I have a confession. My excitement over my kids being at home for the summer is waning and has morphed into something a little closer to—um—exhaustion. We have played and played and worked and played (activities taken from our brainstorm list, thank you very much), but I’m finding that at the advent of July, I can’t keep up this pace. Not without some serious reinforcements. I keep checking the horizon just in case, but so far, no luck.
Every mother I know hits a bit of a wall in July. The initial energy created by the promise of summer has worn thin, and the remaining seven weeks are looming. Hopefully last month’s article has eased your transition and provided a framework for your days and weeks. You may be finding, however, that although you may have a great plan, no plan is perfect—or permanent. One of the perils of organizing, whether it’s time or space, is that order is an ongoing pursuit, not a one-time event.
So, if your energy is waning and you’re beginning to wonder how you’re going to keep your kids occupied and how you’re going to maintain your space and sanity for the next seven weeks, I’d like to suggest a simplification practice called “restore time.”
One of the realities of home life is that things get taken out and don’t get put away. It happens in all households and with any number of household items ranging from hammers to shoes. In order to ward off the chaos and inevitable grumpiness that ensue when things are left out for too long, you need regular times to return things to their original homes.
Now, if you’re looking around your house and thinking, “Is it cheating to use heavy equipment for this restore day?” or “This is way too much for me to do alone!” I’m going to share my first tip for making your restore time as stress-free as possible: enlist ALL family members! Every single one! Even small children can help pick up toys. If you are accustomed to doing most of the picking up around your house, I encourage you to begin sharing the responsibility. There are numerous benefits of engaging all family members in home maintenance, not the least of which is that you are released from bearing the full burden of maintaining an orderly environment.
Daily Restore Time
Restore time happens at differing intervals; let’s begin with daily restore time. During daily restore time, your family might do tasks like making beds, clearing clothing from floors, filling the dishwasher and putting toys away. One of the best tips for making sure that daily restore time happens is to schedule your tasks for the same time each day, such as making beds, clearing clothing and filling the dishwasher in the morning and picking up toys in the evening. Some hints for making daily restore time effective are to use baskets on different levels in your home where you can place wayward items until you put them away. By grouping items by floor within the baskets, you’ll save yourselves time and several trips up and down the stairs. You can also create a chart or visual list of what needs to be done and post it so that everyone knows what’s expected. All hail the chore chart! Posting responsibilities for restore time can help keep the project organized, simple and fun. If you take time to restore your home every day, you will be able to complete your tasks relatively quickly.
If setting daily priorities eludes you, you might consider subscribing to a daily e-mail suggestion and reminder service like Fly Lady (www.fly lady.com).
Weekly Restore Time
Your family can also participate in a weekly restore day. Weekly and daily restore times differ in that there are weekly tasks you will add to your daily ones. Some of these tasks include addressing items in your paper systems and doing weekly house cleaning jobs, like cleaning the bathrooms. You may also choose to add certain home and yard maintenance tasks to your weekly restore day.
Monthly Restore Time
You can assign a monthly restore day for deep-level restoration, such as doing medium- to large-sized organizing projects like clearing the storage room or garage. Use a family meeting time to coordinate your weekly and monthly restore days so that your larger projects make it onto the calendar and actually get done.
Personal Restore Time
Restore time also applies to personal time spent reassessing daily priorities and/or doing something that renews and rejuvenates you. For moms during the summer months, this time is at its most elusive. But if your mommy burn-out meter is flashing red, honor your need for solitude and get a babysitter or tell your husband that you need to get OUT. All alone. To the grocery store, even. It’s amazing how a stroll down the cereal isle can be quite relaxing without whining children in tow. Or really go crazy and get a pedicure or read a book or treat yourself to a copy of your favorite magazine. My favorite time-out ritual happens every day around 4:00 when I sit down on the couch and thank the good Lord for Cyberchase so I can close my eyes for a few minutes. By taking time out for yourself everyday—even if it’s 15 minutes—you will be able to more easily maintain your external environment, since alone time will improve your internal state. And even better than that, you won’t cringe at every request for a glass of water because you’ll be giving from a full cup.
The challenge of the month is to establish a restore time! I recommend that you begin with daily and personal restore times, and then move to weekly and monthly routines after daily and personal times are firmly in place. Good luck and all the best for the rest of a wonderful summer!