Consistent Routine: the Key to Excellence

Consistent Routine: the Key to Excellence

We, as humans, like routine.  Even people who seem to thrive on change have routines in place in their lives, even if they don’t think about it.

Study after study has been done with the importance of routine for young children, how their security is anchored to the predictability of their lives.

No matter how old we are, we all set certain routines in place so our lives run more smoothly and so we feel secure in knowing what comes next.  It may be in small areas like the order you do personal hygiene activities (shower, hair makeup, teeth, etc) or what you eat for breakfast (oatmeal & coffee!) or the roads you take to work.  It may be in larger areas like the colors you wear or the kind of car you drive.

You may intentionally create these routine or they may seem to have happened “by accident”.  Whatever is the case, we are creatures of habit, and because we are creatures of habit, the quality of our lives is simply the quality of our habits.

Habits also keeps our lives running smoothly without much apparent thought or effort. Once habits are established, they happen pretty much automatically.

Have you ever driven somewhere that you go often (like to work or school or to the grocery store) and once you are there you don’t remember the drive?  That’s because the drive is a habit, your brain can get you there on auto-pilot while it is dealing with something else.

This can be both good and bad.  It is important to practice being in the present.  We can relax and enjoy the simple pleasures of life, the wind, the smell of flowers the warmth of the sun, the giggles of our children, the cozy snuggle times.

But, habits keep life running smoothly during times of stress, emergency or big change.    Being able to keep these basics of life under control actually reduces stress and feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness and overwhelm.

Having the basics of home and family life under control provides us with the time and energy to focus on other things that are also important to us.

Most families live in the urgent rather than in the important.

Reading the Bible together at breakfast gets pushed to the side because everyone is running late.  Evening family time doesn’t happen because after activities, supper and homework there is not time and everyone is exhausted.  Emergencies happen but they shouldn’t happen often.

By developing habits we can take care of the “urgent” so that it doesn’t become urgent!  The everyday things don’t just happen (or don’t just happen smoothly).  Food, cleaning, health maintenance, family devotions can all be developed into habits…so they happen almost without thinking about them.  Then you will have the time and energy to focus on other great things.

Many famous people have used rather simple routines to facilitate their achievement of great things. Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Beethoven, Ghandi, Steve Jobs, John Grisham, and many others all achieved great things through harnessing the power of habit.

We can harness the power of habit for our families by creating routines that help everyday life run smoothly.  The Simplified Home Management page links to many articles to help you develop habits and systems for everyday life.

 

4 Steps to Simplify Laundry

Laundry: some people love it; some (most) people hate it, but we all have to do it!  However, there are ways to make to never-ending task of laundry easier!

1. Find a system that works for you.

There are many different systems available to help you keep laundry under control.  You may need to try out a few systems until you find one that works for your family.  And as your family and daily/weekly schedules change, your system may need to change. My system has changed MANY times throughout my life as a mom.

One system is to focus on laundry one day each week and to just do all the laundry at once, then don’t think about laundry until next week.  If you choose this system you will need a place to store the dirty laundry until wash day…a place that doesn’t “take over” another place.  You will also need to be able to completely finish (including putting everything away), otherwise this system is not working for you.

This system may not work for you if you have your own septic system; generally it is recommended that you try to spread laundry out throughout the week so as not to overwhelm your septic system.  We do not use this system because the dirty laundry would overwhelm our bedroom, our septic system would not be working at its best and because I would feel stressed trying to get it all done and put away in one day.  But, this system did work well for me when I was single and married without kids.

Another system is to start a load of laundry every evening: throw all laundry from that day into the washer in the evening, run the load during the night, transfer to the dryer in the morning and put away during the day.

If you wash everything on cold (so colors don’t bleed) and don’t have any clothes that need special care, this system may work for you.  I choose to separate light-weight clothing from heavier clothes (jeans) and towels/linens from everything else.

However, during busy times of life I have been known to throw many things in together just so washing happens in a timely manner!  This may be a great system for someone who hates laundry or who works outside of the home or is in a very busy, stressful time in life.

The system that is working for me right now, is to do one (or two) complete loads of laundry each day.  I have three laundry baskets (each holds about one load of laundry).  One basket is for towels and linens; these get washed on a HOT.  One for light-weight clothes of any color; these get washed on COLD.  The last basket is for jeans and other heavy-weight clothing; these get washed on COLD.  When a basket is full, I do that load of wash.

2. Choose Easy-Care Clothing

Another way to simplify laundry is to choose clothing that is easy to wash and wear…machine washable and no ironing!  If your daily life allows (and especially for kids), choose clothing made from fabrics that wash easily in the washing machine and are easy to dry in the dryer or air dry.  Avoid clothing that needs to be ironed after each wash.  If you lead a casual life, many button down shirts (like chambray or flannel or poplin) can avoid ironing if hung to dry.  They won’t be as crisp as if you ironed them, but they won’t look wrinkled either!  I rarely iron clothes…only for special occasions like weddings, funerals or special events, if I have a few extra minutes I might do a fast iron on some things before church.  I’d like to try a garment steamer sometime…I think this would be a quick and easy way to get rid of a few wrinkles quickly and easily…and without an ironing board!

Daily Uniform

Having easy care clothing also limits the specialty laundry supplies that you needed.  I have one laundry detergent that we use for everything.  This was the same when we had babies and used cloth diapers…use the same laundry detergent for everything!   Have one pre-treat that you use for everything.  I use blue Dawn dish soap…it is the best that I have found!  I do keep rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide on hand and occasionally pull them out for a specific stain (ink, blood).  But Dawn will take care of most everything…especially grease, even old grease stains!  I also keep a bleach pen on hand.  I rarely use it and only after I have tried Dawn.

I do not use dryer sheets, besides turning your dryer lint into a fire hazard, they are not needed and just one more thing to have to buy repeatedly.  I have wool dryer balls that work great!   If you like the scenting of dryer sheets, put a couple drops of essential oil on the dryer balls or on a dry rag and toss it in the dryer with your clothes.  By choosing a detergent that is more natural (one without whiteners and brighteners and enzymes that leave a coating on your fabrics) and using dryer balls, you will not have a problem with static.

3. Limit the Amount of Laundry

You CAN limit the amount of laundry you have by limiting the number of clothes you own.  This works especially well for kids (who change clothes multiple times a day) and you can never be sure what is really clean and what is dirty.  Limiting clothes also limits the total amount of laundry that can accumulate before you either need to 1) wear dirty clothes or 2) go buy more underwear.

4. Make Putting Away Easy.

With easy care clothing, the washing and drying is pretty easy to accomplish; it is the putting away that takes the most time!  Here are a few tips to make this part of the laundry chore easier:

  1. Make sure there is enough space in closets and drawers…if everything is clean, there should still be 10-20% “free space”.  This way it is easy to see everything and easy to put away things without squishing things in.  This will also keep things looking neater and avoids unwanted wrinkles later.
  2. If you like to fold (or roll) then fold (or roll) as much as you can.  If you like to hang, then hang as much as you can…don’t fight yourself!
  3. Let go of perfection.  Does your underwear really need to be folded?  Is it just as easy to access if it is thrown into a drawer in a pile?  (If you like beautifully folded underwear all lined up in a drawer AND you have the time to do it, great!  If it doesn’t bother you, don’t bother!)
  4. Let your kids put away their own clothes.  This also requires letting go of perfection.  Even young children (my youngest started at age 3) can put their own clothes away if the system is simple enough.

We have chosen to forego dressers for our kids and just use the space under their beds as their “dresser”.  Each child has four plastic crates/bins under his/her bed: tops, bottoms, underwear/socks and pajamas.  Each child gets to decide how neat and tidy each bin is; they can fold, roll or just toss.  This works well for everyday clothes.

under bed clothes storage

I choose to hang their nice dresses and dress clothes for them.  This saves me so much time!  As I sort through the clean clothes I just toss their things into their laundry buckets, and they are responsible for putting their own things away.

4 Tips to Simplify Launrdy

Those are the four steps I take to keep laundry simple for me.  What is your biggest struggle with laundry?  What one thing can you do today to make laundry more simple for you?

 

Being the Manager of Your Home

It sounds very formal and official to call yourself a Home Manager, but every home is managed somehow — intentionally or unintentionally, well or poorly.

According to Google, a manager is:

  1. a person responsible for controlling or administering all or part of a company or similar organization. (A family or household)
  2. a person who controls the activities, business dealings, and other aspects of the career of an entertainer, athlete, group of musicians, etc. (a family or household)

Synonyms include: executive, head of department, supervisor, principal, administrator, head, director, managing director, CEO, employer, superintendent, foreman, forewoman, overseer; proprietor; boss, chief, head honcho

This is a VERY important job!  As with any professional business or career, a good manager can succeed even with mediocre employees and a bad manager will often fail even with excellent employees.

Family Pic 6.2015

Being a Home Manager sounds like a large and overwhelming job…especially on top of everything else in your life.  However, systematizing and simplifying your job as Home Manager will make the rest of your life easier and more joyful!

Every family wants a clean and comfortable place to call home.  Most people want to eat (at least) three meals a day.  Everyone wants to have their schedules under control so they feel like they are leading their lives instead of running to catch up.

Cleaning Supplies

These lofty goals are actually not that hard to achieve!  The secret lies in working smarter not harder; in setting priorities so you can let go of perfection in all areas and settle for good enough where you can.

Laundry on Clothesline

Most Home Managers struggle in one or more of these five main areas:

  1. Food
  2. Cleaning (including the unending tasks of dishes and laundry)
  3. Schedules
  4. Finances
  5. Health

yummy salad

Thankfully there are concrete steps you can take, systems you can create and implement, to take control of your home!  This will provide you with more time and energy for the things you want to do.

Check out Simplified Home Management for links to posts to help you simplify your life.

Which of these areas causes you the most stress in the management of your home?

6 Steps to Building an Awesome Salad

My capsule menu for the summer includes lots of salads. I use this simple salad planning system to keep our meals feeling new and fresh each time.

Step 1: Choose your theme.

Mexican, Asian, Greek, Italian, etc.

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Greek-seasoned ground turkey, cucumber dressing, Greek olives, Feta cheese

Step 2: Choose your protein, season appropriately and choose your dressing.

It’s all in the seasoning!  By seasoning your meat (Chicken, Beef, Ground Meat, Fish, Sea Food) according to your chosen theme, you give each salad its own unique flavor and it feel like you are eating a new salad each night!

Some protein choices (hard boiled eggs, shrimp, crab) may not need to (or you may not want to) season.  Then your variety in flavors comes from your choice of dressing.

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Asian Chicken Cabbage Salad

Step 3: Choose your grain (optional).

One way to make salads into a full meal and to fill up hungry bellies, is to add a grain as a base for your salad.  Choose a whole grain like brown rice, quinoa, barley or organic corn chips or add a side of whole grain sour dough bread.

Step 4: Choose your leafy green.

There are many great choices for the “salad” part of your salad.  Spinach, cabbage (multiple colors), romaine, spring mix, kale…by changing up your leafy green you also keep salads new!

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Egg Salad Lettuce Wraps

Step 5: Choose your toppings.

A wide variety of toppings make (and keep) salads fun.  Seeds and nuts, a variety of cheeses, lots of fresh veggies, fruit (dried or fresh) and things like olives, pickles, mushrooms and beans add substance and flavor to enhance your chosen salad’s theme.

Step 6: Prepare all ingredients, but keep things separate!

This step is important to keep everyone in the family happy!  Everyone has at least a few foods that “are not their favorites”.  Keeping all the salad ingredients separate means that everyone can custom make a salad that they LOVE!  It also means that any leftover ingredients can be easily used for another meal (prep once, eat twice!).

Build and enjoy your salad!

6 step salads

So far so good with our summer of salads!  My kids (even the picky one) have discovered that tuna salad is good…and so is romaine lettuce!

Could your family enjoy a summer of salad?

 

Summer Capsule Menu

Even though we are a home school family, our summers look quite a bit different than the rest of the year does for us.  We spend much more time outside, we are away from home more and Tony’s work schedule changes.

I love how having a capsule menu helps me to keep real food meals on the table for my family, day in and day out, without much thought and effort.  But during the summer, I want a change.  Lighter meals filled with all of summer’s fresh produce.  I want salads instead of soup.  And I don’t want to use my oven!

Here is my school year capsule menu if you are interested.

I have some unique challenges as I plan meals for my family (and I’m sure you do too!).  My husband needs to be nightshade-free and my children can be rather picky; they are more willing to try new things if they can be tried separately.  I also often pack meals for my family to eat someplace other than at home.

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Chicken Ranch Wraps…I like to pack meals separately, then I can personalize sides to match preferences.

Rather than scheduling specific meals to specific days, I’ve listed meals according to categories.  Doing it this way gives me more flexibility to cook according to what I have on hand and according to what our daily plans are.

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Asian Cabbage Salad with Chicken (this is yummy but would be even prettier with tomatoes and colored peppers!)

Here is my Summer Capsule Menu if you are interested.

Do you have a favorite summer salad that is hearty enough for a full meal?  What are your favorite summer meals? Please share!

Stock Your Natural Remedies Cabinet

Summer involves lots of activity and lots of activity will inevitably lead to a few bumps and bruises, scrapes and the occasional run it with a natural pest (mosquito, poison ivy). Being prepared to prevent when possible and treat easily and naturally reduces stress and makes life easier.

Please Note: This is not to be taken as medical advice. I am sharing what we do for our family. Hopefully, this will prompt you to make a plan for your family for various possible needs. Doing your research, planning and preparing now will make your summer run more smoothly and be more fun!

Natural Remedies for Summer

Here are a few things I keep on hand year-round to keep us healthy and deal with minor illness and injury:

Healthy food and healthy movement makes for a healthy body. Even while on “vacation” choose to keep the sugar and refined carbohydrates low and to eat lots of fruit and veggies. Even when we eat like this, our bodies can still benefit from some basic supplements. We take a homemade herbal multivitamin year-round and try to eat lots of probiotic rich foods (like kefir, yogurt, kombucha and fermented veggies). There are many good multi-vitamins you can buy (or make). Do your research and choose the best one for your family.

I keep homeopathic Arnica Montana on hand for all sorts of major and minor trauma. It is great for bumps, bruises, cuts and scrapes as well as for sore muscles and headaches.

I keep a few rice packs in the freezer at all times. These can be as easy as a sock filled with uncooked rice, tied off and put into the freezer or you can also find nicely sewn squares at craft sales and online. This is my favorite form of “ice pack” it easily molds to various body parts and has no hard edges to add to the hurt, but it is also cold enough to get the job done but not so cold that you have to worry about freezing skin and then don’t melt into a puddle and cause a mess! These are magic with kids, so easy and reusable!

I keep bandages on hand in a couple of sizes and shapes, but the basic size works well for most things. I like to keep the plain flesh colored ones for adults as well as “fun” ones for the kids. (I buy my fun bandages from the dollar store, only $1/box!) My kids would use these fun bandages for all sorts of non-necessary boo-boos so we have made the rule that blood has to be present in order to need a bandage!

Instead of an antibiotic cream on cuts and scrapes, I use extra virgin coconut oil. It keeps the wound moist, which promotes healing, and extra virgin coconut oil is naturally anti-bacteria and anti-fungal.

For cuts and scrapes that are larger than a regular bandage can handle, I use non-stick gauze pads and vet wrap. A non-stick gauze pad covered in coconut oil will protect the wound and provide a barrier to infection, securing the gauze pad is easier, sturdier and more comfortable with vet wrap than with tape. Vet wrap can be found at most farm supply stores in a large variety of bright colors (or ordered here). It is the same stuff that can be found at most drug stores in a flesh colored hue but at about two to three times less in price! Vet wrap sticks to itself but not to skin and while wrapping it around the injury may look a bit beyond necessary, it holds the gauze pad securely in place (even while swimming). I was a summer camp nurse and used vet wrap all the time! It kept even minor scrapes and cuts free of dirt and sand while playing rough and tumble games and while swimming. Remember to change the bandage after wet or dirty activities. 3M NextCare waterproof bandages are truly waterproof and very sturdy when correctly applied to clean, dry skin (to correctly apply them so that they are waterproof and last can take a bit of practice…). They are a bit expensive (as far as bandages go) but depending on the situation are very worth the price!

Aloe Vera Gel with added lavender essential oil is my favorite skin soother! It is great for dry skin, sun burn and rashes of various kinds. Use a 100% pure aloe vera gel and a high quality essential oil. (Plant Therapy is my preferred essential oil brand but there are many other high quality options.) I also like to keep diluted lavender essential oil handy in a roll-on bottle. It works good to roll onto any little bump, bruise or rash. My youngest even likes to use it for mosquito bites! It is extremely safe and kids can put it on themselves which they like!).

Sniffle Stopper essential oil blend (from Plant Therapy’s KidSafe line) is great for helping kids to breath easier and sleep well when dealing with summer colds or allergies. I just put a couple of drops on a rag and set the rag on their night stand. You can also use an essential oil diffuser or apply it to the chest or back when properly diluted.

Where we live in Minnesota, some form of bug repellent is almost a necessity at certain times of day and in certain locations. The mosquitoes can make being outdoors almost unbearable during parts of the summer and in the evenings. I prefer the most natural option possible and have had good results with a lemon eucalyptus repellent (Repel Brand or Cutter Brand can be found at most stores). There are also small companies that make truly natural insect repellent (MadeOn and Earthley are a couple that I may try this summer).  If you make your own with essential oils, place your essential oils in a carrier oil (like almond or coconut oil)or turn it into a lotion bar with shea butter and bee’s wax and then apply.  This will keep it from evaporating quickly and “wearing off” like the essential oils do in a base of witch hazel. 

Ticks and Lyme Disease is always a concern since we live in a Lyme-indemic area.  I’ve done a whole post how we have treated Lyme Disease in the past and what we are doing to prevent future infections.

Living “up north” and spending more than six months of the year without adequate sunlight on our skin to make vitamin D, I avoid using sun block whenever possible. Eating a diet full of healthy fats will make your skin naturally more resistant to sun burn. However, if I know that we will be in full sun for over and hour during peek times (10am-2pm) I choose to use a natural sun block on the areas that are the most likely to burn (face and ears, shoulders and upper chest and back). I’ve used and liked the sunblock from Tropical Sands for many summers.  Katie from Kitchen Stewardship has an awesome and very comprehensive safe sunscreen guide

I keep Bentonite clay on hand year-round and use it daily in my tooth powder and face powder but it is absolutely amazing  in dealing with summer pest bites and stings. It stops mosquito and fly bites from itching and bee or wasp stings from hurting within a matter of minutes. You can make a paste simply be adding water to the dry powder until it reaches your desired consistency or you can buy a pre-made paste which is easy to use and carry with you.

Another thing we always keep on hand (but hope we don’t have to use) is homeopathic poison ivy/oak tablets. Avoiding exposure to poison ivy is the best, but sometimes it happens. Using these tablets as directed (a few times a day) for a couple days completely dries up the rash and greatly reduces the itching! 

What are your favorite natural remedies for summer?

 

 

Developing a Daily Routine

My mission for this summer is to refresh myself and my family with meaningful experiences that grow our relationships with each other.

I hope you are making progress on developing a daily and weekly cleaning routine (and getting your kids involved).  Hopefully, you are also finding some things to get rid of in order to make your cleaning tasks easier!

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A pile of stuff to get rid of — less stuff = less cleaning!

Today, we’re going to talk about developing a daily routine.  Having a daily routine gives security and predictability to our days.  We like knowing what to expect as the day progresses.  A comfortable flow to the day is also relaxing, (if you keep it simple!)

Think about your family’s current daily routine.

What things do you want to keep for the summer?  What things do you want to change?  What things do you want to alter to better fir the relaxed atmosphere of summer?  Make a list of the things you want to or need to keep in your summer routine:

Example: breakfast, chore time, lunch, free time, quiet rest time, supper, snacks, bath time, reading together, etc.

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Free play time is a necessary part of our daily routine.

If you are a very scheduled and “type A” person, you will need to adjust your focus from a scheduled, time-oriented view of life to a routine-oriented mindset.  Think of your daily routine as a bunch of things done in a particular order, not necessarily at a particular time.  The only things I try to keep at fairly regular times each day are meals and snacks.

Here is an example of or daily routine:

  • 7:30 am breakfast
  • Chore time
  • Education time/free time/special activity
  • 10:00 am snack
  • 12:30am lunch
  • Reading together
  • Quiet rest time
  • Free time/special activity
  • 3:00pm snack
  • 6:00pm supper
  • Free time/special activity (usually at home)
  • Bath/shower
  • Reading together
  • Bedtime

You may need to come up with a couple of different daily routines.  If you work outside of the home, it may work best for you to plan daily routine for work days and for non-work days.  If your weekdays and weekends look very different, you may need to make a routine for weekdays and another for weekends.  Generally, one main daily routine can easily be adapted to fit the needs of another day.

You know your family and how much down-time your family needs.

This will determine what a special activity look like for your family and how often your family can handle these special activities.  For my family, we can handle no more than one special activity each day.  I also know that we can’t handle spending some time away from home each day of the week.  This determines how I choose and plan activities for my family.

As you think through the things you want to include in your daily routine, remember to plan time for the things that are important to you.  Do you want to keep your kids (or yourself) learning this summer?  Look for a fun class in your area or online, choose some books you want to read together or some science experiments you want to do. Do you have a morning routine for yourself?  Summer is a great time to try on — my morning routine is essential to getting me ready for the rest of my day!

I highly suggest limiting screen time activities and being very choosy about what you allow.  Set a timer and make it a “reward” for after necessary tasks (daily cleaning habits, reading or educational activities).  There will be plenty of time and opportunities to spend time in front of screens when the weather turns cold and nasty!

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This is what screen time looks like when the battery on the computer runs low. 🙂

What things are you making time for in your daily routine?