Homemaking: whether you’re a stay at home mom, a full-time working parent, a newlywed, or a college student living on your own for the first time, we all have a space that we care for and call home. There is much more to being a homemaker than simply cooking and cleaning–homemaking is creating a comfortable respite from the world, caring for ourselves and our family, and prioritizing the things that we find to be most important in life.
At times, homemaking can become overwhelming. Where do you begin when you’ve just moved out on your own? How do you maintain a comfortable home when you’re busy with school, work, kids, and other outside commitments? Why is homemaking important and how can it benefit your life? In other words, how can you reduce your stress and increase your happiness through homemaking? Here are ten ways that we can prioritize what’s important, let go of what isn’t, and maintain our sanity while caring for our home.
Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links, which means that I receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase.
1. Define Your Values as a Homemaker
Your values are the bedrock of your life—they define what’s important to you and give you a framework for setting goals and making everyday decisions. Refining the details of these values is a continual process, but the underlying principles remain the same throughout much of your life.
In their book, Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, The Minimalists outline five core values that help define their lives: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution. Yours may be similar or they may be very different. I tend to divide mine up into smaller categories: things like motherhood, relationships, spirituality, health, growth, sustainability, and beauty.
So how do we define our values? First, take the time to reflect individually, and then sit down and talk with your partner. Ask yourself the following types of questions:
- What are the most important things in my life?
- What brings me deep, soul-quenching satisfaction?
- What do I need in my life in order to thrive?
The Minimalists also have a great podcast about defining your values if you need more direction.
2. Set Family Goals
Once our values are well established, we can start to evaluate where we are and where we want to be. Many of us are planners who enjoy setting goals. I encourage you to try and set goals for yourself and your family with your partner—it will get you on the same page, and it can be illuminating to see how your goals align [or don’t].
My husband and I set goals in the following areas:
In each category, we have 2-3 goals listed—these might pertain to one of us individually or to both of us. In another column, we list action steps that can be taken to reach each goal. In the last column, we list our goal progress that we discuss each week during our family meeting. This keeps us honest about what we’re really doing to reach our goals in the short-term.
3. Declutter Your Space
Ever try to get work done in a messy space and feel the need to procrastinate by cleaning up first? I know my closet was cleaned this way many times in college.
It’s nearly impossible to have focused, clear thoughts in a room that is anything but focused and clear. The more we’re able to simplify our lives, the more room we make for the important things. With the explosion of minimalist blogs and organization books like The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, it’s clear that many of us agree that clutter detrimental. So why do we put it off?
Pros of Decluttering Your Physical Space:
- Less to clean
- Less to fix
- Less to buy
- Less visual distraction
- Less time to find things
- More room for meaningful and useful items
- More mental clarity
- More time to focus on what’s important
- More beautiful spaces
Cons of Decluttering Your Physical Space:
- It’s time-consuming
When we eat the elephant in small bites, we can accomplish a great deal over time. Take a small step today toward decluttering and organizing your physical space—even if it’s just one drawer in the kitchen. The satisfaction and tranquility that it brings you will help drive the rest.
4. Plan Your Meals
As homemakers, we spend a good chunk of our time preparing meals for our family. A solid meal plan will actually save you time in the kitchen, not steal extra time away from those precious nap hours.
Without a plan, cooking can be tedious, time consuming, and expensive. A meal plan saves you time and money by streamlining your cooking, balancing your nutrition, and reducing food waste.
My Meal Planning Framework:
- Know what’s in season
- Check what you have on hand
- Use 2-3 larger/inexpensive cuts of meat in several recipes throughout the week
- Plan a few meatless or “meat light” meals per week
- Plan for leftovers
By shopping seasonally, you’re always getting a good price on your produce and can avoid spending time hunting through the store circulars for deals. If you find meal planning to be a chore, try and plan a month’s worth of meals in one sitting. It will be like ripping off a band-aid, and you can use the plan again each month for the rest of the season. You can also shop for meat and dry goods in bulk if you know what you plan to use.
5. Establish Homemaking Routines
Routines help automate our behaviors and solidify new habits. Gretchen Rubin, the master of habit formation, proclaims in her “Secrets of Adulthood:”
What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project
Take a look at your goals and think about how you can create a routine to ensure that they happen. If you want to eat healthier, set a system up for meal planning, shopping, and cooking. If you want to be a better steward of the environment, purchase reusable items, keep them in a convenient locations, and create a routine for using them. If you want to keep a cleaner, more beautiful home, create a simple cleaning schedule for each day, week, and month. Make it foolproof.
6. Create a Cleaning Schedule
Cleaning is one of the easiest things that we can automate in our home. If you know that Monday is bathroom day, you’re more likely to follow through and less likely to become overwhelmed and spend hours detoxing the whole house on the weekend.
I tend to focus on a specific area each day of the week [bathrooms, floors, kitchen, etc.] and do a simple wipe down and tidy each evening. If you want to get even more organized about your routine, you can dedicate periodic tasks to each month or quarter [baseboards, windows, under the furniture, etc.].
Cleaning routines are pretty individualized—it really depends on your schedule and lifestyle. Try to let your schedule build upon itself. If Thursday is dusting day, then Friday should be floor day, and so on.
7. Commit to a Planning System
In order to take action on these goals and routines, it’s important to have a consistent system for planning our days, weeks, and years. Your preference might change over time, or it might stay the same.
For example, I love the idea of a pretty paper planner, but I never seem to stick with it. When I was working as a teacher I tried to go exclusively electronic, but always ended up using my phone for the calendar and a big yellow legal pad for my to-dos. As a homemaker, I love my electronic planning system, complete with a shared calendar and to-do lists synced across my family’s devices.
No matter what your preference, a planning system clears out the stress and mental clutter that can accompany our busy schedules.
8. Define a Budget
A budget is a critical step toward efficient homemaking [and life organization in general]. Before I started tracking our income and expenditures down to the penny, I was always stressed and worried about our finances and dreaded checking the bank account. While the occasional surprise expense still arises, a budget helps us be prepared to meet unexpected expenses and allows us to make tangible progress toward our family goals.
I like using a simple system of fixed expenses—things that generally stay the same [mortgage, health insurance, cell phone]—and variable expenses—things that change every month and that I have a bit of control over [groceries, restaurants, gas]. Tracking all of your expenditures is important. Before getting a handle on our budget, we didn’t even realize the outrageous amount of money that we were spending going out to eat.
There are several free or inexpensive programs available [YNAB is my favorite], or you can go the old fashioned way and use a spreadsheet. Once you’ve set a budget and tracked your expenses, the most important step is to review it regularly to ensure that your spending is on track. My husband and I review our budget each week, and it’s really helped us get on the same page about spending.
9. Develop Self-Sufficiency as a Homemaker
There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of doing a task yourself, especially one that requires some skill. In the modern world, it’s “normal” to call a repairman, hire a professional, or buy an item at a store, but its much less common to try and fix something, attempt to learn a new skill, or make it ourselves. When we take on a project ourselves, we develop new skills, encourage frugality, and reduce our dependence on the outside world to provide for our needs.
For those of us who weren’t lucky enough to grow up on a farm or with a handy set of parents, there are infinite videos, tutorials, and blogs out there dedicated to helping us develop a practical skill set that we often lack in the comfort of the Western world.
Self-Sufficiency Steps to Try:
- Growing food
- Preserving food
- Raising livestock
- Making cleaning products
- Sewing, knitting, or crocheting
- Making beauty products
- DIYing a home improvement project
- Changing the oil in the car
- Repairing an item instead of replacing it
10. Connect With Your Homemaking Community
We were never meant to live in an isolated environment, with fences dividing our yards and interactions limited to polite nods and electronic communication. We need a robust community in order to thrive as homemakers. This can be a challenge in a time where grandparents and childhood best friends no longer live down the street, but luckily, we have more access to helpful resources than ever before.
Finding a local, in person community is ideal. Consider joining a mom’s group, a women’s volunteer group, an early childhood or school PTA, or a church organization to connect with other homemakers. It’s also essential to continue to develop your own passions and interests in your community—perhaps through taking a class or joining a local group or league. Sites like Meetup are packed with ways to connect to like-minded people in your area.
Aside from your physical community, there is a thriving online community ready to support you. Countless blogs and websites exist where women with similar interests can connect and offer friendship and support. The internet makes it easier to connect than ever before, though whether it is on a meaningful level is up to you. Homemaking can be isolating at times, and doing what we can to receive support and authentic friendship is essential for our long-term success.
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