Here’s What I Learned Watching My Friend Be “Busy At Home”

Here's What I Learned Watching My Friend Be "Busy At Home" // jessconnell.com

Almost 6 years ago, we decided to stay in America, after (almost) 6 years of living abroad. I flew to Istanbul, Turkey (our former home) to sort, sell, and pack our belongings there. While there, I stayed a week in our friends’ home, observing her normal household routines. Mother of four kids (then, ranging from 8 to 20 years old), former homeschooling mom, sometimes classroom teacher, crazy-busy woman that she is, her house stays, more or less, tidy.

Let me share with you some of my observations as I watched a woman who, like Proverbs 31 and Titus 2, is “busy at home”:

***Please, if you have a newborn, or a couple of preschoolers in the house, or if you are homeschooling, keep in mind that her youngest child is 8 & that all of her children are in school 8+ hours a week, 5 days a week. These are observations about HER life, not prescriptions for YOURS. ***

#1- SHE USES MONDAY AS A “RESET” DAY

After busy weekends darting here and there, attending church, cooking meals, carting kids back and forth to games and what not, she said she pretty much stays busy from the time the kids head off for school on Monday (around 7/7:30) until they get home from school. She gets everything completely back in order… from the entryway with jackets, shoes, random paperwork, etc., to bedrooms. The goal is to get everything back into a tidy, efficient, ready-to-use position.

#2- TWO LOADS OF LAUNDRY A DAY

She strives for two loads of laundry completely finished each day, but at least requires herself to do one load of laundry a day. She folds them directly out of the dryer into baskets to avoid wrinkling.

#3- USE DEVICES TO MAKE HOUSEHOLD DUTIES MORE PLEASANT

She irons one day a week. As items that need to be ironed are washed throughout the week, she adds them to the ironing basket until that appointed day rolls around. She said she likes to pick something fun to watch so that ironing isn’t so dreadful.

#4- CLEAN THE BATHROOM, FULLY, OFTEN

She fully cleans the bathroom- top to bottom- twice a week. I always noticed that her bathrooms looked like new, even 5-6+ years into living in the apartment. Now I know why. :) She works hard at it. She wipes down every surface multiple times and does not tolerate “build up” of gunk, mildew, or problem cleaning areas. She gets down to the nitty gritty (from baseboards to ceilings) and deals with it 2x a week so that it never REALLY gets horribly bad. And because she keeps it up, each cleaning really doesn’t take very long.

#5- CLEAN YOUR DISHES AS YOU GO/DON’T COOK IN A DIRTY KITCHEN

She keeps up her dishes, and does not begin cooking a meal in a dirty kitchen. Now, granted, she has limited counter space & is an excellent cook so for her, this is particularly important. But it’s a good standard. I have always been a “dishes strewn across the counter” gal & it’s a completely different feel in her kitchen. She told me she just likes to start from a fresh position when she begins a meal.

#6- USE YOUR LITTLE MOMENTS TO KEEP THINGS TIDY

She used free moments strategically. Multiple times a day, in 2-3 minute blocks here or there, I saw her wiping down the sink area, just to keep things tidy. I joked with her about her obsessive-compulsive cleaning habits, but in all seriousness, her kitchen stayed tidy & ready for use. And it was directly tied to her habits of taking advantage of the spare moments.

#7- CHOOSE TO HAVE A DEFAULT POSTURE OF BUSYNESS, NOT IDLENESS

I noticed throughout the week that her default “position” was at the kitchen sink. This may be the most important of all… not that we all stand around in our kitchens all day… but that her position was one that put her in a ready position to field meals, cleaning, and the family calendar. Did you ever play baseball or softball? “Get into position!” meant to hustle to the spot where you would be most advantageously used for the position you were playing. THAT is what I saw in my friend Kelly. She was “in position” for much of the day, doing dishes, preparing treats for her gluten-free son, checking out the calendar to be ready for what was coming, browsing a cookbook for something tasty that night, etc. Her default position was one of busyness, not idleness.

 

Do you feel convicted yet? I do!

It’s convicting to think how much that last item on the list could not be used to describe my life. Again, hear me: I’m not saying we should all be on standing with two feet on our kitchen mats all day… but it causes me to ask: is my default position one of joyfully attacking the work that falls under my responsibility? Or do I put it off & delay with plenty of online or entertainment distractions?

This reminds me of something my friend Bethany once asked:

If my husband worked as hard as I do every day, would anyone want to hire him? Would we have a paycheck coming in if he worked with the same level of effort and diligence as I do?

Anyway, I hope these observations have been helpful for you.

My friend Kelly is a stand-up woman, really a gem, and she is now about 30+ years into marriage & 25 years into parenting. She has more “free” time than some of us may have… but she is an example to us as a godly woman who truly is a “keeper” of her home. Because of her, their home runs smoothly and efficiently, and she is ready for company at almost any moment (and they host people–even large groups–often!). Their home is tidy and enjoyable to visit. I appreciate her example in my life, and I hope it’s been a blessing to you to read these observations about her life.

 

If you’d like to hear more from inspiring women, be sure to check out my podcast– Mom On Purpose— where I interview Christian moms. Each week’s episode is designed to equip you to live intentionally as a mom, right there in your own home. 

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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13 Responses

  1. That last part was so challenging – is my default busy or idle? I have grown so much since having kids in my work ethic, but I still have a ways to go. I agree with your friend Bethany’s comment, but I also find that – because of the way my husband is built {bigger, stronger, more physically capable} – if I tried to match his work efforts and hours, I would burn out quickly and be a horrible wife and mother. So I have learned to accept being the “weaker half” so-to-speak and know that in order to put my family before me, I need to pace myself and give myself breathing time several times a day.

    • Jess Connell says:

      It challenges me, too. Even now, 6 years later… I’ve grown some, but I still have SOOOOO far to go because my default is quite the opposite of my friend’s.

      And I agree– as moms, we do have to build in self-care in ways that our husbands do not. They go to a quiet office and often get to work in linear, accomplishable tasks. They typically have time to, and from, to “wind down” before entering the home environment. There are definitely differences.

      But it’s still a good question for me, for self-examination. Am I as faithful to do the task God has given me, as my husband is to do the task that he’s been given? If I had someone evaluating my job, would I be given a bonus… or fired? Praised for contributing to the effectiveness of our home… or written up for idleness?

      Ouch. Often, those answers would not be good ones.

      And if I stop there, that’s not very good news. I’m thankful that I’m NOT going to be fired from it, but that my evaluation rests on Christ. Knowing that I am loved & accepted by Christ frees me to work with diligence in this area, without letting shame & guilt be the motivation for my work.

    • Katie says:

      I would add, too, that my default position toward my husband is that he is free at all times to step away from home responsibilities- whether that’s to prepare for an upcoming presentation at work or simply to unwind after a long day. I freely give him space to do whatever he needs to do during his at-home hours. And I think that’s something moms (especially homeschool mom’s of littles) don’t get.

      I’m all about having a default position of actively investing in your home and family, but it certainly isn’t a bad thing to need a little space sometimes as we’re constantly guarding for our husbands.

      • Jess Connell says:

        Yes, I agree. Between weather seasons, homeschool schedule, whether or not we have a baby, ages of our kids, etc… this idea (of my rest/ability to unwind & have free time) is continually under reevaluation in our home.

  2. Diana says:

    Loved this post – such awesome encouragement!!!

  3. Bethany says:

    Wow, that post from Bethany was something I needed to hear. 😉 Seriously, I did need to hear it again. I got it from a woman at our church, so I can’t take credit for it, but it’s a good thing to keep in consideration. Like you mentioned in a previous comment, it’s not so much about matching our husbands exactly in our work, but more about checking our own attitudes and efforts toward our own responsibilities. Thanks for the encouragement in this area!

  4. Melissa says:

    I absolutely agree that keeping a tidy house is important, but some of this seems excessive, and I worry that sometimes it becomes an obsession that could cause us to neglect other important areas of ministry. Whether my bathroom ceiling is cleaned twice a week or twice a month has zero eternal significance in the kingdom. Whether my kitchen counter is wiped 5 times a day or once doesn’t point souls to Christ. Why not clean my bathroom half as often and use the extra time to clean the bathroom of an elderly church member? Why not volunteer somewhere? Sit down and write cards or make phone calls to lonely people?

    I completely understand that your point is “busyness, not idleness.” I just think busyness is a waste if you’re doing it just for the sake of busyness. It seems like “I need to clean my bathroom again this week” could quickly become an excuse to avoid getting involved in the real, soul-saving, uncomfortable work of ministry.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Yes, it may very well be excessive for some… especially those who already have this bent. For others, it might be just what we need to hear (if we either struggle with tidiness or never learned these sorts of things).

      As I said in the intro, these are observations about her life, not necessarily prescriptions for *yours*. :)

  5. Erin says:

    I am coming at this from the perspective of a homeschooling mother of four kids, ages 12, 10, 8, and 8. I know this is about our own attitudes a bit, but at our house the kids are required to help! We all live together, we all make the messes, we all help keep it tidy. My oldest cleans bathrooms once a week (I do the toilets). I do the wash/dry cycles, but everyone is responsible for folding and putting away their own laundry (My 10 year old helps the 8 year olds sort and fold). We ALL do a tidy at least once a day and sometimes twice. Emptying the dishwasher (which happens at least once a day and sometimes twice) is done by one big and one little working together. Then once a month (or six weeks) we take a Saturday morning and really clean – change sheets, dust everything, vacuum every room, do a deeper clean in the bathrooms and kitchen, etc. I wouldn’t say my house is spotless, but it is mostly clean and mostly tidy

    I mention this because I am amazed when I talk to other moms at how little their children are required to help! My children have been helping with age-appropriate jobs their entire lives. Not only does it lighten our loads, it teaches them responsibility. Win-Win!

    • Jess Connell says:

      MOST definitely! We divide chores up here too. And I see “teaching” as part of my contribution to “daily chores.” As home educating moms, our divying up will undoubtedly look different than how my friend, at home for 6-8 hours alone each day, did it.

      A commenter once observed & I’ve never forgotten it– “I couldn’t do it all without these kids, but without them, I wouldn’t need to!”

  1. November 18, 2016

    […] I was delighted to read this blog post by Jess Connell recently, called Here’s What I Learned Watching my Friend be ‘Busy at Home’. She talks about several tips she picked up by observing her […]

  2. December 1, 2016

    […] Here’s What I Learned Watching My Friend Be Busy at Home— I stayed a week in our friends’ home, observing her normal household routines, and came away with 7 observations about her home routines. […]

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