I’m really focused on making my home a sanctuary for my family. This means I’m committing a considerable amount of energy into doing mundane things like making the beds every morning, and cleaning the table after we eat. It’s shameful in a way, that these simple tasks were not already habits, but they just weren’t. I prioritized getting out of the house over orderliness. The house would reach a certain level of chaos, and then I’d do a massive reactive cleaning that would take a who day. Just keeping it real.
Being a good mom means modeling decent bahavior. And I wasn’t modeling decent standards in every area of life.
I just finished reading ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg. What an amazing, worthwhile, timely investment. Charles discusses that almost everything we do and become are an amalgam of habits. He further says how we can accomplish anything, including the quality and tone of our relationships, by changing our habits. He breaks down habits in terms of how they form and perpetuate, into cues, routines and rewards, and he articulates how we can transform habits in a lasting manner. He identifies the common mistakes people make, and their vulnerabilities when they are in the process of change as well.
I was already familiar with the importance of inner orderliness, and that your outer world is a sign of your inner peace. This concept I learned over a decade ago from reading a book called ‘Organizing Your Private World’ by Gordan Macdonald. His is one of those books I return to about once a year, because some situation prompts a revisit, and the cueing of either new or revitalized goals. Knowing the importance of the order of my outer world (the state of your car, your clothes, your home, your physical condition, your sleep habits, your friends and relationships, your work, etc) wasn’t enough to kick me into ‘finishing’, or evolving from my old habits.
What changed? It’s not because I read Duhigg’s book that I prioritized the orderliness of our home. It was a heart change. I decided I want my husband to come home to a place he felt welcome, proud of, enjoyed, and rejuvenated. And I didn’t want my children copying my old lazy ways.
I don’t like cleaning, or dishes. But now I think of these things as a way to serve my family. This new paradigm carries me through lots of tasks I wouldn’t otherwise embrace.
This is changing the lives of my children too. In the short term, they are learning:
- If they can’t care for their belongings, then they have too many
- We respect our things by taking good care of them
- Fun is a reward for fulfilling the daily requirements of life
- Hard work pays off in many ways
- We prioritize discipline and self-control
- The value of a dollar
- Positive morning and evening routines
There is an app that’s become incredibly helpful to me in terms of building more rigid or specific morning and evening routines into our lives. It’s called ChorePad. I use it to track our accomplishments, keep us accountable, and (lightly) to make sure we are on track for homeschooling. And I use it to hand out rewards. Ten points earns Micah simple benefits and privileges, or he can learn the power of patience by racking his points up for a bigger reward. I’m rewarding myself too, for sticking to it. For example, Micah chose to skip playing 10 minutes of his iPad, for an opportunity to go to a bounce house in foul weather. This took a lot of self control for him! The bounce house costs him 40 points, four times as much as playing the iPad for 10 minutes. But it’s worth it to him, so he’s waiting. I was proud of him for this choice. Using this app has made the morning so much easier, and his desire for ‘things’. When he asks for things I say, ‘let’s see if you earned enough points for it’. He doesn’t argue. Of course there are times I just give him things, out of love. I’m also having him earn things because I love him. He loves working hard for meaningful things, and his father and I get the opportunity to sincerely praise him for diligence.
The other big concept I’m working on is called ‘Clearing to Neutral’ (CTN). This concept is discussed by a podcaster (and company) I’ve recently enjoyed called AsianEfficiency. They research, talk, and blog all things that (potentially) make one more productive. CTN is the old concept my parents tried to instill in me: “put things back where they belong” and “finish what you start”.
I’ve started to define what being a Cooper means to my older son. “Coopers do…” “Coopers don’t…” “Coopers tell the truth.” His father has told him “Men don’t sneak” for probably three or four months now. I’ve been telling my son “wow, every day I see you growing in your patience/ self control/ (insert whatever we are working on)”, and ‘you’re a boy who tells the truth’.
Well, part of being a Cooper is being responsible. That means owning (only) what we can care (well) for, appreciating simplicity, slowing down, knowing our priorities, keeping things in order.
Because I’m doing this life clean up, we have been having hygges all week. A hygge is a sense of warmth, coziness, or togetherness. We use the term to describe a specific kind of family time. It includes sitting together snuggling, music, and praise and worship time. It may or may not include a little snack. I’m blessed in that Ian loves playing music and singing for us. And moreso that he loves God and facilitates our human need to praise and worship our Creator.
Lastly, part of our new groove is a new evening routine that includes a short visualization. You wouldn’t even believe how well this worked for Micah! I’m so grateful for this slower pace. Simple is so good!
I just wanted to share with you how transformational these few ideas, books, and resources have been for me. Maybe some of them will be helpful for you, too.