Mothers Who Know: Homemaking

October 26, 2007 | 89 comments
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Note: this post begins a series of posts on President Beck’s recent conference talk. If you feel the need to vent your dislike of the talk, I imagine that you might possibly be able to find a thread somewhere in the Bloggernacle where you can do just that. But you can’t do it here. The point of this series is to discuss the specific counsel that she gave and how best to apply it. All other comments will be deleted.

President Beck said, “Mothers who know are nurturers. This is their special assignment and role under the plan of happiness. To nurture means to cultivate, care for, and make grow. Therefore, mothers who know create a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes. Another word for nurturing is homemaking. Homemaking includes cooking, washing clothes and dishes, and keeping an orderly home.”

Here are my thoughts:

(1) Note that nothing in President Beck’s talk implied that homes need to be immaculate. I think that striving for an immaculate home is more likely to decrease the quality of family life than improve it. Immaculate-ness is unlikely to be reached in a home with children and the desire for it will only cause stress and resentment. Our home has three kids’ rooms and a playroom upstairs. We clean the upstairs top to bottom on Wednesdays. The rest of the week, no one cleans anything up there. By Tuesday, it kinda looks like a cyclone blew through. And (channelling Stewart Smalley here) that’s . . . OK. As President Beck said, “Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. . . These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all.” It would take too much time, for too little reward, to pick up every toy and book every day of the week. So my first bit of advice is: set realistic standards for housekeeping. Corollary: if you have small children, immaculate is not a reasonable standard.

(2) President Beck did give two purposes for housekeeping: one was to create “a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes.” I think this is a really important idea in that it can help us to determine what needs to be prioritized (or done at all) in terms of housekeeping. For example, I’ve yet to see dust interfere with spiritual growth. But crazed last-minute hunts for missing scout shirts or play scripts or overdue library books can interfere with spiritual growth (ask me how I know this). Hence, I prioritize organization over cleaning. I am a tad uptight about organization, but I do think that in a house with several children, lack of organization is likely to interfere with the peaceful development of family life. Let me give you a few specifics of organization that I’ve found most helpful:

(a) storage of kids’ papers: maybe it is just my kids, but they are packrats of the first kind. It is virtually impossible to convince them to throw out any piece of paper that they have ever touched, let alone written on. Our solution to this is to get each boy a plastic crate and tell him that he can only save what fits in his box.

(b) bags for different events: there was a time in my life when Sunday afternoon meant I had to unpack the church stuff from the bag and Monday meant I had to pack the playgroup stuff and then unpack it and then Wednesday meant I had to pack the swimming stuff and then unpack it. I finally decided to bag that. (groan) Tote bags are cheap and I now have one for every outing we do: scouts, pool, library, church (actually, I have several for church so I can rotate them), etc. Much less work.

(c) general stuff: 18-gallon Rubbermaid totes are your friends. Buy them, label them, and put stuff in them. I also always buy the same brand of diapers because I end up with a huge collection of sturdy, same-sized boxes that are great for storing things.

(d) planner: I would be completely stressed out if I tried to run a family based on a stack of papers on the counter where one has the school schedule, another soccer, another scouts, another charity pick-ups, etc. You need one place to store it. And don’t just write down events: write down what has to happen to be prepared for them. I don’t write “T’s birthday party” without writing on the grocery day previous “buy T’s party stuff” and the day before “bake cake” and three weeks before “buy T’s presents.” Write down “Teach RS” and two weeks before it, write “work on RS lesson” and one before write “finish RS lesson.” I find it extremely stressful to try to remember things so I write everything down. I also find it easier to go on autopilot and work off of a list when I’m tired or unmotivated.

(e) kids’ schedule on fridge and in planner: I have a basic schedule of our activities and chores. I have a tiny copy in my planner and a larger copy on the fridge. I’ve found that my 6yo in particular really likes to check the schedule and see what’s going to happen that day.

(f) Pack up 2/3 of your kids’ toys and put them in the garage. Tell them that whenever they want, they can trade out what they have for what is being stored. When the old stuff comes back out, it is like Christmas. Kids love it.

(3) President Beck gave a second purpose for homemaking: to teach children. I think that encompasses the actual skills of the work as well as attitudes toward work in general. My all time favorite sentence ever printed in The Ensign is “A lazy mother picks up after her children,” Here are my thoughts on chores:

(a) Good conversations happen when you work alongside children. I think a family where the mother drives the child to soccer, watches practice, and comes home to clean the kitchen into the wee hours is making a much poorer choice than the family where the mother and child clean the kitchen together. Don’t get me started on what a fetish enrichment activities for children have become to the middle class. I object to the over-scheduling of children on many grounds, not the least of which is that it creates so much work for mother (not just the schlepping of the kids all over town but the housework that the kids don’t have time to do). Scale back your outside activities and do housework together.

(b) Some specifics about chores:

(i) I have excellent parents but I think one of their weak points was that they didn’t give sufficient direction for tasks. I still remember feeling guilty that I couldn’t do what they wanted done because I didn’t know how. Take the time to teach your children exactly how to do things. They need an incredible level of detail and repetition.

(ii) I think some chores systems fall apart because they are just too complicated. Give each child a small number of tasks and don’t rotate every day or month. My kids keep chores for three years (that’s the spacing between their ages) before they trade off. Here’s what they currently do:

Nine year old: empty and reload dishwasher every day, do own laundry, clean own room once per week, clean playroom every other week

Six year old: straighten up everything (books, toys, trash, etc.) downstairs once per day, do own laundry, clean own room once per week, clean playroom every other week

Three year old: clean room with mom

(iii) It is my experience that kids seven and younger want to do chores (of their choosing, on their time frame); take advantage of this. Mine love the stick vac and anything that involves spraying cleaners and then wiping up.

(iv) I think paying for chores is a bad idea. I say this because the day came when, as the proud owner of a new job, my teenage self told my mother that I’d no longer be doing her dishes and she was more than welcome not to pay me for it. (Yes, I was a royal pain.) So the problem with paying for chores is the risk that the child might decide not to do them. I do always have extra chores available for extra money.

(v) What’s the motive then, if there is no payment? In our house, screen time (i.e., TV or computer) happens only if your daily chores are done. I know many parents view screen time as the enemy, but I think we’ve successfully harnessed it to do our bidding for us.

(vi) In some cases of footdragging (usually related to the cleaning of bedrooms), we’ve done this: “You’ve got until 4pm to clean your room. Anything out of place at 4pm becomes my property and I’ll put it in the garage until you’ve shown that you can care for your things.”

(4) As for my own housework:

(a) the number one key is lowering standards to something that is reasonably attained with small children in the house (see above)

(b) I’ve also had to train myself to consider a mess not to be in need of attention if it isn’t the day to do it. We have wood floors downstairs; I sweep them on Mondays. It doesn’t matter how dusty they are; they don’t need or get attention the rest of the week. I think a homemaker could make herself positively insane by seeing everything that isn’t perfect as a job that needs doing. If it isn’t Monday, the floors have no claim on my time or attention and are not allowed to inflict guilt. Pretend they are a rogue nation that your government doesn’t recognize. No diplomatic relations with dusty floors on Friday!

(c) Another key: manageable chunks of work: when we were a smaller family in a smaller house, I did all the laundry on one day and all the cleaning on another. Now I do 1-2 loads (usually) per day and a chunk of cleaning per day.

(d) I do schedule everything, doing certain loads of laundry and certain cleaning tasks on specific days of the week. Make a list of everything that needs to be done (remember: this is the time to be realistic, not uptight) over the course of a week to keep the house in working order and then divide those tasks up to be done on different days.

(e) I’m also big on rewarding myself: I’m sorry if this sounds terribly juvenile, but I usually allow myself a small, frequently chocolate- or blog- oriented reward for doing something I don’t particularly feel like doing.

(f) I think another element here is that I don’t let it define me: cleaning is never my main accomplishment or main joy (as if) of the day. Cleaning is what I get out of the way so I can homeschool, read, or whatever.

(g) The less stuff you have, the less you have to clean and organize. If you don’t need it, get rid of it or at least store it where it won’t need to be dusted or put back after your kids mess with it.

(h) Final bit of advice: if you have a baby, do your housework with the baby in a sling or carrier. It usually keeps the baby happy and allows you to work when the baby is up instead of burning through precious naptime.

Well, gruesome details were requested of me at FMH and here they are in abundance. I don’t present any of this as the One True Way to Be a Homemaker but rather as just what is working for me right now. I’ve changed things over the years and expect to change them again as our family changes; I doubt what works for me works for everyone. (I also don’t wish to give the impression that I am a really good homemaker. My standards are really low and I still don’t always meet them.)

I welcome your thoughts on what works for you.

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89 Responses to Mothers Who Know: Homemaking

  1. Adam Greenwood on October 26, 2007 at 12:35 am

    Excellent advice, Julie S. Me and the lovely one will have to chew this over. I especially like that advice about packing toys.

  2. Ray on October 26, 2007 at 1:07 am

    A manageable list of things to do each day.

    We have a very untidy but relatively clean house, but we have a wonderful home.

    Balance: I am more laid back than my wife (stereotypical, I know), so we make a good average couple. I don’t like to think about what it would be like if both of us stressed over the details.

    Lots of deep breathing and a willingness to patch. “Lamaze and duct tape hold the universe together.”

  3. Ardis Parshall on October 26, 2007 at 1:30 am

    15-minute blocks, timed with the kitchen timer. I can do almost anything for 15 minutes. I might do multiple 15-minute blocks scattered through the day, but with each one it’s just *that* 15 minutes, not “I’ve cleaned for an hour and a half today /groan/.”

  4. Linda Mabey on October 26, 2007 at 1:36 am

    This was a great talk. Thank you for referencing it. Women who know, \’know\’ \”Who they are and who God is and have made covenants with Him,\” and they will have \”Great power and influence for good on their children.\” Thank you for some tips to maximize our time with the things that really count.

  5. FoxyJ on October 26, 2007 at 2:16 am

    I am also a big fan of organization. My husband and I have started using Google Calendar to organize ourselves (we spend a lot of time on the computer throughout the day). It’s great–each of our activities can be a different color, we can email ourselves reminders, we don’t have to keep track of papers, etc. It works well for us. We’re both just naturally more “into” organizing and planning, so I think that’s part of it. I also totally agree that kids need to learn how to do chores around the house. As soon as my daughter could walk we instituted “clean up time” as part of the bedtime routine. Even if the parents are really cleaning up 90 percent of the toys, the one-year-old still knows that every day we put stuff back where we got it. My kids are now 4 and 16 months, so they can’t do a lot. But I try to get them to do as much as they can. The baby loves to throw away his diapers after we change them (I give direction to make sure he finds the pail), clean up his toys, help wipe off his high chair, put his clothes in the hamper, etc. My four-year-old daughter cleans up her dishes from the table, puts her things away, helps with dusting and wiping, etc. Even if I have to give a lot of assistance, I’ve found that it gives them so much confidence to be able to help. When I get out the cleaning supplies my daughter runs up to help nearly every time. I figure I might as well go with that enthusiasm while I’ve still got it :)

  6. Richard O. on October 26, 2007 at 5:54 am

    Years ago I came across a quote from Pres. McKay,”Make your home your hobby.” I can’t remember where I found it. So over the years we’ve built lots of stone walls, made stained glass windows, composted, gardened, made tile, done huge amounts of woodworking, etc. Often my wife and I spend time in the wood shop as a “date.” My wife is pretty handy with tools and is much better at doing fine finishes than I am. This kind of “work” is actually some of our most fun. That said, I have to admit that the kids have grown up and we are now grandparents so we have more time to do these things. But even when the children were home and fairly young (grade school on) we had them out chipping on stone, gathering bags of leaves for composting, digging holes, etc. as well as following their daily maintenance stuff from the family “job charts” on the fridge. We absolutely love our home. We have had the opportunity to travel a fair amount over the years. As we travel, my wife and I are constantly on the lookout for ideas that we can build into our home. We have found that this approach really sharpens up our observation skills. It also makes our home a living historical document of our lives and values.

  7. Mark IV on October 26, 2007 at 6:35 am

    Julie,

    You are correct to emphasize the amount of direction that children require. It was a revelation for me to realize that much of the frustration in our home wasn’t because of the kids’ laziness or defiance, but because of their natural desire to not do something wrong (and consequently get yelled at).

  8. Matt on October 26, 2007 at 10:27 am

    This is the best LDS blog post I’ve read this year! Spiritually oriented, uplifting, instructive yet practical, and not condescending to others.

    My wife is the CEO/COO/CFO of our house so our homemaking is based on her ideas and I can’t take credit for them. Having said that, I want to share some of my opinions. (You asked!) I think organization and planning are the keys to “a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes.” I’m not perfect in either of these, but I have high standards as my goal and then do my best. Regardless if you’re in a 600 sq/ft apartment or a 5000 sq/ft mansion, I have seen a huge difference when people keep their home organized. The parents don’t have to yell at the kids to pick up this and that or kick the dog for eating someone’s left over snack left on the couch. There’s no stress to clean some dishes in order to eat the next meal or wash laundry so there are clean towels for a shower. (Those are generalizations, of course, but you get the point.) You’re right that dust doesn’t interfere with spiritual progression but when the house is so cluttered and messy to the point of distraction, people focus on the wrong things.

    I echo your point to “Pack up 2/3 of your kids’ toys.” 95% of the kids today have more toys than they can possibly use, including my own. I stopped buying any toys three years ago except Legos. Legos are always a hit as a gift, every piece can be combined with others to make something new, kids don’t outgrow them in age or fad, and they’re easy to store in a small space: toss them all in Rubbermaid or Sterilite bins with lids in the closet or under the bed.

    We have tried to use homemaking as a tool for teaching. We used to do all the cleaning Saturday morning. Each kids had their own list of jobs based on age. Although the work got done, it usually ended with me frustrated because the kids didn’t keep up the pace I wanted. That was a result of three boys and two parents: we couldn’t help one on one so someone was left alone, and being a normal kid, didn’t always stay on task. This usually resulted in one job getting delayed due to a prerequisite job. (i.e. The room wasn’t picked up by one so another couldn’t vacuum until it was done.) Then came more frustration. My wife came up with a better way: Work with one boy on his jobs until complete and then work with another boy. We get to talk together and have conversations instead of parents just barking orders like a drill sergeant. What a concept!

    We use all housework as family time, whether it’s stacking firewood, working in the garden, etc. I want my boys to learn the value of work; both the economic and practical sides. We keep seeing that the “Millennium Generation” expects life to be handed to them without earning it solely for their enjoyment. After focusing on other topics, it seems Church leaders have again started pointing out that work is important. Another thing I want my boys to learn is the great satisfaction in getting a job done or seeing the progression of a big job. Again, I’m not perfect and there are plenty of times when there’s work to be done but I don’t feel up to it. When the boys complain, my response is “I’d rather be doing something else too, but this needs to be done so the faster we do it right, the faster we get to do what we want.”

  9. Adam Greenwood on October 26, 2007 at 10:55 am

    This is the best LDS blog post I’ve read this year! Spiritually oriented, uplifting, instructive yet practical, and not condescending to others.

    Yep. I’m reminded that there’s a baby in the Bloggernacle’s bathwater.

  10. madhousewife on October 26, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Amen to packing up 2/3 of the kids’ toys. Sometimes you have to pack up about 2/3 of the parents’ stuff, too. When I do buy something new (especially toys), I am very mindful of the environmental impact–on my home, not the earth so much. (Eh, earth.) I don’t want to buy anything that’s going to make more work for me. Sometimes I look at a toy and think, “Oh, Child #whatever would really enjoy that,” but then I ask myself if I would enjoy having the little pieces strewn about my floors and getting lost, and I realize it just isn’t worth it. (When they’ve internalized the value of taking care of their own stuff, they can have more high-maintenance toys. It should happen by the time they leave the house, right?)

    In our house screentime is BETTER than money. Children will do almost anything for screentime. (After whining, screaming and moaning for about 3 days, but, you know, better late than never.) As far as they’re concerned, money still grows on trees and occasionally in enevelopes sent by Grandma. Screentime you have to work for.

  11. BBELL on October 26, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Good topic.

    Here is what we do. 4 boys 7 and under and a SAHM

    1. Regularly go thru the toys & clothes and make a trip to Goodwill.
    2. Toys and kid stuff stays upstairs.
    3. Kids have regular chores…. Daily
    4. tie cleanliness into fun. AKA. Clean the upstairs prior to a trip to the local fishing pond or football game with Dad
    5. Dad has regular chores that he has to do prior to fun.

    I loved the Beck talk. I think we have been getting to PC in the last 15 years or so. The men get taken to the woodshed every conference for years now. Turn about is fair play. It was like she was channelling SWK or Benson. We need good old fashioned Mormon preaching from time to time. My wife and sister in laws and mom loved it. I figure if the bloggernacle was up in arms over it then it must be true :)

  12. Jordan F. on October 26, 2007 at 11:39 am

    This is such a good response to President Beck’s talk, which I had trouble hearing at first. Thanks for this!

    I would like to add that I feel everything President Beck said is equally applicable to me, even though she was ostensibly addressing women- that I need to also do better at cultivating all the things that “mothers who know” should do. For this post, it means that I as a father need to also contribute as much as I can to creating an orderly atmosphere in my home. We fathers are also quite good at “cooking, washing clothes and dishes, and keeping an orderly home.”

  13. tracy m on October 26, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Julie, THANK YOU!! I’m printing this out and blowing it up and taping it to my forhead. Ok, maybe not that, but really, THANK YOU.

    Not to play into stereotypes, but I’m such an artist-brain. I have a horrible time with organization and keeping myself on a schedule, and I know my kids are paying for what my husband calls “my slave to whimsy” personality. What I CAN do is follow a clear directive, if I have one, and this will work.

    I really appreciate your direction and the sharing of your routines.

  14. Tammy on October 26, 2007 at 11:55 am

    My biggest problem when cleaning is how easily distracted I get. I am the type of person who flits around from room to room, never quite finishing one project before I start the next. Over the years I have found three tools that help me actually get things done.
    1. My ipod. I am much less likely to get distracted if I have my earphones on and am listening to an interesting audio book or some fun music.
    2. An apron with large pockets. I use this because if I am working my way through a room and I find something that belongs in another room, I am either tempted to put it in the wrong place or if I go to the other room I get distracted and never finish the first room. So now i just put the item in my pocket and finish the room I am working on.
    3. 30 minute cleaning bursts. If I look at everything that needs to be done I get discouraged and overwhelmed and so I don’t do anything. If my goal is to clean for 30 minutes the job seems manageable and I always get more done than I think I will.

  15. Josh Smith on October 26, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Easy there Jordan. I’m personally trying to ride this President Beck thing as far as I can. You’re trying to turn the whole thing on its head: “Mothers who know make their husbands do all the housework.” I don’t see anything in the talk that warrants application to the fellows. Us boys need to sit back and keep quiet on this one and see where this talk takes us.

  16. Bob on October 26, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Great Post! I am Mr. Mom at my house. Now a retied couple, but five Grandkids across the street. I have open war on clothes and dishes. Everything else is done in islands of time. Toys stay at the kids house mostly. At my home, it’s more like home schooling (Books, crafts). If you have kids, really think if you need pets too, they are a pain at this point of time. (We have a cat now). Generally, I follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of the project is completed by the first 20% of the effort, the just let the last 20% go!

  17. Matt Evans on October 26, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    I doubt the link between the spirit and “order” as defined here. I’ve felt the spirit on a crowded bus overbrimming with a mess of humanity and don’t ever remember feeling it in the celestial room. Now of course that may not be due to order but because the celestial room’s artificiality (flowers, gold, money) can’t hold a candle to humanity’s pressing reality.

    I grew up in a rather unkempt and cluttered home. We did chores, but there was one mom and seven kids and Mom didn’t enjoy or appreciate housework anyway. (In several talks President Hinckley and others have repeated the story of a single mom with seven kids who, seeing her house on her way home from the neighbors, felt overwhelmed by the work in front of her and asked God to let her spend the night in heaven; that’s my mom. I think I was the one who needed to go to the library.) But the spirit was there and we enjoyed and loved each other. As I look back on my experience growing up, I don’t look back wishing Mom had spent more time worrying about the house. I’m almost certain that’s not something she would change, either.

    At the height of my mom’s challenges, when her seven kids were ages 1-13, one of her friends (also the neighbor whose house she was coming home from in her story) gave her a framed piece of needlework with a few lines from a poem:

    Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ’til tomorrow
    for babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow
    So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
    I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep

    My mom recognizes life’s inherent tradeoffs, and almost always invested her energy in people, not things, and she taught her kids to invest their energy in people, not things. And even though she spent so much time with us as kids, I’m confident that as she looks back on our family life, she still wishes she’d spent more time seated with the kids on her lap.

  18. mmiles on October 26, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Julie,
    Great post! Although maybe I only like it because we run our houses so similarly–and our kids are about the same ages.

  19. Julie M. Smith on October 26, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    Great comments, all. Thanks for the ideas and keep them coming.

    Matt, it sounds like your mother had her priorities exactly right. I’m a firm believer in the idea that when we put forth our best efforts, the Spirit will make up for whatever we can’t do and it sounds like that’s exactly what happened in your household. But I think you may be drawing an incorrect conclusion from that experience by thinking that her prioritization would be the right one for mothers in different situations. I might prefer to spend all of my time in the playroom reading to my kids or at the park with them, but I’d be negligent if I didn’t keep up on (the very basics of) housework. I assume that your mother had much less time (and more than twice the number of kids!) to attend to than I did (and no father to spend time with the kids) so of course she needed to spend more time with the kids and less on housework. But in my case, that wouldn’t be best for my kids or me, it would just be laziness and negligence on my part.

    Again, it sounds like your mother was doing exactly the right thing (for her situation) to “create a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes.” But a mother in a different situation will be led to do different things to create that climate.

  20. rk on October 26, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    Could you give me the Ensign source of “Lazy mother’s pick up toys.” I’m dying to read it.

    I really enjoy hearing from more experienced parents about what works for them. Thanks.

  21. Matt on October 26, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    “A lazy mother picks up after her children,” is from the article “Delegating Work and Responsibility to Children,” Ensign, Jan 1986, 66.

  22. Matt Evans on October 26, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    Julie, I’m not arguing for laziness, though of course some people don’t clean because they’re lazy. I’m pointing out that there are tradeoffs, and in the list of personal and global priorities, how kids and houses look are far down the list. More moms should take their kids to clean someone _else’s_ house. Blind and elderly groups have lists of people needing services like that.

  23. Adam Greenwood on October 26, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Julie, I’m not arguing for laziness, though of course some people don’t clean because they’re lazy. I’m pointing out that there are tradeoffs, and in the list of personal and global priorities, how kids and houses look are far down the list. More moms should take their kids to clean someone _else’s_ house. Blind and elderly groups have lists of people needing services like that.

    This is the same kind of logic that says its wrong to make the temple beautiful. I don’t buy it at all and neither, apparently, does Sister Beck.

  24. Matt on October 26, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Matt Evans #17: I doubt the link between the spirit and “order” as defined here.

    I didn’t mean to sound as if the Spirit can’t be felt if someone’s house is messy. Everyone has their own tolerance for “messy” and that’s fine with me. But at some point, people get beyond their tolerance level which causes them and their family to act differently, even if only for a short time, until the mess is removed. Thus my examples of parents yelling at kids or kicking the dog. Since I’m human, I’ve been there – done that and recognize that the Spirit isn’t with me at that point. Some times people can take days or weeks to get back in order and the damage caused during that time can take it’s toll. After getting yelled at for not cleaning their room, kids resent having to do it. None of us want that to happen to our children so we take suggestions in how to manage our household in a manner that best fits our families.

    I also recognize that life presents challenges that can cause people to not get out of the mess and then feel overwhelmed. That’s the beauty of this post of helpful suggestions – you don’t have to take on everything at once, you take it in manageable portions.

  25. rk on October 26, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Matt,

    Thanks for the link and correcting the quote. You can see what my mind is on.

    Actually I will pick up after my kids, but the toys end up in the “Toy Jail.” Then toys get paroled when the kids earn them out.

  26. rk on October 26, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    Thanks for the link.

  27. m&m on October 26, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    My first thought when I saw the title: Julie is brave (or stupid). Then when I saw the preface, I relaxed. Julie, this is awesome. I look forward to more posts as well.

    Right along with that was the thought: Rats, she beat me to it. (I have been wanting to write on this topic ever since her talk. I love how she broadened what homemaking means…we often think in terms of dusting and making bread. Homemaking is making a sacred space.)

    I like ideas of how to be more organized. I will say for those of us more like Matt Evans’ mom, seeking for order is an ongoing process. I think there is a lot to be gained from the process of trying to improve and bring more physical order (only a part of a house of order, imo) to a home. It’s not just about an end result. For me, it may never be. And that’s ok, because I know I am trying and I know God knows that. Given health limitations, too, I do my best. We do our best, and that matters. (I hope it does!)

    Like Matt #24 said, though, I do find that if I can stay on top of the clutter, it ends up making the more important things more possible. Stuff takes time and attention. Clutter is my greatest weakness. The more little tips I figure out for keeping on top of that, the better I will be able to focus on what really matters. I think the key is not to make having a clean house the end in and of itself. It has a purpose in the larger scale of things — to keep life simpler, to teach children to work and to be more self-reliant, to work together as a family, to work to feel the Spirit, and to reduce distraction so that spiritual stuff can take place.

    I also think there is more to patterning our home after the temple than just having clean floors. A lot more, imo.

  28. Lupita on October 26, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Great post, Julie. I wanted to add how different the atmosphere in our home has been (in a good way) since I tried to put some of Pres. Beck’s ideas into practice. I don’t have unrealistic expectations or a natural inclination to be a cleaning machine. It’s not my favorite hobby but so what?

    Since making the conscious decision to include my five and three year old sons (the 17 mo old has a free pass) in daily personal and group chores, I find myself a lot less antsy about the workload and have noticed that they are capable and eager to learn. I try to stress that it is family work, in a non-martyr way (e.g. are these all my dishes that I’m washing/clothes that I’m folding/things that I’m putting away?) and that there is always lots of family work to be done. I think it’s important to foster an awareness that there is no fairy who magically performs all these wonderful acts (well, there may be one but no one has shown up at our home yet). I also have a very involved husband who participates in family work and this helps tremendously.

    I think that part of the problem stems from making the work the enemy. Who cares if you don’t enjoy homemaking? It just needs to be done.

  29. Bob on October 26, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    #25: For my 3 middle school Grandsons, there is a ‘Wedgie nail’ on the back patio. Now no one has really been on it, but it’s: “Push me too far and it’s ten minutes on the ‘Wedgie nail!’.”

  30. FoxyJ on October 26, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    I think it is a false dichotomy to say that the Spirit can only be present in an orderly, clean space or that it cannot be in a dirty, disorganized one. In fact, I see Sister Beck’s talk and Julie’s post here as not really even about that necessarily. They are more focused on how to bring the Spirit into our family relationships (ie our home). Like Lupita said, too often we view work as the enemy. This isn’t a good attitude to have or to teach our kids. The concept of agency means not only the freedom to choose, but the responisibility for our actions. We are agents unto ourselves, or in other words, we take responsibility for our choices. Teaching children how to work and contribute to the family is teaching them how to use their agency wisely. Also, like others have pointed out, work and responsibility have a powerful ability to strengthen the family and bring the Spirit into our lives. They also have the ability to create massive amounts of contention. I’ve seen children who struggle with resentment because their parents make them do all the chores, or don’t give them direction and then discipline for doing them the wrong way. I’ve seen parents who resent their children because they feel they are too lazy or entitled or have too much stuff. I’ve seen families who don’t have time for family prayer in the morning because they’re too busy trying to find clean clothes or their homework, or whatever. A strict routine may not be for everyone, but working out some organization and priorities leaves room in your life for more important things. Laundry, dishes, dirty bathrooms, dirty floors, etc are all part of human, mortal life. No matter where you go in the world, people have chores. But if we are a little more organized and have a good attitude, we won’t have to spend all our time worrying about or fighting about the basic chores of life.

  31. meems on October 26, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    Thanks, Julie. I always love your posts and think you are the queen of having it all together. My weakness is that I’m a lazy mother. It’s so much easier to do something myself than to painfully watch my kids do it (if I can even get them to….). I’ve recently started them doing some chores, but at ages 6 & 8, I feel like I’ve already missed the boat. My daughter, who is 8, has shown a slight interest in helping, but it’s only with the dangerous stuff, like chopping things, and ironing.

    Anyway, I feel your organization skills are great, and I actually do many of them (champion list maker here), but I tend to make lists that are too overly optimistic, so I’m never caught up anyway.

    Again, thanks for the tips and putting “stuff” in perspective.

  32. Matt Evans on October 26, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    “This is the same kind of logic that says its wrong to make the temple beautiful.”

    Adam, this is clearly an example of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. To me, the Provo Temple proves it’s possible to spend a lot of money on marble, gilded wallpaper and artificial flowers and still not come within a peasant child’s mile smile of “beauty”. I’ve never seen a beautiful celestial room, though Salt Lake’s is inspiring because it bears the imprints of so many early saints. Their handiwork is okay, but imagining those saints and their hands and hearts as they painted the ceilings — that is beautiful.

    I take the gospel to be truly radical, even regarding order and beauty. Current Mormon standards of beauty and order are very western, with a strong American emphasis, not celestial. It’s important to remember that Jesus, to look at, had “no beauty that man should desire him.” That’s a message that can’t be emphasized enough.

  33. BiV on October 26, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    To me, focusing on housekeeping in your quest to become a woman who “knows” is like concentrating huge amounts of energy on changing dirty diapers. They have to be done, find an efficient way to do it, and that’s it. There are a world of things which can bring spirituality into our homes and into our lives. Matt is right, let’s go out and teach our children to help the less advantaged. I’ve had a clean house and a dirty house at different times in my life. Placing extra energy on cleaning up has never tended to change the level of spirituality in my family.

  34. Adam Greenwood on October 26, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    Their handiwork is okay, but imagining those saints and their hands and hearts as they painted the ceilings — that is beautiful.

    But think, they could have better spent their time cleaning the homes of the blind.

  35. Ardis Parshall on October 26, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    The point of this series is to discuss the specific counsel that she gave and how best to apply it.

    I don’t know what you have planned for the rest of the series, Julie, but I look forward to reading your posts. As always, it’s a greater pleasure and of far more value to learn how to apply advice from wise men and women than to make excuses for why it doesn’t pertain to me.

  36. Matt Evans on October 26, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    I’d trade the celestial room ceiling for Zion.

  37. Michelle on October 26, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    Julie, thanks for some great ideas. I should dig out your book review of how to teach kids to do chores. It is so painful to get my 6 year old to do much of anything, and I’m not sure how to improve on that with her.

    Out of curiosity, what role does your husband play in household chores and maintenance?

  38. plover on October 26, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    One of my favorite essayists is Wendell Berry. In his book, THE HIDDEN WOUND, he writes that one of the terrible sins of our times is the desire to feel and be superior. There are so many ways to construct a sense of superiority; but in particular, he argues that many of us depend on others to do our work. In passing off manual labor to others, we can feel superior to others. Berry writes of this process on a societal level–we alienate ourselves from our land and food by outsourcing the production of our food and then disdain those who work in the fields harvesting that food (if we even think of them). I have wondered if one reason President Kimball so emphasized garden was a desire for us to step out of that alienation and embrace the pleasures of tending the land, the pleasures of seasons, and the pleasures of watching plants grow. There is also a pleasure that comes from being able to take care of ourselves. I have taught my children to do the dishes, they know how to do their laundry, and they can make their bed. What they haven’t yet learned is the rhythm of taking care of oneself over a lifetime. They do not yet have “testimony” that dishes are eternal, they haven’t learned that the laundry is never done. Right now, work for them is finite–a task a chore. When I realized this, I decided to change why and how I am teaching them. I want them to know the pleasure of work. i want them to understand that they should not exploit others to avoid work, and that knowing how to do the work of life allows them to serve others and be sensitive to others’ needs. So at our home, we are reconceptualizing what it means to produce, to consume, to work. I very much appreciate the comments here, they add food to my ponderings.

  39. Adri on October 26, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    Julie—I heard you on the KUER program \”Radio West\” and was grateful for your insight, your positive take on everything, and your sustaining of our leaders. Thank you for your forum and your willingness to be a positive \”voice.\”

  40. Naismith on October 26, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    “There are so many ways to construct a sense of superiority; but in particular, he argues that many of us depend on others to do our work. In passing off manual labor to others, we can feel superior to others.”

    Hmmn, I never felt superior to my cleaning person. Quite the opposite; I am amazed at her ability to see things that I had tuned out, and make the place gleam in a short amount of time.

    “i want them to understand that they should not exploit others to avoid work, and that knowing how to do the work of life allows them to serve others and be sensitive to others’ needs.”

    I agree about not exploiting, but my cleaning person gets paid $35 per week for 1.3 hours of work. Even considering the self-employment taxes, that is a pretty decent wage for a job with no training required.

    I don’t see how we would be better people if we scrubbed those toilets ourselves. I believe that part of good household organization is calculating the opportunity costs and outsourcing when appropriate.

    In other countries we’ve lived, it was considered selfish to not hire a maid, that one would be denying someone of a job by doing one’s own cleaning, etc.

  41. m&m on October 26, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    heard you on the KUER program \”Radio West\”

    Um, more details please? I would love to hear a rebroadcast if I know the date and title of the program. Was this announced somewhere?

  42. Melinda on October 26, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    A brief idea for the commenters who would rather take the kids to clean the homes of the disadvantaged than work at home. Where are these children going to learn how to clean homes for others if not at their own homes? I’ve seen kids on service projects, and the really helpful ones are the ones who already know how to clean or do yardwork because they’ve been doing chores at home regularly. The disadvantaged don’t have the ability to teach those helpful children how to properly sweep a floor or wash dishes or weed a flowerbed. That gets learned at home.

  43. Matt Evans on October 26, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Melinda, I don’t advocate *not* teaching children to clean! My concern with the common interpretation of Beck’s talk is *how much* we should spend making our homes and clothes and children look good. Most Mormons who have the leisure time to participate on blogs do not need to spend more time improving their living conditions or those of their children. Most of us outsource much of the housekeeping already (especially food preparation), and we should not try to justify Merry Maids and takeout as spiritually beneficial (which is the case if you take a clean and neat house to be an end in itself). It is not the lack of clutter or spots that makes the house spiritual, it’s the nurturing. Teaching kids to *work* is necessary; as you point out, they can’t serve others unless they know how. I think Beck is saying that mothers should spend time working with their kids (I’d emphasize working for the interest of their neighbor, a la D&C 82), and not that mothers should ensure they have an orderly and clean house (at least not as orderly and cleaned are understood in the catalogue-saturated United States) as ends in themselves.

  44. mmiles on October 26, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    I’m all for teaching kids to serve. But teaching kids to clean by cleaning someone’s house other than one’s own house has the potential to teach kids to do service projects, rather than serving people. I don’t see the point if you don’t clean your own house. You go out with your kids to clean and then pat yourself on the back and teach your kids to pat their own backs too for doing service and come home to a mess?

  45. cyril on October 26, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    “I’d trade the celestial room ceiling for Zion. ”

    Like Beauty, the definition of Zion is obviously relative. For many, your house growing up, Matt, is what Zion will overcome. For many others, your house is what Zion will be.

    Glad I don’t have to make that call and can, instead, just try to keep my house in a state of order that is conducive to temporal and spiritual growth.

  46. Mark IV on October 26, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    There is a balance between taking care of our homes and worshipping them, and between taking care of our bodies and caring about appearances. The practical nature of living with children and people who are sick and who get old helps us maintain that blance.

    If what a prophet’s wife has to say is important (and I think it is), I think this statement by Marjorie P. Hinckley has bearing on this conversation:

    “I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.

    I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.

    I want to be there with grass stains on my shoes from mowing Sister Schenk’s lawn.

    I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children.

    I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden.

    I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.

    I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.”

  47. Matt Evans on October 26, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    Great quote, Mark. And if T&S history is any predictor of the T&S future, I’ll have reason to cite it regularly. Where’s it from?

  48. Julie M. Smith on October 26, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    Matt, I have no argument with #22. I hope I made clear with my “immaculate isn’t reasonable” diatribe that I am in agreement with you. However, I do worry about a counter-trend among LDS (and other) women of kind of mocking any effort to manage a home well. (You aren’t doing this, of course, but I hear it a lot.) Basic housekeeping is important for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that women will be doing it *anyway*, and if we don’t value it, it becomes easier not to value *them.*

    rk, I love your toy jail idea.

    m & m, I really like your phrase “homemaking is making a sacred space.” I will probably steal it. And I am probably brave and stupid.

    “I think the key is not to make having a clean house the end in and of itself. It has a purpose in the larger scale of things — to keep life simpler, to teach children to work and to be more self-reliant, to work together as a family, to work to feel the Spirit, and to reduce distraction so that spiritual stuff can take place.”

    Amen and amen.

    “you are the queen of having it all together”

    Oh, if you only knew, meems! I talk a good game, but the reality is that I’m weak and lazy and it is not unprecedented for my sink to be so dirty that it actually smells. TMI, I know, but I’ve got certain household things nailed and am still struggling with others. Actually, I’d like advice on what to do about my kitchen floor. With three meals and two snacks, I could sweep five times per day. Of course, I don’t. So it gets disgusting. We can’t get a dog because of my husband’s allergies. Ideas?

    As for kids wanting to only do dangerous things, well, my 6yo was chopping celery the other day and announced that it was time to perfect his “murder cut.”

    Michelle asked about my husband. He does the yard and takes out the trash. He also makes breakfast for the 3yo (6 and 9 do their own) and helps me with last-minute dinner details (cups of juice, etc.). So not that much house stuff, but he does all bath, stories, nighttime routine, animal dissections, Harry Potter readings, and general child care between 6pm and when the kids go to bed, which means a lot to me. I’m happy with that arrangement.

    plover, your comments are fascinating. I hope you’ll talk a little more about the change you are trying to create.

    Adri, thanks. That was my first time to do anything like that and I wish I could re-do parts of it!

    m & m, if you google RadioWest, it was the 10/23 show and an mp3 is available online. But I hate the sound of my voice so I haven’t been advertising it :).

    Matt, do you really think most of our readers outsource their cleaning? Naismith has mentioned she has help; maybe a few others do as well (and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that as long as the children know how to do things), but I imagine most of our readers are scrubbing their own toilets.

    Mark IV, that’s a fabulous quote. I can’t believe we don’t hear that one more often. I think that Matt Evans and I would agree that that is the kind of homemaking that is necessary and leads to spiritual growth, regardless of the actual state of Sr. Hinckley’s floors.

  49. Sariah on October 26, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    Julie, I would really like to see your schedule (i.e., the whole sweeping is only allowed on Mondays). Any chance you could post that?

  50. Mark IV on October 26, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    Matt Evans, here’s your documentation:

    Every Good Thing: Talks from the 1997 BYU Women’s Conference [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1998.]

    Sorry, I don’t have a page number.

  51. Julie M. Smith on October 26, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    Sariah: Here it is, sorry it is kind of hard to follow without being in a table.

    8 am: get up, shower, breakfast

    8:30-9am: one-on-one school with 9yo–go over all of his assignments, then he goes to his room and works on his own until 11-12:30, depending on the day

    9am-noon:
    –at some point in this block, I’ll set the 3yo up with some toy or school-ish thing to entertain him so I can do school with the 6yo for about 1/2 hour
    –I’ll do laundry:
    Monday: whites
    Tuesday: darks
    Weds: towels
    Friday: boys
    –I’ll straighten up my bathroom and bedroom and plow through any papers or junk that have accumulated on the counter
    –I’ll do my daily cleaning chore:
    Monday: sweep down and vacuum area rugs
    Tuesday: clean master bath
    Wednesday: after boys have cleaned up, I vaccuum up
    Thursday: clean boys’ bathroom (ugh and double ugh)
    Friday: kitchen
    –I’ll also play with 3yo and waste time blogging

    noonish:
    –we have lunch
    –I go over all of his assignments with the 9yo
    –the 3yo watches something on http://www.unitedstreaming.com while I read science, history and literature books to 6yo and 9yo and do science and history projects with them

    afternoon:
    Monday we have scouts
    Tuesday they have PE at the YMCA (pronounced ‘yim-cuh’ in my house) and we do groceries
    Weds. they play at a friend’s house
    Thursday they have PE at the YMCA
    Friday we have homeschool park day or co-op

    We don’t follow that schedule on Thursday mornings–we don’t have school because the 9yo has rehearsal for the musical he is in while I take the 3yo and 6yo to storytime at the library.

  52. Julie M. Smith on October 26, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    I should add: other chores (mopping floors, cleaning glass doors, dusting) pretty much only happen two hours before someone comes over. They won’t stay done any longer than that anyway and no one in this house really cares whether they get done.

    I didn’t say anything about evenings: except for one pack mtg. per month and the class I teach on Thurs., , we are all always home from 5:30 on. My boys do dishes and straightening after dinner and I either do productive work (research, lesson writing for Institute, writing articles, etc.) or waste time (novels, blogs, etc.).

  53. Matt Evans on October 26, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    Julie, we don’t have cleaners or landscapers at our house, but I’m certain many of our readers do. And of course all or nearly all of us outsource the majority of our domestic needs for sewing and food production already.

  54. Kevin Barney on October 26, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    Impressive organization, Julie. Thanks for sharing your ideas and tips.

  55. Adam Greenwood on October 26, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    Your voice sounds great, Julie S. If I imagined your comments in that voice it would be harder for me to smite you hip and thigh like I do. :)

  56. Natasha on October 26, 2007 at 9:34 pm

    Richard O post 6: I would love to see a post with pictures about your renovations of your house.

  57. m&m on October 26, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    Julie, I’m listening right now. I love the way you help listeners take a step back and catch a broader vision of what Sister Beck talked about. I don’t envy the challenge of having to speak on your feet, and you have done well with what I have heard. I’m trying to think of a way to say thank you without it sounding hokey. We need more voices like yours in forums like that.

  58. Rosalynde Welch on October 26, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    Just because it’s fun to share, here’s my weekly chore routine:
    Monday: laundry
    Tuesday: dusting and bathrooms
    Wednesday: floors and windows
    Thursday: grocery shopping
    Friday: catch-up or decorating project
    Saturday: yard

    Kitchen has to be done daily in our home.

    I’ve recently come to suspect that Matt might be right, and that many of our readers may use cleaning services, at least in Utah. I was reading a Utah-based LDS woman’s personal blog, and the comments to a post indicating that most readers used weekly or twice-monthly cleaners really surprised me.

  59. mmiles on October 27, 2007 at 12:33 am

    Rosalynde,
    You wash windows weekly? Wow.

  60. m&m on October 27, 2007 at 2:15 am

    I always wow at someone who can do all their laundry in a day. That would not come close to my reality. :)

  61. Naismith on October 27, 2007 at 9:42 am

    “I always wow at someone who can do all their laundry in a day. That would not come close to my reality. :)”

    It’s a way of life for those many, many people who don’t have their own washer and dryer. I had my first three children living in places where we had to drive (and we only had one car) or take a streetcar to the laundramat. I did lug the diaper pail every five days, but the clothes I couldn’t manage more than every 7-10 days.

    Of course I’ve also lived places without any laundramats, where laundry was done by hand, and that was an every-day-of-the week thing.

  62. Rosalynde Welch on October 27, 2007 at 10:00 am

    To each her own cleaning quirk, I guess. I hate smudgy, smeary windows, and I have a slobbery 18-month-old, so the front bay window, the back door, the family room windows and the hall mirror get washed every week (unless they don’t, which happens too, of course). As for laundry, I’ve always marveled at women who have the fortitude to haul laundry downstairs every day of the week! I hate the hauling, sorting and treating, so I do that all at once on Monday. The actual marching of loads through the machines may continue on Tuesday, and the folding (which I do at night while watching TV) usually happens later in the week.

  63. Zillah on October 27, 2007 at 11:31 am

    I don’t have any of my own children yet, so I can’t offer any input on children and housecleaning from a mother’s standpoint, but I can from a child’s. Growing up, we were all taught basic cleaning skills at a very young age; setting and clearing the table at the age of 4, weekly chores that included age-appropriate tasks such as cleaning patio doors and windows, washing mirrors and bathroom counters, emptying garbage baskets, and dusting. I was cleaning the entire bathroom and vacuuming by the age of 9, and we were expected to keep our rooms neat, our toys put away, and to make our beds each day. There was never any payment for chores; rather, we weren’t allowed to play with friends/watch movies/do anything until weekly and daily chores were done. End of argument.

    As a child, I obviously didn’t enjoy doing any of the chores (except dusting), but when I moved away from home and started college, I became incredibly grateful for my mother’s insistence that I learn basic cleaning skills, since I was the only one of my roommates who knew how to clean (I once had a roommate take the finish completely off of a linoleum floor from the 1920s because she scrubbed it with Comet–and couldn’t figure out why there was so much residue on the floor after scrubbing it for an hour). Many of my roommates never did any cleaning because the idea of doing it never even crossed their minds; they were used to having it done for them. Including children in cleaning and taking care of the house is vital when it comes to teaching them important life skills and also personal responsibility. And their roommates will also greatly appreciate it.

  64. Sara R on October 27, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Julie, you speak as well as you write (which is to say, very well). Thanks for being on the show.

  65. Janet on October 27, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    I do laundry every day and a load of cloth diapers every other day. The endless piles of clothing don’t really bother me, but our uber-cruddy dryer makes the daily laundry-fest a 12-hour affair. I just restart the dryer or reload every time I walk up the stairs. Kitchens demand daily duty as well.

    Ros, feel free to wash my windows anytime. I do mine twice a year. However, I sanitize my baseboards every Saturday–which I believe officially qualifies me as a freak.

    As for hiring cleaning help: despite considerable ideological objections to hiring a maid, I’d consider it if so doing would give me time, once the kiddo is older, to teach him to garden. A trained monkey can mop a floor. Gardening takes skill, so it requires pedagogy. Exposure to dirt! And tomatoes! And the endless shelling of summer peas! These are the chores that bound my family together. Weekly house chores annoyed me as a kid: husking corn had immediate and tasty rewards, and ones I recalled when corn-planting time came round again. I cling to the studies showing that overly-sanitized houses can contribute to asthma and childhood allergies.

    Except baseboards. Baseboards must be clean. Whatever would I do if Jesus Christ returned and saw my dirty baseboards? Or towels folded such that the edges show? (This is tongue in cheek, obviously, but I think we all have one or two cleaning obsessions. Mostly I think we need to relax and play with our kids more, possibly figuring out ways to Mary Poppins-ize the chores for everyone. Remember, “oops, the job’s a game?” That’s what I want to figure out.)

  66. Julie M. Smith on October 27, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    I didn’t know baseboards could be sanitized.

    It would be fun to do a post on cleaning quirks. Perhaps no one will be surprised to hear that mine is books–they have to be perfectly centered, paralleled, straight, organized, symmetrical, and any other uptight thing that comes into my mind.

  67. Ardis Parshall on October 27, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    Oh, crud. I need monkey training before you drop by again, Janet. I’m tidy enough not to cringe when someone comes unexpectedly, but I don’t crawl around on my knees polishing baseboards every week … not even every year … and books are made for stacking, piling, and knocking over, then throwing away by the armload.

    My silverware is, however, very brightly polished and neatly stacked in its anti-tarnish chest.

  68. Kaimi Wenger on October 27, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    I have a very meticulous schedule. For instance:

    On Monday, I load the dishwasher.

    On Tuesday, I run the dishwasher.

    On Wednesday, I unload the dishwasher.

    On Thursday, I do the hand wash.

    On Friday, I take out the garbage.

    On Saturday, I sweep the floor.

    Sunday is a day of rest.

    On Monday, I set the table.

    On Tuesday, I clear the table.

    On Wednesday, I wipe the table . . .

  69. Ray on October 27, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    Kaimi, my schedule is much easier to remember than yours.

    On Monday, I do what my wife tells me to do.

    On Tuesday, I do what my wife tells me to do.

    On Wednesday, I do what my wife tells me to do.

    On Thursday, I do what my wife tells me to do.

    On Friday, I do what my wife tells me to do.

    On Saturday, I do what my wife tells me to do.

    On Sunday, I rest from doing what my wife tells me to do.

  70. Ray on October 27, 2007 at 8:49 pm

    BTW, that is my actual schedule.

  71. Sue on October 27, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    I got some great ideas from this post – thanks everyone. Julie, I’m with you on the books – I am continually fiddling with our bookshelves. It really bugs me if the books on the family room bookshelves are wonky. I like keeping my own room clean, so that it feels like a sanctuary. That way, even if the rest of the house is a mess, our room is clean and peaceful. My DH does the laundry, and I don’t interfere.

  72. Janet on October 28, 2007 at 12:34 am

    Ardis, my baseboards may be clean but the grout in my shower isn’t. And the living room is an obstacle course of baby toys, so don’t worry about monkey training. My silver is usually tarnished ;)

    Books: must be organized by time period and then alphabetically by author. Fluffy reads or anything written past around 1960 is organized by……color. Yep, color. It makes my bookshelves look pretty and I don’t need quick references w/the more modern stuff. Except theory books, which are sandwiched between medieval lit and Mormon lit in my office.

    I find my own balance of anal retention and laziness quite odd, now that I think about it.

  73. Eve on October 28, 2007 at 1:33 am

    “Except baseboards. Baseboards must be clean. Whatever would I do if Jesus Christ returned and saw my dirty baseboards? Or towels folded such that the edges show?”

    Janet, I’m not entirely sure what a baseboard is, exactly, but I so share your testimony of the necessity of towel edges being perfectly aligned. I have to sit on my hands when my husband helpfully folds up quilts and sheets and (oh, the horror, I can barely type it) leaves the edges WILDLY MISALIGNED. I have to close my eyes and shove them in the linen closet, quick, to keep myself from refolding. But then I was one of those freaky children who was organizing my own sock drawer by the time I was eight.

    And yes, of course books must follow a very particular organizational system. (Those who are spiritually in tune with their books will find that a new system is periodically revealed, and books must be gone through and reorganized to accommodate additions and subtractions.) Sweeping and vacuuming, on the other hand, can be neglected for weeks. My easy solution to dirty floors: just don’t look down.

    I wonder if all of us don’t have our own particular balance of anal retentiveness and laziness. If I were anal retentive about everything, I’d never stop whirling around in a compulsive dither. And it’s just too tiring and too much a waste of energy to live like that. So much of it is a matter of deciding what’s worth being anal retentive about.

  74. Rebecca L on October 28, 2007 at 1:43 am

    Julie,
    Kudos to you for being one of the articulate wonderful mothers that Julie Beck describes! I’d just like to add a few thoughts on why family work and chores are such a valuable tool in raising children. Adults don’t usually like simple, repetitive tasks but it is precisely because the tasks are simple that children can do them. Because chores are repetitive, they can be mastered, perfected and children can, on an on-going basis, make a real and meaningful contribution to the family economy. As a child learns to take responsibility for herself and contribute to her most immediate community, she gains a solid foundation of competence and the corresponding confidence that she is a valuable player with skills and purpose. IMO only a child who has learned to work, and who personally knows the cost of effort, will be grateful for the sacrifice/acheievements of others. Of course, there is much more to add in terms of opportunities created to talk and share. Many of my favorite memories of my parents are of times we were working together.

    I’m a homeschooling mother of 7 (ages 12-18mo) and there are many times that my house is not immaculate. (Is it EVER immaculate?). I would always rather be doing something other than laundry or daily cleaning tasks. I understood this talk not to say that we had to meet some unreal standard (as you pointed out so well), but that we should take consolation in the fact that when we do spend time cleaning floors and wiping down counters we are doing something important and something that tangibly and meaningfully contributes to our greater purpose as mothers.

    Cheers and keep up the good work!

  75. Carolyn on October 28, 2007 at 2:46 am

    This has been a great read! This is my first time to view this site–I hopped over from Mormon Mommy Wars.
    I\’d like to go back to Sis. Beck\’s talk and also some of the comments made here. I grew up in a home that was a complete disaster area. My mom has always been a silent, chronically defeated individual and there were six kids in our family. Our house was not just cluttered or disorganized, it was scary. We never brought friends home after school and if the situation arose somehow–it was the worst kind of humiliation to see the shock in our friends/dates eyes. We kids cleaned up as much as we knew how, but it never made a dent because my mom would make it a disaster again. No, she wasn\’t an insane bag lady–she was the RS president for many years and has a great intellect.
    My point being– it is all very well and fine to say that you can \”feel the spirit\” in a messy house as well as clean house…but perhaps you did not grow up in a truly messy house. Let me tell you–it is extremely difficult to break through all the mental distractions and feel the spirit when surrounded by junk. I was never given a list of chores to do, I never had a set \”bedtime\”, I never had a curfew as a teen. And believe it or not, this is what I wanted with all my heart. I CRAVED structure and rules, but there were none. I now struggle daily to give myself that internal structure, to make goals and set them…and I pretty much fail. But I am always hopeful, and I will always strive daily. Sis. Beck\’s talk did not defeat me, it spurred me on.
    And Matt Evans, I even agree with you that the celestial room is not necessarily the place where I feel the spirit, as I feel especially antsy to dodge the crowds and get back into my street clothes. But I don\’t agree that our surroundings have no bearing on our ability to feel the spirit. I agree that you can feel the spirit walking the streets of manhattan, surrounded by a mass of humanity. But surrounded by household chaos & bad habits of your own making? Not so much. At least not for me.
    Anyhoo! If we as parents are okay with chaos, then we may want to consider our children\’s needs–to feel proud of their home, to be able to rest & not feel in constant turmoil from the mess. That is what spurs me on when I feel \”too tired\”…my kids. I have some surface clutter but no moldy showers or horrifying science experiments in the fridge :) I loved Sis. Beck\’s talk because it was so un-P.C. and it reminds me of my favorite section in the doctrine and covenants. (sec. 88) Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing…. I don\’t see anything wrong with striving to do better. And from the feedback Julie has received on this post, it appears that almost all of us are striving to make things better and we want to learn from each other. Also, I just wanted to give credit to all you parents who make rules and enforce them, despite the resistance of your kids. You are giving them the foundation for a happy and successful life :)

  76. Julie M. Smith on October 28, 2007 at 10:10 am

    Rebecca L and Carolyn, thanks for your comments. I think you both articulate excellent reasons why we may need to tend to our homes more than we want to.

  77. m&m on October 29, 2007 at 1:57 am

    The other reason that has come to motivate me more is that I can’t serve as well if my home is messy. I can’t invite neighbors over for dinner, or my hubby’s colleagues or group. I feel as I clean at least that main floor, that we are, as a family, more in a position to serve. When I was just motivated with this internal sense that I’m a bad mom for having a cluttery house, that wasn’t enough. That was more to gratify my pride. When the Spirit started nudging me (before The Talk) to consider this reason instead, it was like a peace washed over me, and a new motivation I had NEVER felt before spurred me on. My living room has stayed basically clean for two weeks (miraculous for me!) and we have made progress. It’s really good to have motivators that aren’t competition or pride-based, but are really driven by the Spirit. At least I have found that to be true.

    Incidentally, I could easily not worry about it so much when pride was the motivator. Why feed the pride, right?

    I still have to recognize my limitations, which are real, but anyway, this was a real aha for me, so though I would share, fwiw.

  78. Bob on October 29, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    #77: Don’t give up too quickly on pride as a motivator. At 17, I went into the Marines. I was placed in a room with 30 other teenage boys, (no moms). Most came from very poor home lives, and knew little about clearing or anything else. Some had never had a new pair of shoes, their own bed, or clothes that were not hand-me-downs. Within a month of this, I challenge any of you, to dress better, or clean better! White glove stuff!
    You knew, watching this growth, watching them clean, watching them high polish their new shoes, that this was a good Pride, a pride worth working for.

  79. m&m on October 30, 2007 at 1:02 am

    The kind of pride I was talking about is competitive for MY sake, not for teaching my kids. That’s different. :)

  80. Y Stephenson on October 30, 2007 at 10:06 am

    Since my kids left home I just don’t clean as much, nor do I need to pick up clutter. But when they were here I found a book that saved my life. It is called Sidetracked Home Executive. I think some edition of it is still out there somewhere, all updated for the world we live in today. I tried with all my might to teach all these wonderful values. But the truth is, in the long run each person will decide what it is they value most with regard to their environment. My house will never be as clean as my mother’s, although it was close for awhile, and some of my children don’t care as much about housekeeping as I do. So maybe there is such a thing as degeneration.

    One thing I most recently discovered is that cleaning the corners makes the rest of the floor look like it has been done. This is just the opposite of the way my kids liked to do it. Clean the middle and leave the rest alone. Here is a tip I learned at Relief Society. Leave the vacuum out in the middle of the floor. That way if anyone comes by unexpectedly they will think they interrupted you in the middle of cleaning. LOL

    But, I have digressed. There are two non intersecting curves, one is the ability to do and the other is desire. As they each grow they go in opposite directions, but they never cross. As far as motivation goes, whatever works is good. Try everything. Any change will work for a little while.

    One last thing. Housekeeping is part of nurturing when it is done in a way that helps everyone in the household to grow and be properly cared for. If it doesn’t do that it is not nurturing at all. A really important part of nurturing is providing for the temporal needs of the family. I suspect real mothers know that too.

  81. T. J. on October 30, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Our family has a running discussion of this talk. This is from my youngest, first-time parent son:

    I thought the talk was amazing. I thought that she finally \”empowered\” the mother-homemaker. All family psychology research backs up what she said, and I know that we know what is best, but it\’s funny how sometimes we choose unwisely what we do. And I\’m not talking just women.

    I\’ve known guys in Utah that get divorced after getting into hunting, which costs $$$$$. My wife has been so good for me in that way; sometimes I call her a ‘dreamcrasher,’ but she really knows what isn\’t necessary and what is in so many cases.

    You know, an analogy comes to mind: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade — when they\’re in the temple of the Holy Grail and it\’s about to fall into a deep, dark chasm and Indy is hanging on by one hand to his father and he\’s reaching for the grail with the other — the nazi girl fell just before that because she wouldn\’t stop reaching for the grai -l- anyway, Sean Connery wisely says, \”let it go.\” And Indy does and climbs out. It\’s kind of like choosing wisely with our time between family and work/school/hobbies. And then the ghostly knight of the crusade says, \”You have chosen…wisely.\” I thought the talk was awesome and clarified where the real wealth and power of the world is: the mothers who invest their hearts and minds in the home.

  82. Matt Evans on October 30, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Carolyn, I think you may have misunderstood my point. Our house was happy because our mom chose to sacrifice house cleaning for *better* sources of happiness. It’s not hard for an intelligent and creative mother to find better ways to keep the family happy than pouring lots of time and energy into the stuff rust and moth corrupt. My concern is that the many Mormon parents who are already too preoccupied with the appearance of their children and houses, at the expense of more effective activities, will take the wrong message from Beck’s talk. I think that’s why Beck emphasized housework as an opportunity to nurture, and not as an end in itself.

  83. a spectator on October 30, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Julie
    regarding your kitchen floor:

    Roomba

    Love it–it sings a victory song when it is done. We make a great team. My 3 year old can get it, bring it to the right room, and start it, but it can also be scheduled so you can get it going when you are gone.

  84. m&m on October 30, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    One thing I most recently discovered is that cleaning the corners makes the rest of the floor look like it has been done. This is just the opposite of the way my kids liked to do it. Clean the middle and leave the rest alone.

    THAT sums up my life!!!

    Roomba

    Add that to my wishlist…. (that keeps getting longer)

  85. Julie M. Smith on October 30, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    spectator, I’m thinking the Roomba won’t work because we’ve got two tables pushed together (=eight legs) and eight chairs (=32 legs) and I can’t imagine it getting in all those crevices. (Which, of course, is why *I* hate sweeping.)

  86. Bob on October 30, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    #79: The guys didn’t get together and say “Gee..let’s clean.” It took training and a setting of the value of clean.
    I take it, before kids, Mormon houses are orderly and clean, as well after the kids are gone? I take it, after all this training between 2-13, Mormon teenagers have spotless bedrooms? That their dorms would pass my old DI’s white glove tests.
    I have full understanding of a house full of kids, or a working mother= mess. IMO, others have to have different reasons. (Note, the word immaculate was not use.)

  87. a spectator on October 30, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    Julie–

    Try borrowing one from a friend to give it a try–you might be surprised.

  88. m&m on October 31, 2007 at 2:38 am

    One more thought on my 77 — Sister Beck’s talk was another motivating-through-the-Spirit kind of thing for me. When I am reminded, like I was with her talk, of the spiritual nature of my seemingly mundane, physical tasks, I feel a completely different purpose in my day-to-day. I also am less likely to get discouraged, because if I clean my house to ‘look good’ to others, or to compete with others, then my reward is a pat on the back (but all too often the result is embarrassment because things aren’t as clean as they could be, or disappointment because no one really knows what progress looks like for me). But if it’s between me and the Lord, then all of a sudden, my heart is what matters more than how clean my floors are, and the efforts I’m making to improve matter. I don’t have to focus so much on the end result, but can focus on what me and my family are doing and learning together. It changes everything for me!

    OK, back to the Roomba discussion. (You have me dreaming….)

  89. Bob on October 31, 2007 at 10:16 am

    Dreaming Sisters: The sad thing about the Roomba (My daughter has a sweep one and a wash one), is you can have nothing but furniture on your floor, all else must be picked up and put out of the way. It’s like those who feel a need to clean the house before the maid comes.

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