What ONE Thing Can You Get Rid Of?

Figuring out Your Main Source of Stress at Home: And how banishing just one thing can help!We all have different sources of stress in our lives. But today I want to ask you to think: what is your main source of stress?

Or, to put in another way:

what’s the one thing you would get rid of in your life, if you could?

Hockey games that you hate shivering at, but feel like you have to because you son loves it? All the volunteering you do at church? Laundry? Baby-sitting someone else’s kids? A part-time job? In-laws? Grocery shopping? What?

What is your biggest source of stress? What is the one task which, when you have to do it, you groan inside and you have to steel yourself against all the negative feelings that you have?

If you had only one month to live, chances are it would be the first thing that you get rid of, because it’s not worth it. There’s too much negative energy there, and not enough positive, God-given joy.

Today I want to help you dump that one thing without having to resort to a cancer diagnosis to do so. Don’t be scared; it’s easier than you think, and it’s not going to hurt that much.

1. Identify Your One Thing–Your Main Source of Stress at Home

Think hard about what you do that gives you the most stress. Sometimes we’re afraid to admit it to ourselves because it’s such a central thing in our lives. But be honest: what is the one thing that drives you the most crazy?

2. What Purpose Does that One Thing Play in Your Life?

What is the purpose of that one thing in the lives of you and your family? For instance, let’s say we’re talking about hockey for your 9-year-old son. You’re sick of getting up at 6 in the morning every Saturday and hauling small children to a cold rink so they can watch their brother. The expense is killing you. You don’t like the other parents. But what is the purpose of hockey? It’s to give your son competition, fun, exercise, and a social life.

Take a look at those four things for a moment: competition, fun, exercise, and a social life. Can he meet those needs somewhere else? Does it have to be through hockey? Maybe he can join a different league that doesn’t play as often. Maybe you can have him go out once in a while when friends rent the ice. Maybe he can join soccer in the summer to get competition, and in the winter you all can go skating together as a family, or take up cross country skiing as exercise. Or maybe you can go for hikes and go tobagonning once the snow comes.

Or what if your one thing is your part-time job. What purpose does that serve? Giving money for the family, right? Can you meet that purpose in another way? Maybe you can save more money by smarter grocery shopping. Maybe you can get a different job, or find a way to make a small amount of money online. Maybe you can help your husband make more money.

Once we figure out the purpose, it’s easier to see if the activity itself is necessary, and if there are alternatives to whatever is driving you crazy.

3. Can Others Do It?

What if the thing that is driving you nuts is grocery shopping, or laundry, or keeping the living room clean? Can others do that? Can you divide up the chores and assign these to someone else? Can you hire someone to do some basic cleaning? Can you change the way your family works so that the kids do their own laundry, or fold while they watch TV? Does it have to fall entirely on your plate?

4. Can You Develop a Different Attitude?

Dayspring Blessed and Grateful

Let’s say you’ve tried all that and it doesn’t really look like things can change. You can’t get rid of it; it’s an essential part of your family, even though it drains you.

So the next question is this: can you change the way you think about it? I’ll grant you that it’s draining, but can you tackle it in a new way?

Let’s say, for instance, that the thing you can’t get rid of is visiting your grandmother in a nursing home every Saturday. It saps up your time, it’s horrendously boring, you get little gratitude, and you feel guilty the whole time you’re there because you don’t want to be there and you feel like you’re letting your children down. But there’s no one else to go, and you feel like you need to help her with basic groceries and other things once a week.

Can you instead embrace it as time to yourself to pray? Can you give yourself twenty minutes, while you’re shopping for her, just to do have some alone time? Can you bring a book and sit in the food court and read for a few minutes before you go back with her groceries? Can you bring your journal and as you’re sitting with her, make that your time to process what’s happened this week? Can you read out loud to her, and focus on reading something that you’ve wanted to read?

Can you simply think of that time and task that you can’t get rid of as a chance to give an offering to God of your time and energy?

Some things in life we can’t get rid of, but that doesn’t mean we have to hate every minute of it. Maybe there’s a way to start seeing the blessing in a small amount of time away from the family, or in the quiet space sitting with an older person. It’s never going to be the most fun thing you do, but you may be able to change the way you do it so it fits with your style a little bit more, and so that you can derive some intense satisfaction from it, too.

When we’re feeling overwhelmed, the tendency is to think that we are trapped: our lives are exactly the way they need to be, and we can’t change them. We can’t get rid of our sources of stress.

But that’s usually not true at all. You always have power to make different choices. So I’d invite you to take a good, hard look at the things that sap your energy the most, and ask yourself these questions. Can something else serve that purpose in our lives? Can somebody else do it? Can I change the way I think about it? You just may find that you have more power than you think after all!

Dayspring Be a Blessing Mug

Have you ever had to get rid of your “one thing”–your main source of stress at home? What did you do? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Accepting Yourself as You Are

Accepting Yourself as You Are

Many years ago, when I was in my early twenties, I made some career goals for myself. One in particular I was supposed to have attained when I hit 40.

Guess what? It’s not going to happen. For years I was trying to twist myself into a pretzel to try to shortcut my way to that goal, so that when my 41st birthday hit I would have done it. But no matter what I do at this point I won’t have time to meet that goal. It’s fallen by the wayside.

I’ve realized that the issue isn’t whether or not I meet the goal; the issue is whether or not I am at peace about not meeting that goal.

We women just don’t tend to like ourselves.

We can see all our shortcomings, and we feel as if we should be pushing ourselves, beating ourselves, forcing ourselves to change and be different. We shouldn’t be this heavy; we should exercise more, lose weight, eat less. We shouldn’t be this lazy; we should be able to earn some money at home, create a small business, generate some income. We shouldn’t be this shy; we should have more friends, more social engagements, more people over to dinner.

Do all those “shoulds” help you actually accomplish anything? Or do they just paralyze you?

I find so often that when we set up goals for ourselves, we just end up paralyzed, unable to move forward, because we feel overwhelmed and guilty. I know goal setting can be important, and some goals are worthy. But not all goals are.

Let’s go back to my professional goal that I had for myself at 40. Do you know why I won’t meet it? It’s because since I made that goal, my life has changed. I decided to homeschool my children. I decided to work with the youth of our church. I decided to do more at home to support my husband’s career, because our life was becoming too busy. I made decisions that were smart for my family, but those decisions made that goal pretty much impossible to attain.

Usually the reason that we haven’t met a goal in our lives is not because we’re lazy and undisciplined; often it’s because we have used our time to do something else.

We have decided that something else is momentarily more important than that goal.

For instance, I’ve gained fifteen pounds over the last ten years. For a while I felt really badly about this, and desperately wanted to lose the weight. But over the last year or two I’ve come to the conclusion that as long as I maintain what I am now, that’s okay. I don’t need to have the body of a mid-twentysomething woman when I’m forty. It’s okay to learn to be comfortable in your skin.

And it’s much more emotionally healthy to accept yourself for what you are than to hate yourself because you haven’t beaten your body into submission.

In order to have that body again I would have to radically change how I eat (because I already eat quite well), and I would have to add a lot more exercise to my schedule. My girls and I already start the day with a jog, at least four times a week. It’s not overly long; we’re usually only gone for twenty minutes, but it’s something. But I’ve realized I don’t really have time to do much more than that if I want to attain the other goals I’ve made for myself. It’s not that I’m lazy; it’s just that everything has an opportunity cost. In order to have that body of the twenty-something, I would have to work out for an hour a day. I would rather spend that hour going over Katie’s math with her, or writing, or organizing something with our youth group, or making dinner. I am consciously choosing that there are other things in my life that are more important right now.

Here’s the truth: we cannot do everything.

We cannot maintain the perfect body, and maintain a perfect home, and spend tons of time with the kids, and have romantic getaways with our husbands, and create small businesses to make income for our families. We just can’t. Why not instead talk to God about what is good enough in each of those areas of your life? And then accept the good enough; don’t keep feeling badly that you’re not doing more.

Of course, many of us aren’t getting important things done because we waste time. We spend too much time in front of the TV, or the computer, or on the phone. If that’s the case, then maybe you need to re-evaluate. You certainly don’t want television to keep you from attaining an important goal in your family. But many of us don’t have that many hours, even if we wanted to find them. They’re already being used. And we still, after all, do need downtime.

I think we are completely unrealistic about what is possible for us to accomplish in this life. Everything comes with a price, and if you’re not willing to pay the price, then that’s okay. But don’t just say, “I don’t have time to do this,” and then continue to feel guilty. Say, “I don’t have time to reach this goal,” and then accept it. Accept who you are right now, even with your limitations, because you are doing the best you can. And your best is always good enough.

Isn’t that what we tell our children? We don’t care what they get on the test, as long as they tried their best. If they get a 95% but they didn’t try, we’d be unhappy. But if they got a 65% and that genuinely was their best, then that’s okay. We’d get them some more help, but we wouldn’t be angry.

So why be angry at ourselves? If we’re doing our best, and we’re talking to God about how to prioritize our lives, and we’re talking to our husbands about our lives, then let’s give ourselves a break. We’re doing what we can do, and in this season of our life, this is the best we can offer. Don’t compare yourself to someone with more time, more money, or more energy, because that is not how God made you. Just be the best of who you were made to be, and whatever that is, that is okay.

Wouldn’t that feel so much better?

What do you struggle with accepting about yourself? Do you often feel negatively towards yourself because you aren’t meeting some goal? Let’s talk!

Awesome Organizing Links

Hello, faithful readers!

My mind is a little all over the place today, which is probably why I’ve decided to publish a links post, with a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

But today a major publisher will make a decision about my next book, so if you could say a quick prayer that God will lead them in the right direction (and lead me to accept it no matter what the answer is) that would be great! I really believe in this book, though, so I really want to see it published. And I’ll tell you all about it once I can!

Anyway, I stumble. Do you stumble? I don’t mean do you fall on your nose all the time, the way my daughter does even when she’s going up stairs (I never thought it was possible to fall UP stairs until my daughter came along). I mean I use StumbleUpon, a social media site that helps you discover new sites that might interest you. I wrote a post about it here which you can read to fill you in, but I enjoy it when I’m bored and have a few minutes. I usually discover some pretty cool stuff!

Today I just want to show you the sites I’ve discovered that relate to organizing, cleaning, or simplifying your life.

How to Clean Your Entire House. Need checklists for your kids of what to do in each room? They’re here!

Need more incentive to scale back? Here’s a really neat graphic of how household compositions and budgets have changed over the decades. Makes an interesting dinner conversation, especially the amount of TV & the average house size!

Simple article on 5 ways to simplify your life. This woman thinks like me! Have a pen and paper handy as you read it, and decide what your 5 ways will be (they don’t have to be the same!)

Absolutely gorgeous pictures of kids sharing rooms! I love the bunk beds in the hallway alcove especially. You probably will never decorate this well, but some of her points are profound.

8 Ways to Kill Clutter in 5 Minutes. It’s written by a twentysomething guy, but the ideas are good. I’d make my teenage boy learn these tricks!

And I’ll end with this: The Secret to Having a Clean Home without Trying. Really quick tips, but here’s her main point: clean all the time. I don’t mean that every moment of every day you have out the mop. I mean that whenever you’re in a room, leave it cleaner than when you got there. See a glass? Bring it downstairs when you leave. If you’re in the bathroom and you’re brushing your teeth, put away the bottle of Tylenol that’s on the counter. If we did this all the time, the house wouldn’t get so out of control!

That’s more than enough links for today, but I do encourage you to try StumbleUpon. It’s not like Facebook where it takes a bunch of time; it’s fun just to discover new sites. And remember, if you like a post, you can “thumbs up” it on Stumbleupon here by clicking the “Share on Stumbleupon” button below!

So back to my original topic: we’re all trying to organize our lives this month, but I find it hard to get into a routine when I’m worried about something. Today, for instance, I’m supposed to start off by jogging with my daughter and by posting some posts and doing some work, but I don’t feel like it one bit because I’m nervous about this publisher’s meeting.

But I’m going to try to do it anyway. I find I often give myself excuses not to do things–oh, you don’t have to jog because you’re too busy/too tired/too worried/too excited. There’s always an exception. I can usually talk myself into an exception for just about anything. You don’t have to clean today. You don’t have to cook dinner tonight. You can’t be expected to get that work done.

I want to stop that. I need to develop better habits where I’m not always making excuses for why I don’t NEED to do something that’s important. Life will always get in the way, but I want to choose how to live life deliberately, rather than letting my life run my day.

So I shall go jogging now, even if I’m nervous. And while I’m doing that, I shall pray for the publisher’s meeting.

What about you? Do you make excuses for not having to do things?

Simplify Your Life Month: Laundry Organization


Photo by H.A.M. Photography

It’s Simplify your Life month here on To Love, Honor and Vacuum, and in my introductory post I talked about how we’d be doing three things this month: figuring out your purpose, learning to organize better, and then paring down. We spent last week on the big picture “purpose” issues, and this week I want to spend on organizing.

Here’s the warning I issued about organizing, though: I don’t think we should become tied down to any one particular system, because sometimes the system itself that we use becomes overwhelming and stops us from feeling organized. Or sometimes a system will work for a time, but you’ll lose interest, and then it’s time to find something else to recapture your interest and keep you motivated to go again!

When I asked last month what’s the one thing that you all want to organize better, the single greatest response I received was, “laundry!” So to kick off organization week, let’s tackle laundry!

Later this week we’ll also tackle scheduling kids’ chores, organizing your kitchen, and keeping communication going between you and your spouse over what needs to get done.

But let’s do laundry first!

Let me share how I do it, and then I’m going to link to other systems on the internet for your interest. Then I’d encourage the rest of you to leave your ideas in the comments! Remember, there is no one RIGHT way: when it comes to organizing, you need to find a system that works for your family, and even then you may need to keep renewing that system every few months. But no matter which system you use, one thing that is not negotiable is routine. When it’s routine, it gets done with a minimum of fuss. When it’s not routine, it doesn’t.

So here, without further adieu, are my thoughts:

Washing Routine

1. Keep laundry separated according to how you wash it. I don’t separate according to whose clothes they are, because by the time Rebecca got enough whites to do a load, she would have worn the same bra two weeks’ straight. I also find that by doing laundry everyday, we don’t need as many clothes. Since the girls are on a clothing allowance, they’ve each decided to only own two pairs of jeans. Because we do our loads together, they can make do with only two pairs more easily. If they had to wait a week between loads, it wouldn’t be as easy. So we just pile everyone’s clothes in together. Some families with teens have kids do their own loads all at once (and when I was in university I didn’t separate whites and colours; I threw them all in using cold water, and nothing really ran and the sky did not fall), but right now I just find it easier to wash everyone’s together.

I have four bins: colour, white, delicate, and hand wash. My hand wash is for lingerie and hand knit items (I knit a lot!), and delicate is for almost all sweaters and nice T-shirts. It’s probably overkill, but they rarely get really dirty, and if you wash them on delicate they last a lot longer.

Then, every single morning, after I have my shower, I put a load on. Just before I make lunch I put that load in the dryer and I put another load on. Just before I make dinner I put the second load in the dryer, and that’s it for me in the day. Two loads of laundry usually does us sufficiently and I don’t wash on weekends. That way it’s part of my natural weekday habit. If you work outside the home, you can do the same thing. Put a load on first thing in the morning, and then another as soon as you step in the door after work.

The Folding Dilemma

Folding is far more haphazard; I fold while I take up schoolwork with the girls, or we all fold together while we talk about whatever novels they’re reading for history and get into debates. I believe in multitasking! The big thing with laundry is that you MUST fold it, or it wrinkles horribly and it sits all over your bed and your floor.

Get in the habit of washing at set times and folding at set times, and it’s much easier!

I highly envy those who live in climates where you can dry clothes outside year round. I do not live in such a place, but in the summer I’d hang the clothes out right after breakfast and right after lunch, and it always worked fine.

Getting the Laundry to the Laundry Room

As difficult as it may be to figure out how and when to wash, getting the clothes to the machine is just as much an issue. My girls each have a hamper in their closet that they are responsible for emptying. It’s part of their daily chores, and everyday, after they make their beds, they’re to empty their hamper. They’ve done it since they were four, and it works fine.

But I have a secret to admit. I don’t have a hamper. In the mornings, my husband and I throw our dirty clothes by the door to our bedroom, and then when I leave the bedroom, I scoop them up and take them to the laundry room. Isn’t that horrible? I know, one should never put clothes on the floor, but honestly, they’re never there long! I don’t mind my husband leaving his stuff there because I do, too, and it’s no more work to add his socks to the bundle of clothing I’m already carrying of my own.

Of course, there are much more elaborate systems for laundry, and if you’re looking for one, or if you’re overwhelmed because you need to do more than two loads a day, here are a few more thoughts:

1. Often the reason laundry becomes overwhelming is because we are washing things that are not really dirty. Children, especially, have a habit of throwing things in the hamper because it is easier than putting them away.

Have a conference with your family to decide your own rules on how often pants should be worn before they’re washed; how often towels can be used before they’re washed; how often sheets should be changed; how often pajamas should be changed. Personally, I wear jeans a good four times before I wash them, unless I spill something on them or I’m in a smoky place. They really don’t get dirty. Sheets we change every week, and pajamas once a week. Towels are more haphazard.

But many children change clothes several times a day, just for fun, and when they do change they throw their clothes in the hamper. By the time you discover that clean clothes are in the hamper, they’ve already mixed with wet towels, so you have no choice but to wash them. Often the reason we have so much laundry, then, is because we’re washing things that aren’t actually dirty.

So talk to your kids about how often they need to wash certain items, and if they keep putting clean clothes in the washing machine, then I’d start making it their job to wash and fold all the laundry, or making them pay $1 out of their allowance for that load of unnecessary laundry!

2. Keeping track of which clothes are whose can also be a challenge. Buy one child all green underwear and another all white. Buy one boy all grey socks and another all black socks. Try to keep the basics that we get mixed up to single colours, so that you know whose is whose. And take a permanent marker and write a child’s initials on the tag so you know whose it is. If the item is then passed down, use a different colour permanent marker.

Now, here are some other great laundry links:

Laura from Organizing Junkie just has her kids do their own loads–and loves it! No more sorting. Read her thoughts here.

If you want pictures, here’s a great post with different hampers, small and large laundry rooms, and more to give you inspiration.

One last problem: I still haven’t come up with a solution to the single sock phenomenon. But I cannot bring myself to throw out single socks. So I have a box under my bed. Here it is. Did any of you steal the mates?

Now, what are your thoughts? How do you do laundry? Did you find a system worked better for you at a different stage in your life? Let me know in the comments, and let’s help each other!

Do Not Despise the Day of Small Things

Do Not Despise the Day of Small Things

Do you spend your life running after little ones, chauffeuring kids to ballet, figuring out dinner, and collapsing into bed at the end of the day exhausted? Or perhaps you feel frazzled after a long day at work, and then you have to try to be chipper to help the kids with homework and your husband with laundry. And it goes on, day after day. You wonder if you’re making a difference.

I think sometimes our problem is that we think too big.

After all, when you hear a message about “finding your purpose”, chances are you think of something big. That’s what we do in our society; we measure things by size. We think, the bigger, the better! We want to accomplish a ton. We want our kids to be doctors or lawyers; we want to grow our churches to thousands of members; we want to afford a bigger house, have a huge ministry, have our kids get all A’s and have all their friends want to hang out at our house. We want to do things large.

It’s not a new phenomenon. Way back in the Old Testament, when the people of Judah had been in exile in Babylon and were permitted to go back home and rebuild the temple, the work was going slowly. The temple was smaller than Solomon’s, and the people were sad and discouraged. And then prophet Zechariah asked, “Who despises the day of small things”? (Zech. 4:10).

God doesn’t. God doesn’t mind small things, for it’s in those small things that God shows Himself. He isn’t as concerned about your kids’ marks as He is about their hearts. He isn’t as worried about the size of your ministry as He is about the effectiveness of it. He’s the shepherd who would leave 99 sheep and go after the 1.

So don’t despise the day of small things.

If you’re looking at your life, and you feel that your purpose is just to be home and raise your kids and create a nice environment for your family right now, that’s fine. Don’t despise the day of small things.

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big, and there are times when God calls us to do something big. But there are also times when God calls us to do something relatively small. My friend John Patrick, who is now a retired pediatrician and professor as well as quite the philosopher, has spent his career in missions and apologetics and starting a new Christian university. He has done many amazing things. But he was not raised in a Christian home. And he remembers, as a child, his neighbour in England, an old woman who didn’t do very much, but who told him that she was praying that he would grow up to be a doctor who would do missions work. And he did.

That’s all she did. She prayed. But God used those small prayers to do so much.

Some of us feel hectic and disconnected in our lives because we’re doing too much, and we need to get rid of stuff so that we can simplify our purpose and live it out.

Others of us, though, are not necessarily doing too much but we still feel dissatisfied and not at peace. And sometimes that’s because we haven’t yet learned the lesson not to despise the day of small things.


If your life feels small, that doesn’t mean it’s not large in God’s currency. So don’t despise the day of small things. Don’t worry if your life doesn’t seem big enough. Simply go to God on a regular basis and ask for His direction. If there’s somewhere else He wants you to go or something else He wants you to do, He’ll tell you. He wants you to do it of course; it’s up to Him to let you know. You don’t have to turn yourself into a pretzel trying to hear some voice that may not be leading you any differently anyway.


Just stay in touch with God, and you’ll hear when He wants you to change course. So until you hear that, have peace. You’re doing fine, even if what you’re doing seems like a small thing.

Have you ever longed to hear God’s voice, and tortured yourself over it? Have you ever had to find peace in doing small things? Let me know in the comments!

Featured Products in this Post:
He Had Made Everything Beautiful Wall Art
Peace Tiles
God is using you for His special purpose Mug

This post contains affiliate links.

Wifey Wednesday: Getting on the Same Page

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

This week we’re talking about how to simplify your life, and now that we’re 8 days into it, and a bunch of you are excited about some of the things I’ve shared, it’s time for a warning.

It’s always dangerous in a marriage when one person gets excited about something, and the other hasn’t caught the vision yet. You get mad at them for not seeing it your way, but realistically, they haven’t had the input into it that you have. They haven’t experienced the things you did which gave you a little shove in that direction. They’re still living in their comfort zone.

That’s not their fault. You’re the one who’s changed; we can’t always expect our husbands to follow right along happily, like a little lap dog.

But what do we do when we think the change we’ve embraced is something important? We can’t just let it go, but he’s not on board!

Here’s a thought: give him a chance. Don’t hector him. Think about how you embraced the change: you saw the potential for how life could be different, and you got sick of the direction you were going in. He’s not going to change unless he also sees those two things: he needs to catch the vision, and he needs to become dissatisfied with the way things are now.

He’s not going to catch the vision if you’re pestering him about it. It just won’t work.

Here’s what might.

Photo by Spirit-Fire
Arrange a date to connect. Get a baby-sitter, and plan a romantic getaway when you have some time just to talk–not to nag, not to worry about the taps that need repair or the painting that needs to be done, but just to connect. Try to do something that he enjoys doing, like hiking, or watching a game, or driving somewhere he enjoys.

Tell him that you want to spend some time talking to him about what he wants out of life–what his dreams are, what he feels God telling him, where he’s going.

And then start asking him. Don’t ask him about the things that you necessarily think are crucial; let him start talking about the things that he thinks are important. His opinion is, after all, rather central!

What I’d recommend is breaking it down into these big questions:

1. Where do you see our finances in five years? In ten years? And what can I do to help us get there?

Don’t tell him what you want him to do; ask him how you can participate in his goals. One little tip about talking finances, though: how much money you have saved has far less to do with how much you make and far more to do with your spending/saving habits. Many people assume that once they get a raise, then they will save–but the raise comes, and they just spend it all. So when you’re making your financial goals, don’t put it off, thinking “once I have a new job I’ll talk about that”, or “once we’re out of this rough patch we can make some goals.” Make some goals now, and ask what you can do to help reach those goals. If he sees that you’re trying to participate with what he wants, he’s far more likely to embrace the process!

2. Where do you see our marriage in five years? In ten years? How can we build our friendship?

Ask him what sorts of things he enjoys doing together. What did he like to do with you once that you don’t do anymore? How can you steal some more alone time?

3. Where do you see the kids in five years? In ten years? In fifteen? What character traits do you want them to have? How can we nurture those character traits?

Here’s one of the biggest discussion topics! If your husband, for instance, really wants to raise boys that will be responsible, independent go-getters, and these boys right now are 8 & 10 and do nothing but play on videogames, then ask him how we’re going to turn them into responsible, independent go-getters. What can we start doing now that can put them on that road?

Perhaps your husband, for instance, has been of the opinion that the house is your responsibility. Showing him that having the boys learn to clean the bathroom and do the dishes is part of teaching them to be responsible and independent may be enough to get him to embrace the concept of chores, rather than having you do all of them.

If you want your boys to be independent go-getters, you probably also don’t want them spending all their time on video games. So what can you do instead? Can you start a family games night? Can you play sports as a family more, and get away from the TV? Can your husband teach them to mow the lawn?

Ask him what he did as a child that made him responsible (or that turned him in the opposite direction)! Many men just haven’t thought of this stuff very deeply, and when you start asking questions, you draw it out of them. They become part of the process.

This is far better than announcing to your husband that you want to downsize, that you want to get rid of the TV, that you want to quit all extracurricular activities, have family games night, or set up chore charts for everyone. Do that, and you’re making changes with no input from him. And honestly, even if you’ve thought a lot about goals, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you know best how to get your family there. I’ve found quite frequently that I can diagnose a problem very well in our household, but my husband often comes up with better solutions on how to deal with the girls about it. At first I resist, and often I get angry at him for not deferring to my obviously superior wisdom, but sometimes he sees things I just don’t. Let your husband talk!

Will all husbands embrace this idea of goal setting? No. But many will, if you present it in the right way with the right heart: you want to be part of making sure your family goes in the right direction, and you want to make sure that both of you agree on that direction. You’re not setting the agenda. You’re not dictating anything. You’re talking about it together. And many men find it much easier to picture where they want to be in five years or ten years than they do figure out how they want to change right now. Give them the big picture first, and then ask them to plot a route to get there, rather than trying to diagnose what’s wrong now and what we should do about it. Don’t start with what’s wrong; that just assigns blame and can start disagreements. Start with the far-off picture that you can both usually agree on fairly easily, and then back up. It’s usually much more effective.

Talk about it in a friendly, low-stress setting, and he’s more likely to agree to have the conversation in the first place!

Simplifying your life depends upon figuring out where you’re going, and then making sure your family is heading there. Too often we think we’re going somewhere–raising independent, responsible, godly kids–but our actions are often taking us in a different direction because we haven’t really analyzed the route to our goals. Think about those goals explicitly, and then plan the route. Then your family won’t get so tired and discouraged from being thrown off track.

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Have you ever goal planned with your husband? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

Powered by Linky ToolsClick here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Living Small Often Means Loving Large

Living Small Often Means Loving Large

Yesterday I asked “are you called or are you driven”? Do you feel like your life is out of control, or can you peacefully move forward, knowing God is leading?

Living Tight

Today I want to look at that question in relation to our finances. But before we do that, look at that picture of a house at the top of this post.

Small, isn’t it? And yet the majority of North American families in the 1950s lived in something that looked pretty much like that. After World War II, we radically expanded the idea of home ownership. Instead of renting, people bought these little houses, and they, by and large, thrived in them.

Was it tight? You betcha. Often three bedrooms with four or five kids, so 2-3 kids would have to share a bedroom. Bunk beds became major furniture items. The living room was small, so people sat on the couch and the floor to watch TV. Kids did homework at the dining room table.

My husband grew up in a house like that: four boys, one bathroom, small kitchen. And they survived just fine.

Many of the things we think are absolutely necessary are not. It is simply that we have listened to our society and we have turned many wants into needs. And that is part of what is making our lives so harried!

One of the biggest issues you will face when it comes to quality family time is whether or not both parents work outside the home. It’s just a fact. I’m not going to talk about whether or not you should leave your child in day care; I’ve already done that here. I’m not going to talk about how you can make money if you stay at home; I’ve done that here. I’m also not going to talk about the fact that often it costs so much to work that it’s not worth it, because I’ve done that here (and read the comments!).

What I do want to talk about is how we can get off this merry go round that tells us that we NEED so much stuff. Work, you see, is directly related to expenses. Lower the expenses, and a job is not as much of an issue. Increase the expenses, and you have to work.

So let’s ask this: what was the quality of life like for people growing up in those tiny homes? Of course, so much depended on the family. But the size of the home was not necessarily bad because people adjusted. It was all they knew, and they felt grateful to have a home. Let’s also remember that in most parts of the world, far more people are squeezed into far smaller spaces than even that house represents. We are the strange ones, living with our huge homes. Our grandparents, in these small homes, were not strange. They were more the norm.

What did people do with less space? The kids played in the living room together, or in the basement. They didn’t hang out in their own rooms, away from their siblings. They went outside more since inside was cramped, and thus they got more exercise, even in the winter. They didn’t spend as much time on television, because families usually only had one, and sometimes Mom and Dad would want to watch their programs, and the kids had to scatter. They played board games. They made Lego. They played with dolls. They used their imagination.

And that was okay.

Dreaming Big

When you were 13, did you love bridal magazines? Did you used to read them and stare at the pictures and imagine what your own wedding would be like? Many of us did. But many of us still do–we just replace the bridal magazines with Home & Garden, and we dream of a beautifully decorated, spacious home. It’s what we’re aiming for. We want to have “arrived”. We want the space, and the luxury.

But what if that space and luxury comes at the expense of massive amounts of your time–or your husband’s time? And what if there’s another way to peace?

When we trim our expenses, we’re often able to build wealth and increase our security. Millionaires, for instance, don’t tend to act like millionaires. It’s those with less than a million dollars who consume all the luxury stuff, because they’re acting like they want to be millionaires. Here are just a few stats I picked up from the Growth Matters blog:

•Eighty-six percent of all prestige or luxury makes of motor vehicles are driven by people who are not millionaires.
•Typically, millionaires pay about $16 (including tip) for a haircut.
•Nearly four in 10 millionaires buy wine that costs about $10.
•In the United States, there are nearly three times as many millionaires living in homes with a market value of less than $300,000 than there are living in homes valued at $1 million or more.

We can surely survive on less than we think, and yet at the same time society is lecturing us that we need more–and we’re believing it.

Think “Enough”!

Imagine how we could change the culture if we just said, “Enough!”. Enough credit card debt. Enough working round the clock to afford all the latest gadgets and the big cars. Enough stress from living beyond one’s means. Enough believing that life is all about entertainment and stuff instead of about family.

'Living on Credit Cards' photo (c) 2011, Images Money - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Perhaps you need two incomes to get you to the minimum that you can afford a house, even a small one like that. That’s okay, as long as you’ve prayed about and you’re trying to meet your family’s NEEDS, not WANTS. But many of us are on a treadmill trying to meet WANTS, and it doesn’t work.

Now, those who know me are going to say it’s easy for me to suggest all this, because I’m not in that position. I’ve got it made. And I do. My husband is a doctor, and we’re able to live quite comfortably. But it was not always that way. Both Keith and I put ourselves through school. While he was in training and the kids were born, we lived in a small apartment, without a car. I spent my life with the girls taking them to playgroups and museums, because the apartment was too crowded to stay in during the day. Others in training had taken out the massive loans the banks were offering, and they had bought vehicles and homes. We didn’t. We saved for a downpayment.

And then we bought a nice house, 1400 square feet, in a neighbourhood where no doctors ever lived. After ten years, we moved to the house we have now. We have always paid cash for our used cars. We buy our clothes at second hand stores. And we endeavour to take as many missions trips as possible and to give as much away as we can.

Yes, I have it easy, but even when we didn’t we made the decision to live “small” so that we could enjoy life more.

The Benefits of Downsizing

The best thing some people could do is to sell their home and downsize. Yesterday in the comments Kristy shared that’s just what she’s doing–downsizing to get their finances under control. Unfortunately, that’s not so easy right now with the glut of houses on the market. Many people will have to remain in the house they’re in simply because you can’t get a decent price right now. But maybe there are other things you can do. Buy a used car instead of a new one. Eat out less. Learn to save money on the big things, like electricity, insurance, utilities, car payments. And learn to save money on the small things, like groceries, eating, shopping. Many women basically “earn an income” by staying at home and putting a lot of time into saving money!

Is it fun? It can be! Think of it like a challenge to make the money last. Give up some extracurricular activities with the kids, but replace it with fun family time, where you play games or have parties every week. Stop going out for dinner and have people over more. All of these things are “fun”.

Our society cannot go on with so many living beyond their means. We are crushed in debt at every level–personal, state, federal. We have built a beautiful society, but it is built on sand. One day it will come crashing down, as it has already begun to. I want to be ready, by raising kids who don’t need stuff. Who don’t ask for a huge list at Christmas, but instead look forward to all the games we play that day. I want to live with less so I can live more. That’s getting back to what’s really important.

So here’s your exercise for today: examine your 10 biggest expenses on a monthly basis, and ask if they’re necessary. Can you downsize? Are these things you want, or things you genuinely need? Can your family develop a new way of looking at money, as something that works for you to build wealth, rather than something that slips through your fingers and is a source of stress? Can money be the vehicle that you help others with, instead of something you’re always desperately worried about?

For some it’s a hard switch, because you’re already living bare to the bone. For many of us, though, we just need to change our habits. Tell me in the comments what you think. Have you ever downsized? Have you ever chosen to forego something big? What did it feel like? Let us know!

If you liked this, be sure to share it on Facebook below, or Pin it, or Tweet it, or Anything!

Sheila is the author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex.

Simplify Challenge 1: Declutter One Area!

If you’ve joined simplify your life month, I’m so glad to have you! This month we’ll be tackling some big things: finding your calling, paring down, organizing.

But before we do something that requires major mental or spiritual energy, I want this first challenge to actually GIVE you energy. It may not seem like that at first when I tell you what it is, but I believe, after it’s done, that you’ll feel great!

Do you have an area of your house that you’re afraid to go into? It can be a room, a drawer, a closet, or a garage. Do you know what fear does to us? It robs us of energy. It creates a horrible feeling that we’re missing out on something big. It lets us know that we can never relax, because there’s something huge we’re leaving undone.

Remember how you felt in high school, when there was always homework you should be doing? Everytime you tried to relax, you remembered that you really should be writing that essay, studying for that test, doing that assignment.

Then we graduate and we think the feeling’s gone! But it’s not. It’s still there, it just takes a different form. Everytime we have an area of our home that is terrible, we feel just like we’re 15 again, wanting to have some fun, but knowing that there’s something we “should” be doing.

Let’s take care of a “should” today. Grab just 15 minutes and tackle an area that needs decluttering–preferably something small, like a Tupperware drawer, or a stack of mail, or your dining room table.

A while back my daughter cleaned out my study (which was a mess; it had become the repository for all our junk in our home). She solved the problem, though, by moving the junk into the hallway. All over the floor.

Messy Hallway
So recently I cleaned up the hall. And I realized a lot of that junk was fabric–nice fabric–but fabric that I was never going to use. I’m a knitter, and as much as I have learned how to sew and have completed some projects, I know I’m never going to be a seamstress. So I took a deep breath, bundled that fabric up, and took it to a quilter’s group who sews for charity.

I cleaned out my hallway by chucking some stuff that, nice as it was, I was never going to use.

Can you do the same thing? Can you find an area of your home that you can declutter? Go for it! And then write a blog post with pictures and link up in the Mcklinky below! Or, if you don’t have a blog, Click “share” to put this on Facebook and add your own pictures there. Then leave the link to your decluttering photo album on Facebook in the Mcklinky (you’ll just have to have your photos not set to private)!

And then we’ll have a vote later in the week on the most amazing purge, and one winner will receive:

1. My To Love, Honor and Vacuum & Honey, I Don’t Have a Headache Tonight audio downloads


2. $10 Amazon gift card

So declutter, and win! And thanks for participating in Simplify Your Life Month with me! I know you’ll enjoy it!

It's Simplify Your Life Month!

It’s October 4, and for the rest of this month, I’m going to posting on how to simplify your life!

Have you been feeling overwhelmed lately? For those of you with school aged children, school’s been in session for about a month now. You’ve had time to settle into that routine, getting used to the activities, the homework, the housework. How’s that working for you?

Or maybe you’ve just started a new job (or quit one!). Maybe you’ve got toddlers underfoot, as well as a baby or two. Do you feel like you’re always working and never getting anywhere?

This month, we’re going to sweep away all the excess, and figure out how to simplify your life!

But first, let’s figure out what simplify means.

I don’t think it necessarily means having tons of time on your hands so you don’t feel busy anymore. Many of us like being busy. Being busy is not actually the enemy.

Have you ever come to the end of a busy day, and you’ve collapsed into bed, but instead of feeling exhausted you feel exhilirated? You can hardly sleep because you’re excited about what you got done. You’re enthused about the future. You have energy, even though your day was jam-packed.

Photo by Lifecreation
Quite a different feeling from when you collapse into bed because you feel defeated. You’ve had another 24 hours which you spent constantly running, but you have nothing to show for it. You dread tomorrow.

You see, it’s not the busy-ness that is necessarily the problem. It’s what your busy about.

Simplifying your life can be put in a nutshell this way:

Figure out what your purpose and calling are, and then do everything you can to live that out.

It’s that simple. Figure out what your purpose and calling are, and live it out. Many of us feel like we have a certain calling, but it’s on the back burner because too many other things steal our time and energy. Let’s stop it. Let’s get back to basics, to what’s really simple: put first things first. And how do we do this?

This month we’ll focus on three main strategies:

1. Define Your Calling
Here’s our big picture challenge: figure out what God has for you. Figure out what you were put on the earth for. What are your priorities right now? What brings you joy? What makes you feel most alive? Let’s live that out!

Photo by Lockette
2. Organize Yourself
One reason we may not be able to live out our priorities and purpose is because the rest of our lives suck out so much energy because we’re not organized. We’re letting our lives control us, rather than controlling our lives. If you need better ways to sort the laundry, menu plan, figure out your banking, get the kids to do chores, or get the homework done, we’ll find new systems to help!

But let me issue a warning here: I don’t believe that there is a perfect system for organizing chores, housework, homework, or finances. We all work in different ways. At different times in my life I have kept track of the kids’ chores in one way; six months later I’ll switch because it doesn’t work for me anymore, or I wasn’t consistent.

Sometimes the organizational methods we use themselves contribute to the chaos. They add so much work to our days just to keep organized, that it would be better if we didn’t use them at all! Or they contribute to the guilt you have because you feel as if you should be using them, but you don’t.

So systems can be an aid, but they don’t, in and of themselves, make your life simpler. The key is to figure out what you do want to be doing, and then find a method to do that as quickly and efficiently as possible. That may mean you use a new organizational method every two months, because you like new things, or it may mean you find one thing and stick to it for twenty years. It doesn’t matter. Whatever makes you feel the least stressed, and the most together!

So this month I’ll be pointing you to a lot of “systems” and ideas for organizing your time and your life, and I’ll be asking for your suggestions, too. But none of them is a magic bullet. It depends on what fits with your life, and if something doesn’t fit, it’s okay to say no!

3. Pare Down
When we think “simplify your life”, most of us picture a 1-800-Got Junk truck hauling away all the useless stuff that clutters up our lives. And certainly part of simplifying is getting rid of the excess–the stuff that multiplies, that needs to be organized, cleaned, and shelved, that robs you of space and emotional energy.

We need to pare down our wardrobe, our kids’ toys, our schedules, our stuff.

But that’s not all we have to pare down. This month, I’ll also be challenging you to pare down on the big things. Maybe you need to pare down your expenses, your vehicles, your home. Too many of us are living so much on credit that money has become a huge stumbling block in our lives. You may need to get a hold of your expenses in order to get control back of your priorities! Or perhaps you’re in the opposite camp: you don’t need to pare down expenses as much as you need to pare down the hours you spend working. Maybe you’re run ragged because you just don’t have enough time with your family. And finally, maybe you need to pare down the people that you see!

After all, one of the biggest consumers of emotional energy is toxic people; when we are around those who are toxic, we fret, we worry, we feel guilty, we feel bitter. Part of simplifying your life maybe deciding that certain people won’t have emotional leverage over you anymore.

This month, then, we’ll be tackling these three strategies: defining our priorities and purpose; organizing our lives; and paring down. Each weekday we’ll focus on something different, and I’ll have contests running throughout this month to see who has achieved various challenges! One of them will start tomorrow: do you have a closet or a cupboard you’re afraid to go into? I’ll challenge you to organize that!

For now, though, can you help me spread the word? Sign below that you’re going to participate in “Simplify Your Life” month, and then write a post on your own blog that links back here and tell me why you need to simplify! One of the linkers will win a copy of my audio download, “To Love, Honor and Vacuum”!

Don’t have a blog? That’s okay! Hit the “Share” button for Facebook below (not the Like button, they’re different, though you can always hit both :) ), and then write a Facebook post asking others to join you. Then tell me in the comments you posted on Facebook! I’ll draw for the audio download on Wednesday!

Thanks for helping me spread the word. Let’s simplify together!