When our keeping house becomes intentional, it becomes something different to us altogether. Several people wrote passionately about their desire for a rhythm in their households. And others wrote frankly admitting that sloth stood between them and smooth running household. I think that intentional housekeeping is how we establish and maintain rhythm and conquer the deadly sin of sloth. Begin your intentional homemaking today. Claim a quiet moment and think about what you want for your home. Imagine the way you want it to look not just today, but every day when your husband walks through the door; not just tomorrow morning, but every time you awaken in it to greet another day. Imagine Sunday mornings and the scramble to get to church. How can that look different? Imagine meal times. Imagine holidays. Imagine the ways in which your house will support your vision for family life. As you engage your imagination, jot down those things which come to mind. It's all fair game right now. Don't let the things that pop into your head be distractions; all of them to shape the picture.
Now, what stands in the way? Do you have some major de-cluttering to do? Do you lack a routine for keeping things clean? Is laundry never finished and never ready when you need it? Today, begin to build a routine, a habit of orderliness. We are a rhythmic people. Our God is a God of order. Housekeeping routines echo the routines of the liturgical life of the church. There is a rhythm of overlapping cycles within the day, within the week, within the year.
Some days and seasons will be busier than others, even as sacred liturgies vary in their length and complexity according to the time of the day and week and year. But if we have some sense of what need to be done daily and what can be done less frequently, it is much more likely that we will be able to accomplish the day's or the week's work in a way that is centered and focused rather than pervaded with an anxious or guilty sense that we really should be doing something more or other than what we are in fact doing.--Keeping House.
So, set about making a list. Don't let yourself get caught up in a fussy system of notebooks or card files or anything else. Just grab the back of an envelope and make a list. What needs to be done in your house every day? What is necessary in a day to make life pleasant and peaceable? Take the daily list and order it. Think about meal times and put each task before or after a meal. Break it all down. Remember, engage your imagination. When should that toddler have his bath? Before breakfast or after dinner? What makes sense? How do all the pieces fit? Do you have quiet time in the morning before children awaken to wash the floor and let it dry or must that be done last thing in the evening? List every single task of the day and give it a place--not a time slot, necessarily, but a place within the rhythm of the normal activities of waking and sleeping, eating and leaving. The list needs to make sense within the context of your family. No one can make the list for you. This is intentional housekeeping. Think through each day, each task for yourself. Then commit it to paper. We are going to turn the thought into a routine so you won't have to think about it anew each time it must be done.
Now it's time for a real piece of paper (actually, this is far simpler at the computer where you can cut and paste and move things around--just don't get distracted by fancy fonts and colors). Divide the paper in half lengthwise and transfer your daily list to the lefthand side of the paper. On the righthand side, make a list of tasks which need to be accomplished weekly. Note everything you can call to mind, from paying bills, to cleaning out the van, to dusting to grocery shopping. Think about your weekly schedule. Which days are you home all day? Which ones call you out into the world? Which days precede days with special needs? For instance, in order to pull off a full day of soccer and basketball, I need to take some time the day before to be certain uniforms are ready, I have a stash of provisions for little siblings, I know what will go in the crockpot before we leave in the morning. It's all intentional. Think it through. Write as you go. That righthand column will have seven days listed and then each days activities under the heading for that day.
Now think about your children. Who is capable of helping with which tasks? Who is home at certain times? How can you share the load? One lady wrote to me and told me that she'd rather spend time with her children making memories than cleaning grout. Why are the two mutually exclusive? Why can we not work together and make connections as we go--and grow? I was kind of amazed by the number of people who confided that sloth is what stands between them and a home they love. I recognized for the first time what a gift it was to grow up in household where idleness was frowned upon and laziness was simply not allowed. It is a great gift to teach our children to overcome sloth when they are young, a gift these women wish their parents had given them. Sloth is a deadly sin, so called because it is a sin which gives rise to other sins. The Church teaches that diligence is the virtue which overcomes sloth. When we work alongside our children, we teach them diligence and we inoculate them against sloth. If sloth is our particular vice, what greater motivation to overcome it than to help our children grow in virtue?
It is all too easy even for spouses or for parents and children to see things like dishwashing as distractions from relationship or from leisure and to put them off or rush through them in order to get on to seemingly more important things. But dishes, along with other kinds of domestic work, can be opportunities to share together in the work of making a peaceable and pleasant home, and in the process to enjoy the kind of shared time and conversation that turn out to build relationships and nourish the soul.-Keeping House.
Your list will now reflect the daily and weekly needs of your household. You will have assigned certain tasks to certain children. It's not a perfect list. PRINT IT OUT. Hang it on your refrigerator. Live it for a week. Make notes on it. Tweak it. Think, think, think about it. But do it. Do those tasks as you have listed them for a whole week. At the end of the week, look at your notes and adjust.Then do it again. Give yourself three weeks before you really will have nailed your routine.At first, this will seem to take monumental effort, but over time, you will notice that habitual conduct actually takes the least effort. You won't think about those chores any more; you will simply do them. You won't procrastinate because you have intentionally assigned a a day and time to a job and you know that your life will be happier if you do it on its assigned day and time. You won't argue with your children about chores because they will grow to expect that certain things will be done on certain days. Finally, your house will bless your efforts. It will become a place of peace, a place where you are not mocked by messy closets and unmade beds. When you sit with a book or a craft, you will truly be relaxed because you know that the work of the day is finished or it will be in its time. No more guilt.
Finally, don't write and tell me your husband doesn't care about the mess. I've never met a man who would prefer to live in a cluttered, dirty house over an orderly, clean one. No one wants a sterile environment, but it's nice to know your wife appreciates the work it takes to provide shelter and that she shelters you in turn by making a house a home.