I think I can (on creating a plan for living without constant chaos)


That note from Seth was written sometime in the last couple of years.  I don’t remember exactly when or why.  He must have insulted me, and I must have requested a written apology.  I’ve saved it in my desk drawer because it makes me giggle.  It also reminds me of two of my mothering goals:  Try not to be crazy.  Try not to be mean.  Those are important goals to have I do believe, and more challenging to meet than one might think.

I let myself slide into a place of overwhelm during the last year or two.  It’s been this slow descent into chaos.  It’s no big secret how these things happen.  With small children in the house, it’s not like it’s hard for things to go in this direction. The tricky thing is digging out.  I’ve learned that grand plans rarely work out for me.  So instead, this time I have tried to come up with a small plan, something very basic, something that everyone else in my position probably already does as a bare minimum.

There are no sources of forced structure in our lives.  Jonny works from home, and while it’s a real job with real and at times very stressful full time work, he can create his own hours.  Have I mentioned here before that he describes himself as a “free spirit?”  And then with homeschooling an entire brood of free spirits, why we could just spend our days in our pajamas making gigantic creative messes in our little house, couldn’t we?

The problem is that I can’t live like that all the time.  That lifestyle tends to cause me to be a little crazy and mean sometimes.  Surely we can be creative without all the constant chaos?  Mess and clutter in the environment create the same in my head, and I am convinced that it probably does the same to the rest of my family, they just don’t realize it.  I accept and embrace that a life well lived is oftentimes if not usually messy.  But, mama’s job is to keep the ball rolling and make sure that all that must be done, is actually done.  I’m not talking about anything unreasonable here, but there really does need to be some sense of routine, an undercurrent if you will, or at least a plan in place if we are to accomplish the necessaries which include work and school at a bare minimum.  And while we don’t need to be able to eat off our floors, we do need clean clothes on a regular basis.  We do need clean work surfaces.  It would be nice if we could get out the door on time every now and then without a last minute scramble looking for lost shoes, keys, etc.  You should see what a madhouse it is here sometimes just to get out the door to run an errand.

So over the past month or so I’ve been working on this loose plan.  One that makes sure that everyone knows what they need to be doing and doesn’t necessarily require me to spend my entire life nagging.  Do you guys have boys in the 12-15 years age range?  Do you know what they are like?  I have three of them.  They are dear, but they are so spacey it makes me insane.  So I have this combination of super messy small children, super spacey big children, and a free spirited husband.  I’m not complaining about them, just so we’re clear.  They are all wonderful, and thank goodness for free spirited messy people to help us all loosen up.  But I have to do something here if I am to thrive along with them.  Just the bare minimum, people.  That’s all I’m looking for.

This week we started The Plan.  And I know it’s early, but I think it’s working.  I feel better than I have in many months.  There is something to be said for having a plan and writing it down.

Some people deep clean their house on Saturday mornings, but travel baseball prevents us from doing that, and really I’d rather not do any extra housework on Saturday anyway.  I want to have fun on the weekend if possible.  Of course Sundays are for Mass along with rest or play.

We all have daily chores, always have.  The only change is that I am writing them down now and kids are checking them off.  There is a master weekly list in the kitchen on the side of the fridge.  It removes the mystery for everyone, no room for “I forgot.”  I bought a blank write-on weekly calendar and am using it differently than the way it’s intended, but in a way that serves me well.  I can fill it in on Sunday evening.  There is room for the daily activities, and reminders for myself (excercise!  take vitamins!)  The boys laundry days are penciled in.  (Of course for me, it’s always laundry day.)  I can pencil in things that I would like to happen, knowing that there may not end up being enough time.  But at least they are written down as reminders for another day.  The important thing is that the calendar is on the side of the refrigerator where everyone can see it!

The big addition is a rotation of deep cleaning.  This helps eliminate my freak out days when I end up saying (shouting?) something along the lines of, “Everyone stop what you are doing.  We have to clean this house right! now!  Our house is small, and I divided it up into four pieces.  Each piece gets an extra deep clean once/week.  The kids and I work together first thing in the morning to get it done.   Monday we work in the kitchen, Tuesday the living room, Wednesday our two bathrooms, and Thursday our bedrooms.  It doesn’t have to take that long, and over time I bet we’ll be able to finish quickly.  We have a pretty big cleaning team.  Friday is reserved for cleaning projects that happen on a rotating basis such as cleaning out vehicles, cleaning out the fridge, etc.  This doesn’t mean that our house is always clean.  It just means that there are set times for things to happen and I can remind myself of that when the mess is starting to get under my skin.  There is something very soothing about having things written down.  And if we have a bad day, or too much scheduled one day outside the home and a daily deep cleaning chore gets skipped, that’s not really a big deal.  This system may actually work for me, without stressing me out.

I know that for some of you this is all so terribly obvious.  For some people this home organization stuff comes naturally.  I’ve got a little sister who is a homemaking master.  What can I say?  She got all those genetics.  I got ADD.  I am perpetually distracted.

This week I feel like there is room for me to breathe and feel like the entire world isn’t descending into absolute chaos.  There is the possibility that I can be sane and kind most of the time.  And that is good.

I think I can keep this up.  I think it’s sustainable.  I think I can.  I think I can.


  1. I love this idea! That note from Seth made me giggle, too.

    I don’t have any teenage boys, but I do have a husband — why are boys so spacey?!?! It drives me crazy and I only have one in my life. He claims he doesn’t notice things and I don’t understand how that’s possible. But it must be, right? He’s not TRYING to drive me crazy, right? Right? 🙂

  2. love the use of the calendar! what a great idea. i totally get you, i have to have my house picked up occasionally or i feel like i am going to fly to pieces. thankfully the kids are usually on board. LOL

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