I Want To Be an Ant When I Grow Up

I am not domestically inclined.  There, I said it.

I don’t know whether it’s nature or nurture or both, but I am a messy girl, and after years of trying to change (I started receiving FLYlady‘s emails when I was pregnant with Romilly in 2005!) I still struggle to maintain even the most basic level of order in my home.  Sometimes I catch glimpses that there are advantages to being the way I am, that those who have the “neat freak” gene do not always count it a blessing.  But mostly, I just wish I were doing a better job of serving my family in this area.

I was no better at keeping my home tidy before I had children, though well-meaning friends and family are always quick to offer my four little ones up as an excuse for the state of my house, but now there is an increasing sense of urgency to the matter.  How can I keep my girls from ending up like me?  When I see the horror in Pippa’s face when I ask her to tidy up the playroom, or hear the desperation in Romilly’s voice when putting all the doll clothes away is “Just too much, Mommy!”, I see and hear myself!  How can I train them to pick up after themselves, when I don’t consistently do it myself?  How can I teach them what I just haven’t learned yet?  The situation is getting pretty dire as more and more little girls graduate to mess-making age around here.

This  passage has been staring me down for quite some time now.

Proverbs 6:6-11

6 Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. 7 Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, 8 she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. 9 How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

When I have read it,  it has always said something like this to me:

Hey Jodi, look at all these other women who keep their homes immaculate and their laundry folded and put away all the time!  They do it every day, not just when they’re getting ready for a birthday party.  When they pull out their vacuum cleaners, their children do not ask them, “Mommy, is somebody coming over?” They scrub and bake and even garden (which people think you do, but it’s actually your husband who does all the work), all while you sleep in, or maybe play on the Internet for a few minutes hours on end.  Those women are so. much. better than you!

But of course, whatever voice that was that I was hearing, it was not the voice of my gentle, loving Lord.  What I had never noticed about these verse before  few weeks ago, was this part:

Go to the ant… consider her ways, and be wise.

I wasn’t reading what these verses actually said.  The answer has been right there all along: Go find “those women” and see how they do it.  Learn from them!  I don’t have to stay a sluggard, I can be an ant, too!

So, this is where you come in, ant friends.  You know who you are, you who basically have things under control.  If your laundry spends most of its time clean and folded in its proper place, and you know, for instance, that you are supposed to clean under your microwave at least every once in a while, I want to know what makes you tick!  (Advice is also more than welcome from recovering sluggards: you are an inspiration!)

  • What motivates you?   Does the mess just drive you crazy or do you have to make yourself clean up?
  • Have you always kept your home in good order?  If not, was there a gradual process of improvement or a sudden Ah-ha! moment that changed everything?
  • What habits have you found most helpful in this area?
  • Is there a spiritual element to it?  A key verse that might help me see more clearly that it’s important to God that I keep my home neat and clean?

I want to be able to serve my family better in this area, and I think I’ve been taking baby steps in the right direction, but if there are more secrets out there, I want to know them!  I want to teach them to my daughters so that they can enter life more prepared than I was for how messy life really is.

Wisdom?  Please?

10 thoughts on “I Want To Be an Ant When I Grow Up

  1. I, too, am a “sluggard” (although I prefer to call myself a grasshopper like my 3rd grade teacher called her students who would rather play than work). I’m interested in seeing what kind of tips you get though. Great post! (and first time I’ve seen your blog 🙂

  2. I so cherish your complete and beautiful honesty and humility. You are a true gem!

    Well, I grew up in a home that was not very tidy. Not that it was crazy out of control, but it wasn’t cleaned a ton as we got older and I was never really taught how to clean. I knew how to pick up my room, do the dishes, and sometimes dust or vacuum, but that was about it. I can remember going to my best friend’s aunt’s house one time and I had to put something in her microwave. I must have stood there for 5 minutes staring b/c I never knew a microwave could be that clean! I was amazed and astonished! But, I was also inspired. When I went home, my first task was to see if it really was possible to get our family microwave that clean. I actually got close! It started there and then perhaps became a “madness”, but I love the challenge of seeing things dirty be clean, and I like keeping them clean.

    Granted, on the weekends, we let our house go wild. Things are everywhere and it’s just kind of fun. But, during the week, here’s what I do: I have a cleaning schedule of one thing that I do each day, to break it up a bit. Here’s a sample: Sunday- clean shower, dust blinds and fans, Monday- Clean kitchen counters, fridge, chairs, table, etc., Tuesday- Dust, Wednesday- Vacuum and mop, Thursday- clean bathroom and mop floor, Friday- write grocery list. (sorry if this is TMI). I find the schedule helps me stay on task and if I do a little bit a day, it makes it easier with not taking a HUGE chunk of time out from being with my daughter.

    I think the key is – if a list is helpful, make one that suits your family and what you think should be done. We don’t all have the same lists, nor do we need to. And, some friends take one day to do all the cleaning, and that’s cool, too. Before having a baby, I did that a lot.

    A verse that often helps me is, “Make the best use of your time” – Eph 5:16 and “Do all things without grumbling” (forget reference).

    Hope this helps!! Thanks for your note! You always make us feel like we are all in this together! We need motivation and encouragement!

  3. Hi, I am a total lurker from the doodlebug days! I never posted much but feel a part of the family. My son Andrew was born Jan. of 2006. I have three sons now ages 6, 4 and 2. I enjoy reading your blog, seeing pictures of your adorable girls and find you inspirational with your honesty! I decided to post because I struggle in the area as well. Pre-kids I was a total neat freak but three boys later I struggle on a daily basis to keep up with everything! Here is what is currently working for me. We are not perfect and sometimes playing with my boys gets the best of me but we try! I have a list of the most basic tasks that I need to have done for a somewhat straight house. I broke them down to jobs that would take less than 30 minutes each. Examples….clean hall bathroom and wash sheets, clean master bathroom, clean boys bathroom and wash towels, vacuum bedrooms, vacuum kitchen, mop kitchen, dust bedrooms…you get the idea. I think there are 14-20 things I have listed. (I make myself do laundry every other day because a couple small loads are much easier to fold and put away) Each day I pick ONE task to do depending on the time I have. I try to do it first thing after breakfast when the oldest is at kdg and the younger two play very well together (or help). With this list my entire house is clean in about a three week rotation. So when guests come, I just point them to the cleanest bathroom! The boys have daily responsibilities of making their bed, picking up clothes/books, straightening their bathroom and picking up toys before bed, and rotating responsibilities of taking out dinner trash, sweeping under kitchen table, helping set/clear table. They earn TV/computer time by completing their responsibilities in the given time. Weekends we let things go and all bets are off but we all need some down time! Again, just posting to let you know….we all struggle in this area and just remember your kids are at a needy ages and it won’t last forever! Meg

  4. What motivates me is a study our Care Group did called “Heart for Home” – written by a woman in our church. It talks about not only HOW to organize homemaking but WHY we do it. I am a total sluggard – but I remember things that Kim taught us, what I want to teach my children, and a sermon our pastor recently preached about work and I get motivated. It also helps that my direction in housekeeping came from my husband – “What are the three things YOU [Brad] think are most important in keeping the house?” That drives what I do first, how I plan my day/week. AND, I now have an accountability partner who will ask me “have you been diligent?” [she’s been on vacation for a week…I can tell by looking at MY house!] I’ve drawn up a home management schedule that outlines what must be done daily, what is done weekly (or a few times a week), what is done monthly (or a few times a month) and what is done seasonally/once or twice a year. During the weekend, my house tends to get a little more messy – especially on weekend days that my DH is home because we want to be with Daddy! 🙂

    Kim’s book isn’t published yet; however, I will be happy to talk to her to see if I can send you a copy of it (or send it to your DH at work to bring to you or something like that). It RADICALLY changed the way I look at housework, assigning chores to the kids, etc. She truly desires to disciple women to love the Lord, their husbands and children. Give me a shout if you want to talk more about it. 🙂

  5. Ok. THIS is an area where I can really help! I wish I lived closer to you!!!

    First, my mom was obsessive complusive about cleaniness. She worked (teacher) and raised us, but there was one room for her to clean every single evening when she got home from school. And when I say clean, I mean move all the furniture, dust everything, vacuum everything, take a yard stick and clean under the fridge and under the TV clean. Every week. I’m not this bad, but I’m pretty anal about things and I learned it all from her.

    First, laundry. I work all day and so I tend to do all my laundry every week on the weekends with usually one load (maybe two) during the week. For me, the key here is to fold the laundry AS I’M TAKING IT OUT OF THE DRYER so that it actually gets folded. I do not bring it upstairs until its folded.

    Second, cleaning. I have to admit … this is just a priority for me because I can’t STAND a dirty house. I end up moving every piece or furniture in my home about once a month because the thought of dust bunnies under my couch kills me. But in between (and probably what you ought to aim at … at least at first), I dust and vacuum every weekend and that’s enough because we aren’t really in our house that much. For you, you might need to do this routine twice a week or something.

    I enlist the kids first and foremost. I never get to see them and even though they don’t love cleaning all the time, most of the time they will just help, or I bribe them to help. Then we pick up the room in question. I help pick up but also give them VERY specific directions. Trace, please put your truck back in the toybox. Audra, there’s a pile of hair clips on the coffee table that you can take back to the bathroom. When the picking up is done, Trace loves to vacuum so I make him go get the vacuum and get it plugged in and read, while Audra follows me around the living room. I take a rag, wipe off all the pretties, pictures, and whatever else I have around and hand it to her. She either holds it or runs it to the nearest table until the surface is empty, I dust, and then she helps me put it all back. When every surface is dusted, I vacuum. Or Trace “vacuums” and then I vacuum. Also, Trace LOVES to spray the fantastic, dusting stuff, window cleaner so sometimes he has that job. THis process takes me about 20 minutes per room if done once a week.

    Then every weekend I usually pick one room and move all the furniture and sweep under everything. That takes longer.

    My big failure is the bathtub because I despise cleaning the bathtub. But whatever. We all have our faults.

    The kitchen is usually just always clean and all I really have to do in there is pick up the mail/homework/papers that accumulate throughout the week and sweep and mop the floor. That’s quick as well. I manage this because I have no dishwasher so every evening when I do the dishes, I wipe down all the counters, the microwave, the handles on the fridge, the fronts of cabinets … maybe not all every evening but they all get it at least once a week. So I never have to put effort into the kitchen really.

    Does this help!?

  6. Baby steps!! Do you need to organize and clean? I can’t clean around something I’m ignoring, I just ignore it all together. So, I organize then clean. I will say that not all areas of my house are perfrct all the time, and I think having kids is somewhat to blame. I love my kids and would rather play with them than mop the floor today when I can do it tomorrow. Start with one area, organize and clean, then move to the next when you have time. Eventually everything will be organized and you’ll just have to do some light cleaning on a weekly basis and heavy once a month. It’s so rewarding when you can work on house stuff two days a week and spend the other 5 enjoying it. And I will be honest, I’ve just gotten better at this in the last few months, and my kids are *still* asking me who is coming over when I get the mop out, hahaha!!

  7. It is hard not to play on the internet, isn’t it? All the blogs and boards and news sites….

    I try to only do that while I am eating or nursing. But I have a two-and-a-half-month-old going through a growth spurt, so that’s plenty of time.

    I know all that I have to do, and sometimes I’m working on it.

    Laundry and dishes and cooking keep having to happen so that we don’t starve or go naked, so that’s the bare minimum.

    Cooking has never been too hard for me, though I could stand some more preparation there. What helps is having a menu. Other people’s menuing doesn’t work for me–mine tends to be more like a restaurant menu, with a list of possibilities, or sometimes only parts of meals, but it’s something to go to when I don’t have ideas. I have lists of lunch ideas for me and breakfast, lunch, and snack ideas for Hannah. And I’m very inconsistent about all of it.

    Dishes–I have really made progress here. I don’t go to bed with dishes out. I put everything into the dishwasher before bed. If it hasn’t been emptied (I try to do that in the morning), it gets done then. I load the dishwasher with whatever I have. If there’s stuff that won’t fit, or can’t go through the dishwasher, I wash it by hand. (And I’m getting a little better at not waiting ’til bedtime for cookie sheets and such from earlier that need to be handwashed.) A few days ago I didn’t do this, and I regretted it–felt like I started out the day behind and it was depressing.

    Laundry: Always seemed like such a huge task… but if I take time each day to work on it, it’s not so bad. The key is to not have four laundry baskets out waiting till each is full… I clean it as soon as I can, transfer to dryer as soon as I can, fold out of the dryer, and pack into the basket right after. I sort by person before I pack the basket but I don’t worry about everyone having their own basket. (With six at your house, though, I’m sure you figured that out already). And I put it away as soon as possible. Have not yet perfected this, but my game plan is good.

    Hannah and I pick up the living room/kitchen area (main room where we are every day) before naptime and her bedtime. That way the toys don’t get overwhelming. It has to happen or bedtime doesn’t happen–and it happens. (Sometimes Daddy picks up with Hannah if Peter is eating.) Now to figure out a time to vacuum.

    I find rough schedules are helpful–something happening on a specific day of the week, at a certain time each day, or when a condition is met (like running the dishwasher as soon as it is full, or transferring laundry when it beeps at me).

    Start getting into a routine now. Do an extra thing each day to work towards getting things clean and organized. When you’ve mastered a basic routine, add something new–don’t try to make it all happen at once; build habits. And take care of a big new mess when it happens. Consider how you would respond if you dropped a glass object and you had shattered glass all over the floor. If you treat tracked-in mud or a spill or scattered and crumpled coupons that way (except that kids can help with non-dangerous jobs) you won’t have that mess staring at you for a couple weeks until you get to it. (This is not something I have mastered. Not close.)

    As for the spiritual aspect:
    Training your children for their sake.
    Work as though you are working for Jesus.
    Even if no one else notices or appreciates, he does. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tell your husband what you’ve done and that he ought to be impressed and compliment you, because encouragement helps.
    Enjoy your work. Easier said than done. But kids are not born knowing that cleaning up is not fun (consider a toddler dumping out a basket of toys, putting them back in, dumping out, putting in…) so if you can pretend you are having fun, they probably will have fun. And at very least there is satisfaction in a job well done.

    By the way, your post about getting up early really inspired me, and it’s been so helpful. Now I get up every day between 430 and 545. I start getting things done once the baby is settled, and I manage to eat breakfast nearly every day–which alone makes it worth it. Being ready to serve Hannah’s breakfast, and already being downstairs with Peter, makes getting Hannah up a lot easier and more welcome.

    Working on recovering here.

  8. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Psalm 127:2 – It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep. Of course, I LOVE ALL of Psalm 127, but I feel like verse 2 is a gift to me. So, as you consider the ant, also balance it with a little of Psalm 127:2.

  9. Pingback: Jodilightful! » MoJo Monday: Joy In Being Orderly

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