Homemaking Made Simple
Learning from My Mistakes
I have vivid memories of myself as a young wife and mother standing at the kitchen sink in my little apartment in Los Angeles, California crying my eyes out. I was so stressed because I didn’t know how to keep an orderly home for my family. Whether it was my possibly undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder or just my DNA for attracting clutter, I was a mess. My home was a mess. This was not the type of life I had envisioned sharing with my wonderful husband and sweet little baby, but I felt stuck.
I started reading a lot of books and newspaper articles, listened to many speakers on the subject of homemaking skills, and talked to a lot of other women. After forty-five years of marriage, eleven children, and twenty-four grandchildren, I have finally realized that most likely I will never be as organized and efficient as some of the women I admire. However, I’ve learned a few basic skills that have allowed me to enjoy my family to the maximum while keeping the work load of raising a family to the minimum.
These are the five areas I am learning how to tackle to create a happy, enjoyable home environment:
- Clothing and Laundry
We have to eat. If everyone is hungry, everyone will be grouchy. There is a saying, “We are what we eat.” If we eat junk food, we will feel slow and sluggish and get sick more often and feel depressed. If we eat healthy food, we will feel energetic, confident, happy, and more goal oriented. Healthy meals take a little more time to prepare than convenience meals. Traditional “fast food” is fast but not healthy. Healthy “take out” food can be expensive. The question is, “How can I learn to prepare healthy food quickly at home?”
Keep it simple. Learn to enjoy eating food in its natural state. A peanut butter sandwich made with honey or jam on whole wheat bread with a glass of milk (or a milk alternative) is nutritious and cheap. This is a great lunch or snack. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter and cut raw vegetables in the refrigerator to snack on.
Avoid large amounts of sugar, caffeine, and artificial ingredients. Read labels of any processed food you buy. Mood swings, bad behavior, and crankiness in general can be traced back to what you choose to put in your body (or your children’s bodies.) Food is fuel, so eat and drink the best quality natural ingredients you can find! Drinking good old fashioned water throughout the day is a natural energizer.
Plan five or six meals a day. Generally, if you eat several small meals or snacks a day, you feel more alert and energetic during the day. Children have much better behavior if they have healthy food in their stomachs on a regular basis. If the meals and snacks are anticipated, then you have more control in the kitchen so kids (or adults) aren’t going into the kitchen at random times to grab food and make a mess.
Cook in large quantities and freeze. When you cook meat, beans, or other basic foods, cook enough for several meals and freeze them. When you are in a hurry, pull food out of the freezer for a quick, nutritious meal. If you can afford to purchase nutritious, pre-made meals, then buy them and keep them in your freezer so you have them when you need them. Otherwise, make your own.
Buy larger quantities of basic items to save money. Generally, the smaller the size, the more expensive it is, but always check prices. Store and refrigerate smaller quantities and remember to use them up so they don’t go to waste.
Stock your pantry with basic, all natural canned goods that can be combined in different ways to throw together a quick soup or casserole. One of my favorites is “5 Bean Soup” where I mix together five different cans of beans, a can of corn, and salsa. It is important to read labels to find the all-natural foods. Sometimes food manufacturers change ingredients or add MSG or other artificial ingredients over time to their products, so you have to careful.
Make a simple menu and plan one leftover night a week. Go through the fridge and use up all leftovers so they don’t slowly rot in the fridge over time. (I used to always to this—so gross!) Ideally, you could quick-clean the fridge at the same time, but even if you don’t have time to clean the fridge that day, it’s still important to use up the leftover food once a week or freeze it. Once a month, go through the freezer and pull out any leftovers that were tossed in there and create a meal around them.
Keep the kitchen clean. If you can’t keep up with all the dishes and pots and pans, use paper plates. It does cost a little money, but hot water and soap costs money too. A dirty kitchen causes lots of stress, so delegate jobs to everyone in the family to clean it fast. It doesn’t have to be spotless, but it should be quick-cleaned at least once a day (preferably after each meal—because the less messy it is, the easier it is to clean up.) The kitchen will then become a happy gathering place for everyone. When you’re in a hurry, you can “hide” pots and pans, etc. in the oven or a big box (in the kitchen, another room, or the garage) temporarily so the kitchen has the appearance of being clean by just quickly putting away food and clutter and washing off the tables, counters, and sinks.
Turn on the music! When preparing food or cleaning the kitchen, turn on happy, upbeat music. Your mind will stay focused on the music instead of the work you are doing. The time flies by much faster that way! Sing along with the music and dance around the kitchen once in a while just for fun!
Remember that when you are feeding your family, you’re not just feeding their bodies. You’re also feeding their spirits and creating happy memories that will last a lifetime. Look at meal time as a time to express your “artsy” side as you prepare colorful plates of food arranged in a nice, artistic manner. Preparing simple, nutritious, delicious, beautiful meals can be fun!
Clothing and Laundry
We have to wear clothes. Life would be simpler if we didn’t, but for modesty’s sake and adjusting to weather changes, we have to deal with a variety of clothing. Once again, keep clothing simple. Having too many clothes can be more stressful than having too few clothes.
To economize, try to buy clothing when it is on sale. Always buy clothes that are a little too big because they always seem to shrink a little or kids have a sudden growth spurt and the new clothes no longer fit. Clothes that don’t fit, which you want to save for another child, should be boxed up and stored (and hidden) so your kids aren’t dumping them out and making a mess. Clothing that isn’t being saved for another child should be given away immediately.
If you have the closet space, hang clothes instead of folding them. You can see at a glance what you have available to wear. Hang a low rod in children’s closets. Kids often tear their drawers apart looking for a certain item of clothing.
Teach kids to help with their own laundry. By the age of eight, kids are capable of running a washer and dryer. You can be their “assistant” and have some one-on-one time with them as you chat about their day while you help them do their laundry.
Sock Training Train yourself, your husband, and your kids to roll their socks together when they take them off their feet (or stuff one sock into the other one). The best way to insure both socks come out of the washing machine and dryer is to pin them together with a large safety pin. But even if you don’t pin the socks together, usually both socks do make it through the washer and dryer if they have been rolled together in the first place. Mating socks can be a fun “matching game” if done when you’re not in a rush.
I prefer to wash clothing about once a week. I say “about” because I never have been able to get on an exact schedule! But if I wash every seven or eight days, it seems to work out best. However, I do like to have a ten-day supply of socks and underclothes on hand for everyone just in case I don’t get the laundry done on time.
I like to wash one child’s clothes at a time—one batch of lights and one batch of darks. I have two small laundry baskets in each person’s room, so the laundry is already sorted and ready to wash. If clothing has stains that need to be pre-treated, it’s good to hang these items over the edge of the basket so they’re easier to find. It’s not so hard to wash clothes. The hard part of laundry is folding and putting all the laundry away. If you know all the clothes in the dryer are going into one child’s bedroom, this eliminates a lot of the hassle.
Wash certain things on certain days. I don’t like to do all the laundry on one day. Space it out throughout the week. Preferably, I only do a maximum of two batches of clothes a day. That’s about all I have time to wash, dry, and put away (or help a child to do so). Items like towels (that don’t have to be folded right away) can be washed and left in the dryer till you have more time to fold them. If your clothes do sit in the dryer too long and get wrinkled, you can turn on the dryer again with a clean, damp wash cloth to get the wrinkles out.
Choose what you want to fold and what you don’t want to fold. It’s nice to fold (or hang up) outer apparel (shirts, pants, dresses, etc) so they don’t get wrinkled. Folding everything else is optional. Pajamas, underclothes and socks can be thrown into a drawer when you don’t have time to fold them. The same goes for towels, wash clothes, dish clothes, dish towels, sheets, etc. While it’s nice to look at everything when it’s folded, life will go on just fine if these items are just tossed into a drawer or cupboard.
Wash towels together on hot and dry them on high to get rid of the germs. If towels stink, even after they are washed, they will probably need some chlorine bleach to get rid of the smell. Fill the washing machine up with hot water, detergent, and two tablespoons of bleach and let the machine swish the water around for a minute. Then add the smelly towels. This way you won’t get bleach spots on the towels (which I’ve done too many times!)
Washing sheets. You have to decide how often to wash your sheets. I like to wash my own sheets once a week and have someone help me remake the bed, which goes much faster with another person on the other side of the bed. I use to wash my kids’ sheets once a month because they didn’t seem to care if their sheets were clean or not. However, I would give my kids baths every night to wash away all the germs from their day’s activities and help them sleep more comfortably throughout the night—and this way their sheets didn’t get very dirty. If kids go to bed unwashed or sleep in dirty clothes, then you should wash their sheets more often. If someone is sick, their sheets should be washed daily to get rid of the germs. If you don’t have time to wash their sheets, at least wash their pillow cases. If someone wets the bed or throws up on the bedding, it’s best to wash everything immediately (or first thing in the morning.) This is one job that only gets worse if left undone! I prefer to wash and dry sheets and put the same ones back on the bed, so I don’t have to fold them. When I get bored with that set of sheets, then I use a second set of sheets for several weeks in a row.
I wash my husband and my clothes together. I have learned to hang my pants and shirts over the side of the laundry basket instead of throwing them in. If I don’t have time to wash these clothes, and they are not too dirty, I will wear them again if necessary—at least they aren’t all crumpled up and wrinkled.
Try to keep the house looking tidy every day. If you haven’t learned these skills yet, read the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Till then, learn to do a quick-clean throughout the house by tossing clutter into boxes, marking each box by room, and storing the boxes in a closet or the garage until you have time to sort them and put things away in the right place. If you don’t have a “place” for something, give it away or throw it away. Your mind reflects how your house looks. For a clear head, you have to have a tidy house.
Have a cleaning schedule for your house—not necessarily on the same day each week, but a little routine so every room eventually gets cleaned. Vacuuming, dusting (which I rarely do) and basic cleaning jobs should be shared by each member of the family. I find it best to put one person in charge of each room of the house and teach them to be responsible to keep that room tidy every day and to deep-clean it once in a while.
Bathrooms should be cleaned regularly (about once a week if possible) so they don’t stink and you don’t pick up germs. In the early years of our marriage, I didn’t clean the bathtub for a long time, so everyone who was using the tub got the skin disease Impetigo—it was so painful and hard to get rid of! Keep bathroom supplies on a high shelf in each bathroom to make it quicker to clean—if your supplies are at your fingertips, it goes much faster. For economy, you can clean toilet bowls with ½ C. ammonia and a toilet brush; ammonia diluted 1 part ammonia to 8 parts water in a spray bottle with a paper towel or cleaning rag can be used to disinfect sinks, counters, tubs, showers, toilets, and floors. (Ammonia doesn’t smell very good, so if you want your kids to clean the bathrooms, you might want to invest in something that smells better—like Scrubbing Bubbles and Windex.) You don’t have to clean the whole bathroom all on the same day—just do a little bit here and there till it finally gets done.
Kids’ toys, crafts, and playthings should not dominate the house. Kids need to play and express themselves, but not at the expense of the serenity in the home. Small toys (like Legos) should be kept out of the reach of children and played with on a bed sheet or blanket on the floor for easy clean-up. Keep crafts in the kitchen so they can be monitored and put away quickly when the kids get bored using them. A few larger toys (that are easy to pick up and put away) can be kept in the family room or bedroom for kids to play with whenever they wish. If kids don’t want to pick up their toys at the end of the day, put them in a box and store them for a few days (or weeks) until they agree to put them away the next time they play with them.
It’s good to deep-clean the whole house annually. If you don’t get around to cleaning it one year, make sure you do it the next year. If you (and your family members) don’t have the time, energy, or interest to do it yourselves, then you should hire someone else to do it for you. A clean, well-maintained house is more enjoyable to live in, and it protects the financial investment you have made in home ownership. If you are living in an apartment, you won’t get your cleaning deposit back if you leave the apartment dirty. I didn’t have good cleaning skills when I got married. When we moved out of our first apartment, the owners told us that they had never seen such a dirty apartment! Oh, yes . . . one of my many embarrassing moments! Over the years, I made a cleaning schedule for daily, weekly, and monthly jobs to keep the house clean on a regular basis. The “daily jobs” sometimes were only done weekly, the “weekly jobs” done monthly, and the “monthly jobs” done annually—but that was still okay, too!
Mail. When you bring mail into the house, quickly sort it before setting it down on the counter (where it will only pile up day after day.) Immediately throw all junk mail away, file bills in a “Bills to Be Paid” folder (which you can pay once a month) and put important correspondence on your desk to reply to as soon as possible. I once quick-cleaned my kitchen counter, which had huge amounts of mail piled on it, and put it into a box to sort later. I forgot where I put that box and didn’t find it for many months. Consequently, I was missing many important items that I needed and had to get replaced. It was so frustrating!
Kids papers from school. There are three kinds of papers that are brought home from school.
- Papers that need signed and returned: Sign those papers immediately and have kids put them in their back packs so they have them the next day when the teacher asks for them. This will save you and your kids a lot of frustration and tears. I learned this the hard way!
- Papers that can be looked at and tossed: Quickly review these papers with your kids, such as math assignments or spelling tests, and then throw them away. If your kids are emotionally attached to these kinds of papers, save them in a box in a garage until they are ready to part with them.
- Papers that have sentimental meaning such as art work, journaling, or creative writing: Have a folder for each child where the papers that either you or your kids want to save and file them. At the end of the year, take the content from the file and put it in a large envelope with the year and the name of the child written on it. Store these papers in a special “memory box” to be looked at in future years.
Papers that belong to you or your spouse. Most papers can be thrown away. If it is an important document, save it in an “Important Document” file. If it’s a note to remind you to do something, then do it and throw the note away. If it’s a sentimental card you want to save, save it in your own memory box. For all other miscellaneous papers, toss them as soon as possible. You don’t want to sort and re-sort through piles of junk looking for the important things you need.
Be in control. If you’re not in control of your money, you’re not in control of your life.
Have confidence that you (and your spouse) can learn the financial skills necessary to manage your money wisely.
Remember that finances should be a financial issue, not an emotional issue. Money is a real thing, not a feeling. You either have it or you don’t.
Your financial life is important to the Lord.Pay your tithing as soon as you get paid. Then put money into your savings account. Then pay yourself. Pray for the Lord’s help and guidance. He will not leave you alone as you earnestly strive to learn these eternal principles of stewardship and self-reliance.
Live within your income. If you want to buy more “things” then earn more money first.
My mother used to say, “What you own, owns you.”Think carefully about what you want to own you. Whatever you choose to buy has to be taken care of by you.
Find a simple budgeting plan that works for you.
Get counseling from a financial advisor if necessary. It’s just like going to a doctor—if you need help, get it!
All anticipated yearly expenses and financial obligations need to be written down, analyzed, and a plan created for how everything will be paid. For the fixed, fluctuating, and annual expenses, they should be reviewed once a month. There are many kinds of financial obligations that must be anticipated and planned for:
- Debt repayment
- Annual expenses—like taxes, memberships, magazine renewals, dues
- Fixed monthly expenses—like rent, house payment, or car payment.
- Fluctuating monthly expenses—like utility bills
- Variable daily and weekly expenses—like food, clothing, toiletries, household goods, gas
Keep track of money on a daily and weekly basis.My main problem with budgeting was that I could never hold a month of finances in my head at one time. For the variable daily and weekly expenses, I save my receipts and record all money I spend each day and total up all my expenses once a week. If I have over-spent my weekly budget, I figure out how to cut expenses the following week.
I hope these ideas for taking care of your food, clothing/laundry, house, paperwork, and finances have stimulated your own creativity in how you can turn your house into a home and yourself into a contented “homemaker.” Ideally, both a husband and a wife will work together as a team to become “united homemakers” and be role models for their children to emulate in their own homes someday. Both women and men have unique gifts and talents that can be blended to benefit not only their own immediate families but also their communities as well. Strong families and happy homes will create a rippling effect of love and peace that will eventually bless the whole world.
The most essential ingredient in a home is love. So, do your best in these five areas of developing “homemaking” skills, but most importantly, always remember to show love to your spouse and your kids. Love is what will keep your family together now and your children, their spouses, and your grandchildren coming back to visit you after they have left your “nest” and established their own homes.
You can do it!