Wednesday, March 30, 2011


     I took a “day off” and attended a Lenten Retreat last week. Dr. Edward Sri, theologian, author and former professor of our oldest daughter, spoke on Love and Marriage. He's a great speaker and even had Susanna and her two teenage friends laughing and thinking hard. I sat with the wife of Bruce’s former boss. We hadn't seen each other in a few years; Bruce and I have had two more children since then, so it was fun catching up. She said to me, "That's hard, managing so many children and a home! You must be so organized!"
      Uh--yes and no. Yes, it is challenging to manage so many people and things. No, I am not so well organized. I want to be! It is one of my goals in life. I told her that I was always a "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants" kind of person. It worked with two children, but when I married Bruce and our family instantly doubled, I had to change. I am still adapting, and I am no expert. Ben’s Kindergarten teacher would laugh if she heard my friend’s remark. I think whole trees have been ripped from the Rain Forest, because of all the reminder notes she’s had to send home to me. Ben manages to get out the door some days wearing pants with holes in the knees, and shirts on backward to school. Maybe I’m his teacher’s comic relief for the day.

     I have read nearly a dozen books on time management, scheduling and organization.  I combine elements from each of the books for a system that works for me; theoretically, that is, because I’m still trying and tweaking. One book that helped a lot was recommended by my brother Al-- “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity ” by David Allen. His system and ideas helped more than any other with the mountains of mail that come into the house. He helps high powered executives and businessmen but his ideas are adaptable to any person.
      Dave Ramsey has a radio show and has authored books on financial management. He focuses on a cash-based budget, getting out of debt, being wise with purchases, and then building savings. There are seminars, "Financial Peace University," usually at local churches; Google the one nearest you. Phil Lenahan has a similar program. I highly recommend either course, especially for college age people just starting out, so that bad habits never take hold. Both men are Christians and use Biblical principles in their philosophies.
     I was really impressed with Julie Morgenstern’s “Time Management from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule—and Your Life.”   She helps with clarification of goals, permission to purge some unattainable or unrealistic goals, and the development of a “Time Map.” The latter sounds better than “schedule” and it is. It encourages you to concentrate on the top three actions per goal and to work them into your time map. The time map can be detailed or fairly unstructured depending on your style or job. I liked the book a lot.
     My Mother-in-law gave me “Organizing Plain & Simple” by Donna Smallin. This is a great quick-reference with very useful tips for every room in the house, with sections on finances and personal scheduling. I refer to it a lot and it has cute and colorful graphics that appeal to me (that may not make a difference to some, but it can encourage me to dive in more readily).
     “Eliminate Chaos: The 10-Step Process to Organize Your Home & Life” by Laura Leist is a very attractive book. It reminds me of the shows on TLC where people organize somebody’s home in a few days. There are before and after pictures with some really good explanations and ideas. I love the photography. It reminds me of a coffee-table book, but with lots of self-help information.
     Geared a bit more toward stay-at-home Moms is an older book, “Sidetracked Home Executives: From Pigpen to Paradise” by sisters Pam Young and Peggy Jones. This one’s a funny read. Their system for organizing and cleaning the home is very helpful, though somewhat antiquated. Their motto: “We Change Lives with Three-by-Five’s” needs a little updating in this new world of computer technology. Not that pen and paper doesn’t work; in fact, physical, tangible 3X5 cards may be the best solution for some. I do use them with the teens and our weekly house-cleaning. Nowadays, though, I’d imagine many people would prefer something on a computer or palm device. I finally made the switch from a paper/calendar based system to my iPhone (so far, so good, and now I’m investigating all sorts of  Productivity Apps!).  Marla Cilley, the “Fly Lady,” was inspired by these sisters and their system. She tweaked it into a portable "office-in-a-bag," a 3-ring binder in a carrier, and shares that system in her book “Sink Reflections.”  You can learn more about it on
     Six years ago I read a book by a homeschooling Mom of eight children. “Managers of Their Homes,” by Teri Maxwell is an amazing compilation of schedules of dozens of homeschooling Moms who tried Teri’s system of evaluating the goals and activities of each family member, and combining them on a wall-sized chart. I made the chart. Each person had their individual colored paper. I sticky-tacked it all up in our school room (I homeschooled Marie and Susanna at the time) and gave it a good try. I’m not sure why it didn’t work for me. We had three more babies in quick succession. Our lives did not allow for any extended maintenance period, ours was repeatedly adaption and evaluation. There were too many revisions required—or maybe just not enough colors!
     Holly Pierlot’s book, “A Mother’s Rule of Life” encourages the reader to look at the schedule in a more sacred way . Orders of religious people, like the Benedictine Monks, have a code or a “Rule” to live by. Holly helps the reader to develop a "Rule" for her family, and discern how her priorities fit in line with the goal of living a holy life centered on Christ. The family schedule becomes a beautiful dance of worship (well, maybe not quite so beautiful in our house, but I try). I have reread the book several times and attended two extended Bible Studies on it. I’m not a complete failure, though it is at times disheartening to read notes to myself dated 2005, 2007, 2009 and realize I haven’t quite gotten on top of it all yet. To perhaps feel better I tell myself that Holly had five children and I have ten…so it makes sense that it's doubly hard for me! Right?

     We make our choices. This is the life Bruce and I love, even with the challenges of my lack of organization. We each need to find what works for us, whether we live in an apartment or a house, a suburb or a farm, and have one child or ten!  I’ll keep at it. I joke that I’ll finally have it mastered when I’m eighty. Most importantly, our children need to know they have a Mom and Dad who love them-- even if they do get out the door with holey pants and backward shirts.

God bless us all in organizing the life we’ve been given.
The Abbey Farm

1 comment:

  1. Update: I've since added a link to "102030GO." We've completed our first week and though we were not perfectly diligent, I can see that this will help a lot. Check it out online. Kids do need to be at a reading age but the creators (the Govea family) are working on a preschool program.
    Susanna, 14, jumped right in and is the cheerleader for the program. Pretty good when a fourteen year old is excited about a program for prayer, chores, and reading. Please read about it; the family's story is moving and inspirational!