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Category Archives: Homemaking

Trading One Mess for Another

This is a post from my husband, Jesse. I asked him to write this because of all the letters I get from women who feel they can’t meet the standards their husbands have for them when it comes to cleaning their homes. I get it. Jesse used to be like this. We talked about it and I asked him what changed. This post is his answer.

“What have you been doing all day?! The house is a disaster!”

We had 3 young kids. Two were toddlers and one was still a baby. I couldn’t for the life of me understand how dishes were overflowing, last weeks dirty clothes were still on the floor, crumbs from last nights dinner still lingering and the house looked worse than when I had left the same morning at 6:30am.

How is it possible that a house is in worse shape than when I left it? At the very least it would be slightly cleaner. I was irritated and some days quite angry. I worked all day and was exhausted, and here my wife is a stay at home mom and the house looks like a disaster. So naturally I walk in stepping on some things and harshly and sarcastically ask what she had been doing all day. On days when I had a hard day that seemed chaotic it felt like I was switching one form of chaos for another. The wanting to come home to a place of order where I felt like I could relax was very important to me.

This went on for a long time…as in, years. It became a contentious part of our relationship. I would leave for work come home, say sarcastic back handed comments about the house (I was and am very good at sarcasm) hoping it would motivate Sarah to clean more, not caring what the fallout was from the comments were as long as the house was getting clean(er).

There was one weekend in particular she had gone away for a few days and I was home with the kids by myself. I had made it a mission to passive aggressively prove that it CAN be done. To manage a house well having it cleaned top to bottom every single day that she was gone. Let me tell you I had the house spotless for 3 days straight. And I let her know it. She came home happy to see us all after she had been away and she was surprised to see the house so clean. I through my snide sarcastic comment that in a nut shell expressed how easy it was and that it can be done. Well….that killed a sweet homecoming and thus continued our feud. I didn’t really care, I thought the end justified the means.

This contentious part of our relationship started spilling into other parts as well. I’m not sure what caused the change but I do know this: I asked myself, “Self, why are you putting so much pressure on your wife to have a spotless, clean house 24/7? Is it not enough that she loves our children well and manages to keep the home chugging along? Is it worth having a contentious marriage in exchange for a spotless house? If she puts more energy into having a solid clean and tidy house will she be stealing some of that energy that is being put into raising our children?”

I started coming home and not badgering her about the home. And strangely, our relationship got better. (Shocking…I know – insert sarcasm here). The reality was on the weekend that she had left when I had the house spotless, the house was not as pleasant. I was hard on the kids to help me clean and maintain it being clean. That was probably one of the more miserable times I had with the kids by myself. You see, when Sarah is away a few times a year, I absolutely look forward to it because it means I get to hang out with my kids and have fun. And we have a blast. Except for that one weekend, because I was too busy trying to keep the house clean and proving a point to Sarah that it can be done.

The reality is, it can be done, keeping a perfectly clean house, but there is a cost. (tweet that)

The cost for Sarah and I is a relationship that has tension. And lets say that tension is a mood killer…if you know what I’m saying ;).  I also realize that Sarah has a very tender heart and when I come into the house and start criticizing her it’s like running a bull dozer back and forth over her till she wilts. When I made the change it affected our whole home and also my marriage.  With all this said, she does strive to have a clean home and she does care. We ended up coming to an agreement. I had expressed to her that the most important thing to me when I come home to decompress is to be able to have one clean area to come home to. For me that is the living room. I have a great comfy chair I love sitting in and talking to Sarah about my day. This way if her day has gone crazy, it doesn’t take long to tidy up just the one area before I walk in the door. We have been doing this for years and it has help us out incredibly.

For the husbands out there, I know it can be frustrating coming home and asking how come the house is a disaster. But if your wife loves you, loves your children and is raising them well, then know it is just a season. Because one day the laundry, the dishes, the messy table, the muddy shoes and the toys will all be gone. It will be just the two of you. If you have spent your years muddling in the contention of how clean the house needs to be then the only thing you will be left with when its just the two of you is a messy relationship. The irony of trading one mess for the other I hope will not be lost. Compromise and be thankful for the richness of a loving wife and home. The mess will pass.

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You can find more from Jesse HERE.

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Dear Younger Self (and all the homemakers out there who feel like they’re failing)

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Always. Everyday. I’m hoping we don’t have to do dishes in heaven.

I USED TO REALLY beat myself up over the way my home looked, and I believed some lies that caused havoc in my heart. Lies that sounded like this:

“I will never change.”
“My husband would be happier with a woman who cleaned all the time.”
“I hate cleaning, and I hate that I’m not the cleaning type.”

I put a lot of stock into how well and how often I cleaned (which wasn’t well or often), and I constantly felt like a failure. I wanted to be a good homemaker; I wanted to make my husband proud.

It’s been twelve years since I got married and started keeping a home, and while I’ve grown into my own as a homemaker, I still have to work at it. But I have learned a few things, and I’d like to share them with my younger self . . . and all the non-cleaners of the world who struggle with feelings of failure.

Dear Younger Self (and every woman who feels like she’s failing as a homemaker),

Your identity is not defined by how well or how often you clean.

The sum of who you are is not in your ability to keep the dishes off the counter and the laundry put away. You are no less or no better in God’s eyes. You are His, which means that you are beautiful and perfect because of Jesus, right now, right where you are. As you continue to submit to the Holy Spirit, He will mold and change you to be more like Jesus. From an eternal perspective, you are already complete. Yes, you’re working it out here on this earth, but your righteousness is set before the throne because of Jesus. Rest in that truth a minute?

My friend, your identity is not in what anyone else thinks of you. (tweet that)

I used to believe the lie that my husband would be better off with someone who was a good cleaner. I was in so much bondage due to this lie; I felt worthless. The truth is, my husband would love it if I cleaned more and better, but
 he loves me and is committed to me for life. He accepts my purple boots, my sparkly nail polish (Can a grown woman wear sparkly nail polish? Yes!), my driven personality, and my complete lack of Martha Stewart DNA. I care what
 he thinks because I love him and respect him, but we also respect each other as we grow. The thing is, even if my husband thought I was worthless or stupid or whatever because I didn’t clean up to a particular standard, it wouldn’t really matter because he doesn’t have the authority to tell me who I am. That authority is reserved for God alone.

Only Jesus has the authority to tell you who you are. (tweet that)

Here’s another thing: you are not a slave to your personality.
 I’ve got news for you, love— “This is just who I am, accept it” is a selfish excuse and not fit for a woman who longs to be like Jesus. When I claim, “This is me, deal with it!” I am not claiming the humility or servanthood of the One who died for all my ugly. No, that’s not the way of the Cross. The way of the Cross is to submit your personality and your bents and all of the things that make you who you are to Jesus. All of who you are is for His glory.

It’s okay to know you will never have the Martha Stewart way about you. God doesn’t love you any more or any less because of your bents. However, He does ask you to obey, to be faithful, and to trust His work in your life as you surrender to Him. And so I counsel you to practice laying yourself low and to follow the Way.

You can choose to love well through keeping your home.

I know you don’t like to clean—you find it boring, and you’d rather do almost anything else. But listen, you can love others well by creating a place of peace and beauty for those around you. You can love yourself well by taking care of your home and giving life to it. You can create beauty out of ashes, peace out of chaos. It is Kingdom work, eternal work, because love is eternal. Look at cleaning as an act of love toward yourself and those around you. Look at it as an act of worship to your God, an ebb and flow of life that you will settle into.

I think the best part of being married, having children, and keeping my home is that I now understand more of who I am and that life undulates as I swim through it. I know the ups and downs, and I know there are times of great consistency, great upheaval, and great peace. I have learned to be content with the ebb and flow of life. I know I’ll never be the go-go-go type of cleaner, but I also know I will care for my home and the people in it. I will choose to maintain my home, push back on the Genesis Curse, and persevere in order to love well.

It’s a good place to be when you find peace, when you accept who you are, when you quit striving, and when you give yourself to the Potter. It’s the sweet spot.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” -Jesus, in Matthew 11:29-31

With love, Your Future Self who is still wishing for a maid but who is at peace with her identity in Christ, Sarah Mae

Looking for some encouragement when it comes to making a home? Check out my new book, Having a Martha Home the Mary Way.

Buy the book now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or wherever books are sold.

There are affiliate links in this post. You can read my disclosure policy here.

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Dear Me: I Think It’s Time You Clean Your House (an open letter to myself)

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Dear me,

So…yea. Let’s talk about your kitchen.

Yes, I know, it’s summer and the blue skies and pool water are calling your name. I get it. I do. Your kids are able to swim on their own and you can actually lounge in the pool chair and read a book. Several, in fact. Lovely.

However, back to the kitchen. You do realize you haven’t cleaned it, really cleaned it, since summer began? I mean, honey, that’s just nasty. And because I care about you and saving your face, we won’t even talk about the showering situation. But for real, you need an intervention. Enough with the plastic cups and paper plates. Wash your stinking dishes! K? K.

The kids rooms. We both know they are old enough to clean them. You have taught them, and they have been fairly steady with the cleaning regimen during the school year. WHAT HAS HAPPENED?! Why do you not make them clean consistently in the summer? Are you just giving up? Don’t do that. Remember what you always say, KEEP ON.

Your bedroom. FOR THE LOVE. We can’t. Let’s just not even go there. When you have to tell your children not to step on something as they climb in bed with you in the mornings, yea, Sarah, that’s bad.

Here’s what I’m really trying to say: TAKE A DAY OFF FROM THE POOL AND GET YOUR HOUSE TOGETHER. Seriously. You have a book coming out in April on cleaning. Your in-laws are totally right when they say you are profiting off your disability. I know, I hear you, you speak in solidarity of those who aren’t awesome at cleaning. But I mean, come on. You resorted to wearing your husbands T-shirt to the 4th of July pool sleepover because YOU HAD NO CLEAN LAUNDRY.

It’s time, friend. It’s time to step away from the pool. And the reading of great books. It’s time to make dinner and not get another pizza for takeout.

I love you, I do. I’m telling you all these things because I care. And your husband needs his T-shirts (stop wearing them!).

Also, go shower.

Love, the sane side of yourself

P.S. Longing for Paris is still only $8 on Amazon!! Get it HERE!

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A True Joy of Motherhood: When Your Children Can Clean the WHOLE Kitchen by Themselves!

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My girl, being a good sport for me! Always the ham!

Well, the most glorious thing has happened in my house.

My 9 year old can clean the WHOLE ENTIRE kitchen by herself. The pots and pans, the dishes washed and put into the dishwasher, the counters, the floor, and I am ALL KINDS OF HAPPY DANCING. For some of you this is no big deal, your kids have been cleaning since they are they were born. Practically. But not my kids!

Let me back up a minute.

I was on the phone with my sister-in-law interviewing her for Having a Martha House the Mary Way, (she’s rocks at cleaning) and she told me that her kids clean the kitchen every night after dinner. Her kids are 8 and 6. 8 AND 6!

I have clearly been slacking. My kids unload the dishwasher and set the table. Dude.

So I asked her to tell me more, and she said that her 8 year old son does it all, dishes, pots, pans, counters, BADA-BING-BADA-BOOM. And I was all, “REEEALLY?!” Her 6 year old loads the dishwasher, and she has 15 minutes to do it or she has to do the dishes for her brother the next night. THAT’S some motivation.

Now listen, my sister-in-law is lovely and kind and gentle and is a great mom. She is teaching her children to take care of a home, and she’s knocking it out of the park. Which is why I interviewed her. Which is why I’m going to do everything she tells me to do.

Which brings me back to my kitchen and my 9 year old.

I said to my girl, “Honey, it’s time you learn to clean the kitchen. You are old enough, and I need your help because we are a family and we help each other. Okay?”

She looked at me suspiciously. I could see the challenge in her eyes. But I was going to do this; I was going to teach her to clean the kitchen, top to bottom. And boy did she have her work cut out for her! I made her learn on a Monday, after the weekend, after dishes were everywhere.

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Sponge fun, thanks to the awesome folks at Grove Collaborative and their new pop-up sponges!

I showed her how to wash off the dishes before putting in the dishwasher. As she did that, I decided to make her a pretty little chart with steps to cleaning the kitchen. When I was finished, I, smile on my face, showed her the chart. She looked at it, grabbed a pen, and PROCEEDED TO PUT SAD FACES ALL OVER IT. Oh, ya’ll, I was not having that.

I told her that in addition to cleaning the kitchen, she was now going to have to make the chart all over again, and she had to copy it just as I had made it.

She did it. And when she was done, there were SMILEY FACES all over it. Mom wins.

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Back to the kitchen…

I taught her how to do the rest, and she washed and scrubbed and swept, and I as SO proud of her. She had mentioned a few times that making her clean the kitchen would be an excellent punishment. We had a talk about attitude. But here is the best part: when she was finished, I watched her as she walked out of the kitchen, turned around, looked over worked, and SMILED. I could see accomplishment in her eyes. She felt good about her work.

The next time she cleaned the kitchen, she did it without fuss.

This is a glorious new beginning. I mean, truly, I think there are angels singing somewhere on behalf of all moms. HOPE has sprung!

Next I will be teaching my son and youngest to clean the kitchen, because what I know now is that my kids are capable of doing more than I have given them credit for. Also, I just needed to ante up and do the work of teaching them. Because you know what, it’s worth it.

Not only do I know have legitimate help cleaning, but they are learning valuable skills and their characters are being refined. So good.

But mostly, I DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALL BY MYSELF!!!!!! WOO HOO!!! Okay, my husband helps. Actually, he’s amazing. But now we also have the kiddos helping, and that just rocks.

Here are some encouraging words in getting our kids to clean from my sister-in-law Sarah, AKA, cleaning ninja:

“As much as I can, I allot to each child according to his/her age and ability, a task.  I work with them and teach them the first one or two times on the “how to’s” and then they are required to help out when asked, needed or scheduled.  The old “many hands make light work” couldn’t be truer. When a job has been well done, I verbally or sometimes monetarily praise the child. If the child inquires is the job “well done”, I often ask them if they did their best and if they would be pleased with the outcome if Jesus were to see it.  I don’t want the effort made to be for me, but for the LORD. I believe having a clean home creates a sense of calm in the home, although keeping it clean can feel meaningless, redundant, and constant. However, if we view our work as serving others and by doing so, loving them, it changes our heart attitudes. When we serve those in our home by taking care of it we become more Christlike. Jesus Himself, came to serve us, we can do the same.

I fail so many times. Our God is not a condemning God, but a gracious one, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness! Ultimately, all our efforts in this life are to glorify Him.”

There you have it! Go forth and clean NOT ALONE!

Keep on!

SM

This post contains affiliate links. You can read my disclosure policy here.

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For All You Non-Cleaning Types Out There: 5 Tips That Will Help You in Your Cleaning Efforts

bathroomreadyI am cleaner. Hear me ROAR!

Just kidding. I’m totally just psyching myself up to wash the toilet. Ew.

So here’s the thing, I’m not a cleaner.

While I believe in working hard and teaching my children how to take care of a home, if I could afford some help, I’d get it in a hot second. I have no problem with someone helping me take care of my home, and if and when I ever do have someone help me, it doesn’t mean I won’t clean or won’t have my children clean. They will because they must learn and I will because that’s life.

All to say, for those of us who don’t have a cleaning lady, and those of us with a particular visionary bent who would rather do anything else {ahem} we need some tips to keep us motivated. Today, I humbly offer some of the ways I have found help in cleaning.

5 Tips to Help You in Your Cleaning Efforts

Get Your Kids to Help

For real! When my kiddos were babies, I was on my own. Granted, there was less mess, but there was still mess. And diapers. And exhaustion. But now, NOW, I have three little helpers and it is wonderful! I cannot stress enough the glory in having your children help, besides the fact that it’s good for them to learn how to work, it is actually a help. Yes, you will have to train them and there might be some huffing and hawing, but eventually it will get better. I find that when we work together, things get done quickly and we are all happier. I’m always saying to my kids, “We are a team!” and the classic, “Many hands make light work!” I will overhear my kids saying that phrase sometimes and it makes me smile.

Keep on and your kids will be a delight and a help to you!

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Good Enough is Good Enough

I am a recovering perfectionist.

My brand of perfectionist looked like this: Oh, I can’t get it all cleaned perfectly because I don’t have time so I just won’t do it all. Makes sense, right? NO! Of course it doesn’t! It’s better to do something than nothing! And honestly, I’m learning, that sometimes good enough is good enough. Maybe I didn’t wash my windows, but I cleaned up my living room. Maybe I didn’t dust the floor boards, but I swept up. Life just keeps on moving and sometimes we have to be willing to let go of the details in order keep on. It’s okay. When you have that magical day that affords you ALL THE TIME, go on and dust those floor boards. Or maybe you’ll be able to hire someone to do that kind of detail work. But in the meantime, get what you need to get done and move on to enjoying your life!

Love Yo Self

You are beautiful and glorious and colorful just the way you are! So what if you don’t clean well and you’re not detailed! You are made in the image of God and you have the capacity to do great things for His Kingdom, which yes, most often times involves hidden things, like cleaning. But your identity should never be in what you do or don’t do. Love yourself because God weaved you together and He loves you. You are not more holy because you clean well, and you are not less holy if you don’t. Yea, cleaning is part of life and it’s a way to love others, but it has nothing to do with your identity. So crank the music up and dance yourself silly and get it done, but don’t ever think for one second that you are a worse person or wife or mother because you don’t rock at cleaning. Okay? K.

Use a Subscription Service (Best Decision Ever)

Oh my goodness, having something delivered to my door is THE BEST. I don’t have to think about it, and in the long run it saves me money. I use ePantry and it’s WONDERFUL. Because ePantry is a subscription service, and it “pays attention” to what my family needs when, I don’t have to think about it! It knows when we need paper towels or toilet cleaner or dishwasher detergent. IT KNOWS. And so when we are just about out, we will get a box on our door step! How awesome is that?! But no worries, because just in case they got something wrong, they send an email 7 days before the goods ship so you can quick check to make sure all is well. LOVE IT.

I’m sure there are some wonderful subscription services out there, but I am liking ePantry because the products are ones I used before I found them. Method and Mrs. Myers products in particular.

You must check them out! Head HERE to read more of why I think they rock (including how YOU can get FREE cleaning supplies, potentially, for life). Also, if you decide to give them a go, you will get $10 in credit and a FREE Mrs. Meyer’s hand soap! WOOT!

Bit by Bit (Slow it down, sister!)

Sometimes you’ve just got to put on a good podcast or some music and go slow.

Scrub the toilet slowly.

Take your time on the kitchen floor.

Go through your bookshelf, dusting, and carefully placing your babies, I mean books, back on the shelf with love.

There can be a lovely rhythm to cleaning if we allow it. Sometimes the rush is good and fun and practical, but sometimes the slow is just what the soul needs.

Well, there you have it friends, what I have found helpful in getting me to clean.

I’d love to hear your tips! Give it to me!

Until next time…

Love, SM

RELATED: The Great Book Purge of 2015! (I Marie Kondo’d my bookshelves!!!)

Want to get your clean on with me? Go through all the challenge right here on my blog or Pre-order the revised version of 31 Days to Clean, now called Having a Martha Home the Mary Way, by clicking HERE!

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