The most important tool in my homemaking toolbox

The most important tool in my homemaking toolbox

The most important tool in my homemaking toolbox

I’ll be honest: our home is not exactly a well-oiled machine on a good day.

We are a work-at-home, homeschooling family that spends a LOT of time at home, and there are 7 of us (soon to be 8—holy moly!), including 5 growing kids whose needs change on a regular basis. Which means we adjust routines and rules and habits a lot.

But even though things don’t run perfectly all the time, our household runs pretty smoothly for the most part, and—as silly as it sounds—nothing makes my heart swell with love and pride more than those moments when everybody just pitches in to get something done and we work together as a team. I just love it.

If I had to pick one tool that makes the biggest difference for our family, though, I wouldn’t choose something specific like our meal planning process, our evening clean up, or our chore assignments.

No, what I’ve realized this past month is the most important tool is simply our willingness to embrace survival mode when it’s needed.

I know that sounds silly, but over the last 12 years, we’ve dealt with 10 pregnancies and 5 newborns as well as all-consuming work deadlines and various injuries, illness and accidents. And through those experiences, we’ve learned that trying to push through the tough times while maintaining “normal” is just not worth the cost.

We’ve discovered what survival mode needs to look like for our family, including which things are the hardest for us to maintain, which are the most important to us to still get done, which we can put off for later, and which just really don’t matter that much. And because we’ve been there so often, we’re able to switch to survival mode quickly and easily when it’s necessary.

For example, when my morning sickness started to ramp up last month, we immediately bought paper plates because we know that that one simple change makes a big difference in everyone’s stress level.

When I could no longer handle standing in the laundry room folding a load of laundry without wanting to vomit, we embraced the “basket method”, where I simply sort clothes by person and we live out of the baskets.

Our kids have watched more TV and done less intensive school work, and we’ve said no to various outings and opportunities.

They’re also eating cereal and bagels almost every day for breakfast, and we’re embracing simple meals like noodles with sauce for the rest of the day.

This time, it has also meant scaling back my posts here on Life Your Way and shelving various projects as well.

In my early years as a mom and homemaker, I would find myself desperately trying to avoid any of those “compromises,” but at some point my energy and strength would give out and we’d end up doing them anyway…accompanied by a full dose of guilt.

Now, I embrace them. No guilt. No regrets.

And that means we survive this time more emotionally intact and we’re able to bounce back sooner because we’ve focused on what’s really important during that time.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. On the laundry…After watching the video I have a few thoughts. I am now a grandmother but I have been doing my laundry the same way since my children were small and it has worked well for me and it is not as described. Not everyone has the same style of keeping house though and I want to describe mine as an encouragement for those women who are more like me. I follow the days of the week towels and do my laundry on Monday. I get it all done on one day and do not need to worry about it for the rest of the week. It is DONE. I did it this way when my children were small also. Even when they were babies. I only use our drier when it is raining, choosing instead to hang the clothes out to dry on the line. When my children were small with each load I would put out I took the little ones out with me. They loved running through the clothes as they were drying and liked having me outside as they were playing. Clothes driers use more electricity than any other household appliance. Hanging clothes makes it easy to fold clothes as you take them down. They will also smell wonderful. Putting one load in right after the other and getting them out on the line. Spending the day outside with the children, it made Mondays a day the little ones looked forward to. And I will reiterate when Monday is over you have had a wonderful day with your children and the laundry is DONE for the week. PERIOD.

  2. Good for you, Mandi! No guilt and no regrets. Thank you for saying this – and giving others of us permission to slip into survival mode when we need to as well.

  3. Excellent perspective! I don’t know why we hold onto our perfection and “shoulds” when it is so much easier to let non-essentials go. I’m glad you’re being gentle with yourself and your family. We all need such a soft spot to land.

  4. This is great. My kiddos are now 2 and 4, and I’m out of the newborn/infant “trenches”. I realized the other day that I actually have time to make dinner now (because the kids will play outside on their own!). And it made me wish that I hadn’t stressed so much when they were littler about getting dinner on the table. I wish I had recognized that that stressful period was temporary, instead of the hormone-induced “Life will never be the same!” terror that I felt instead.

  5. Thanks for describing this! My mom always did all our laundry on Saturdays, so before our children were born, I did ours that way too. I think I started the one load a day method after our son was born, because I was doing cloth diapers and needed to wash those more than once a week. But now I’m reconsidering, and it might be better for me to do it all at once like I used to, even thought it would be a whole lot of laundry on one day. Hmmm…. 🙂

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