Taming the Laundry Monster

Housework is part of how we serve and love our families, but it can feel disastrously overwhelming. It is the job that is never finished. Sometimes, late at night, I have a moment the house is clean, organized, and smells good. The laundry is finished, and the dishes are done.

A brief moment of housework nirvana that I bask in deliciously, the master of all I survey . . .

.  .  .  for about ten seconds. Because if I look longer than that I’ll see the blinds that need dusting or the baseboards I’ve been ignoring. So I’ve started using the good enough standard – is it good enough to keep my husband happy and make his life easier? is it good enough to keep us healthy? Is it good enough to be welcoming to guests without feeling like a museum.

Our homes are supposed to serve us, be a shelter and refuge, not an idol that we break our backs to serve. Whether you’re a neat-nick or not, getting housework done quickly gives us more time to do the things that matter, like read stories and kiss cheeks because those days will be gone before we know it.

Several of my friends have been struggling with the sheer volume of laundry this week. The piles and piles of it gathering makes them feel like an army is mounting an offensive.  I’ve found a solution to taming the laundry monster. Housework is part of how we love and serve our families, but it can feel disastrously overwhelming at times. Use this strategy to tame the laundry monster.

I’ve divided up my laundry to one load per day. One day it is my husband’s things, the next our daughter’s, then mine, then towels, the next sheets, etc.

First thing in the morning, I start a load of laundry. You could even put it in the night before and start the washing machine in the morning. By the time I’ve brushed my teeth, gotten dressed, etc. the load is ready for the dryer.

Folding is the longest part of this process, but I’ve realized that I spend more time dreading it than just getting it done.Restart the dryer over and over rather than just fold it - heavennotharvard.com

When I open the dryer, I start pulling out the clothes and separating them into piles: socks, underwear, shirts, pants. Anything that doesn’t fit in one of those categories gets folded and set aside. Then I fold all the pants since those go the fastest. T-shirts are the largest laundry group in our house, so I found a way to fold them faster.

Then I stack or fold all the underwear and any miscellaneous items left before tackling the socks. I lay them all out and start to match them. By laying them all out before I start to fold them, I eliminate digging through the pile to find matches.

I found that I can fold almost an entire load of laundry in about five minutes. It feels like less work as well when I approach it in essentially five-minute increments: 5 minutes to gather and put in the wash, 5 minutes to transfer to the dryer, 5 minutes to fold.  I spend 10-20 minutes a day and never have a laundry monster.

Plus, once I got ahead of the curve on this one, I’ve had days that I didn’t have any laundry to do . . . whoa.

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Why I won’t buy a Tiffany Lamp

As a young woman, I used to imagine what my future home would look like once I could afford to move out of the cramped, college apartment lifestyle. I would picture a delicious reading nook with a cozy chair and the warm ambiance of a Tiffany lamp surrounded by rich mahogany.

Then I made my first budget, looked at the price of a Tiffany lamp, and put it firmly out of my mind. Even so, often I come back to that idealistic image. Last night catching up with my DVR, I flipped through one of the plethora of holiday catalogs that have already started filling my mailbox. The most beautiful Tiffany lamp caught my eye. I quickly scanned to see the price, $349. *Sigh* large__4470694244

I quickly calculated, imagined squirreling away $5 here, $20 there, anticipating purchasing this lamp. I pictured right where I would put it, how it would glow against my red accent wall. I stared at the picture, daydreaming of hot tea, cozy pajamas, and my lamp whisking me away into the perfect bliss of quiet reading time. Ahem, as if I ever actually FIND time in which to quietly read, but I digress.

Then I imagined military movers with my Tiffany lamp and shuddered. Then I thought about how my beautiful, imaginary lamp would really make me feel. I wouldn’t want anyone to touch it. Letting the kids dust it would give me palpitations. In my mind, watching the dogs chase the cat under the table that houses my imaginary lamp made my stomach knot. I imagined how I might act protecting my lamp. I could almost hear the shrill, sharp tone I would use if anyone played too roughly near my lamp. If it were broken someday, how would I feel about having wasted $349 when we’re living paycheck to paycheck?

I’ve been making a concerted effort to serve God intentionally in my home, with my home, choosing God’s focus in ways that encourage my family to enjoy our things instead of simply not breaking them. My house is supposed to give us a place to rest and fellowship, be a place to live.

Would a fragile lamp be worth the cost, much less the price tag?

One of the biggest changes my husband can see in my life has been relaxing who I am in our home, by what standard am I measuring my success. That standard should always be Jesus, Jesus who taught us to love each other, to love others more than ourselves, and that people who value wealth rarely find Him.

I look around at the now mussed, lived-in look of my house and celebrate the growth in my heart. I’ve spent years afraid to live with stuff that doesn’t magically get put away the second we are done with it, living without understanding the people in the home are more important than the things that might get broken. In the past, I’ve cried over broken ceramics, but ignored the hurts my careless actions caused my family.

But today, a toy broom lays at my feet because I was playing with my daughter after lunch. Her elaborate “picnic” sits carefully constructed in the middle of the living room, waiting patiently for her daddy to come home to play. Toy friends lie carelessly strewn right in the middle of the hallway waiting to create an entire imaginary world for her, causing her to stop to play instead of rush to beg for television or kindle time.

Saving up money and waiting patiently for something that we want is a good lesson to teach children, but right now, that is the only good lesson I can think of regarding this lamp.

Looking at the price tag, I can spend $350 on a lot of things: a plane ticket for one of my stepsons to visit, a vet bill for one of our beloved pets, Christmas gifts for our extended family, or a carload of groceries for the neighbors who haven’t had fresh vegetables in a month.

I have chosen to put serving God above everything else, and God always asks, “What can you be doing for me?” and I can’t see how I could serve Him with this lamp, either in my home or in my community.

No matter how beautiful a lamp might be, it cannot be allowed to overshadow God’s light in me. So, no, I won’t buy a Tiffany lamp. My house is supposed to serve my family, not my family serve my house. My home can be a safe place for my husband, kids, and pets or a Tiffany lamp.

photo credit: rthakrar via photopin cc

The Secret Service

What do you do when you are so angry you can’t function, so bitter the walls are closing in on you, so empty there are no words? You join the Secret Service.

A few years ago, my marriage was failing. We still really loved each other, but something was very broken. My husband was angry all the time. I was bitter. We could barely talk about anything without bickering, so we didn’t talk much. I did my thing. He did his. We slept in the same bed, but we weren’t any kind of team. And while we didn’t fight often, by the time we did, we’d both been harboring so many hurts and slights, that we were boilers ready to explode.

A year after he returned from his last deployment, I didn’t know if we were going to make it. I was trying to be the “good” wife, be a good person, live morally and he was just such a jerk. He was selfish and mean. He wanted to hunt more than he wanted to be home with us. He didn’t care about how his choices affected me at all. From using the last of the milk, but not putting it on the list, to breaking my favorite dishes with his carelessness, to leaving me home with the stomach flu and toddler to sit in a boat waiting for ducks. If I ever complained, he would shut me out completely or explode with rage.

I wasn’t ready to leave, but I was heartbroken. I didn’t see how I was going to be able to live the rest of my life with this awful person who just hurt me at every turn. I guarded my heart from him, went to bed aching with loneliness, wishing he would wake up and start being what I needed. What a selfish creep .  .  .

. . . I was.

When the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to my sin, my need for Grace, and true forgiveness. I can’t tell you how it changed my heart. A veil lifted. I was able to see other people as loved creations of God struggling with their own sins and pains.

I realized that I had been expecting my husband to fill my heart in the place God should be. I wrote a post about my running away from God, trying to use the world to fill my emptiness a few months ago. When I keep reading about letting God be my portion, it didn’t make sense, but I kept praying about it. I kept reading the Bible and praying.

Lamentations 3:24 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

When I pursued God, asked him to fill my heart, to give me what I need, my cup got full. I was able to stop seeing my husband as someone responsible for filling my heart, but as someone whose heart was so empty, he could barely function. As God filled my heart with grace and forgiveness, I began to feel His love, and I started to fill up my husband’s cup out of the overflow of my heart.

And I realized I’d been keeping score for a long time, not literally, but emotionally. I won’t do this for him because he didn’t do that for me. Each check mark against him cemented a brick in the wall we were building between us. Even when I had been doing the right things, I would hold up my pretty list of all the wonderful things I had done for him during the day and wait for his thanks. Most of the time, I got nothing or a mumbled thanks, then I got hurt and more resentful.

I was holding up my heart via the laundry or dishes, and he was smashing it over and over. But God really convicted me, “Are you truly doing this to serve him or to get something from him?”

Ouch! I wanted love, recognition, respect.

Wait, he probably did, too. What if he was being a jerk because I was hurting him or not fulfilling his needs? Ooh, and all of a sudden, I saw my husband weighed down with pain, war, loss, frustration, disrespect, exhaustion. I saw a soul God wants in His kingdom.

And a lesson came to mind about how we serve the needy, but it really resonated with how we serve anyone in need.

Matthew 6:1-34 ESV

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Our Father sees in secret. God will see my serving my husband quietly. Loved people love people, (See 1 John 4) and I finally felt loved enough to be able to love others. I could see his need for me to love him. I started looking for ways to serve him secretly, not because I didn’t want him to know, but because I didn’t need him to.

My heart was more blessed doing quiet, secret things for my him than it ever was by nagging him. Click To Tweet

I started to look for ways to just quietly do things for him without his asking. Like noticing that his toothpaste tube is nearly empty and replacing it, adding it to the grocery list when his shower gel is running low, making his lunch and preparing his coffeepot, and even suggesting he go hunting when his week has been long.How the secret service saved my marriage. Heaven Not Harvard

One of those jobs that I wouldn’t have even thought to do before I let Christ reign in my heart is picking up my husband’s dirty underwear off the floor of the bathroom. Every morning. He literally has to walk past his closet (where his hamper is) in order to leave the house every morning, but it never fails that his underwear are on the floor wadded up under the edge of the vanity. I would have ignored them, kicked them, but picked them up – ugh, no thank you.

Several years ago, I would have nagged him about being so lazy and careless or even selfish for leaving them there. It would have become an infection between us. A couple of years ago, I would have kindly asked him to pick them up, but secretly resented those stupid underwear.

Today, I laugh. I even pray over those underwear.

“Lord, thank you for this opportunity to serve my husband, thank you for a marriage that is working, please remind me that my service to you is about humility and being used by You without drawing attention to myself.” I pray over his day. I pray that his body will be enough to face the challenges of whatever he is called to do. I pray that his heart will be open to see God in his day. I pray for him to know I love him, to bring him home safely.

And I choose everyday to thank God for those stupid, blessed, dirty underwear. I’ve even been disappointed when he remembers to put them in the hamper.

My heart has been filled more in doing quiet, secret things for my husband than it ever was by nagging him into doing things for me.

When my heart got filled with service, I stopped being bitter. I started looking for the next thing I could do for him. I started giving him real attention, listening to his needs. I started giving him some grace when his day at work had been too much for him and he needed some silence before he could be the daddy and husband he wants to be.

If this is so secret, why am I writing about it?

Because nothing changed my marriage more than loving him and expecting nothing in return. Nothing I ever did changed my husband’s heart more than my secret service and how I softened towards him by doing it.

And when I was sharing with a friend who was struggling in her own marriage about how mine got turned around by God, I told her the story of the dirty underwear, how I would pray, “Thank you, Lord, that these underwear remind me my husband isn’t in Iraq.”  Her eyes filled with tears, and she joined the ranks, our Secret Service.

She started to see the same truth that God had pointed out in me. Our culture asks what is in it for me? But I was never emptier than when I was counting the cost and measuring his gratitude, and I’ve never been more full of joy than I’ve been picking up his sweaty, dirty, thrown up under the cobwebby vanity, gross underwear.

badgeBesides, the underwear was just a start. Once you join the Secret Service, you will find so many ways to quietly serve people, and those are my treasures I hold in my hand like sweet pearls, knowing I am seen, I am treasured, I am loved by my Heavenly Father.

Are you in? We’re taking new members everyday.;)

 

 

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