but I always figure, if it’s within reach, it’ll get done more often!

2. Vacuuming

Perhaps ironically (given the title of this blog) this is my big one! I hate vacuuming–especially vacuuming stairs. And I think the problem with vacuuming is that feeling that it’s never done. You know that as soon as you vacuum, someone’s going to trek through and make more crumbs.

How to lessen the pain: Invest in a quality vacuum cleaner that does what you need it to do! If you have mostly floors you need a different vacuum cleaner than someone with a bunch of rugs. You may find that you actually enjoy vacuuming if you have one you love. And those see-through ones where the dust whirls around are really fun for kids. So check out your vacuum cleaner options.

Another thing: clean out the vacuum bag often, and if you have a central vac, clean out the unit. When I bought my first house I didn’t know you had to do this. I’m not sure where I thought all that dust went, but after six months of the vacuum not working I thought to ask my hubby where the central vac emptied. And sure enough, it was stuffed.

3. Doing Dishes

We hate dishes because they’re gross and they don’t go away. You wash a load and tomorrow there will be just as many.

How to lessen the pain: Have a rule that if you make dinner you don’t do dishes! Get kids involved. And here’s one that I’ve found works: aim to have the counter cleared before you go to bed. Even squirt some cleaner and shine it every night. If you see a clean counter, you feel so much better!

4. Making Breakfast

Probably the #2 thing mentioned on Facebook that people hated to do was cook. I hate it being 5:30 and not knowing what I’ll make for dinner. That’s torture. But I actually enjoy cooking–dinner, that is. I hate making breakfast. Mostly because I hate breakfast foods, and so does my youngest daughter, who is usually the only one home with me at breakfast time. But I know we have to eat! But if I don’t cook, I tend to head for the chocolate cake. Even this morning I ate one of Katie’s chocolate chip cookies she was given yesterday by a friend for her birthday (sorry, Katie, but you weren’t awake yet. So there). The problem is that we need protein at breakfast, but if we can’t think of what to make, we’ll tend to go for the simple sugars (which is what most muffins and cereals are).

How to lessen the pain: Think outside the box! You can eat leftovers for breakfast. And I’ve started making more “lunch stuff” for breakfast. I do hummus and pitas. I do those mini-pizzas on English muffins. And if you have any ideas for other creative breakfasts, I’d love to hear them. I’m just not an egg, pancake, oatmeal, or cereal gal.

5. Responding to Email

I get a ton of email everyday. Maybe some of you are in the same boat. And I hate it. For you it may not be email that you hate; maybe it’s paying bills. But it’s anything that is at the back of your mind, nagging you, saying, “you have to do this” and making you feel guilty. Email makes me feel guilty because there are always things I’m supposed to do. And I don’t like that.

How to lessen the pain: Whether it’s bills or email or other paperwork, set aside a specific amount of time you’ll spend everyday. Rather than leaving it in one chunk, do fifteen minutes a day (or whatever it takes). I find if I set the timer and try to get through as many as I can in that time, I’m quite productive. And then I can say, “well, if I didn’t get to that person today, it’s because other things took priority”. And that’s okay.

6. Getting that PAP Smear/Mammogram

Let’s go to our happy places, people, and put our feet up in those stirrups and try to ignore what’s going on. Or let’s go get squished!

As someone who has had to have an annual mammogram since I was 30 due to family history of breast cancer, I can tell  you it’s not fun. But it’s better than the alternative.

How to lessen the pain: I don’t think you can, really. For mammograms, take a Tylenol an hour before. For Pap smears, just live through it. Relax as much as you can (yeah, right). And remember that the new guidelines say that if you’ve only ever had one sexual partner, and he’s only ever had one, then you really only need one every three years (yay!). For those of you in that situation, you can tell your doctor it really isn’t necessary. Unfortunately, for those of you in the other camp it is, because cervical cancer is really dangerous. And it was through a Pap smear that they first found all the polyps and other things that were causing me bleeding issues, so it is important.

7. Exercising

I will never, ever like exercising, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the people who say they don’t feel happy if they don’t jog five miles a day are lying or deluding themselves. I have gone through periods of intense exercise in my life, and even then I didn’t like it. I just don’t. But I know it’s necessary.

How to lessen the pain: I’ve only found two things that work: listening to a sermon/speech/podcast while I jog or watching Netflix while I’m on the stationary bike, or else exercising with someone else. I bit the bullet and shelled out the money for a personal trainer for three months (had my first session yesterday!), because I just need the accountability. I also am starting to jog with my hubby again. Doing stuff together makes it more likely to get done.  I think admitting you’ll never like it, and stopping feeling guilty for not wanting to exercise, helps a ton. Just do it, and know you’ll hate it, but that’s okay.

8. Putting Laundry Away

I can do laundry. I just hate folding it and putting it away. It’s never ending.

How to lessen the pain: Fold it directly out of the dryer, rather than dumping it somewhere (or fold it as it comes off the line). Then you just need to deposit it in people’s rooms. Have older kids do their own laundry (or at least put away their own laundry).

9. Working Outside the Home

Here’s a sad one. I had a number of people on Facebook saying that they so wanted to be stay-at-home moms, but they needed to work for the income.

Sometimes we do need to work, and that’s still a service you’re doing your family.

How to lessen the pain: Learn as much as you can about how to save money on your big ticket items, like mortgages, insurance, cars, and groceries. Downsize as much as you can. Learn to live with less. Save as much of your paycheque as you can manage. Create a plan. If you can see that in five years you can start to work part-time, or that if you downsize you can afford to be home more, that can help tremendously. But get a plan for the whole family so that you can see how your work and your husband’s work contribute, and what you’re aiming for. You’re in this as a family, and you don’t need to feel like it’s all on your shoulders. And sometimes when you take a look long-term, you can see how it may not always be like this.

10. Battling in Prayer

I’m surprised no one, in the almost 200 comments so far, mentioned this one, but for me it’s a biggie. I know no one actually says online “I find doing my devotions hard” or “I find praying hard”, but I’m not afraid to say I do! It’s difficult to sit quietly and concentrate on reading the word. But I’m still way better at that than I am at praying. I can conversation-pray all day (and in fact I do). But you know that prayer where you’re going to battle, and you need to pray hard for something? Sort of like the prayer in Daniel 10 where Daniel prayed for 21 days, not realizing a huge spiritual battle was going on in the heavenly realms at the same time? I really battle with that. I can talk to God like He’s my Daddy for sure, but to get serious? It’s tough.
To Love, Honor and Vacuum

How to lessen the pain: Have a pen and paper handy so you can write things down as you pray. I find that helps me to focus and stops my mind from wandering. Have a different place you sit when you pray like this, so you’re not tempted to grab a book or glance at the computer. Use a prayer book, like the book of common prayer, as a guide for how to work through a prayer. And I’d love any suggestions you have in the comments section!

There’s my list of the top 10 things I hate doing! Many of these I’ve minimized by delegating to others, and if you find that you’re doing all of these yourself, you really need to get a hold of my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother. Family is a team, a unit, it’s not mom doing everything while others do nothing. And if you feel like you get a bit of a break, your family will be a more fun place for all of you–while your kids also learn responsibility.

Now let me know: how do you lessen the pain of some of these things? Leave your one best solution in the comments (or more if you have them!)

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I Have No Energy for My Marriage!

No Energy for Marriage

Sleep is a marriage issue.

I’ve said that before, and I’ll say it again: often the biggest impediment to a good marriage isn’t sex, or finances, or other disagreements. It’s simply feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and oh, so very tired.

Two weeks ago Keith and I spoke at a FamilyLife Weekend Getaway in Banff, and one thing that I stressed in the women’s talk is that we need to prioritize our marriages. But for many women, when you even say that they get tired.

Really? One more thing I have to add to my to-do list? It’s not enough that I have to keep the house in order and care for the kids and likely work (at least part-time?) I have to care for him, too? Isn’t he an adult? Shouldn’t he be able to look after himself?

I understand. I really do. But here’s the thing:

The best gift you can give your kids is to love their dad.

When they know that you are stable, then they feel so much more secure!

So I believe that making time for the marriage, even if it’s just to go to bed at a decent time, together, every night, is crucial. Having energy left at the end of the day for your husband is also absolutely crucial.

And this doesn’t have to be a big project. Often we can make very small changes everyday to help us feel more organized, more invigorated, and more able to devote our attention to our marriage. Even little things, like greeting him when he comes in the door (or when you do!), can change the whole tone of the marriage.

I’ve already written on this at length, and here are just a few posts that can help you:

Adults Need Bedtimes Too!

Finding a Good Morning Routine

Are you a Better Wife or a Better Mom?

Perhaps Balance isn’t All it’s Cracked up to Be

Today, though, I’d like to share some resources from the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Sale that will help you save time and energy, and help you be able to prioritize your marriage without feeling exhausted, like it’s one more thing on your to-do list.

With the Bundle Sale you get 84 ebooks and printables and downloads, plus $200 in bonuses. And these are all NEW books–only 3 or 4 have EVER been in a bundle before. So you can have such fun going through them and finding ways to use them to make real changes in your life.

Today let’s look at how to get more energy. I’m going to start with helping you streamline your day and get more energy, because it’s hard to think about the big picture issues when you’re just exhausted.

Step 1: Streamline the Things You Do Everyday

Taming the Laundry MonsterTame the Laundry Monster

Laundry takes up so much time–and so much energy! For me, it’s not putting the laundry in the machine that’s the problem. It’s the folding and the putting away.

In Taming the Laundry Monster, Angi Schneider shares about how to figure out a laundry routine that works for you.

She doesn’t just tell you to adopt HER laundry routine. She takes  you through all the steps to figure out what will actually work for you and your family.

And she totally encourages you to get the kids involved, too!

Ask yourself: If I could get my laundry more organized, would it relieve some stress? If so, then this is a marriage book! :)

Taming the Laundry Monster is part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Sale!

Try Freezer Cooking

One of the biggest stresses is standing in front of the fridge at 5:00 and not knowing what to make.

No Cook Freezer MealsWhat would happen instead if you devoted one day every month or so to getting meals ready–and then freezing them? You could defrost a meal at night, stick it in the crockpot in the morning, and you’d be all set to go! It’s easy peasy. And it reduces so much stress. No more knots in your stomach driving home from work as you dread walking in the door and being faced with the fact that everybody needs to eat, and you just want to curl up on the couch and relax!

And if you stay at home with your kids, you can play with them until the afternoon, and then just put the finishing touches on dinner, instead of having to start from scratch.

The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle has a variety of books on meal planning, once a month cooking, and more! There’s even a meal planning e-course. I find cooking so much fun and so relaxing, but it’s likely because I have teenagers and not toddlers. If you’re feeling stressed about meals, then getting more organized and planning can help get rid of that dread you have when evening comes, and help you enjoy your family–and your husband–more!

And then there’s an awesome one-month membership to Once a Month Cooking–a website that helps plan your menu, your shopping list, and even your cooking routine so that you cook once, and eat all month. It’s awesome! And it’s a free bonus with the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle.

Ask yourself: If I weren’t as stressed at dinner time, would it make a difference in how I treated my family?

Figure out a Homemaking Schedule

Creating a Perfect ScheduleI truly believe that making small changes that make us feel more organized is often all it takes to turn a marriage around. When you’re less stressed, then your husband isn’t one more thing on your to-do list. He’s someone whom you love, whom you want to spend time with, who can actually resolve your stress rather than adding to it.

So get organized!

Blogger Amy Roberts, who homeschools a large family, wrote this great book on figuring out your routine–or your schedule. And she’s quite adamant that they are two different things. Some people love a schedule, where every minute is planned. Other people prefer a routine, when you tend to do this, and then this. Know your organization type, and then work towards it. She gives you the tools to create a schedule (or a routine) that works for you, and lets you feel like you run your day, your day doesn’t run you.

If you do that, you’ll end the day feeling like you accomplished something, not feeling like everything got away from you and you’re one big failure. I love the way she outlined the book (and there’s a section for homeschooling parents, too!)

Step 2: Learn How to Prioritize Your Marriage

TLHV2 Audio DownloadFigure out laundry, meals, and homemaking, and you’ll likely feel a whole lot less stressed already. Now it’s time to figure out the big picture of our marriage and our lives, and look at how we can nurture our marriage!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle has something from me–an audio file of one of my most popular talks, about how to figure out your priorities as a wife and a mother.

I’m talking here about how to put first things first. How to get your kids to help more around the house, how to foster a feeling of respect so that you’re not always feeling put upon, and how to stop feeling so exhausted.

If you’ve ever wanted to hear what I sound like “in real life”, here’s your chance!

Plan Your Goals

live for himI always find that if I take time to sit down, pray, and take stock about what I REALLY want to be doing with my life–and listen to hear what God is telling me He wants me to do–that I start to feel much more optimistic and excited about life. I find that there are lots of things I can begin to say “no” to because they don’t fit into my core values or my core goals, so that I can begin to say “yes” to the things that matter–including my marriage.

Leigh Ann Dutton has written a great book to help you plan, dream, and identify your goals. Take a week and work through it, and you’ll find that it’s much easier to prioritize your marriage, too.

And I think that this is such a key thing to do every few years, because you’ll find that your goals and your priorities change. When we don’t think these things through, we tend to operate on auto-pilot. And that’s when we start to feel like we aren’t being purposeful and we aren’t making a difference.

 Step 3: Think about Your Husband

Intentional MarriageYou’ve got your day-to-day life running more smoothly so you’re not as panicked. You’ve thought through your goals and what your priorities are in life. And now you’re likely feeling more peaceful and more purposeful, and so you can start to think through the specifics of how to make your marriage thrive!

Crystal has written a great 31-day devotional called Intentional Marriage: The Art of Loving Your Husband. Here’s what I like about it: It’s supremely, supremely practical. It’s not like each day is learning a big spiritual lesson, like how to forgive. It’s more like each day is teaching you to do something small which, when added up, becomes something big. It actually reminds me a lot of my book 31 Days to Great Sex! For instance, one day is simply “greet your husband at the door.” Seriously, this one little thing can turn around the whole feel of your evening together! Another day is “send your husband a verse”. And then there are some heavier days later in the month, but you get the flavor of what I mean. Little, practical things that build on each other that you can actually do!

So there you go–a look at how you can make major changes in your life, a little bit at a time, using resources from the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Sale. Yesterday I shared about how to get your finances in order, and today I’ve concentrated on marriage. But this bundle has so many awesome resources that you could pretty much choose any goal–helping your kids read better, deciding to make healthier meals, getting your housework under control–and you could create a two-month plan to make major changes in your life that STICK.

Get your Ultimate Homemaking Bundle now! It’s available in .pdf form, or specially formatted for Kindle.

A Two Month Plan to Get Your Finances in Order

It’s the Ultimate Bundle Sale week at To Love, Honor and Vacuum! And today I want to talk about developing a two-month plan to get your financial house in order.

I know not all of you are interested in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, and that’s okay. You can still get a lot out of this post, because the principles are universal: take stock, make goals, and then make small changes incrementally that add up.

But if you’re wondering why I keep talking about it, it’s because I honestly do believe it’s a great deal. As an author in it, I got access to all of the books and bonuses about three weeks ago, and I’ve had such FUN going through all of them and making plans of how I’m going to tackle them (seriously, it’s a TON of FUN to have this many new things on your computer!). I really do believe that you will love it.

This Bundle is TOTALLY NEW. If you’ve bought bundles in the past, rest assured that you’re getting an entirely new collection here. I think only 3-4 books have ever been in ANY bundle before.

And this may interest you: the money that I’m making for the sale is going to become seed money for a new business venture I’m starting to employ university students as virtual assistants. I’m setting up the business this summer, and the money will pay for the legal and accounting fees. With my daughter in university, I have a special heart for helping kids graduate without debt, so I’m looking at starting a business that can help them do that!

Oh, and one more thing: don’t forget that when you buy the bundle from me, if you email me your receipt I’ll send you the link to enter yourself in a contest where you can win a bunch of prizes, including more ebook grab bags and a $100 Amazon gift card! More details here.

Financial House in OrderWithout further adieu, here’s my two-month plan to get your finances in order!

My husband and I have never fought about money. We’ve hurt each other about sex, we’ve had disagreements about housework, we haven’t always seen eye to eye on parenting. And yet money has always been a breeze for us.

It’s not because we’ve always had money; we haven’t. We spent the first seven years of marriage living in tiny apartments, even with babies. But I think it comes down to the fact that we have very similar values about money. We both are determined to live within our means; neither of us has expensive tastes; and we both are truly committed to giving money away.

I respect my husband so much in this, because he’s one of the few physicians I know who has never in his life owned a new car–or even a really nice car. He doesn’t have the most expensive clothes or the most expensive shoes. He just lives out his values, and I can’t think of a better man to be married to because of that.

Yet I know that money is one of the biggest sources of tension in so many marriages. Well, I have some awesome tools that can help you sort out money–and start living with a feeling of abundance rather than poverty. In the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle which is for sale just until Monday, you’ll find a TON of books that can help you figure out your finances. Here’s the step-by-step plan that I would use, over two months, to turn your attitude and your wallet around!

Budget BreakthroughWeek 1: Get a Big Picture View of Your Budget

Budgets. We may not like them, but there really aren’t shortcuts. You need to know how much money you have, and you need to know how much money you need to meet your current obligations.

Kimberlee Stokes, in her book 5 Days to Budget Breakthrough!, writes this book not as someone who has had it all figured out, but rather as someone who has lived in the trenches–and seen how her poor money decisions have really affected her family. She writes:

For me, the wake up call came when I had to return to full-time employment for the third time (even though I felt very strongly that we should home school our children) and I saw the consequences in my children’s lives. I finally realized that money wasn’t the problem…

(Cue dramatic music.) I was.

I realized that I was making excuses rather than taking responsibility for my choices. I had to break through my denial, acknowledge that we had a limited amount of money and stop spending everything I had. In other words, I had to grow up, and since I am pretty sure that being over 30 qualified me as an adult, it was about time I started acting like one.

She has worksheets you can use, great suggestions on how to track your spending, help for changing your mindset, and really practical tips for actually saving instead of going into debt.

The best part of the book, though, comes in what she says about our attitudes, which I think is the key to making financial change. She writes:

Do any of these statements sound familiar?

“We can’t afford that.”
“There is never enough. We need more money.” “We have to go without.”
“We can’t make it.”

Impoverished thinking makes people discontent, always striving and never arriving. No matter how much money they make, they can never be at peace. A poverty mindset is based in fear and makes you feel out of control and helpless.

So how do you overcome a poverty mindset? What if we change those statements to:

“We choose not to buy that because we have other priorities right now.” “We have exactly what we need.”
“We choose to make do with what we have.”
“We can make this work.”

Empower yourself by recognizing your freedom of choice.

5 Days to a Budget Breakthrough is part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Sale!

coverflat250x300Week 2: Consider Minimalist/Simple Living

Not all of us are minimalists. I have 14 plastic rubbermaid containers full of yarn in my storage room–yikes! I even have a storage room. Minimalists don’t have storage rooms.

But I’ll tell you, Rachel Jonat makes sense. She’s arguing that most of the stuff we spend money on we don’t even need. And the more stuff you have, the harder it is to find the stuff you need, so we end up buying doubles. Or triples. And it never ends!

At least, it doesn’t end until we say, Enough is enough, and really start trying to live with only what we need. It’s totally freeing!

Rachel wrote this book for moms of babies, but I don’t have babies right now, and I STILL loved this book. It made me think so much.

So what I’d suggest, after doing the hard work in Week 1 of actually making budgets, is that you take a week to read through this book. Write down the things that really speak to you, and then start putting small things into practice. Even if you don’t become a full-blown minimalist, it will likely change your outlook enough that doing the rest of the work to get your financial house in order is actually fun!

The Minimalist Mom’s Guide to Baby’s First Year is part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Sale!

TNH Meal Planning Made Easy COVERWeek 3: Plan Your Meals

We’ve done the big attitude changes. Now let’s do the practical changes that will make it so much easier to save money.

How often do you order pizza because you don’t know what to eat? Run for fast food at lunch because there’s nothing in the house? Or buy a ton of vegetables in a “let’s get healthy!” frenzy, only to see 1/2 of them turn into a slimy green mess in the fridge before you can eat them?

Planning your meals is one little change you can make that will also bring a real financial boost!

The Nourishing Home provides all you need to plan your meals–including worksheets, grocery lists, and even meal plans of their own you can use.

Take week 3 and make out a month’s worth of meal plans that you can then cycle through–and help you save money at the grocery store!

Meal Planning Made Easy is part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Sale!

Healthy lunch BoxWeek 4: Save Money on Lunches–and Earn Everyone’s Envy, Too!

Now that you’re meal planning, let’s take it one step further and help you get creative with kids’ lunches–and with lunches to take to work for you and your hubby, too!

This is such a FUN book. You won’t even feel like it’s work! And many of her ideas end up being cheaper than the traditional bread-with-expensive-lunch-meats that we often use. You can eat healthier, use up leftovers (including those veggies that threaten to go bad), and earn rave reviews from other parents!

The funniest part of the book is the story of how author Katie Kimball started writing it. She says,

I have known for a while now that we eat differently than most of the rest of the world. I knew most kids probably don’t use reusable sandwich bags and stainless steel containers at lunch. But I didn’t realize that our lunches were really that different from the norm until my son went to summer camp, where he ate a packed lunch among 350 other kids for five days.

Then I found out that camp counselors were sharing pictures of his lunch on Facebook.

You’ll love it.

The Healthy Lunch Box is part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Sale!

front coverWeek 5: Make Your Own Cleaners

Food is one of the biggest expenses we have at the grocery store, but it’s not the only one. There’s also cleaners.

And what if you could make cleaners with regular household products you already have? Even things you would throw away–like lemon peels?

I started making my own cleaners last year, and it is FUN! First, I feel so frugal (and almost righteous :) ) making things that are so cheap. But second, they smell so wonderful!

It’s also a great activity to do with children. The cleaners are safe, non-toxic, and easy to make, so kids can participate. And if the cleaner is non-toxic, it’s no problem giving your child a spray bottle and a cloth and having a 3-year-old wash the bottom of the kitchen cabinets.

DIY Natural Household Cleaners is part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Sale!

Week 6: Let’s Get Couponing!

Now we’ll get into some serious money saving.

Cover_Its-Me-Or-The-Coupons-Beth-CranfordBeth Cranford explains, step by step, how she uses coupons to drastically bring down her grocery bill. She tells you how to use the concept of “stock pile” (as opposed to hoarding, which is a definite no no!), how to organize your coupons, how to get double deals on your coupons, and even how to find coupons!

If you’ve thought the idea of couponing sounds too much like WORK, I understand. But she lays it all out here, and it looks like once you’re organized it won’t take that much time.

But think about it this way: how much could you make at a job? $20 an hour? $15 an hour? Even $30 an hour (depending on your education?) If you spend 2 hours a week (and it shouldn’t take that long) organizing coupons, you’ll save more than that. And so it’s like you ARE working.

It’s Me or the Coupons is part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Sale!

Week 7: Earn Some Money from Home

Sometimes saving money isn’t enough. Sometimes we actually have to generate income!

Rather than highlight just one book from the Working/Blogging at Home section of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Sale, I want to point you to all the great ones that are here. First, if you’re a blogger, the two different blog planners are absolutely amazing. They’ll tell you what to do to actually market your blog, get you organized, help you track your expenses and your income, and help you plan. And if you do all of these steps, you’ll find that you’re starting to actually make money–through reviews, or giveaways, or affiliate sales, or anything!

I love the way the blog planners are laid out. If you already blog, but you’re not really earning an income, these kits will help you go in the right direction.

But what if you’re just not sure how to blog? Or if you should speak? Or write? Alyssa Avant, whom I’ve known online for years, shares about taking a “FaithLeap” and figuring out how God has called you to share your message.

These are all great books (and I’m already printing out the blog planners!)

Week 8: Have Fun with Your Kids

76 free thingsYou’ve spent 7 weeks trying on new money habits. You have a new attitude, new organization practices, and new planning tools.

But remember the difference between a poverty mindset and an abundance mindset that we talked about in Week 1? I want to end this two week financial exercise with that feeling of abundance. There is so much you have–and so much you can do!

This book is chalk full of 76 ideas of what to do when your kids say, “I’m bored.” The things don’t involve having to pay money to do anything. They’re all fun things you can do at home, with items you already have, or out of the house, taking advantage of some of the great things around your community.

76 Free Things to do with Kids is part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Sale!

We can live a life where we do tons of things, enjoy each other, and are able to give to others when we start having this attitude of abundance rather than an attitude of poverty.

Take this 8 week challenge, and you’ll find so much of your stress has evaporated. And your relationships will be blessed, too!

In the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Sale there are 77 ebooks, plus printables and an audio download (from me!), that will help you get different parts of your life in order. I’ve shared just some ideas about money today, but I could have written a similar post on how to get real with God, how to plan a better schedule, how to teach your kids to read, and more! This bundle has so much in it.

And the freebies are awesome, too–over $200 worth of great products, including eye shadow, laundry detergent, herbal teas, and more.

Get your Ultimate Homemaking Bundle now! It’s available in .pdf form, or specially formatted for Kindle.

Teaching Kids to Cook: Spending Quality Time while Teaching Life Skills

Teaching Kids to Cook Spending Quality Time while Teaching Life SkillsI’m a big believer in teaching life skills to kids. I think too many moms do too much for their kids, which ultimately does them a disservice. When they move out they don’t know how to fend for themselves, but they also grow up feeling a little entitled, since little is expected of them.

When Jillian St. Clair asked if she could sponsor this post to share about her new resource, My Very Own Cookbook, I agreed, because cooking alongside my girls has been one of my most fun memories of their childhood!

I grew up with three sisters and a brother. The kitchen in our home was not very big, so not surprisingly we were not allowed to do much in it. When I got married I was not confident with my cooking skills even though I majored in Home Economics in high school.


My mother, aunt and grandmother cooked many delicious meals that I don’t know how to prepare. I don’t want the next generation to follow in my footsteps, so I’ve created My Very Own Cookbook for parents to share time with their children teaching them how to cook. It’s also a wonderful record of time shared with loving relatives who will help them become capable, self-confident adults.

There are many “grown-ups” who have no experience in preparing nutritious, healthy meals for themselves or their families.

Together, parents and young children can create memories of learning useful, cooking and management skills. Perhaps you were given many gifts/presents as a child but lack the training and confidence to care for a home, keep up with the laundry, and prepare delicious, healthy dishes or even how to set a table.

If You Didn’t Learn These Skills, It’s Not Your Fault!

None of these skills come naturally to any of us. We must count on others to help us learn them and this learning can begin as early as 4-years old.  My grandchildren are 10, 8 and 4. When we’ve enjoyed family vacations, we’ve prepared recipes together. Sadly, many children don’t get to spend much time with their parents. This is something they especially crave when they are young. Time passes quickly; if we’re not careful, we may miss the chance to make an important impact in our children’s lives.

When we don’t cook from scratch, too, we tend to eat out more. Not only is that far less nutritious and far more expensive, but it also means that you lose the potential to really bond as a family the way families used to do around the dining room table.

Beware of Technology Undermining the Dinner Hour

Often when we’ve eaten in a fast food restaurant I see parents texting instead of sharing conversations with their children. My concern is that this pattern will go too far and when these children are pre-teens or teenagers, they will no longer want to spend much time talking with or listening to their parents. Cooking and eating together creates opportunities to share important daily events in our lives. Studies show children who share meals with their parents make better decisions and earn higher grades.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to expose our kids to everything we can that will help them succeed in all aspects of their lives. Good manners, respect for others, kindness, acceptance and patience are learned behaviors. Who else is best to teach these than the parents who love them?  Setting up this kind of relationship early will benefit both the children and their parents. Knowing your children can care for themselves is a huge blessing!

The Best Gift of All from Teaching Kids to Cook: Quality Time With Your Kids

Research shows that working parents spend only 19 minutes a day of quality time caring for their kids. Perhaps you have heard this scripture verse before:

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.

The Food Network has featured many young children taking an interest in preparing recipes and even full meals. This early training will be very valuable to them as they mature into adulthood.

My daughters were 7 and 10 when I became a single mom. I was a stay at home mom until that time and when going back to work, the girls pitched in and helped take care of the laundry, their rooms and the home we lived in. Today, they have careers and homes of their own. Thankfully, they spend a great deal more than 19 minutes a day with their children.

As parents, we can help our children become adults by teaching them many things they’ll need to know so they can care for themselves when they leave home. Most parents with grown children remember and cherish the special times they’ve spent with their children. Teaching children how to be independent and self-sufficient is a precious gift.

My Very Own Cookbook is a blank recipe journal encouraging children to share time with their parents and other loved ones. Filling in the details of a recipe being prepared with help from loved ones will be a cherished gift and record of special times spent together with loved ones and a timeless record for their future children to enjoy.

Want to start teaching your children to cook? Download Jillian’s FREE ebook: 15 Recipes You Can Make with Your Kids–and get started today!

Help! We’re Living with Our Parents: When 3 Generations are Under 1 Roof

Living with Our Parents: Making a Multigenerational Household Work

We live in a time where it is not uncommon to find three generations living under the same roof. Maybe you and your husband are going through financial difficulties, and you’ve had to move in with one set of parents. Maybe your parents are going through financial difficulties and have had to move in with you! Or maybe one of your parents is widowed, and just can’t live on their own anymore.

Sometimes life throws us these curve balls, and we have a living situation that we did not expect. Living with our parents isn’t the norm, and it can cause panic!

But some cultures have lived this way for millenia. It isn’t really that uncommon. And while to the North American mind it may not be ideal, there are definitely ways to make it work.

Divide Up Household Responsibilities and Establish Rules

Set up a system so that each night someone is assigned the dishes, trash, and so forth. If everyone makes a contribution, there is less likely resentment or argument will occur – especially if these responsibilities are divided up and assigned from the start. Furthermore, don’t make the mistake of assuming that certain courtesies are common knowledge to everyone; as a family, agree on what activities can and cannot be tolerated. For instance, is there a “quiet hour” that should be enforced? Do dishes need to be cleaned right away so they don’t pile up in the sink? By laying out expectations, you’re helping everyone to circumvent potential arguments. In order to keep track of who is suppose to do what, consider purchasing or creating a family calendar or organizer like some of the examples found here.

I know that’s hard to do because it puts “rules” on what is supposed to be a “relationship”. And we’re often uncomfortable talking about rules with our parents. But it’s better to get it out in the open now! Say something like, “This may be awkward, but we love you and we appreciate you and we don’t want the way we’re living to wreck our relationship. So let’s get ground rules so that there aren’t any misunderstandings.”

Decide on Child Care

Here’s the thorniest issue: You’ve moved in with mom and dad, but you don’t parent the same way. You want the kids to only eat at meals, with healthy snacks in between. Your mom loves to give them sugar. Or maybe you think your mom and dad are too strict, and they discipline the children needlessly.

They’re your kids, and you want to stay the parent. But if you’re living in your parents’ house, especially if it’s because you’ve lost your job or house, it can be hard to stand up to your parents. They have the upper hand.

At the same time, it really isn’t reasonable to ask that they never discipline the kids or never interfere. It’s also THEIR house, and if excess noise bothers them, even if you think it shouldn’t be a problem, it is.

So talk about what rules you want for the kids, and come to an agreement that you will be the one to discipline them when you are in the home. If you’re relying on your parents to look after the kids, though, you have to give them some leeway, even if they do things that you’d prefer they not do. If your parents are crossing a line, then you simply must move out. But if they just do things differently, then you’ll have to learn to show some grace and respect their boundaries, too. It’s the hardest part of living together!

Create a Safe Environment–for the Little Ones, but also for Seniors

Make sure your home is a safe haven for everyone. Obviously that means child-proofing the house, but maybe it means “senior proofing” the house, too! Make sure that the floors are clear of clutter (or tiny legos!) they can trip over. Install guardrails near the toilet and in the shower and make sure that the stairs are well-lit. In order to free yourself and your children from the burden of worrying about the older adults when you are out of the home, consider purchasing a medical alert system, like those found here; this way, the wearer can receive immediate attention, regardless of whether you’re nearby. Like your other security systems, this may never be activated, but to be safe than sorry.

Devise a System to Handle Problems

Communication and compromise are both extremely important when living with other people – especially in a multigenerational home.  Once a month, call a family meeting where everyone has a chance to express their own thoughts on what is working, what is not, and what needs to be fixed. My daughter lives with three other girls while she’s at university, and they have house rules printed on the fridge, and periodic meetings to check in and make sure everyone’s fine. If the meetings are regular and expected then resentment doesn’t have a chance to build up.

Respect Privacy

Are kids allowed in Grandma and Grandpa’s room? What about the office? Make sure your kids know what rooms to steer clear of. And what if you and your husband need some alone time? Consider paying for a dinner out for your parents. Sure it costs something, but if they’re letting you live with them, it’s relatively minor compared to rent. And make sure that you and the kids leave Grandma and Grandpa alone at least one night a week, too! Head out to a park, or go see a movie, or head to the library. Give them some time without you. In fact, as much as possible find things to do with the kids outside the home, whenever you can, to give your parents some peace. When the weather’s better, make picnic lunches. Have a homework time for school aged kids in the local library. Acknowledge that you want to give your parents some alone time, and then they’re more likely to give you alone time, too!

 Make Time for Family Bonding

Sometimes, though, instead of alone time you need together time! The best way to get over petty disagreements is to also have times when you’re laughing together. Whether it’s dinner together a few nights a week, or a family game night, it’s important to come together as a family. Sometimes finding ways for the generations to bond over hobbies does wonders, too! If Grandma is feeling overwhelmed with all the kids underfoot, what about spending time with just the oldest girl and teach her how to knit?

Hopefully the situation living with three generations is temporary, but if you set up rules, have times to talk about problems, and work on both bonding and on privacy, you may just find it works quite well (and saves a ton of money!). Most problems come when people don’t prepare for them, and often the reason that we have to all move in together is precipitated by a health or financial crisis, which doesn’t exactly make planning easy. But once the crisis has calmed down, take these steps to make it easier. And hopefully you’ll find that love really can multiply.

This post has been sponsored. For more information on sponsorship, click here.

I Need a Wife

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week I talk about how margin can easily slip away with busyness.

I have always been a stay-at-home mom, but with my writing I’ve moved more and more towards “working from home”, and it’s eating so much of our margins. My husband and I are taking a weekend retreat in two weeks to pray about how to do life differently, because this isn’t what we want. At the same time, it’s difficult because we’ve felt that God was moving both of us in the direction we are now. So we’re going to put all options on the table and ask God to help us find the win-win. Sometimes all couples need to do that! And if you could pray for wisdom for us, that would be great.

I need a wifeI love to-do lists and organization planners. I have Excel spreadsheets for household chores and the business tasks I need to complete on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. On good days, when I don’t hit the snooze button, I actually get most of those things done.

There’s only one problem. I have no margins in my life. If I’m super organized and super energetic, it is possible to keep my house clean and to get all my work done and, hopefully, to head to the grocery store before we’re stuck discovering that all we have in the cupboards are tins of cranberry sauce and tuna. But if an emergency comes up, I’m in trouble.

My husband works more than full-time, and my writing and speaking require my full-time attention and too much travel. Because I write primarily on marriage, it’s also really hard to neglect mine, or that “hypocrite” word might get tossed around. And with my oldest now flown the coop, I’m trying to spend as much time as I can with my youngest before she leaves, too.

Life is simply busy. Pretty much everyone feels that way. But I think one of the biggest sources of stress isn’t the amount of work on our plate; it’s that nagging feeling that one more straw is going to cause the whole thing to come crashing down.

We used to have some buffer in our lives. At one time women were home to bring dinners to friends in the hospital, or to take parents to doctors’ appointments, or to care for a sister’s child if said sister caught a disgusting intestinal bug. Today few of us have people we can rely on. And what’s perhaps even worse is that we aren’t able to be there for those that we love, either.

When my cousin had a baby recently and needed help, I wasn’t in the position to go. What kind of life are we leading if we don’t have the room to be there for those that we love?

Yet my problem doesn’t stop there. What if, in all of our chaos of making more money, we’re actually missing out on a “good life”? A “good life” has to involve little touches of creativity and beauty: that home-cooked meal instead of the barbecued chicken we picked up on the way home; those refinished dressers instead of the Ikea assemble-yourself plywood; the crocheted baby afghans. One of the things I miss most lately is the joy of friends coming for dinner, an event which is quite difficult if you’re never home to cook dinner, let alone to clear a path to the dining room table.

My business started off extremely part time, but it has mushroomed, for which I am grateful. My husband is doing well at his job, for which I am proud. Yet I am not certain that this is the life I want. If I have no room for emergencies, and little room for beauty and hospitality and fun, then what is the point?

The dual income family is now the norm, and that won’t change. Certainly we could all lower our expectations and work less. The reduction in stress is likely worth the reduction in income. Yet that is not always easy to do. And in the meantime, there is no one left to “keep the homefires burning”. We women felt undervalued when we were “just housewives”, but gradually, as most women work, more and more of us are realizing just how valuable having someone at home was. That spouse didn’t just care for the kids and do the housework; that spouse gave you that buffer, that margin, that made life liveable. I can’t give up a business I’ve spent years creating, but in the meantime, I could really use a wife.

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Declutter NOW

DeclutterYourLife

What do you think of when you hear the word “Declutter”?

Chances are your mind turns to all the papers that are piled up on your kitchen counter, or your bookcases that are overflowing with books and magazines and toys, or your mud room with 40 pairs of shoes, some of which are probably three sizes too small for the little feet that once wore them.

This week I want to challenge you to think of decluttering in a broader way: Let’s examine the things that are unnecessarily draining our energy and our time, and instead fill our time with the things htat match our real priorities.

Today we’ll be looking at decluttering in a broad sense, but tomorrow and Thursday  we’re going to turn to our kids, because with Back to School upon us, we need to think about how we’re actually spending our time and our energy.

We only have so much of both. I’ve been overwhelmed with work lately, and been much busier than normal. But the one thing that kept me sane was that, on the whole, I don’t have a cluttered life. So when something comes along, out of the blue and temporarily, that does require more energy and time, I’m able to fit it in.

That hasn’t always been the case. I remember times when my best friend was sick and needed help with her kids, and I could not do it. I had no leeway or give in my own schedule. There were times when I desperately needed some rest, and I couldn’t find it, because there was no leeway. But over the last ten years I’ve gotten rid of things–clutter in my house, church commitments, even friends that took too much from me–and I found that I then had time for the important things.

Too often, I think, we allow our lives to carry us along, instead of standing in front of everything and deciding how we’re going to live those lives. We just simply have too much: too much stuff and so too much to clean; too many responsibilities, and so too hectic a schedule; too much debt, and so too much stress.

Declutter Now by Lindon and Sherry GareisI just finished reading Lindon and Sherry Gareis’ book Declutter NOW, and it deals with this concept: that our lives are cluttered not just with physical things, but with other stresses and commitments that keep us from being able to focus our time and our energy on what is really important. Decluttering then, is not just about organizing your home but also about freeing up space in your life. In the book they lay out eight areas of our lives that need decluttering, including, of course, our physical space, but also our schedules, our job commitments, our kids’ commitments–even our friendships.

Neither Lindon nor Sherry is perfect, and they don’t claim to be. For both of them it is a second marriage, and they had a lot of baggage from their first marriages that they needed to “declutter”. They both made mistakes parenting that they’ve realized were largely caused because they forgot how to live their lives with God’s priorities at the center, and they let other things sap their focus.

I really enjoyed it, and I want to share a few nuggets of wisdom from them, and then a few very practical things you can do right now to start decluttering.

Realize that You Are Making a Choice to Live a Cluttered Life

Too often we’re exhausted or broke or stressed, and a large part of the problem is that we feel out of control. We aren’t controlling our lives; our lives are controlling us. Yet we always have choices–choices to concentrate on our priorities. They say,

Freedom allows you to step back, catch your breath, focus, reorganize, and get control. Freedom empowers you to broaden your vision and see the bigger picture. You’ll have choices and can operate without guilt or obligation.

We don’t tend to think of this as a spiritual problem, but it is. When we try to address the issues in our spiritual life, we tend to look at the “spiritual” symptoms. Are we praying enough? Do we read our Bible enough? Do we have time for a quiet time? And yet what if the main problem is one of focus in the rest of our lives?

Have you ever felt too busy for God? Too overwhelmed, rushed, or un- focused?

If the answer is yes, it’s probably because you’re trying to do too much. And when we do that, we don’t have time for the important. I remember reading in The Purpose Driven Life that there is always time in everyday to do what God has for us that day–and if we’re not getting it done, it’s likely because we’re filling our time with the unimportant. Sometimes those unimportant things seem urgent–the soccer practice, the costumes we have to make, the meeting at the church, the huge cleaning we need to do in the living room. But those urgent things were all choices. Choices to say yes or to get involved with more things than we could handle. And so no wonder we often go to bed dissatisfied, feeling like we somehow “missed” what God had for us today.

I’ve already written a big post on ideas of what to do with physical clutter, but I’d like to share just a few practical thoughts gleaned from the multitude that are mentioned in Lincoln and Sherry’s book:

1. Decluttering Means Operating in Trust God mode, Not in Survival mode

Sherry shares how after her divorce, she was so scared of her kids going cold that she collected blankets. Tons of blankets. And do you know how much room blankets take?

So often we do that–we keep things “just in case”. But those “just in case” things that we don’t normally use can quickly take over a house. So instead of operating in “survival” mode, let’s get rid of most of our “just in case” items and instead trust God that if we ever go through a hard time, He’ll bring us through it. And in the meantime, is it really worth the physical and emotional toll on you to store that thing?

One area of homes that I think goes to real disuse is the “guest room”, for those of us blessed enough to have one. How often do you really have guests? Twice a year? Four times a year? And in the meantime you don’t have a place for your sewing machine or your scrapbooking, which bring you so much pleasure, so they clutter up another area of the house. Let’s not live in “just in case” mode. Let’s live in today.

2. Look Forward, Not Backward–and Declutter those Photos!

Do you cling to photo album after photo album of pictures you never look at, or home videos you can’t even play anymore because you don’t have a machine for them? Maybe it’s time to declutter our family memories!

One of my current projects is scanning all my old family photos–and then throwing out the majority of them. I know that sounds radical, but photos fade, and that sticky stuff in albums can wreck photos after a few decades. So instead, I scan them and toss them. Most photos I don’t really want anyway. It’s hard letting go of the past, but sometimes we really need to!

If you don’t want to do this yourself, YesVideo will transfer all your photos onto a CD for you. And they’ll take all those home movies you can’t watch and put them on DVD. I’m not saying we should lose our memories. I’m just saying let’s keep them in a more practical way–and one that takes up a lot less space.

3. Declutter Toxic People

Here’s a rough one, but oh, so necessary. If people are draining your energy, it may be time to cut the strings.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about setting boundaries with your in-laws, which caused a lot of comments and a lot of really heartbreaking emails or people saying, “what do I owe my parents if they’re really mean to us?” In Declutter NOW Lindon and Sherry take you through a process of looking hard at the friends and family in your life who eat up your emotional energy, and then give you a practical way to classify them and figure out how much time you really want to spend with them. Go through the exercise and you’ll likely find that your life would be vastly improved if you spent LESS time with some people and far MORE time with others–people who encourage you and give you energy, whom you don’t currently have time for because of the toxic people.

In the two weeks or so since I banned a number of commenters I have felt lighter than I have in years. I didn’t realize how much certain people were stealing my emotional energy. I always checked the comments with trepidation; that’s gone now.

I like their objective method of figuring out who should be most important in your life, and if you’re really struggling with friends and family who bleed you dry, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate.

4. Declutter Your Coupons

Here’s something really simple: stop using coupons if they’re not really saving you money–and for many of us they aren’t. I read recently that the biggest grocery cost to the average family in North America is food waste. We buy more than we can actually eat because we buy in bulk, or we buy stuff we don’t normally eat because “it’s a good deal”, and then it sits in our cupboards.

The Gareis’ aren’t against coupons, but there’s a right way to do them and a wrong way. And the right way is far simpler (and doesn’t clog your cupboards).

5. Replace the Space with God

Lindon and Sherry have many more practical ideas for decluttering your finances, your job, your friends, you body, your home, and more, but all of them lead to the same aim: Replace the Space with God. Get rid of the unnecessary so you have room for the necessary.
As the school year begins again, I want to encourage all of us to think and pray about these things hard. Your life isn’t automatically going to be less chaotic just because you will it; you have to actually do something differently. If you’ve been operating in a chaotic mode, you need to actively change things, not just think about them. So look at your life: where is your energy being taken? What are you spending too much time on? Where can you get some breathing room?
Over the next two days we’re going to look specifically at family time and figuring out kids’ extracurricular activities. But today, pray: God, what can I let go of so that I can leave more room for You?

Lindon and Sherry’s book Declutter NOW is available in paperback and in ebook format. And the Kindle edition is just $4.99–THIS WEEK ONLY! They put it on sale especially for our readers. So do check it out!
And they offer FREE resources – including a 40 Day Challenge video series, at www.actionplanministries.com. Or join them on Facebook for some interactive fun and a 30 Day Declutter ‘Do’ series!

Standard of Living vs. Quality of Life

Standard of Living vs. Quality of LifeEvery Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week let’s talk about organization and about the things we value.

Summer may be a glorious season to sit and relax and soak up some sun, but I can only relax in small doses. To me, summer screams, “organize your house!”. Summer offers me a much-coveted stretch of time to finally accomplish some major housecleaning tasks. My children do not understand why a guest room which has been used as a storage room for the last two and a half years is now assigned the This Must Be Defeated Or the World Will Come to An End status, but that’s just how I am in summertime. I figure sun covers over a multitude of obsessive behaviours.

And so it is that for the last week my girls and I have rooted through boxes and jewelry racks and shoe racks and even the laundry room, shooing dust out of places I didn’t think it could accumulate, and relegating many long forgotten treasures to the charity pile.

As I gaze at this ever-expanding pile by my door, it occurs to me that each item there represents not just money that I once parted with, but time. We perhaps do ourselves a disservice when we value things only in terms of money. Sure that restaurant dinner out for four was only $65, but if you consider it by amount of time spent working, it takes on new significance. If you earn $13 an hour after taxes, that dinner out represented five hours of your life. Was it worth five hours?

When my oldest daughter started working full-time last semester she began to count things in terms of hours. That new hair straightener? Four hours. That’s worth it. That new dress? Not so much.

Little purchases can add up, but it’s perhaps the bigger choices of how we will spend our time and our money that set the tone for our lives. Perhaps we spend too much time worrying about our standard of living and not enough time worrying about our quality of life. We tend to measure things in terms of monetary value–we aim to earn the most income, have the nicest home, and accumulate more gadgets.

Yet when we make those choices, we’re simultaneously choosing to work harder and to be away from home more. Quite often standard of living and quality of life are trade-offs. When our children were small, for instance, my husband and I chose for me to stay home, even though it meant we rented an apartment, didn’t own a car, and bought everything second hand. We didn’t have a high standard of living. We did have a high quality of life.

Life is ultimately a choice–a choice of what we will value, and what we will sacrifice. If we choose to spend more time with our children, that may mean a much smaller home. If we choose to work for more vacations, a bigger home, or a summer cottage, it may mean less time to pursue hobbies, or simply to relax.

My fear is that too many of us get caught on this conveyor belt and we don’t realize we can make a choice to get off. There is no law saying that we have to keep accumulating stuff, keep earning more money, or keep buying the latest gadgets. We are allowed to choose what we will value.

Personally, I really value the chance summer offers to reorganize my life and drive my children crazy. It is a blessing. I just hope that this season reminds me that what I really want in life is more time–time with family and friends, time to knit; time to serve. And I can do that without as much stuff.

You can find Sheila cleaning house at www.Facebook.com/sheila.gregoire.books.

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Causes of Conflict in Marriage: What are Your “Trigger Points”?

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts below.

When I was reading an advance copy of Karen Ehman’s book “Let It Go“, she was talking about one way to mend our control-freak tendencies. She advocates figuring out what your “trigger points” are during the day when you’re likely to blow up at someone, and then figure out how to do things differently.

So it got me thinking: what are the common trigger points for conflict in marriage–the real causes of conflict?

Causes of Conflict in Marriage: What are your trigger points?My mother was often stressed with her family as a teenager, especially on Sunday mornings. Her parents were not the most organized, and Sunday mornings were hectic. My grandfather was a pastor, and he was always missing something–his keys, his tie. My grandmother could never find her glasses. And they would yell and run trying to get out the door. My mother, meanwhile, would be all ready. She had to teach Sunday School, and she had to get going. But invariably she was late because her parents were late.

So eventually she stopped waiting and decided that on Sundays she would take the bus to church. It took a lot longer than the car ride, but it was a lot less stressful, and she could make sure that she wasn’t late.

Sunday mornings were her trigger point. She knew that was coming.

What are yours?

A good exercise is to start keeping track of the times that you become angry or aggravated at your husband (or your kids), and then ask yourself:

What led up to this? What else was happening at the time?

Usually when we react in anger the problem is not solely the thing that we are angry about.

So if your husband walks in the door ten minutes late, one night you may blow up at him, while another night it bounced right off of you and you didn’t care. The cause of the conflict is not what it may seem.

What’s the difference?

Similarly, there may be times you’re ready to tear your husband’s hair out for leaving his socks on the floor one more time instead of getting them in the hamper, while other mornings you’re happily picking up the clothes while humming to yourself.

What’s different?

We dwell on the infraction–being late, not picking up the socks–but we often fail to realize that there are other things that are also contributing to the problem.

If we recognize what those other things are, we can see that these are our “trigger points” for anger. It isn’t necessarily what our husband does that makes us mad; it’s what else is going on that is causing us to see our husbands in a bad light.

Here are some common ones to get you thinking:

Cause of Conflict in Marriage #1: Feeling Overwhelmed/Busy

Ever feel like this?

'Too Heavy Burden' photo (c) 2008, Ainis - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

You’re just so weighed down by demands.

Let’s say that the night that your husband came in ten minutes late and you exploded was also the night that one child had soccer practice right at 6:45, and another child had swimming lessons right at 7, and all day you had been obsessing over how to get each child to the right place at the right time without making anybody late.

You have no leeway for error.

Or perhaps you just have had no time to yourself for a week because you’ve been chauffeuring kids everywhere, and you have a busy work schedule, and some other family things have come up. And you’re just feeling very put upon. In that case, those extra socks can feel as if your husband is standing over you, saying, “here’s something else you have to do! Your whole life is one big to-do list!”

Ask yourself: the last few times that I’ve gotten annoyed, have I been extremely busy? If so, maybe the best thing I can do for my marriage is to take the kids out of some activities and start learning to say “no”.

Cause of Conflict #2: Feeling Tired

When we’re exhausted we get grumpy. Little things our husbands do bother us so much more. And yet if we were bright eyed and bushy tailed we may be able to laugh it off!

Ask yourself: Have I been getting enough sleep lately? Maybe I need to start going to bed earlier, and training the children to sleep regularly, on their own, so that I can invest in my marriage.

Cause of Conflict #3: Feeling Defensive

Have you been angry at yourself lately? Maybe you’re mad because you can’t seem to lose that weight. Maybe you feel like you should be further ahead in your career right now. Maybe you feel like you should be a better mother. I was speaking at a conference recently and a woman came up and asked for prayer because she found that she was constantly angry at her kids. She didn’t want to be that kind of mom, but the house was chaotic and she was always angry.

We got to talking, and I shared with her that anger is usually a secondary emotion. We react in anger because we feel something else first, and that feeling is too sensitive, or too difficult to deal with, so we deflect it into anger. In her case, she had an immense fear of failure. She was afraid that she wasn’t a good mom. So when things around the house got chaotic and seemed to prove that fear was justified, she became angry.

The problem, though, was that she was already angry at herself. And when we’re angry at ourselves, we usually deflect that anger to other people, because it’s psychologically easier. So when you’re angry at yourself for not being able to keep on top of things at home, and then your husband leaves socks on the bedroom floor, you’ll get angry at him. It’s not the socks; it’s just another trigger that the house is out of control.

Ask yourself: Am I trying too hard to be perfect? Do I constantly feel like a failure? How can I pray through this and work through this with a friend/mentor so that I don’t project my anger at myself onto other people?

Cause of Conflict #4: Feeling Disconnected

Feeling Disconnected--Trigger Point for Conflict

A couple is supposed to feel like a team. They’re supposed to feel intimate, like they’re supporting each other and loving each other. And sex is a big part of that.

When you’re not making love regularly, you start to feel disconnected, because something is missing. Sex was the primary way that God created us to experience intimacy in marriage, and when we’re not pursuing it, it feels as if we’re keeping our spouse at arm’s length, even if that isn’t our conscious intention.

That’s when it’s easy to feel unsettled in your relationship. We start to second guess each other and question each other because we haven’t “checked in” on the relationship lately by making love. When you make love, you say, “I love you. I forgive past hurts. I want to be close.” When you don’t make love, those things may still be true, but you haven’t shown it tangibly in the same way. So we start to doubt.

31 Days to Great SexAnd when we’re doubting, those socks on the floor seem to be saying, “I don’t really care about you.” Or they’re saying, “I’m mad at you, so I’m not going to consider your needs or your comfort.”

We’re not defensive about ourselves in this case; we’ve become defensive about the relationship.

Ask yourself: Have you made love regularly, or are you going through a dry spell? To improve your marriage, commit to making love regularly–say at least twice a week. Love covers a multitude of sins, but sex also covers a multitude of misunderstandings. :) And my book 31 Days to Great Sex is a fun way to work through this trigger point!

Cause of Conflict #5: Feeling Hormonal

Finally, let’s not forget hormones. If I were to track all of the times that I’ve been a crying mess in front of my husband in the last few months, they would line up almost exactly with…well, you know what I’m talking about. And believe me, this gets way worse when you hit your 40s and perimenopause starts. Your hormones really are all over the place.

One day that sock is just a sock. The next day that sock is Evil Incarnate.

Ask yourself: am I feeling angry to a schedule? Maybe it’s time for me to look ahead of time at the calendar and look at when I’m likely to be difficult, and then warn people beforehand.

Here’s why these exercises can be so helpful: If you can identify the times when you’re most likely to blow up, then you can try either to avoid those times entirely–by becoming less busy, for instance–or you can plan more “alone” time for the times in your life when you are more likely to react badly to those you love.

So here’s the plan to Stop Conflict Before It Starts:

1. Think back to the last three times you reacted in anger towards your husband. Were any of these five things in play?

2. If you can’t remember the circumstances surrounding the last few times you’ve been angry, get a notebook out to keep track of things for the following month. Whenever you start to feel angry, take a step back and ask yourself which factors are affecting you.

3. If one particular trigger point keeps rearing its head, make a commitment to deal with that. For me, I’m going to block off the next day when I’ve got really bad PMS and just plan a day apart. I think it’s healthier for everyone!

4. On a related note, focus on the things you do well together. We’ve talked today about looking for the triggers for conflict; but we also have triggers for laughter. Figure out what you were doing the last time you laughed together, and do more of that!

If we could notice our trigger points for conflict, we’d have far less conflict in our marriage. So take a good, long look at yourself–and resolve to deal with those triggers!

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Leave the URL for your marriage post in the linky below! And be sure to link back here so other people can read these great marriage posts.

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How to Organize your Ebooks and Read them on Your Reader/Phone

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We’re in the middle of this HUGE Homemaking Bundle Ebook sale, where you can buy 97 ebooks for just $29.97–everything that you need to organize your home, parent your kids, cook, and even nurture your marriage (my 31 Days to Great Sex is in there)! (See a list of ALL the books in yesterday’s post).

I made a quick video talking about the sale here:

If you haven’t purchased it already, you can here! And you can see all the books here.

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But one question that many people have is, “how do I read ebooks?”

We keep hearing the term “ebook”, but what exactly is it? And how do I “read” a book if it’s a computer file?

So I thought that I’d spend a bit of time explaining how I do it, and how I organize all my stuff.

Ours is a Mac house, so if you have a PC, some of my screen shots may not look exactly the same. But it’s pretty much the same concept. I also have an iPad, and my kids and my husband have Kindles. My husband also has an iPhone. And my kids have iPod touches. And we all read ebooks on all of those devices.

Full confession: I thought I would HATE reading books on devices.

I mean, I like turning the pages. I like being able to skip ahead and seeing what’s going to happen easily (it’s a bit more of a pain to turn to the last page in a novel on a device). I’m a book purist.

And I still do buy books that I love. Some books I just have to have in paperback.

But when I’m traveling, I love my iPad (or I borrow my husband’s Kindle 3G, which can download books without needing an internet connection anywhere in the world. So when I’m in the airport on a missions trip in Kenya, I can download a novel right then and there. When I’m sitting on the beach in Mexico, and I’m finished a book, I can get a new one right away.) It’s awesome!

And when we do go overseas, we pack so much to leave behind in donations that we can’t afford the luggage space for books. So a Kindle, which can carry thousands of books at no extra weight, is ideal.

But I also read books on devices at home, for the simple reason that sometimes I want a book, and I want it NOW (because I’m just like that), and I can purchase them and download them and get them right away.

What kind of ebooks are there?

So what exactly is an ebook? Well, there are several different kinds. Let’s take my book The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, for instance. It’s available in paperback, just like most books are. But you can also buy it in electronic format. Because it’s published by an actual publisher, and not self-published, though, if you want to read it on a device you have to buy it specifically for that device. So you buy it FOR the Kindle, or FOR the Nook, at Amazon or at Barnes and Noble.

Here’s the thing about ereaders, like the Nook, or the Kindle, or the Kobo: they’re designed to only take books from their particular store. So Amazon sells books for the Kindle, but you can’t read them on the Nook. And Barnes and Noble sells books for the Nook, but you can’t read them on a Kindle. They do that so that when you buy a Kindle, you’re basically locking yourself in to buying ebooks from Amazon for the rest of your life.

When you buy a self-published book, though, like my 31 Days to Great Sex, you can certainly buy it for your device at Amazon, or at Barnes and Noble, or at Chapters. And it will be sent to  your device automatically.

But because I self-publish, I also sell a .pdf version through my website. A .pdf is simply a file that can be read on ANY device.

So when you buy a .pdf, you can read it anywhere. On your computer. On your phone. On your iPad, or Kindle, or Nook.

The Homemaking Bundle sells books in .pdf form, so you can read them on anything.

Are ebooks just as good as regular books?

Well, many ebooks ARE regular books, just sold in electronic format. Other ebooks are self-published, and often aren’t as long as a “regular” book, but contain very specific information that you’re looking for.

EasyPeasyChoresFlat_CroppedSo one of my absolute favourite books in the bundle, for instance, isn’t really a book at all. I may dedicate a whole post to this on Thursday, because it’s a passion of mine, but I just love Easy Peasy Chore Charts.

These are “printables”, with some instructions on how to use them. But basically she has these folders with “cards” in them, and the cards are for morning routine, and afternoon routine, and cleaning routine, and the kids take the cards and do what’s on them, and then they place them in Mom’s folder so that she can check.

And the cards are visual representations of what they’re supposed to do. So they’re fun, and they’re easy, even for little kids who can’t read yet.

So is it a book? No. But it’s an awesome resource!

Other .pdf files in the bundle ARE books that you would read, just like a regular book, with awesome information.

And one of the big benefits of ebooks is that sometimes you want more information, but you don’t have room to store it.

Seriously, this is my living room:

Living Room1

(and by the way, another blogger friend and I made a pact that we would NOT clean up our homes before showing you pictures of something, just so that you know that we’re real people to! So yes, I know that plant needs some care.)

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I don’t have room for more books! So I only buy the ones I want to have to lend or to refer to, and the rest I tend to buy in ebook format now.

Organizing Your Ebooks

I set up a file on my computer just for ebooks.

I subdivided that file into different categories, and now, when I get an ebook, I slot it into the right category. I also have a folder just for printables (like the Easy Peasy Chore Charts), because I know I’ll never want to put those on my iPad, for instance. Those are just for printing out.

iPad and iPod and iPhone

The two easiest ways to get books onto your iPad, in my opinion, are these:

1. Email them to yourself as an attachment

2. Use Dropbox

If you email it to yourself, and then attach the .pdf, you can just tap on the attachment and choose “open in iBooks”.

Here’s what we did for 31 Days to Great Sex. Tap on the attachment, and the book cover will come up.

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Then you get the option to open in iBooks. Click that, and it moves the book to iBooks so you have books on your bookshelf, like this:

31 Days in iBooks

You can also use Dropbox, which is free up to 3 GB of data, I believe. You just get an account on your computer, and then you download the Dropbox app for your iPad, and you can always be synced. Here’s my Dropbox folder for all the books in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, for instance:

Dropbox Organizing Ebooks

One downside: this only works if you have a wifi connection. No wifi connection, and no ability to access the books on your device.

You can also “sync” your iPad, but I, in general, find that a pain. If you’re good at that, then you can sync your books that way. I just hate Apple’s way of syncing. I’m always afraid I’ll mess something up. So I like emailing much better!

Putting Books on a Kindle, Nook, or Kobo

All you have to do is plug your device in to your computer! Then the computer looks at the device as if it’s an external drive, and you can just copy and paste all of the books over.

Here’s a quick video on how to move a .pdf onto a Nook, but it works the same for all the devices.

If you have a Kindle, you also have a unique email address that goes with your Kindle. So if you go into your Amazon account, you can get that email address. And then you can email .pdfs as attachments right to that email, and it will show up on your Kindle!

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Just go into “Manage Your Devices”, and then you’ll see the email address right there.

Managing Your Books on Your Computer

I get sent so many books to review, and now I have all the books in the Homeschooling Bundle. And I was forever hunting around for them! So I simply set up a folder for all of my ebooks, with sub-folders for all of the topics. And now if I want to find something (like a novel), it’s easy.

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There, for instance, you can see 31 Days to Great Sex!

So I have all of my books in one easy place.

Whew.

So that’s it. It’s actually way easier than you think.

Like the book 10 Steps to Organized Paper says (which comes in your Ultimate Homemaking Bundle), sometimes the best way to organize things is to make them electronic! And ebooks do that. So just put them in folders like you would normal paper so they’re easy to find, and you can get reading!

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