How can a mother stay organized? To be honest, if a spotlessly clean house, well-run household, and organized homeschool plan was a prerequisite for writing this post, I would NOT qualify!!! I want you to know that I am a mommy just like you, daily needing God’s grace (His divine influence on my heart) as I seek to glorify God and be more like Him while experiencing daily struggles, failures, trials, and temptations.
Whether living life at home or on the road in a bus, our family is so far from perfect, yet we strive to love, forgive, and encourage each other as we do life together (even when it is messy) for Him.
This post will answer questions you submitted on “how to manage a larger family,” “how to keep things running smoothly,” “how to carve out a little time for yourself when you are a homeschool mom,” “strategies for scheduling tips and tricks on laundry, cleaning, grading school, etc.,” “ways to deal with discouragement when the daily schedule/schooling/household duties pile up,” “how to manage time well (especially pertaining to social media),” and “methods for maintaining a peaceful, unhurried attitude.”
1. Seek God First
The framework for a happy, peaceful, and organized home is built on the foundation of prayer and Bible reading as you daily seek God’s face, pray, repent, and humbly ask for wisdom and strength to live for Him. This time with God is also an antidote for discouragement, weariness in well doing, and weakness. While many good books, some very helpful systems,* and advice from godly mentors are beneficial, nothing can replace your time with God.
John 15:5 assures, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” Make that time with God the most important priority in you life.
If you find that you are too tired in the morning or don’t have enough hours in your day, then prayerfully reevaluate you life to see what can be eliminated so that you have time for God. A good place to start is to prayerfully consider if you can eliminate social media and/or spend less time using the internet and your phone. Let’s face it, most of us can waste minutes/hours a day using electronic devices. I have found it helpful to keep my phone in a predertemined place with a special ringer for my husband’s calls so I don’t feel the need to answer the phone or check messages.
You may also consider simplifying food prep (freezer meals, minimal desserts, and menu planning), putting systems in place for running your household, and assigning chores to your children. I have found that at times my husband can see areas that need to be eliminated or changed better than I can. Sometimes being in the middle of a situation keeps me from seeing the obvious problem. Marlin has the advantage of seeing my life from a different point of view. Making the changes necessary so that you can consistently begin your day with God will be worth every sacrifice!
2. Build with Obedience
After pouring the concrete foundation of personal time with God, raise the structural beams by teaching your children to cheerfully obey you. Having to repeat yourself and having children who are constantly disobeying you is a sure way to destroy peace in your home, rob you of precious time everyday, and keep life chaotic on a daily basis.
3. Establish Routines
I have found that routines are an essential way to get organized. Find routines for bedtime, wake up, meal, laundry, cleaning, homeschool, grocery shopping, reading aloud, family devotions, and more. When the children were little, our bedtime routine consisted of bathing (when necessary), changing into night clothes, brushing teeth, drinks, stories, and singing. The morning routine included getting dressed, drinking water, individual Bible reading and prayer, and chores. Cleaning was done mostly on a weekly basis with different children being responsible for particular areas for months at a time. Cleaning a specific area for a longer period of time helped them become proficient in a special area.
For homeschooling when I had a baby, toddlers, and multiple grades, I used MOTH to set up individual times for Math, Phonics, English, Reading, doing puzzles or reading aloud to toddlers, and a nap and/or feeding time for the baby. For me, this schedule was the key to successfully homeschooling with many young children. The children liked knowing what was expected of them and when they should do it.
For many years, I read aloud to the children right after lunch. I know I wouldn’t have read the many, many books that I was able to read to them if I hadn’t set a specific time for reading.
Doing laundry successfully meant simplifying wardrobes (the truth is that the less clothes you have the less laundry you will have!!!), having the children help, and doing it only 2-3 days a week. Family devotions was and still is a part of our morning breakfast. Having routines in my day helps me stay on track and get more accomplished. It also enables me to live by my priorities instead of by my circumstances. I find that when distractions or unexpected events come into my life, it is easier to get back on track if I have established routines in my life.
Please note that my idea of routine is an order of the day not always a certain time in which an activity must happen. For example, we might decide to have breakfast at 8 every morning but if my husband wants to start planting at 7 am we will eat breakfast earlier so we can eat with him. Or if a family is passing through and can have lunch with us, we might not read aloud that day. Or if the garden needs weeding we will postpone our music practice.
Our goal is to have routines that help us to be productive but that also allow us to put relationships before production. To “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” helps us have God’s perspective on life. This mind set gives us the freedom to prayerfully say yes to activities even if they derail our routine for an occasional hour or a day or even a week. As in all of life, we need truth and grace to operate in a way that will glorify God.
4. Eliminate Outside Activities
The core of motherhood is in the home. While you need to get groceries, you will go to church, and there will be activities with family and friends, make your time at home a priority. I remember that a lot of my frustration as a mother with young children resulted from overly tired children who were kept up late from evening activities, my own exhaustion from trying to do too much, and a chaotic, unorganized house that resulted from being out of the house too many hours in a week. Especially when the children are young, stay at home so you can work on consistent training and routines.
Children thrive on knowing that they are important to mommy and daddy. They love systematic methods of doing everyday life. They become confident in knowing what is expected of them. If you make routines your servant, you will find the freedom to decide to change the pace for one day so you can enjoy an unexpected, warm fall day or go to the library just for fun.
I rarely, if ever, leave the house for just groceries. I combine grocery shopping, a date with my husband, going to Walmart, stopping at the Post Office or library, and other errands into an afternoon or evening. When we are at home, I rarely leave the house before lunch. Since mornings are the best quality hours of my day, I strive to invest them in my highest priorities.
5. Begin Your Morning in the Evening
Many years ago, someone shared this timeless wisdom, “the morning begins in the evening”, with me. It really is true. If you want to wake up in the morning an hour before your children, go to bed soon after they do.** Putting your children to bed early can give you uninterrupted time with your husband plus an earlier bedtime for you.
For one week, try turning all electronic devices and the tv off by 6 or 7 at night. Use the time to read to your children, talk to your husband, read a book, or play a family game. Planning your evening will help you to be more successful with your morning routines. Beginning your morning in the evening can be life changing!
6. Prioritize Mommy Time
Finding a quiet, uninterrupted time to rest, read, excercise, or have a date with your husband may seem at times like it is nearly impossible, but it is well worth the effort. With a little bit of planning, you can synchronize the baby and toddler’s naps with roomtime (in which each child plays in a room by himself for 1/2-1 hour) for your younger children so you can have some quiet quality time. I would suggest turning your phone off and focusing on reading a book that will encourage you or doing a quick workout or maybe even taking a nap.
Going on a date with your husband may take a bit more planning. Find a babysitter you can trust so you can go on a date or plan a have a special dessert together in your living room after you put the children to bed. Be creative, purposeful, and intentional to make this happen. If you establish early bedtimes, put daily routines in place, and decrease social media, it will be much easier to find the time you need for “mommy time”.
Just keep in mind that “mommy time” should not be following the path of least resistance. Catching up on Instagram, Facebook, etc., watching a Netflix, or reading books without inspiring content will not leave you feeling refreshed and ready to jump back into the duties of motherhood. Be intentional about how you spend those few minutes or an hour that you schedule in your day so that these special times will equip, refresh, and encourage you for the monumental task of motherhood.
7. Pray for Wisdom
I saved the very best tip for last. This tip will help you to be more organized, have peace in your home, deal with discouragement, and manage a large family. It has brought much peace, joy, and organization to our home but don’t expect to see it in the next New Your Times best seller. It is found in James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
Do not underestimate the power of asking God for prayer. I cannot tell you how many times I have asked God for wisdom in everything from motivating my children to get their homeschool work done, packing for a trip, finding time for a personal retreat, knowing how and when to connect with my children, and much more. God is always faithful!
Never forget how much you need God. Begin everyday with God, train your children in obedience, establish routines, eliminate outside activities, begin your morning in the evening, intentionally find times of refreshment, and pray for wisdom.
“The eternal God is the refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27
*MANAGERS OF THEIR HOMES-the book I found helpful in putting together a daily routine for our children when we first started to homeschool. You can find it at titus2.com
**Toddlers need 12-14 hours of sleep per day, while 4-12 year olds need 10-12 hours. And though they usually don’t know it, growing teens need more than 8 hours of sleep, especially when they go through a rapid growing phase. Even most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep.
Excellent advice!! Thanks for sharing! I needed this encouragement. Maybe I should print this out to read again later. 😉
This post was beautifully written and so timely. As a mom just starting out (we have a 2.5 yr old son and almost 6 mo daughter) I so appreciate your words of experienced wisdom. Thank you.
Thank you Mrs. Bontrager. This are great suggestions. I don't have little people anymore but these ideas can be adapted to fit each family's situation. I used Manager's of Their Homes and loved it.
I use a planner Homemakers Friend Planner by Sue Hooley. It's keeps me organized that's for sure.
Thank you for sharing! Wonderful inspiring tips that I plan on weaving into my life.
I enjoyed what you shared in this post! And also I'm wondering where the picture of Elizabeth and Rebecca was taken. It looks like it would be along Skyline Drive in Virginia which is about an hour from where I live. Would be interesting to know if it's the same place.
Thank you Mrs. Bontrager! Wonderful words of wisdom! Thank you for taking the time to write all of this with your busy family. I am grateful for you women who encourage and exhort us younger women to be keepers of our homes! Not many doing this today! With much love in Jesus to all the Bontragers!
I always love your posts. They have been so helpful! A few follow-up questions if you have time to answer:
1) You mention limiting outside activities (which I agree), but how did you handle teaching your children so many musical instruments. Did you and your husband teach them? If not, what advice do you have for fitting in learning a instrument into your schedule? I see so much benefit in learning an instrument and I would like to make this a part of our lives. But as our family grows, I don't know how I'll make it all work.
2) Requiring obedience, could you share some practical ways you helped correct your children if they disobeyed? What were some effective consequences that you used? This is the area I struggle with the most.
This is wonderful! I would love to print this out so that I can refer to it later, but when I try to copy it to Word, it comes over with the gray background and is hard to see. Would it be possible for you to make it available in an easily printable format? – Marissa
We'd be glad to email you the post in a different format so you could better print it off.
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