Montessori Elementary Homeschool Blog - with documentation of our infant Montessori, toddler Montessori, and primary Montessori experiences; as well as preparation for the upcoming adolescent Montessori homeschool years.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Working-Mom Montessori: Domestic Sanctuary

No matter the circumstance, all of us want to have our home be a sanctuary - a safe place from the worries of the world - not an additional source of worries in itself.

But when our time at home is limited by full-time out-of-home employment and even 1 or 2 evening activities, it doesn't matter if the children are homeschooled or not (or even if there are children or not!), a home is easily made messy and there is insufficient time to maintain it.

Stay-at-home and work-at-home moms do NOT sit around doing nothing all day and still end up with a clean, organized home! The ones whose homes aren't pristine, are not necessarily doing nothing either - a home takes time to maintain.

So what we can do to minimize that maintenance load so as to maximize family time and to minimize additional stress?
That utilizes Montessori principles of order, respect for all persons in the environment,

I am a huge advocate for "use it or move it". Not that I practice it (anywhere near!) perfectly - but in the areas I have used it, the peace that flows is something wonderful!

Before going to full-time employment - or the first full off-day you have - or before starting homeschooling full-time (especially if you are pulling children out of school) - or before preparing to move - or any plethora of pretty major life changes:
I always recommend you take some time to do what I call "mindless purging".

This does not mean to waste anything or to throw something away you KNOW you will use in the next 5 years (some people say 1 year - but when I have items that I know will be used by an older boy than I have and it's not easily replaceable? yeah, we're keeping it ---- or when my son was a toddler, I had Christmas decorations I wouldn't use at that time (home size, family daycare regulations, single parent to monitor usage) but I would when he got older - yeah, we kept those too).

So be discerning, but don't get hung up on the emotions. 
  • Make a "gift" pile (items to set aside to use as gifts for birthdays and holidays - label them with the recipient if one comes to mind quickly - or just place it in that box/bag)
  • - and a variety of "donate" piles - local thrift shop is the obvious - but does your local church use a Montessori-based or materials-based religious ed program? or do you have other materials that could be donated to the church religious ed program or the office? to a local pregnancy crisis center? other collections that could take used items? 
  • if it's NEW and you've not used it since its purchase and you don't have specific, realistic plans for it - consider donating it to the places that can only take new items
  • or return it if you can. 
  • Recycle what you can. 
  • Throw away only as a last resort - irreparable items, inappropriate items, and the like. 
Get the children involved in this process - if you're about to start homeschooling, this could be the transition from school to homeschool: getting the home in order, learning about community resources and what each one serves, interacting with people in the community - all those things that non-homeschoolers don't realize are real socialization ;) 

Your goal is a home free of "things" that drag you down, that eat up space, that contribute to stress levels, require maintenance (even such as dusting - a home is so much easier to breathe in with fewer items in it that aren't routinely moved and used, meaning less dust) and that otherwise make your home not a sanctuary. 

Now, some people like lots of stuff, or think they do. That's great! Just make sure it's stuff that you like and want and will enjoy - not just stuff for the sake of stuff. 

Another area to get the children involved in. This is typically best for a different day than the de-cluttering day. And you may not get everything "done" before a deadline you have (starting full-time work, moving day). 
Have to start officially schooling by a certain day? That is negotiable - here's why: 
  • Almost all projects I can think of around my home, count as ART. And many include Practical Life skills ("home ec" if you need a credit - track the hours)
  • Got stacks of photos to get into a binder or photo album? The children can help with that - it counts as art - throw in some family stories for social studies - these will not be full credits if you have children at the age of needing credits (track the hours though in case they decide to go off on a related study that would add up to full credit), but elementary and middle schoolers? this stuff is perfect! Preschoolers can help trim pretty paper, be the runners for supplies, help prepare basic snacks. Get all the children involved (except the infant who only wants to eat truly internalize the current project) - this child can be set at a table with some claywork or crayons and paper. 
  • Sewing to do? Again - have the children help. At least to observe what you do so they can learn too. If they need/crave to do something with their hands, give them some scrap fabric, needle and thread and let them practice stitching together the edges or creating Xs or creating lines. Draw a simple design on a piece of fabric and let them do a back-stitch or straight-stitch over it, while you are doing the main work. This keeps the children involved even if they can't help with the actual project - and hopefully they CAN help with the actual projects. 
  • House repairs? Teach the children. It might take a bit longer, but then they learn. Have them help with all possible and observe the rest. Talk about what you are doing. Learn WITH them if needed
  • If you have a true deadline - PRIORITIZE. What needs to be done for the sake of the deadline that would cause a financial burden? A relationship burden? An emotional burden? In that order. (normally I put relationships first, but if we're talking about moving out and needing to make repairs to avoid high fees, or you could be evicted if the particular project isn't done by a particular time - well, that contributes to the relationship factor ;) )

I know this is listed above as part of the projects - but let's look at the bigger picture. You simply aren't Superman or Supermom - so how are you going to decide what really needs to be done first? 

The words are simple anyway: 

Go through your day. What do you need to have in place (or gone) to run your day smoothly. 

Make it happen. 

That "simple" - and that tedious. At the same time.

Need a bullet-point list? 
  • Morning routine: what is it? Mad dash to the bathroom to comb hair, get dressed and use toilet in that order (yes, this is my son's routine - even when he really has to use the toilet). Can you simplify any of it? What do you WANT to happen. Now make it happen: have clothes out the night before and in the most convenient place; breakfast items out and prepped the night before when doing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. Assure all items have their easy access home. Whatever it takes. 
  • Meal preparation: are the dishes and utensils you always use always hidden in the back of the cupboard? Keep THOSE items out - the ones you use every. single. day. Don't put them away - have a nice place on the counter for them. Have items you never-never-never use? Gift them; donate them; sell them (don't trash them, that's wasteful and poor stewardship). Items you rarely use? Those ones put away. 
  • Coming home: I am the type of person who wants to come in with my load of groceries or whatever it is, but then I need a minute to re-connect with being home (some aspect of asperger's I have heard) - so I'll go to the bathroom or change my clothes BEFORE putting groceries away. So I'll have a change of clothes ready and I won't place the grocery bags (or anything I am bringing in) in my path to that end of our home. But then I want everything put away, cleaned up, bags stored, and I want to SIT with a loved one and a treat - to reconnect with the relationship AND the home. This is the sanctuary part. 
  • So I'll think through - I want the entry way clear when I get home, so I'm the one cleaning it up on my way out - to protect that sanctuary time later. This is SO much more easily done when there are simply fewer ITEMS to sort, store, clean. We have a closet for our coats, so our rack has one (maybe 2, depending on the season) jackets per person. Legoboy's tae-kwon-do bag is always on the hooks so we're not spending time looking for it (he changes his clothes when he gets home and returns the bag to the hooks - a process we thought through to bring us some peace and consistency). I also want our dining table clear enough to place a purse on when I get home; and so we can eat without cleaning it up while we're hungry. (the dining room table is also my "office" - it gets filled up fast). 
  • These little things add up - in time, patience, in peace
  • Bedtime routine: what do you want to do with this? Snuggle time with the children, then work time for you before sleep? All go to sleep at the same time? Think through how/what you want to do here and think ahead to the morning - while you are putting on jammies, you can be setting out clothes for the next day; while brushing teeth, wipe down the sink and counter. 
  • Cleaning: If you'll be working full-time out-of-the-home - or even full-time in the home - you may not have blocks of cleaning time (or you'll have to pull time away from relationships). So don't think in blocks. Think in nibbles: as said above, brush teeth and wipe down the sink/counter; once a day or every other day (depending on the number/gender of local inhabitants), when you use the toilet, spray it down with white vinegar; take a shower, spray it down with vinegar on your way out; the time you're not spraying down the toilet, wipe up spots on the bathroom floor; washing dishes - wipe down all counters, surfaces, handles, light switches with the same water (before it gets dirty); have two or more levels to your house - take stuff with you when you go up/down; MAIN THING: JUST PUT IT AWAY - don't say "I'll set this here and put it away where it belongs not 10 inches from where I placed it" - and then never do it - JUST DO IT. TRUST ME. 
  • Mail In/Mail Out: Deal with it as it comes; OR have one time a week that you take care of it. Whatever your routine, have one - and stick with it. Don't let it pile up. Most of it can go to recycling anyway (more and more areas have a place where you can drop off your paper recycling and they earn money for it - if you're willing to make that trip vs going to the recycling center for everything or if you can put office paper in your curbside recycling). File what is needed. Whatever it is - when you do sit down to go through the mail, finish out the process for every item. Don't set it aside for later. NOT worth it! 
  • What else do you do in your day? What routine will make it go more smoothly? What physical objects are in the way? or could be in a more accessible location? Adjust whatever is needed to make it go more smoothly. 
  • Want a weekly movie night with the family? Have the movies in one place; have the items for popcorn making in one place in the kitchen. 
And if it doesn't fit with your life? Go back to the first category above ;) 

Humble pie - this is the master bedroom.
The result of starting with chaos years back
S-l-o-w-l-y getting through it.
In my additional defense:
we don't heat this room in the winter;
and I really have no defense.
There is stuff here I just don't have TIME to put to proper use.
Son's portfolio and scrapbook; stuffed animal repair;
sewing projects to finish and post on Etsy;
my own "scrapbook" type stuff;
routine materials used for Garden of Francis.
Not that many categories, but it sure adds up.
The children who visit, use the books - a LOT.
Everything else just needs to be DONE.
At least my whole home doesn't look like this ;)
because I already applied the above principles to the rest of our home. 

However, I did wake up to this sight in my living room this morning.
Apparently I did some re-arranging in the middle of the night,
cleaned out the file cabinet drawers,
and left these out to freshen up their organization.
Ok. Off to it! 

UPDATE: After writing this post, I did get through the files above. I was able to recycle two plastic grocery bags full of paper; sell a set of continent folder files; add to my plastic baggies collection; and ultimately consolidate all those folders (two drawers' worth) into ONE. I then sat down and did my taxes. Before the government even had their paperwork fully ready.

Of course, we're snowed/iced/windchilled in, so that helps ;)

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