It’s no coincidence that the approach of a new year finds us making resolutions, new goals and priorities. There is just something so motivating about coming out of December–with all the stress behind you…but the mess still with you. You’re still suffering from a sugar high and you know this is the time to move toward health again. The house has taken the back burner to your overbooked calendar and now it begs your attention. You notice that the lack of routine and schedule has your kids a little out of whack and you’re eager to return to normalcy. Perhaps your spiritual food has been displaced with holiday food. Your finances need an overhaul too.
And you’re up for the challenge. So before I go tackle my ginormous to-do list, I thought I’d offer you the same encouragement and tips I’m trying to give myself (some of these came from my husband):
Regarding the house:
- Drink your coffee first (unless you’re trying to give it up, in which case, I have no idea how to encourage you there.)
- Tackle one room or area at a time. THIS is a hard one. You know the routine. You pick up an item from the kitchen and take it where it belongs and alas, that room is a disaster too, so you busily begin cleaning there. Resist the urge. My husband suggested that I take the stray item to the room it belongs and wait to put it up until I get to that room. Another tip is to have a box for stray items and just place them in that as you go through a room.
- Create a place for everything. If you can’t do that, toss it. Resist the urge to pine over each item, painfully imagining how and when you will use it. Once you toss it, you’ll feel much better, and you won’t miss the item. (Tip: Ask yourself, “Do I love it or do I need it?” If you answer “no” to either, it’s history.)
- If you have children, delegate. But be specific, because it is overwhelming to them too. Let the littlest ones be your “go-fers” taking trash and stray objects to their place. Give one a trash bag and make it their job to collect all the trash, or a basket to collect stray items, etc. Let them help you tackle the one room. Make it a race. Set a timer.
- Purge, purge like never before. This is the time to get rid of things you know just take up space. I try to remind myself that as soon as I toss it, I won’t remember it anymore.
- If you homeschool…give yourself a “reorganizing vacation”. Don’t feel the pressure to rush back to school until you’ve gotten everything under control. School time will be far more productive and pleasant if you’ll allow yourself that time. If you still feel pressure, maintain your daily reading and wait on the more stressful subjects.
- Study to get some great crock pot recipes and use it about twice a week.
Regarding your health:
- Last year I wrote, “Easy Health for Busy Moms” and I find it encouraging myself, even as I go back for a refresher. Great information and motivation in there to get your new year off to a good start.
- Change in baby steps. Add an extra glass of water to your diet (maybe switching at meal time).
- Find a good, whole-food multi-vitamin. I like “Alive”. Research on-line and ask around. Getting the proper nutrition is important to having the energy to accomplish all we must do in a day!
- Find some kind of exercise you will do. More than ever, at my “older” age, I’m realizing how important it is to exercise. Rebounding (jumping on a mini-tramp is an excellent, cold-weather exercise.) Not only does exercise do the obvious for your health, but it improves your mood and sense of well-being (by releasing endorphins). Who of us couldn’t use that?
- Just adding fruits, nuts and vegetables to your current diet is a great step. Make a glass of fruit juice or vitamin-enriched drink part of your morning routine.
Regarding your finances:
- Despite how painful it can be, a written budget is really the only way to stay on top of finances. We have found too, that the more variable your income, the more important it is to write out a yearly budget. For us, the bulk of our income comes in the summer. So unless we plan to spread it out over the year, we find ourselves lacking in the winter months. Dave Ramsey has the best resources I know of and I would encourage you to check out The Total Money Makeover–it was a life-changing book for us…truly.
- Actually use your budget 😉 Ramsey suggests the practical method of an envelope system. Whatever you have allotted for a certain category (food, clothing, entertainment), spend that and no more.
- Start a change jar. This is a very simple, painless way to save a little extra money for a rainy day. We’ve done this for years–sticking our spare change in a jar, and it adds up in a hurry. Think of something to save for and write it on the jar and get everybody involved!
- Learn to sell on eBay or Amazon. With a little forethought, extra cash throughout the year can be earned by selling items around the house. You could designate a specific savings goal for your eBay selling.
- Read our book, Finding Financial Freedom to see how we paid off $38,000 in consumer debt in five years, making less than $60K any year.
Regarding your spiritual life:
- Make a sermon part of your day. Or at least, every few days. With the convenience of Sermon Audio and similar sites, getting spiritually fed has never been easier. A few of my favorites: Voddie Baucham, John Piper, David Platt, Paul Washer, Ravi Zacharias, Alistair Begg, Joe Morecraft, Mark Driscoll…to name a few.
- Make Bible reading a priority. Even if you don’t get up early enough for quiet time, gathering the children around to read a portion of Scripture daily is not only a great spiritual benefit, but it paves the groundwork for habits in their own lives for years to come.
- Memorize Scripture as a family easily by playing By Heart Scripture Songs throughout your day.
Other random tips:
- Commit to reading a spiritually-challenging book once a month.
- Make a list of character traits you would like to improve, and begin praying, being deliberate and working toward those. (For me, cultivating a gentle spirit is at the top of my list.)
- Engage your children in more thoughtful discussion. Remind yourself that discussion is a primary means of education–and it can happen anywhere!
- Determine to be a blessing to your husband. So often this gets overlooked. But it should be a priority!!!! A family where the husband and wife are a team, where they cultivate friendship–that’s a family that will thrive. Just a sincere word of gratitude can go a long way toward being a “crown” to your husband. Make him laugh, smile at him and just focus on being pleasant. You are the one person given to him to be his cheerleader. Encourage his strengths, and do not focus on his weaknesses. (It helps me, when I tend to want to dwell on his weaknesses, to redirect my thoughts to my own weaknesses. Wow. Changes perspective quickly.)
- Add laughter. This has been on my mind a lot lately. Life can really squelch out the fun if we let it. Adding a bit of laughter can change the quality of everyone’s life! Find something to laugh about…make jokes with each other, smile at your children’s antics. Nothing is so important that it has to squash our joy!
Praying the Lord would bless our homes this year as we endeavor to make them places where people thrive in the joy and comfort of our Father.