What Could You Do with 750 Hours a Year?

What could you do instead with the time that you waste?

I’m back from Colorado! Yay! Had a wonderful trip, but being away from my family for 8 days was long.

Today I want to share with you a few highlights from the blog, but before I do that, I want to follow-up on Monday’s post about time wasters by asking you this question:

What would you do if you had 750 hours?

Do We Waste Too Much Time?
We were talking on Monday about how most of us in the West spend an inordinate amount of time on what are essentially time wasters–activities that don’t add to our relationships, our faith, our skill levels, or even, in many cases, our enjoyment of life. We may want to relax and watch TV, but afterwards we still feel unsettled because we haven’t done anything meaningful.

The comments on that post were great, but I felt like there was still something unsaid. And so let’s look a little further.

Let’s assume that you are spending roughly two hours a day on things with no redeeming value. Let’s assume it’s browsing Pinterest, or watching TV, or playing video games. On its own, you can likely justify that time. After all, if you’re working during the other hours, what does it really matter if you want to relax and escape for a while?

Once you do the math, though, you see that that time adds up.

If you’re wasting two hours a day, you’re roughly wasting 15 hours a week (let’s use 15; it’s a rounder number than 14). And over the course of a year, subtracting two weeks for Christmas and vacation, that’s 750 hours.

That’s a lot of time.

What could you do with 750 hours?

You could likely:

  • Start that part-time business
  • Exercise, get toned up and get down to that target weight
  • Completely organize and streamline your home
  • Invest in your friendships by visiting/talking with some friends every week
  • Have people in for dinner
  • Volunteer for that cause that’s been on your heart

Now let’s take the long-term view and multiply that 750 hours over a few years. Then what could you do?

  • Get your degree online (my daughters took university courses online. At 15 hours a week, you could finish a Bachelor’s degree from home in 6 years)
  • Write your novel/book

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big DifferenceOr how about this: Malcolm Gladwell said in his book The Tipping Point that to get truly proficient at something you need 10,000 hours of practice. That’s maybe 10-12 years. Then you could:

  • Master an instrument
  • Become an artist
  • Start designing your own knitting/sewing patterns
  • Learn photography inside and out
  • Learn blogging and social media as a business (it’s taken me about 8 years of constant work to get proficient)

Wow! That time really adds up.

So next time you’re wondering about wasting time, ask yourself this: it may not seem like it matters if I waste this two hours, but if you take the long term view, is playing these video games more important than writing my novel? Than getting my degree? Than exercising and getting in shape? Than learning the piano like I’ve always wanted to?

All of us have dreams and goals for our lives. But we aren’t going to accomplish those things without time, and that time is not suddenly going to magically appear.

If you’re waiting for “one day” when you have time, one day will never come.

Many of us are in busy stages of our lives with babies and toddlers when starting something new may not be feasible. But look at those charts on Monday’s post again and ask yourself: am I spending time where it matters? Or am I putting a lot into time wasters? And if it’s the latter, then you do have time–right now–for goals that are important. The time is there. It’s just your choice how you use it.

That’s how I began to write–in little bites when the kids were toddlers. I turned off the TV and turned on my computer instead. And my life is so much better.

I once heard someone say that if Satan can’t make us bad he’ll make us busy.

That’s what he’s done in our culture where we entertain ourselves to death. We’re so busy with things that don’t matter that we’re not investing our time. Think about what our communities, churches, and families would be like if we took that 750 hours and spent it on important things. I get goosebumps.

What will you do?

What’s #1 at To Love, Honor and Vacuum This Week?

Have We Forgotten How to Be a Mommy?HandleMoney#1 on the Blog: Let’s Talk Time Wasters: Video Games, Netflix, Internet
#1 on Facebook: Have We Forgotten How to Be a Mommy?
#1 on Pinterest: Teaching Kids to Handle Money
#1 on Twitter: 9 FUN tips to make SEX great for you, too!

 

Want to See Pics of My Trip to Colorado?

Here’s my Girl Talk in Greeley, Colorado, and here’s my talk in Green River, Wyoming.

What I wish I could convey in pictures is how gorgeous it was driving through the mountains and the ranches, but my iPhone didn’t do it justice.

Now I’m looking forward to getting back to my real life and start planning my daughter’s wedding! She’s coming home for the long weekend (it’s a long weekend up here in Canada), and we’ll be making all the gifts for her bridesmaids together, just her and I. My husband is taking her fiance on a father-son canoe trip with our church this weekend so they can get better acquainted, and my younger daughter is off to camp. So it’s just Becca and me getting reacquainted!

I hope you have a lovely weekend, too.

 

Let’s Talk Time Wasters: Video Games, Netflix, Internet

Do We Waste Too Much Time?

Are video games a waste of time? What about Netflix? Facebook? Pinterest?

On Mondays I usually post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it, but I’m in a bit of a contemplative mood today (perhaps it’s because I’m writing this on Mother’s Day, while I’m away from my girls on a speaking trip, and I’m a little bit restless), and I have some things I’d like to share.

On Saturday I posted this on Facebook:

Now THIS is an awesome story: I’m staying at my assistant Holly’s house in Colorado while I speak this week, and her 17-year-old son just sold his Xbox. He went on a men’s retreat last weekend and heard about how many young husbands wreck their marriages because they always use video games. So he thought that before it became an addiction that wrecked his future marriage he’d get rid of it!

Quite a few people liked that status, but I had a lot of comments to the effect of, “there’s nothing wrong with video games.” Or perhaps, “maybe he should have tried moderation first.” And I do understand.

I think we all have certain bents towards different time wasters: video games, Netflix, Pinterest, whatever it may be. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Aren’t we all entitled to some downtime?

And in general I’d say yes.

But that’s not the whole picture, and so I’d like to tell you a bit of my story.

Let’s start back in 1996, when Rebecca (my oldest) was a year old. I used to leave the TV on during the day all the time just to have some noise in the apartment. I watched soap operas from 1-4 every afternoon, because I was tired. I wanted an escape. It was hard work being alone with my baby all the time. My husband worked about 100 hours a week in his residency program in pediatrics, and I was often lonely. I found myself falling into television more and more.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal ChangeThen one day I picked up Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People at a garage sale, and I read it. And it changed my life.

Specifically, it was his discussion of Beginning with the End in Mind and Putting First Things First. In other words, know where you’re heading, and then make sure you do the things that are necessary to get you there–before you do anything else.

He used a graphic to illustrate what he was talking about, and I’m going to recreate it with my own embellishment and commentary.

Divide your life into four quadrants based on whether or not the things you are doing are important or urgent. When you do that, you get something that looks like this:

Don't Waste Time: Stephen Covey's 4 Quadrants

Everything that we do can be divided into those 4 quadrants. And when we do that, it looks like this:

Don't Waste Time: How to figure out what to spend time on

Let’s dissect this a bit.

Things that are Important AND Urgent Demand Your Attention–Rightly

That’s when you go into labour. When a child is in a pageant. When your mother is diagnosed with cancer. These are life events that basically have nothing to do with how you behave–they just happen.

But then there are crises which sometimes ARE avoidable–but when they crop up, we have to address them. We discover an affair. A teenager runs away. We suffer a nervous breakdown (sometimes this is purely chemical; other times it’s because we’ve let ourselves get too stressed.) We totter on bankruptcy. Sometimes it’s even little things, like running out of clean dishes or clean underwear because we haven’t done any housework. These are the fires in our lives that have to be put out.

Things That Are Important But Not Urgent DON’T Demand Our Attention–and that’s a problem.

No one is going to make you do them. They’re the date nights with your spouse, your time alone with God, your time alone with yourself (if that’s what you need to rejuvenate). It’s your time with a special mentor friend who points you to God. It’s reading to your children. It’s keeping the home organized. It’s spending time together as a family.

We all need these things–but it’s far too easy to neglect them because nothing is forcing us to do them, and there are rarely immediate negative consequences for leaving them undone. The consequences come later.

Things that Are Urgent But Aren’t Important–But we do them anyway.

You’re having a deep conversation with your teenager and the phone rings. What do you do? Chances are you answer the phone. But what was more important?

You’re out to dinner with your spouse and your phone dings with a new text. Do you ignore it or do you check it?

Your friend, who has been in constant crisis for the last two years because she overspends, drinks too much, and keeps dating jerks, calls you when you’re on your way out the door to a volunteer activity, in tears. Do you listen or do you tell her you need to go?

Things That Are Not Urgent and Not Important–that have no redeeming value.

This is where many of us spend most of our time. I’m not saying all hobbies or all movies fall into this category. Some hobbies do rejuvenate, like productive hobbies like cooking, or knitting, or woodworking. Some movies bond you as a family. Sometimes getting on Facebook helps you keep in contact with your nieces and nephews. But how often do you spend an evening watching TV or getting on social media or playing video games, and you feel even more tired than before?

Here’s the truth that Stephen Covey wants us to understand: when you spend time in Quadrant 2, doing things that are important, you have fewer fires in your life that you have to put out. But when you spend most of your time in Quadrants 3 and 4, you’re going to end up with more crises. And you’re going to feel more dissatisfied.

Dont Waste Time: How wasting time leads to more crises in our lives

Why do we spend so much time on time wasters?

I think we do it because we want an escape. We lead lives that are exhausting, that aren’t always fulfilling, and we want a chance to forget.

But if your basic problem is that your life isn’t that fulfilling, because you’re chronically lonely, or you feel as if you’re not doing what you’re called to do, or your relationships aren’t on track, then wasting time won’t fix the problem. It will only make your problem worse. And a spiral will begin, where your reality deteriorates, and so you want to escape even more.

After reading Covey’s book I quit TV cold turkey.

I just stopped. I didn’t want to waste my life. And what I found is that for the first time in years I was bored. And energetic! And so I started something new: I started magazine writing. I researched how to get published, and by 1999 I was well on my way. In 2003 I had my first book published. My eighth will be coming out in August. And you know the rest of the story.

I firmly believe that I would never have begun writing if I had kept watching TV.

And that’s why, when people say, “there’s nothing wrong with video games”, I have to take a pause. It’s not that it’s wrong; it’s that too much of it may be stopping you from doing what is best.

Hebrews 12:1-2a says this:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

To Love, Honor and VacuumI explained this concept in my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, but here’s what really hit me back in 1996: there are things that are holding us back from God that aren’t necessarily sin. Sure, we have to throw aside the sin, but there are also things that aren’t sin that hinder us. We’re to get rid of those, too.

My life is better because I gave up TV then, and I believe that 17-year-old boy’s life will be better because he got rid of video games, too.

Does this mean I can never waste time?

No, of course not. My husband and I do watch Netflix today–but we’re trying to put limits on it so that we also take time to play games together or listen to talks or books on tape while we’re doing our separate hobbies together. We don’t want to waste whole nights.

Every now and then we have to re-evaluate because we slip into patterns. In 2008 I had to quit reading political blogs because I was wasting time and getting my blood pressure up in the process. After I quit reading other blogs, I started writing this one. Again, I found that I actually had time I didn’t know I had!

And now we’re re-evaluating our Netflix time and trying to find a new balance. We have to be vigilant.

I want to live a life where I can feel like I’ve accomplished something. I want to feel well rested, healthy, and organized. I want to have close relationships with my children and my husband. I want to feel as if I’m contributing. I want to feel as if I’m leaving a legacy.

And I can’t do any of those things if I waste most of my time on entertainment.

Dayspring Purpose Mug

I don’t know where you are today. I don’t know if you’re struggling with feeling productive, or with finding meaning in your life, or with being chronically dissatisfied. But if you are, can I suggest that you take a look at these quadrants, and ask yourself: where am I spending my time?

And then ask: where should I be spending my time? Where do I want to be spending my time? And then try to put first things first.

Let me know: have you ever had to quit a time waster? Or do you think I’m totally off base? Leave a comment and let’s talk about it!

Top 10 Truths About Clutter

Top 10 Truths About Clutter

My house is filled with a lot of stuff.

I try to stay on top of it, but sometimes it really gets away from me. And then, before you know it, there are certain closets I’m afraid to open or certain rooms I’m afraid to go in. I just don’t want to think about what’s on the other side of that door.

It’s exhausting.

Clutter Free: Quick and Easy Steps to Simplifying Your Space
So when my good friend Kathi Lipp sent me her book Clutter Free, I was excited about reading it. It isn’t just a to-do manual on how to get rid of clutter; it’s more a way to change your mindset on how you think about your stuff, and I found it so useful. Kathi is sharing a post with us today, but before she does, I have to tell you about one funny thing in my life that came about because of reading her book.

At one point she was talking about “bathroom product clutter”. You know what she means–all the different hair products you’ve bought over the years that you’ve never used, or all the different creams, etc. And she challenges us to take 6 months and either use it or chuck it. Here’s the deal: you’re not allowed to buy a bathroom product until you have gone through your bathroom and found something like it, and either used it or admitted you never will and throw it out.

So for the last two months I’ve been on a rampage to use my bathroom stuff.

It now takes me 15 minutes after each shower, because I have to use the cellulite cream, the body spray, the varicose veins ointment, the eczema cream, the foot cream, and the foot spray. But I smell great! And I’ve finally taken all the essential oils I own and actually started to use them again.

I love it! It’s a great book.

And now, here’s Kathi:

Has clutter stopped being a cute problem in your life?

Clutter is something we laugh about over coffee (like watching too much TV or, come to think of it, ordering that venti double frap “coffee”,) but for many of us, clutter is much more serious than a couple of piles left on the kitchen counter.

If you feel like clutter is stressing you out, you’re right. There are real, psychological and emotional issues with clutter. It’s not all in your head.

But clutter lies to you. Clutter tells you “It’s not that big a deal,” and “You’ll get to it later.” Only to cause you more stress as the piles grow.

So here is the truth about clutter- or more accurately – the Top 10 Truths About Clutter:

1. Clutter Makes You Live Poor

When you are buried in clutter, you don’t know what you already have, so you tend to hang onto everything out of fear. (I don’t know how many pairs of shoes I have, so I can’t give any away.) I’ve had some times in my life when I haven’t balanced my checking account for longer than I’d like to admit. So when I saw a need, it was hard to respond because I didn’t know how close I was riding to the financial edge.

2. But Dealing with Clutter Can Make You Generous

Information is power. When you know that you have two pairs of flat black shoes you wear all the time, you’ll have no problem giving away that third pair to someone in need. When you know that you have enough groceries to get your through the week, you can open your pantry to your neighbor who is going through some tough times.

3. Clutter Steals Your Joy

UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families (CELF) studied 32 California families and the stuff in their homes, cataloging thousands of items in each residence. The resulting book, Life at Home in The Twenty-First Century, shares about the link between high cortisol (stress hormone) levels in female home owners and a high density of household objects. In other words, the more clutter, the more stress.

4. But Dealing with Clutter Can Bring Your Joy Back!

Simply by reducing the number of items in your home, you can reduce your stress levels and bring back peace. Stop right now and get clear off one surface around you – a desk, a counter, a table. Now enter the room and look at that blank space. There. Don’t you feel better already? Every time you clear out a drawer, clear off a surface, or gut a cabinet, you are reclaiming some happy in your life.

5. Clutter Costs You Money (Lots of it)

How many times have you re-purchased an item because you didn’t know where the first one was? How many late fees have you paid over your lifetime because your bills were all over the house? How many rebates have you found stacked in a pile that are past their mail-in date? How many fines have you had to pay because you couldn’t find all of the library books your kids checked out? Clutter is costing you money – and lots of it.

6. But Dealing with Clutter Can Actually Earn You Money

By selling those gently used clothes, donating those outgrown toys, mailing in those rebates on time, making an accurate grocery list (because you know what’s in your pantry,) not only will you save money, but you will add to the family coffers.

7. Clutter Can’t Be Organized

Stop buying more boxes, systems, totes and tools to organize your clutter. Clutter can’t be organized. But by digging through your clutter trash and recovering the treasures that lay in there (in every stack of twenty papers, there is one you actually need,) you can see what actually does need to be dealt with and organized.

8. But Dealing with Clutter Can Make You More Organized

Clutter constantly signals to our brains that our work is never done.” Says Sherrie Bourg Carter the author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout. By dealing with our clutter, we can let our brain know that we are done with that project, and we can move on to another item, giving it the full attention that is deserves.

9. Clutter Hurts Your Marriage

As I’ve helped women deal with their clutter, I’ve heard time and time again how it hasn’t just affected the space in their homes, it’s also hurt their relationships. Fights over stuff. Laundry piled on beds and couches, making them unusable. Cluttered kitchens that are impossible to cook in – the list goes on and on. Clutter adds an extra layer of stress to a marriage that may already be stressed to begin with.

10. But Dealing with Clutter Can Improve Your Marriage – Quickly

Many of the ways to make your marriage better require both of you putting in an effort – not so with clutter. By eliminating clutter in areas where you and your husband connect (the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom,) you are immediately lowering your stress level, which can do nothing but make your marriage a better place to be.

Clutter is a liar. It makes you feel distracted, stupid and out of control. But once you know the truth about clutter you can fight back and regain your life.

Want to win the battle against clutter in every area of your life? Join Kathi’s 21 Day Clutter Challenge and regain your home – and your sanity. (just click through and sign up on her sidebar!)

Kathi LippKathi Lipp inspires thousands of women each year to take beneficial steps in their personal, marital and spiritual lives through purposeful living. With humor and wisdom, Kathi offers hope paired with practical steps to live each facet of our lives with meaning.  She is the author of 13 books including The Husband Project, The Get Yourself Organized Project, and I Need Some Help Here – Hope for When Your Kids Don’t Go According to Plan. She is the host of You’ve Got This! with Kathi Lipp and speaks at conferences across the US.  She and her husband Roger are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, CA. When she’s not doing laundry, Kathi is speaking at retreats, conferences and women’s events across the US.

My Blind Spot of Shame: Admitting Your Mistakes

Admitting Your Mistakes: why sometimes it's hard--because we don't even notice them!

Do you have a difficult time admitting your mistakes? I do–and it’s not always a pride issue. Sometimes it’s because I have a definite blind spot.

On Fridays I like to run my columns–or my short pieces that sum up what I think about family, love, and society. Here’s a piece I wrote back in 2008 about the difficulties I have remembering appointments. Considering the school year is upon us, I thought many of you organization-minded mamas could relate!

Next time I go to the orthodontist’s office I will have to wear a paper bag over my head. I just forgot yet another of my daughter’s appointments.

It was easy to rationalize away the first one we missed. Keith had the girls that day, and we just didn’t share information in an appropriate way. In other words, I forgot to tell him. The second time, though, was entirely my fault, and I didn’t have a fallback excuse.

Feeling very badly, I promptly instituted a new fixture in our house: the calendar on the fridge. All our appointments were dutifully recorded, so that none could escape our notice.

However, the fridge door is not the most ideal place for a calendar that uses wipe off markers. People constantly rub against it as they stare, mouth gaping, into that appliance, in the process obliterating our appointments forever.

The third one I forgot, though, is still easily forgiven, because my mother’s best friend had died and we were rushing out of town for the funeral. How can an orthodontist compete with a funeral? In my moments of honesty, though, I admit that I would have forgotten anyway. It’s become a habit.

The strange thing is that I don’t forget anything else.

My dentist, doctor, and optometrist have nothing to complain about. I’m at every committee meeting, every family meeting, every church meeting. But when it comes to my daughter’s orthodontist, I have a blind spot. I just can’t seem to keep appointments in my head.

After the fiasco with the funeral we told Rebecca it was now her job to remember, since I was obviously not up to the task. She said she would. And she did remember, right after I yelled, in a panic, “Becca, when’s the orthodontist appointment!?!?!”. She checked her little yellow card, which she had helpfully stowed deep in her closet, so that she could find it if she ever had the urge to look for her old winter snowsuits. “Yesterday,” she meekly replied.

My husband once operated a full-time pediatric office, and I remember how we used to feel about those parents who continually missed visits. They’re scatter-brained, irresponsible, and pathetic excuses for mothers and fathers. And now I’ve joined their ranks. I feel like a slug, especially when I stare into my empty wallet and realize how much my lapses of memory are costing us. But we all have blind spots, don’t we?

And often our blind spots are exactly the things that bother us in other people.

I get so annoyed when people fail to show up to meetings I’ve called, but here I am doing the same thing. Similarly, I’m forever thinking critically of parents who feed their offspring junk, but to be honest, if my girls ask, “can we have chocolate before breakfast?”, my response is usually, “Is your father gone yet?”. And if the answer is in the affirmative, we all partake together, if just a little, because it’s common knowledge that the chocolate you eat before your day really begins doesn’t count.

Perhaps you have blind spots. You get mad because your spouse keeps the house in chaos, but every time your anniversary rolls around the significance of the date bypasses that part of your brain which reminds you to buy a card. Or your mother’s overindulgence of your children drives you crazy, but you fail to see how taking them to McDonald’s because you can’t be bothered to cook is proof that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Nobody likes admitting your mistakes.

It’s far more preferable to blame the rest of humanity for being worse than we are. Unfortunately, my orthodontist bills are making it harder and harder for me to do that. I have considered obtaining affidavits from my dentist and my doctor attesting to my exemplary record of attendance. (I did forget the time of a dentist appointment once, but I still had the date right, and that has to count for something.) I don’t think, however, that this will heal the breach. Only groveling is going to do it. I wonder where we keep the paper bags.

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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.

This Bundle sale is now over, but the awesome people at the Ultimate Bundles website offer about 6 bundles a year on different topics--and it's always about $1000 worth of digital products for $29.97. Sign up to be notified of the next bundle! (They have homemaking, digital photography, healthy living, work at home business, and more!


Step 1: Streamline the Things You Do Everyday

Taming the Laundry Monster
Tame 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! :)

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 Meals
What 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 Schedule
I 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 Download
Figure 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 him
I 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 Marriage
You’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.

This Bundle sale is now over, but the awesome people at the Ultimate Bundles website offer about 6 bundles a year on different topics--and it's always about $1000 worth of digital products for $29.97. Sign up to be notified of the next bundle! (They have homemaking, digital photography, healthy living, work at home business, and more!


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!

This Bundle sale is now over, but the awesome people at the Ultimate Bundles website offer about 6 bundles a year on different topics--and it's always about $1000 worth of digital products for $29.97. Sign up to be notified of the next bundle! (They have homemaking, digital photography, healthy living, work at home business, and more!


Financial House in Order
Without 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 Breakthrough
Week 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!

coverflat250x300
Week 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!

TNH Meal Planning Made Easy COVER
Week 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!

Healthy lunch Box
Week 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 cover
Week 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-Cranford
Beth 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 things
You’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!

This Bundle sale is now over, but the awesome people at the Ultimate Bundles website offer about 6 bundles a year on different topics--and it's always about $1000 worth of digital products for $29.97. Sign up to be notified of the next bundle! (They have homemaking, digital photography, healthy living, work at home business, and more!


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

Teaching Kids to Cook Spending Quality Time while Teaching Life Skills
I’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

I Need a Wife
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 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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