Our Home // Unstuck
Like many women who live a life on planet earth, I have questions. Why do people want to eat every day? Like, I just made dinner last night, and now you’re telling me you’re hungry again today? Calm down. Also, why does my apartment hate me and refuse to stay clean? I JUST mopped the floor like three months ago. CAN I LIVE? The worst part is the shame. Social media, I’m looking at you. It can be really easy to feel like my life is a pile of garbage when I have my eyes on a constant feed of lovely homes that look like Joanna Gaines comes over every day to tidy up and put muffins in the oven. I have spent so many days looking around at my space thinking about what a failure I am at this whole cooking/cleaning/home/life thing. I know I’m not alone in this, either, because I’ve heard the exact same thing from so many women. But – just guessing here – I’m reasonably sure a spirit of defeat and failure is not what God wants for us.
The secret truth is that just about everyone struggles with keeping their home to some degree, even if it doesn’t look like it on Instagram. Lack of time, lack of motivation, the presence of other people who share our space and mess it up again once it’s clean (we love them, though, just keep repeating to ourselves that we LOVE THEM)…all of these can easily derail us and make us feel like we’ll never have a nice home or have our ish together.
I think one of the problems here is that we think everyone ELSE has their ish together, and WHY can’t we figure out how to do this very simple thing everyone else is on top of? Our small group leader’s home never has dirty dishes in the sink or crumbs on the floor. We think, wow, she is so on top of her home. What we don’t see is the dishes frantically being chucked into the dishwasher 30 minutes before guests arrive, and the crumbs vacuumed precious seconds before we walk in the door! Listen to me: nobody, and I mean nobody, is perfect at this. Telling ourselves that this is so easy and so simple and why can’t we just get it together is the surest way to NOT improve, because it paralyzes us. It makes us feel like we will never have it together, so why even try?
So what is the alternative?
What I have found helps me is to acknowledge that the thing I need to do is hard. It sounds counterintuitive, I know. Instead of telling myself “why can’t I do this simple thing of keeping my home clean, staying on top of grocery shopping and cooking, etc.,” I tell myself “This thing is hard, and I can do hard things.” If I still don’t believe myself, I listen to Paul:
“I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12-13) If Jesus can get Paul through all that, He can help us with our hard things, too.
Remind yourself that you can lean on Jesus even for things that seem like small potatoes. Yes, Jesus can be working on the crisis in Syria and still care about your anxiety over your neglected dishes. He does care, and He invites us to cast all our cares on Him so He can help (1 Peter 5:7). Meeting Jesus means we don’t have to suffer through anything alone anymore.
Something happens when we acknowledge that a thing is genuinely hard and stop telling ourselves we stink for not being able to figure it out on our own. When I remember I’m just a person with strengths and weaknesses that differ from my friends and neighbors, it stands to reason there would be things I struggle with that seem easy for others. And just because it’s not easy for me, that doesn’t mean I can’t learn how to do it better. Keeping a home together is a skill just like any other. I can get better at it with practice, but not if I can’t get off the couch and start because I’m so weighed down by shame. Weirdly enough, I find that being honest with myself about something being hard for me helps me not beat myself up about it as much, and that makes it a little bit easier to tackle.
A little bit of wisdom and a few practical tips help, too.
If your struggle is MOTIVATION – I do a kind of weird thing that helps me launch into an activity without thinking too much about it and then talking myself out of it, but it’s a little strange. You’ll have to be okay with feeling a little silly for this one. Here it is: ever watch NASA launch a rocket? They do that little countdown thing before takeoff. I find that if I do the same thing for myself, it helps me not overthink and just start doing the thing I’m putting off before I can talk myself out of it. So I actually count down from 5 and launch myself like a rocket. I say to myself, out loud, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” And then I get up. Most of the time, the getting up is the hard part. Once you start, it’s pretty manageable to keep going. Try it. You’ll feel like a goof, but it really helps!
If your struggle is CLEANING – There are a lot of great books out there to help make this easier. A few of my favorites are The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley (the Flylady). But one quick tip I can give you that helps me, especially when I’m struggling with clutter, is to take one thing in hand every time I leave a room. If I’m sitting on the couch and about to go to the kitchen, and there is an abandoned glass in front of me, I take it with me and put it in the dishwasher. If I’m in the bedroom en route to the bathroom and I spy my eyelash curler on the dresser, I grab it and take it with me to return to my makeup bag. You’re going from room to room anyway, so you might as well use the journey to sneakily clean. Do this all day long and you’ll be surprised how much magically ends up back where it belongs.
If your struggle is COOKING – sister, I know. This is a lifelong learning situation, so buckle up and also give yourself some grace here if you’re not perfect at this. I know as women we’re expected to be amazing cooks and our kitchen is supposed to be pretty but functional and we are supposed to have ourselves together enough not only to make supper for our people but also practice hospitality and welcome others into our home and and and. Listen to me: unless you’re the secret love child of Gordon Ramsay and Ina Garten, it’s okay to have some areas that need improvement. It’s okay. It’s a journey. Jesus will not love you any less if you never figure out how to master coq au vin. (Although it’s seriously delicious, so if you want to master it, you go right ahead and I will not stand in your way.) Something that helps me a lot (when I remember to do it) is meal planning. I do a really basic version that is flexible so I’m not locked in if I decide I want to make something else, or if we want to go out for supper some night. What it looks like for me is to grab my planner or a notepad file on my phone and list the days of the week and what I might want to fix for supper each of those nights, along with any complications that will change our supper plans. Then I list the ingredients for those dishes, check my kitchen for things I already have and cross those off, and use the remaining list for grocery shopping. At the top of the week, I list leftovers currently in the fridge so I remember to use them up. Here is a sample meal planning list from last week so you can see what I mean:
This just helps me get all my supper thoughts in one place so that if I need guidance or forget the plan, it’s all right there. And using it as a shopping list helps me save time by preventing last minute crazy grocery runs! I like to keep it on my phone so it’s always right there with me.
There is a lot more that we could go into on this topic. My aim here is just to give you a little bit of encouragement, because the truth is, no matter how deep you are in a mess, YOU CAN DO THIS! You can do this because you can do hard things in Christ who lends you His strength, and the best way to do hard things is together. Next time, we will tackle getting unstuck in our relationships. Thanks for letting me walk with you on your journey. Hanging out with you is basically my favorite thing.