Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My Simple Laundry System (how to achieve laundry liberation)

Laundry is one of those necessary evils that needs to happen regardless of whatever else is going on in your life.  It's hard to keep up with laundry no matter what, but adding little children to the mix and laundry can be a beast!  I sometimes wonder if it multiplies at night while we're all sleeping.  ;-)

I've been doing laundry for a long time now, but it wasn't until we had children that I had to come up with some sort of method to take care of the madness.  Before, I was able to do it as needed (when we ran out of clothes) or when I had the time (usually on the weekend) without it getting terribly bad.  But, even then, I still never felt like I had a system that worked well for me.

I won't pretend that I have it all together now when it comes to laundry, but I've come up with a system that works pretty well for us.  When it doesn't work well is usually when I don't execute properly - as in, when I don't follow it.  Imagine that!

My laundry system begins with one piece of wisdom that was imparted to me a few years ago that set me on my path to laundry liberation.

At the core of my laundry system is this:  do one load of laundry (from to start to finish) each day.

It might sound counter intuitive that doing one load of laundry per day actually makes the laundry beast more manageable, but it really does!  Here's how it typically works for me.

1.  Start load in the morning
I aim to get my load started first thing in the morning.  If I don't do it right when I wake, then I usually get it going while the kids are eating breakfast.  Thankfully, our laundry room is just off the kitchen, so I can multi-task that way. :-)  I make sure to use my homemade laundry detergent with every load!

2.  Switch to the dryer mid-morning or at lunch
I move the load to the dryer as soon as I can in the morning, which is usually mid morning.  If I'm out when it finishes or I forget, then I make the switch at lunchtime.

3.  Fold during nap time or when watching TV in afternoon
I usually fold the load during nap time or later in the afternoon when the kids normally have a little TV time.  Since it's only one load, it usually doesn't take long.

4.  Put away after dinner 
I hate putting away laundry, so I still struggle with this at times, but I try and put it all away after dinner.  It's typically part of my evening routine - I clean up the kitchen after dinner and tidy the living area while The Teacher is bathing the kids and getting them ready for bed.

5.  Load tomorrow's load before bed
Speaking of evening routines, can I just tell you that prepping for your next load the night before is a huge help?  Often, if the washer still has room, the kids will put their dirty clothes from the day directly into the washer.  I gather my load for the next day and treat any stains with my stain remover, so that it can sit overnight.  When the morning comes, I'm all ready to go again!

Again, it might sound crazy to do one load every single day.  Who wants to be a slave to their laundry like that?  I'm telling you though, this one load a day method has actually made me feel much more in control of my laundry.  I know there are others who swear by the "laundry day" method, but here's why I think this works for me.        

- My laundry is never completely out of control anymore
- I am not overwhelmed by one load - staring at piles and piles of laundry made me crazy!
- I don't have time to do laundry all day long - errands, anyone?
- We always have something clean to wear
- Constant interruptions make laundry day impossible

As with everything in home management, there is more than one way to do laundry, but I can see how this could work for anyone.  What makes up your one load is totally up to you (darks, whites, combination, sheets, towels, etc), so there's even some freedom in this system for those of you who don't like routines.  It can work for everyone!

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What is your laundry method?

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Monday, May 16, 2016

How to Keep in Touch with Loved Ones

Since our family just got back from a road trip to be with family, our loved ones are on the brain.  The circumstances for our trip were sad, but we still had such a wonderful time being together.  The funeral we attended was in the middle of the week and we decided to spend a couple more days with my in-laws since we were already close.

Even though the 13+ hour drive was long, it was worth every single bit of gas and mileage put on our vehicle.  The weather was beautiful, the kids played their hearts out with their cousin, we ate out a lot, and laughed a whole lot more.  I'm so thankful for family and friends who make travelling so worth it!

 As we were driving away, the wheels started spinning in regards to how we can work to stay in better touch with our out of town loved ones.  We do some of these already, but certainly have some room for improvement.  

Here are my 4 tips:

1.  Call periodically
Admittedly, I struggle with this one.  With all the demands on your time, it can be hard to carve out time for phone conversations but they are one of the best ways to stay connected.  There is something about actually hearing the person's voice that is so good for the soul.  If you make phone calls regularly (weekly, biweekly, or even monthly), then they don't have to be really long in order to stay connected.  Thankfully, we have unlimited cell phone minutes*.  
2.  Technology is your friend (email, texting, social media, video chat, etc.)
Say what you will about the downsides to technology and social media, but they are a huge help when it comes to staying in touch (just don't let it consume your life, right?!!).  Social media platforms are a great way to share pictures with your loved ones so they can keep up with some of the day-to-day happenings in your life that they miss out on due to the distance.

Since it can be hard to find quiet, uninterrupted time to talk on the phone, I am a huge fan of texting and emailing.  It gives the flexibility to send a quick note or message to someone without having to drop everything and pick up a phone.  You don't have to worry about playing phone tag or leaving voicemails and the recipient can read them or respond when they are able.  I don't have Apple products, but Facetime or some other video chat service are another great option.  Thank goodness for  affordable smartphones*.

3.  Snail mail still works (card, letter, small gift, etc.)
Mail may seem outdated and archaic, but it is still really meaningful to receive a piece of mail from someone.  I am working on sending more notes and cards, but even small gifts can be fun to send.  My daughter was so sad to say goodbye to her cousin last week and has been talking about making her a beaded necklace*.  Sending small tokens like that or simple drawings from the kids are another meaningful way to stay connected.  It can require a little more effort, but mail is still a thrill at any age.  

4.  Make visits a priority
Travelling can be pricey, especially if you are separated by a long distance.  Because of the expense, we don't fly very often so we committed early on that we would be a road trip family.  We still miss out on lots of special events, but we make visits a priority in our life and do what we can to visit as much as possible.  We oftentimes vacation with our families.

One of the ways we have made visits a priority is to include it in our monthly budget.  We put money away in our slush fund each month so that we have money set aside for things like travel and vacations when we need it.  (We were so thankful we had that money when we had to make the last minute trip for the funeral this past week).  By saving each month, we aren't as overwhelmed at the cost of a trip and it makes them more feasible.

Being apart from the ones you love can be hard, but with some effort, intention, and a little planning, it's totally possible to remain close.  Distance is no longer the obstacle that it once was when letters took weeks to arrive and visits were extremely rare (if they happened at all).  I'm thankful that the miles seem shorter than they once were.    

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What helps you to feel close to your loved ones who live far away?

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why EVERY Couple Needs a Marriage Mentor (& 4 Things to Look For)

The Teacher and I have taken marriage seriously from the start.  We received some premarital counseling before we got married and have since attended conferences and seminars to try enrich our marriage.  I have read a few marriage books on occasion when I needed some extra encouragement too, but it wasn't until 2 years ago that we discovered the beauty and benefit of marriage mentors.

Have you and your spouse ever reached a point when you simply COULD NOT reach an agreement?  Or have you ever felt like you disagree over the same issue(s) over and over and over and don't know how to get past them?  It wasn't until The Teacher and I got tired of having the same disagreements over the same things that we finally reached out for help.  We've been so encouraged and have come to believe that EVERY couple needs a marriage mentor.

Why you need a marriage mentor

A marriage mentor can help with conflict resolution.  A marriage mentor's third party perspective can be really helpful and enlightening.  Another couple isn't nearly as emotionally invested as you and can probably see things that you are simply not able to see because of your closeness to the situation.

Sometimes just telling your mentors the situation can cause you to see the situation a little differently.  An issue might seem so large to you at first, but your perspective might change when you sit and tell someone else about it.  That exercise in and of itself can be helpful and cause you to re-examine yourself.  A marriage mentor will likely give you suggestions on how you might be able to proceed constructively so that you both feel like your needs are being addressed and your perspective is being considered and valued.  

A marriage mentor can help with marriage maintenance.  If things appear to be going well, then meeting with a marriage mentor might be considered your marriage well check.  Just like your annual well check with your physician, there is benefit to checking in every now and again.  Every marriage needs a little tune up so that it keeps running smoothly, right?

Even though things seem okay at first glance, you may find that there are some issues below the surface that are starting to fester.  It's better to tackle possible issues sooner before they blow up and become bigger issues.

At the same time, if things really are going well then it's a great opportunity to celebrate!  Talk about what is working and what is making the difference.  It's okay to meet with your marriage mentor even when things are going okay.

4 Things to Look for in a Marriage Mentor

1. An older/wiser couple
There is no strict rule about age, but it is important to meet with someone who is a few steps ahead of you in marriage.  They don't have to be a lot older, but they should be a couple who has been married longer than you.

2.  A couple that you respect
Think about couples you know that you really admire and respect.  They have good character and they have overcome adversity as individuals or in their marriage.  These are the types of people you want encouraging you in your marriage.

3.  Someone you trust
Talking about your marriage requires a lot of vulnerability and I would not recommend you talk to just anyone.  Ask yourself:  Does the person tend to talk a lot or gossip to others?  What is their reputation?  It's important you think of someone who can keep personal information confidential and that is trustworthy.

4.  Natural chemistry
You might find there are certain couples that you naturally gravitate towards.  You may get along well for some reason or another or you simply enjoy being around them for some of the reasons I mentioned above.  It might be that you have a perfectly good option right in front of you already.

Marriage has been the most humbling experience of my life.  I am passionate about marriage, but I don't write about it as often here because of how inadequate I often feel.  Who am I to tell others about marriage when I feel like I fail constantly in mine?  But since I'm all about sharing information that might be helpful, I couldn't NOT share about something that has made a huge difference in our marriage recently.

Just a warning though.  Meeting with a marriage mentor is a great thing, but it is not always easy.  In fact, at the end of one of our meetings, I had a splitting headache from all the tears that were shed.  When the honeymoon is over, marriage is hard work.  But it is worth every bit of it, I promise.

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Would you ever consider meeting with a marriage mentor?

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