Yesterday I shared about a book called Organized Simplicity. It has been an inspiration to me in a season of wondering how I will ever manage to manage my household and do it well.

Yes, manage to manage. To manage to manage. I could go on.

Today I thought I’d share some practical steps I’ve taken to change the way I do things around la casa de Collie. They are making a big difference – even if they’re just slightly de-whelming my own over-whelmed feelings about the possibility of doing this motherhood gig well – and for that I am grateful.

1. Decide What to Do With The Day

This seems totally obvious. But, to my credit, before I started this motherhood gig, for all but one year of my life from the age of four, an educational system was deciding what I was going to do with my day. I didn’t really give my time management a lot of thought, because my time pretty much surrounded school, school work and the jobs I was loafing around at in between. Four years into motherhood, I have finally begun devoting time to deciding what I do with my day. Thanks to inspiration from the book and a Daily Docket download over at, I’m taking five or ten minutes either first thing in the morning or the night before, to actually figure out what the most important things are that I want to try to accomplish with the day I’ve been given.

I have to take a little extra time to emphasize this one, because, if you’re anything like me (do I ask that question every week or what?) you have found yourself standing in the center of any given number of rooms in your house, with a dazed, deer-in-headlights look on your face, thinking hmm, I have twenty minutes before the kid will wake up or the dryer will buzz or … what should I do with them? And that is when the list comes to the rescue. Having some purposeful organization to how I’m spending my time is nothing short of magical. I get to the end of the day, look at some checkmarks and breathe a happy sigh that I know what I’ve accomplished. This simple action helps me make decisions about what to do next all day long, without having to stop and think it all over again. And when I haven’t checked something off, well, it helps me get started on the list for tomorrow.

I am also learning to breathe and celebrate, with grace, the days where nothing on the list is going to get checked off. Because that’s okay. More on that another day.

2. Think About the When

You know what really stinks? When poor scheduling means you not only get your own day off to a bad start, but you start your spouse’s day badly for him, too. I have been doing this kind, kind gesture for the Hubs almost once a week on a Tuesday or Wednesday, when he needs to hop on his bike by 8:15 to get to Greenville for staff meeting or work at 9:00. It really stinks to give him a kiss and send him out the door knowing I’ve stressed him out by making him late because I am not managing things well.

There was an obvious and simple solution — but it took me taking a step back and, um, using my brain…, to see it. Take a shower before the kids wake up, or the night before. Lightbulb! This obvious little tweak to the system made a huge difference — the first day I rearranged things to make sure I wasn’t going to make him late for work by asking him to keep an eye on the boys while I got my shower, he specifically thanked me before walking out the door. It went something like this:

This is wonderful. It’s 8:12 and I have everything together and I’m not rushed heading out the door. Thank you very much.

That was so worth it. All of this boiled down to a basic principle? Don’t just think about what you’re doing with your time – think about when you’re doing it, and whether that’s the best choice.

3. I’m Continuing with Reduced Poo

I mentioned once ages ago — you might remember — that I decided to try going no-poo. If you have no idea what I’m talking about you’re probably very concerned, so let me set you straight. You see, it basically seems — I’m not usually one for sticking it to the Man but hear me out — that we have become almost unanimously convinced by Johnson & Johnson and associates that we need to shampoo our hair at least every couple of days, if not daily, in order to not be gross in public. At least three-quarters of us think this, I think. Half the time. But it turns out, most hair types can completely skip shampoo all together {yes really} and use baking soda and vinegar to clean their hair and — get this — perhaps only need to do that every five to seven days or so. Yeah. Is your head spinning? Because mine was. Apparently that shampoo in your shower is stripping the natural oils in your hair, encouraging them to overproduce, and therefore causing you to need to wash more often. Maybe that’s the deal, anyway.

I decided to try going no-poo after reading a fabulous post by Beth Dreyer about going no-poo. I was preggers at the time, and had a wedding in South Africa and another in Scotland ahead of me, so after trying for a couple of weeks, I decided it might be a rough time to tinker with the baking soda and vinegar experience in order to figure out exactly what made my hair happy. Hormonal imbalances and all. But in the process of at least beginning to stretch it out and try, I figured out that I can actually go about five days before I need to shampoo my hair. I think it would be longer if it wasn’t for the bangs/fringe I am usually sporting. I am pondering whether keeping the fringe is a high maintenance decision. {Thoughts?}

Now if you haven’t thought about this before, let the wheels spin for a minute. I am going to try the baking soda and vinegar routine when I run out of shampoo again, but even just washing my hair once every five days or so has a ton of magical consequences. I save a ridiculous amount of time in the shower, using a blow dryer, and using straighteners. I save money on shampoo and conditioner and electricity and I use less hot water. Boom. I save time in the store looking for shampoo and conditioner. Our mornings are a whole lot smoother. It works out better for me to shower the night before since I don’t have to wash my hair and worry that the blow dryer will wake a baby. I’m reducing the number of chemicals I’m scrubbing into my epidermis on a regular basis. I could keep going, but you get the idea.

So, do so homework about going no-poo, or at least consider the possibility that you are washing your hair a lot more often than you need to. And — don’t let this completely blow your mind — if you have dry scalp, it could be that instead of washing your hair more often with Head & Shoulders, you actually need to wash it and blow dry it less. And that could help more. For less. Wow.

4. A Chore Chart for the Bear

On the parenthood front, one little adjustment has been a really good one. I started a chore chart with the Bear. I personally insisted to myself that I had to come up with chores that would make less and not more work for me. Right now he unloads the silverware from the dishwasher, usually in the morning before preschool. I pull a chair up to the drawer and he goes to town. He also gathers the laundry from our bedroom and his bedroom into a big laundry bucket he can carry, and takes it to the laundry room before preschool. He tidies up his toys before nap time and before bed time, and he helps me set the table at dinner time.


Good thing North Carolina child labor laws are lax — he earns a penny for each of those chores. We put a sticker on the chore chart and at the end of the week, we count up his chores and put money in three jars — the “God” jar for the 10% he’ll bring to church, the “Save” jar which he will have to hold onto for a while, and the “Spend” jar which he can blow on race cars or bubble gum if he wants to. He is four — and introducing the concept of hard work earning a fair reward, counting and math, spending and saving and giving — it is all good stuff. He loves it and I love that it is much easier to get his help now. And already having the laundry right there every day when it’s laundry time…man that does help. He does other things that will not count towards the chore chart, because I also want him to understand that he’s part of the team and will have to help around here. I digress. Let’s move on.


5. Decide to Make a Plan

One of the most insurmountable challenges I’ve been forced to face in motherhood is trying to keep a reasonably tidy home. It is hard for me because I hate cleaning more than I like the results after I’ve cleaned. But obviously, it has to be done. So I spent some time deciding what the things are that need to happen at least every couple of weeks in order to not have anyone call Social Services because my children are living in a dump. I assigned one of those tasks to each weekday, and they rotate on a bi-weekly basis. For example, I mop the kitchen floors on Mondays (every other Monday), wash our sheets and towels every other Tuesday (the kids’ on the opposite Tuesday), clean the surfaces in the bathrooms every other Wednesday, and so on.

This works really well for me — even if I miss something one week and don’t manage to get it done on a free day later in the week (I don’t have a set chore on Fridays or the weekends) at least I know it’ll come around again in two weeks, which is much better than knowing that from probably October to early January, my kitchen floor got mopped a total of never. Mmmhmm.

6. Choose your Almost-Always’s

Along those same lines, I have repeatedly discovered that if I aim to do just one load of laundry a day every day except Sunday, I will manage to stay on top of our laundry and it will never feel like a mountain is piling up on top of the basket that sits in my laundry room. It’s okay if I miss a day, generally it will still work out, as long as I aim to just regularly get something started once everyone who showers has showered in the morning. So that’s an almost-always for every morning.

7. Divide your Work (and Conquer)

There are some other obvious chores that happen regularly around here. Exhibit A, I make bread in our breadmaker, usually three or four times a week. This was HH’s suggestion, ages ago, that I finally implemented at the beginning of this year: when I’m measuring the first loaf of the week out and dumping everything in the breadmaker, I measure another two loaves into random jars or containers so that I don’t have to make that big mess, get everything out and measure it all over again, and again. This is another one of those things that seems so simple and obvious, but it just took me deciding to actually do it to realize how much it helped. Now when it’s time to start a loaf I just have to measure and warm up the milk, cut in a little butter, dump in everything that’s already measured and add the yeast. Four minutes tops. And every time I do that, I brings me a heap of joy. It’s like the easy button at Staples. But real.


8. Hit the Sack, Jack

Yes, I’m a grownup and I can do whatever I want. But. I am a lot like my kids. If I let them stay up super late, they would. They’d fall asleep eventually, sure, but they would be worse for wear the next day. So. Me too. The Hubs and I have purposed to be much more disciplined about getting to bed this year. We decided to close up shop and head to the bedroom, aiming to be in bed by 9:15. From there we have about thirty minutes of Bible reading/quiet time, and we plan to turn the lights off at ten. We usually won’t start watching something if it’s going to take us past 9 pm. (We don’t have cable — we just have Amazon Prime. I can talk about that decision another day if you’re interested.) Now do we do this every night? No. But is it great when we do? Yes.

9. Make Dinner, Double or Nothing

I have become much more disciplined in the way I’m doing meals now. For a long time, I’ve planned ahead the week’s menu in order to know what to shop for. But my love for spending time in the kitchen meant I generally planned a different meal every night. And I spent the leftovers at lunch time. I am now realizing how much better life is in general if I make my time work for me in every area I can. That means I aim to put at least three meals on the menu which I can double. I try to divide what we’re eating — at least in my mind — to make sure we don’t overeat and then not have enough to enjoy the meal again. If the meal is freezable, I will freeze it for another week. If not, we will probably eat it again two nights later. This simple decision is stretching my budget in a very good way, because the things I do for lunch are usually cheaper than the things I do at dinner time, and I am spending less time in the kitchen, less time running the oven, stove, kettle, etc. and less time doing dishes. Can I get an Amen?

10. Reconsider your spaces.

Just before the Belle arrived, we got on a kick where we began rethinking and rearranging some different areas in our home. We thought about things that were a problem and why, and we began working toward solutions. Having our big Mac (the computer hub of Quiver Tree Photography) in the living room where the boys play was just causing a lot of issues (Tank, don’t touch…Tank…Tank!) and it was also a pretty significant risk. Hello, toy car crashing into a monitor… So we moved things around so that it could sit in its own little space in a different room. HH, being the hero he is after all, spent his bonus on an island for the kitchen – workspace has been an issue for me, and I had new pots and pans from my brother and nowhere to put them. We put together a 9-cube storage organizer thing to house the boys’ toys — and all of a sudden life started making more sense.

These simple changes sparked a number of other simple changes. From making the decision to actually complete some projects that will result in my being happy in the spaces where I spend 95% of my every day, to rearranging drawers and cupboards based on criteria that actually make sense and make them more functional — before I’d even started Tsh’s masterpiece of a book, this work was well underway, thanks to us starting with baby steps and moving forward.

Sometimes it’s daunting and overwhelming to think about rearranging things to make your home a more useful place, but it helps to remember getting started is usually the hardest part — just bite the bullet and start somewhere!

So those are a few simple practicalities that have helped get my year off to a good start. Ann Voskamp shared an amazing 25 Point Manifesto for Staying Sane in 2013 that I think you should check out.

How are things going for your 2013? Any tips you want to share?