Twice a year I get bitten by a rabid nesting bug. It usually happens in the spring and fall, just as the seasons are changing. My fall bug tends to bite me right after my first Pumpkin Spice Latte, and before I know it a never-ending list of symptoms begin to manifest, including incessant cleaning, organizing, purging, and streamlining. This year I bought a new Pumpkin Spice candle, which inevitably led me to bake three pumpkin pies, decorate the house for fall, and plant all new mums in my front yard. The next day I became the Craig’s List queen, buying, and selling furniture to help make our house more practical and functional for our day-to-day living of homeschooling and running a business from home. Since then I’ve been busy rearranging furniture and cleaning/organizing closets and toy bins. Eventually the bug will run it’s course and I’ll hibernate peacefully until Spring, just in time for the madness to begin again. But for now all I can see is my never-ending To Do list and a house that’s in mid-organizational process. Have I mentioned that I have a very patient husband?
During the times when I am consumed with improving the systems of running my household, I tend to lose sight of the WHY behind what I’m doing, which is to have a home that better serves my family. I can become so laser-focused on the means that I forget the goal. Productivity becomes elevated above everything else. I fixate on running an efficient household, completely forgetting what I’m trying to achieve through efficiency, which is a warm, loving, and inviting home.
After ten years of being a full-time homemaker, I’ve learned that there have to be some ground rules in place or else people tend to get hurt….and by “people” I mean anyone in my family interfering with me accomplishing whatever task is at hand. (Remember: This form of nesting bug is rabid.) So here are three simple rules that I require myself to play by when my nesting bug symptoms are raging full-force:
Homemaking Law #1: Stop
When I’m elbow deep in the toy box, laser-focused on an intense elimination process and my seven-year old comes to tell me a very long, unnecessarily detailed, repetitive story about the cat, I am required by Homemaking Law #1 to STOP what I’m doing and listen. Not just freeze and wait for her to finish talking so I can resume my task, but really stop. Actually look her in the face. And listen. I’m not going to lie. This is hard for me to do. I’m a task-oriented person and I prefer tending to tasks over tending to people. But the reality is that building a relationship with my daughter will last a lifetime and it begins with listening to her. I’m notorious for talking to my children over my shoulder as I’m doing some random household chore, but it’s important that my children know they are more important than the dishes, the vacuuming, the cooking, and the house. They are worth stopping for.
Homemaking Law #2: Drop
When I’m up to my waist in all of the fermenting dirty laundry hidden deep in the recesses of my boys’ closet and my nine-year old asks me for help with something, task-oriented Carrie wants to ask him to wait. To find someone else to help him. Or to give him a reason why he doesn’t need help. But Homemaking Law #2 requires me to DROP what I’m doing and help him. When I’m mid-project this is extremely hard for me to do. It’s usually an act of obedience and intentionality on my part, all the while keeping my end goal in mind. I do it because he is my first priority. He is the reason I’m doing what I’m doing. If my goal is to have a warm, inviting, and happy home, then my means to get there will involve a delicate juggling act between running a household and creating a home. Nesting vs. mothering—and nesting must bow to mothering, hands down. Every time. This is how a house becomes a home.
Homemaking Law #3: Roll
When my three-year old has completely unsorted my freshly organized bookshelf, nesting Carrie wants to lose her temper. However, Homemaking Law #3 requires me to do the exact opposite and just ROLL with it, remembering that cleaning and organizing is a means to an end and not the end itself. A perfectly organized bookshelf will not last forever—although I usually like it to last longer than a measly fifteen minutes. My relationship with my children will last a lifetime. So I don’t flip my lid. Instead, I take the time to invest in my child by teaching him why we don’t take all of the books off the bookshelf at once, and I roll with it, remembering relationship first, house second.
Efficiency is invaluable. Having a well-organized, well-maintained home is absolutely worth it’s weight in gold…BUT household efficiency, cleanliness, and organization are tools that exist solely for the purpose of maximizing our time for relationship. They are meant to serve us, not us serve them. Running a household should always bow to the master, which is the heart of the home. When we begin to feel that we are slaves to our house, it may be time to take a step back, take a deep breath, and stop, drop, and roll with it. Because in the long run, choosing to invest in the heart of our home is what lasts forever.