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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Finding Normal Week 4: Remembering the Reason for it


Cooking, cleaning, shopping, tidying up, scheduling, planning, stressing, being a housewife is a truly exhausting task. Think about it. You want to have a perfectly lovely little home. Clean and tidy. Everything in it’s place. I delicious hot meal on the table for your family. You want to do all these wonderful things. But it is exhausting and stressful and overwhelming at times. Sometimes we let the overwhelming aspects get to us. We turn our everyday lives into mindless little tasks that are honestly just time consuming and depressing. So what do you do? It is in these terrible moments of wanting to give up and feeling like a failure because you can’t keep up that you need to remember the reason behind it all. Glorifying God. Literally everything we do should be done to the glory of God. The thing is, when we look at it that way we end up finding so much more joy in the things we do. Cleaning, cooking, keeping the house together may not seem to be a big deal in the eyes of the Father. I mean, does He really care if our house is clean? The answer is yes. He cares because it is how we serve Him. How we have a testimony of service. It’s not about the clean house. It is about the mindset behind it. It is about wanting to serve our family through our efforts. Wanting to create a sanctuary and a place to recharge. A place of peace. I am not saying in anyway that if your house is messy you aren’t pleasing God. What I am saying is that when we put even the most menial task in a perspective of serving God it can completely alter our attitude towards that task. Instead of being another mundane task it turns into a joy. The real reason behind our every action should be glorifying God! I know, I know, we all hate housework even the most organized neat freak gets tired of the constant need a house has. So what do we do? well here are just a few ideas of some things that may help you get in the right mindset.
Play Music
Music is just wonderful. It has the strangest ability to completely alter anyone mood and can turn a boring chore into a fun activity. So turn on some upbeat tunes or some good praise and worship music and get to work!
Stay Positive
The biggest downfall we have is our own negativity. Being positive is the key essential element of accomplishing anything! So keep a positive mindset. Even if it isn’t a task that is your favorite try to find something positive about it and if that is just impossible then try looking at it in a different perspective. For instance I hate hanging up clothes I don’t know why I just do. So when I get really, “I totally don’t want to do this” I look at it in a different light and say, “It is a blessing that I have enough clothes that I can hang them up. That also usually helps me clean out my closet because then I just think of all the people that could use the stuff I have (win-win). Point is stay positive. Try not to dread your tasks and just find little joys in them instead.
Worst things First
Do the things you hate the most first. Having the most dreaded item off your list makes all the other things seem so much more enjoyable.
Be Thankful
Honestly when it all comes down to it, the cooking, cleaning, chores, everything is one of our greatest blessings. It is how we show the love and servitude of Christ to our families. It is how we become the Proverbs 31 women God intended us to be.
I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I have! I hope it has helped and encouraged as well. Let me know what you think! Leave a comment below or email me at maryannapartlow@gmail.com. Don’t forget to like and share on your favorite social media site!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Finding Normal Week 3: Routines


The struggle is real. Waking up early, going to bed late, being tired all the time. Even when you try your best to get to bed at a decent hour there is just so much to do and so little time to do it in or hey maybe you just want to watch an extra episode of Netflix. Whatever the reason it doesn’t make dragging yourself out of bed in the morning any easier. This week we are going to talk about routines. And the first and probably most important is to get in a waking and sleeping routine. I am a night owl. I get so much more done at two in the morning than I do at nine. Unfortunately, working away from home tells me that staying up till two is no longer a real option anymore.  Another reason I stay up late is simply because I just don’t like going to bed. I mean why do I need to sleep anyway it’s such a waste of time! Yeah reality, you have to sleep whether you want to or not. Getting in the routine of an actual “bed time” will greatly improve your quality of life and your overall attitude. Now everyone is different. If you don’t have a day job then staying up late won’t really be an issue. However, most people, even those who despise mornings know that waking up early leads to a more productive day. Starting your day off right is the key. In order to do that we are going to back track to the night before and start with bed time routines because when everything is in order the previous day then you’ll have a much more relaxing morning.
Bed Time Routines
Everyone has their own bedtimes. Some go to bed at 9PM and some go to bed at 2AM. No matter which group you fall into the key is to make sure you’re going to bed at the same time every night. Now fun fact! If you go to bed before midnight (even just 11:30pm) and you wake up at 4AM you will feel more rested and relaxed, then if you go to bed at 2AM and wake up at noon. Now don’t ask me what it is called but there actually is a science behind this and I have tested it multiple times and it is (for me anyway) a proven fact. I don’t know how it works but somehow the hours before 12AM count as more hours. Weird I know! So if you are a smart cookie you’ll try to get to bed before midnight. Having a set bed time doesn’t mean you have to fall asleep at exactly that time. It means you need to be in bed, relaxed and comfortable ready to go to sleep. Now a big important thing about bed time routines is to do as much as you can before bed so you’re not stressed in the morning. Find the things that stress you out in the morning and try to get them done the night before. Here are some examples:
Showering-If you have to much to do to get ready for work then shower before bed instead of in the morning. It will save you some time and you won’t have to spend an extra half hour blow drying and fixing your hair.
Find your stuff- I lose my shoes ALL the time. I lose my keys, I lose my wallet, I lose my phone. I am usually running around looking for all these things while counting the seconds as I run late for work. FIND YOUR STUFF! The night before just take the extra time to find everything. Make sure your wallet is in your purse, you have BOTH shoes and your keys are where they belong so you can just calmly gather everything in the morning and not wonder what you are forgetting.
Pick out your outfit- Somehow when I wake up on time I still end up being late because I “have nothing to wear.” Picking out your outfit or picking at least two options can be helpful to having a relaxing morning to getting out the door.
These are just a few examples but the idea is to get things ready for tomorrow so you can have a more relaxed day. Set the coffee pot up so you just have to push a button, have the dishwasher already loaded so you just have to push a button. You get the idea lol. Nightly routines of tidying up, and getting prepped for the next day is a huge part of having a successful and productive morning.
Morning Routines
So now your mornings should be a little less stressful, but you still need to implement a routine. Starting your morning with Bible reading and devotions is always important for a happy day! It is very important to do family Bible study but having personal devotions is incredibly important. I value my time each day with God to calm my spirit and prepare me for the day ahead. Always make sure you’re finding time to spend in the Word. If you can’t find time in the morning, spend time on your lunch break. It doesn’t have to be an in depth study every time. The point is to make time even if you just read a short passage. Having a set time to wake up is vital to a good morning routine and the kicker is you need to keep to that even on the weekends (you can sleep in a little but don’t go over 2 extra hours). The reason is because it gets your body into a routine. It will make you wake up less tired and grumpy in the morning because your body is used to it. I am soooo not a morning person but I have found when I am consistent with my waking up I feel better. I may be a little tired but I don’t feel like a crabby frustrated human as much. If you can try to wake up and do some exercise. Get your blood flowing and energy going! Make a cup of coffee and relax. I personally feel like an important aspect of a good day is to have a relaxing morning! Point is set a routine for your mornings so things just run smoothly and you don’t feel like you’re running around like a chicken with her head cut off.
The most important part about routines is to NOT live by them. Setting routines is important, keeping them is good, living by them is stressful! The point of a schedule and a routine is to help you structure your day. Not to give you a flawless plan that when something doesn’t happen at exactly a certain time the whole day falls apart. Always keep in mind that life is life. Be flexible! Try to keep the plan but don’t make it so necessary the very thing that is supposed to help you just stresses you out. If you don’t get the laundry done by 7 that’s okay! Do it now. Finish it. The point of a routine is to make your life less stressful. If you are more stressed…you’re doing it wrong.    
A big part of setting routines is making a to do list. This can be as vague or as detailed as you want it to be! Here are two examples
Vague
Wake up
Daily Devotionals
Exercise
Make Breakfast
Start laundry
Tidy up
Detailed
5:00AM- Wake up and start the coffee pot, a load of laundry, and put the dishes in the dishwasher away if you saved it till morning.
5:30AM-Daily Devotional
6:00AM- Exercise (we will have a series on setting an exercise routine soon)
6:30AM- Toss the laundry in the dryer and start it. Shower and get ready for the day. Wake up SugarBear.
7:00AM- Breakfast for the humans and the dogs (don’t forget to put the dishes in the dish washer)
7:20/30AM- Feed the fish and leave for work
I am more of a detailed person so I always tend to lean that way. However, if the detail makes you feel to stressed if you get “behind schedule” then just be vague about it and use it as a guideline of things you need to do. The goal is for you to feel productive and accomplished not stressed and like a failure because you didn’t start something on time.
So now that we understand the importance of having routines for ourselves…let’s talk about routines for the house.
Routines for the House
First things first for creating home routines, divide and conquer. In other words, separate your house into sections. The sections are generally obvious but writing it down and making a plan is still very helpful
Sections
Kitchen
Living Room
Master Bedroom
Master Bathroom
Laundry Room
Game Room
Guest Bedroom
Guest Bathroom
Now how many sections depends on your house. For us, we only have one bedroom so I wouldn’t need a section for the guest bedroom. If you have more than two rooms then you just add them and can work from there.
General Cleaning Routine
Okay so now we know our household “sections” but we aren’t going to get them all clean in one day…unless you have a really small house. So now you need to set up a general cleaning routine by daily, weekly, and monthly.  Example:
Daily
Make the beds
Clean the kitchen (keeping the dishes clean and put away/counters wiped down etc.)
Laundry Basket Tidy up
Hang up clothes (laundry and stuff that is just lying around)
At least on load of laundry (to completion: as in washed dried and put away)

Weekly
Vacuum/Sweep
Dust
Wash Sheets
Clean the toilets/wipe down the showers
Take the trash out
Go through the fridge and get rid of bad food (bring a rage so you can wipe down sticky bottles and spills while you’re there)
Monthly
Wash the windows (inside and out)
Deep clean the kitchen
Deep clean the bathroom
Get rid of spider webs in the top corners of the ceiling
Clean the fridge (Like take it shelf by shelf and actually clean the fridge)
Beat out the rugs
Wipe down the base boards
Clean behind the furniture.
As you can see we got more stuff the longer out we went. And that is the general idea. We want our daily chores to be simple and few so we aren’t spending hours a day cleaning and scrubbing and not enjoying life. Here is an example calendar plan to getting it all done.

Sunmontuewedthufrisat
010203040506

Vacuum
Dust

Clean the Toilets
Wash Sheets
Go through fridge
Trash


07080910111213
Deep Clean the kitchen
Clean the fridge
Vacuum
Dust

Clean the Toilets
Wash Sheets
Go through fridge
Trash

Wash the Windows
Get rid of spider webs
14151617181920
Vacuum
Dust

Clean the Toilets
Wash Sheets
Go through fridge
Trash


Deep clean the bathroom
21222324252627

Vacuum
Dust
Clean the Toilets
Wash Sheets
Go through fridge
Trash




28293031
Wipe down base boards
Clean behind furniture
Vacuum
Dust
Clean the Toilets
Wash Sheets
Go through fridge
Trash












That is just a generalized calendar for the month. You can move your weekly schedule around and mix up what you want to do or you can set it up so you have a set day every day that you accomplish the tasks. The point is to have an idea of when you are planning on doing your cleaning so you know what to plan for that day. And as you can see not every day is a cleaning day! I mean you will still have your daily cleaning but if you are keeping up with it then it shouldn’t take much time out of your day.
Routines and schedules are important but don’t feel like you have to live by them. If something comes up it is no big deal. Go on that spontaneous outing. Take time for yourself and just say I am not doing it today and move it to tomorrow (obviously this is not to be used every day lol). Life isn’t about schedules but having them can make your life much easier. Ask your husband or kids to help you out if you are feeling overwhelmed with it all. Most importantly know that it is okay! You are not a failure as a mom or a wife if you didn’t vacuum the house or finish the laundry. Spending time with your family is always so much more important. Never feel like you are not a good house wife just because your house isn’t June Cleaver ready 24/7. I know it is difficult sometimes to not feel that way because so many other ladies may seem to have it all together. But remember it doesn’t matter. Being a good wife/mother isn’t about the cleanliness of your home. It’s about the time spent with loved ones. The lessons taught and learned. The safety and love that the home provides. I get it your mother in law may be coming to town or maybe your OWN mother is the one who comes over and is all I can’t believe your house looks like this when all you have is a spoon in the sink. It can be difficult when you want to please the people you respect and are seeking validation from. Remember though that at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter if your sister has a cleaner house or your brother’s wife’s third uncle’s cousin’s sister is the world’s most organized person. Your house is not their house and though we all want to live in a clean home don’t let the opinions of others dictate your worth. You are valued and you are not a failure just because something is out of place. Never give up just because someone may be looking down on you. You’re valued and loved by the Most High King! So keep up the good work. Keep trying and know that no matter how many times you may have to start over it is okay.
I hope this week helped you discover a good routine and also encouraged you in your endeavors and knowledge that a clean house is something to work towards but not live for. No matter how organized or completely disheveled you may be it is okay and you can get a handle on everything as long as you never give up!
What are some areas that you struggle with when making routines? Do you prefer a check list or a detailed plan? Do you ever compare yourself to how well others can “keep it together?” Leave a comment below or email me at maryannapartlow@gmail.com.
Don’t forget to like my facebook page to keep up to date in your news feed and you can always follow me on twitter and Instagram! As always thank you so much for your support!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Clearing the Clutter


I am a totaly stuff hoarder myself. However, when my husband and I got married I had to leave everything behind. My parents refused to allow me to get anything from the house and I had only managed to get a very few items like extra clothes and a my letter box. Although it sucks, having to leave all that stuff behind wasn't such a terrible thing...minus the one blue bin with all my family heirloom pieces from grandparents and aunts that I really wish I had. Anyway, it gave me a completely empty canvas of nothing. Which means all the clutter I had managed to gather and collect over the past 20 years was no longer there. Fast forward two an a half years later...waaaay to much stuff again! We are moving in the next few days though so I am going to take advantage of that and as I unpack boxes and put things away I am going to declutter. That way I am not just filling my house with more junk. I think the key to minimizing though is to not only declutter but to prevent new clutter. As amazing as unclutter is it totally sucks to do all that work and then in a few months just have it reverse back to what it was. Maintaining the clutter is the key! This comes from having a purposeful mindset to not say, "I'm just gonna shove this here I'll get to it later." So here are a few ways to declutter and then maintain the unclutteredness.
Have a Junk Drawer
EVERY house has a junk drawer and if yours doesn't....yeah I just don't believe that is possible lol. Point is it is fine to have a "junk drawer." But it is very important to let let it become a junk cabinet, then a junk counter and eventually a junk closet. Junk drawers are for those little things that are necessary but don't really make sense anywhere in the house. It's like the catch all for things like paper clips and random screws and little notes that you know are important but don't know what to do with. Having a junk drawer is like the one little place in the house that you can not worry about because it's not supposed to make sense and be organized (although props if yours is). So instead of shoving stuff in random places designate a DRAWER (emphasis because you don't want something with a lot of space) and when you don't know what to do with something put it in there. Now don't just leave it there...and this leads us in to part two
End of the day declutter
If you have been following me for a while, especially for the month of February, then you know about my "Finding Normal" series and hopefully have already been working on cleaning your home up. If that is the case then this fits right in. At the end of the day while doing your laundry basket clean up add a declutter the space task to your to do list. All those things you put in the junk drawer...go scan through it and see if you can find it a home. If you can't ask yourself if it is important or there is any REAL reason you should save it. If not chunk it. get rid of it. If yes to any of those questions then you should be able to find a home for it. The idea of the junk drawer is to be like a holding cell until you have a little more time to thoroughly decided if you need something. If you managed to still convince yourself to shove stuff other places as well, then go through those too. It might sound like a lot of work going through each area and looking for clutter. However, if you do it daily it won't take more than five minutes. The idea behind it is to fix the clutter daily so it doesn't actually become cluttered. 
15 minute declutter
If you haven't decluttered yet and are just starting this process, it can be very daunting. Every room seems like it will take hours to conquer and where do you even start? I don't know about you but I usually have to work myself up to a big project so I suggest starting in the easiest room to do. The reason for this is twofold. Not only do you get started somewhere but more importantly you will be done with that area faster and therefore, feel very accomplished. That will encourage you to keep cleaning in the other rooms. Anyway, I digress. Pick a room to start in get a trash bag a box and a laundry basket. Set a timer for 15 min. then start decluttering. Go through each item. If it is trash toss it, if you don't want it but it is in good shape and not trash put it in the box if it is something that just shouldn't be in that room put it in the laundry basket. When the timer goes off stop. Throw the trash away, put the box somewhere to be donated or sold, and take the laundry basket and put the items away where they belong. Do this in every room. taking 15-30min. breaks in between. 
Give yourself some credit
Seriously even the person whose home looks perfect probably just shoved all their crap in a closet before you came over. So give yourself some credit. The fact that you want to clean and organize your home is the first step in the whole process. Even if your house isn't perfect that is okay! Our homes are meant to be our sanctuaries not places that we are constantly stressed about if they aren't in perfect shape 100% of the time. Nobody is perfect you're meant to live in the house not treat it like a museum. 
What are some tips and tricks you use to declutter or keep cutter from piling up? Leave a comment below or email me at maryannapartlow@gmail.com I love hearing from you! Don't forget, you can share this on facebook and like my facebook page as well as follow me on instagram and twitter! Remember that "Finding Normal" Week 3 is this Tuesday can't wait!!!  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sometimes Valentine's Day Sucks


Since Valentines Day fell on a Tuesday (my normal posting day) You get a two for one this week! If you were waiting for week 2 of Finding Normal don't worry you didn't miss it. It went LIVE Monday. Here is a link in case you didn't see it 

Now on with V-Day so...
Happy Valentines Day Everyone! 
But what if it isn't so happy? what if valentine's day is terrible. Maybe your marriage just isn't doing to well and valentine's day isn't all that special. The real question is what is the argument about. Is there a genuine issue or are we just being petty and not letting a aggravating issue go. Now of course I can't speak to everyone's circumstance, and it isn't always fair that sometimes we have to be the ones to swallow our pride and be the bigger person. However, marriage is not about who said what. Marriage is  about the actions, love and grace we are willing to extend to our spouse. Marriage is a symbol of Christ. The way God loves us. Christ loves the church. As a part of that, we have to be willing to extend grace, love and forgiveness to an "undeserving" spouse sometimes. Now I am not saying we should just never mention a problem we see and blindly forgive our spouse when we feel they are doing something wrong. Communication in marriage is vital and when we see a big problem we need to talk to our spouse about it. But what I am saying is that sometimes it is better to just forgive and move past the little disruptions. You have to be willing to not make a big deal out of every little issue, nitpicking all the problems,pointing out how he could love you better, or that it isn't fair that it always seems like you're the only one working towards a better marriage. You see marriage isn't a 50/50. It's 100/100 and the key to a successful marriage is to focus on giving your 100% and if you feel he is falling short...pray. We didn't get married so we could "fix" them. We got married because we love them. Let God work in their hearts. If you are feeling unloved or underappreciated, talk to him about that. But don't withhold your love towards him because of it. It can be something as simple as him playing video games when you feel like he should be spending time with you. Talk to him, let him know it bothers you and that you feel like you have to compete for his attention with a virtual world. But after that move on. Don't try to force him to agree with you or see that "your right." If he doesn't respond and you feel it is a big issue pray about it and move on. Basically, don't sit and stew and make yourself more upset. All that does is give the devil a foothold on your marriage. Instead of listing the ways that he is wrong...find a way to serve him. To show him that you love him despite it and that you aren't going to be that wife that, has to be right. Or have the, "until he does what I want him to do then I am going to be a brat" attitude. The idea is to demonstrate love and respect no matter what. Often by taking the high road and continuing to serve in a loving way, your spouse will find that missing connection between the two of you that he needs to work on and sometimes we find that missing connection that we need to work on. I know this can be hard sometimes. Especially if he really hurt your feelings. But this is where we learn to love like Christ. So if you are wanting to grow your marriage despite the opposition here are a few ideas that may help. 

Pray for him
This one is fairly obvious but pretty much the most important one. Pray for him. Pray for God to work in his heart and his life. Lift him up to the Lord. You will be amazed at God's work.

Pray for YOU
Yes YOU! ask God if there is anything YOU need to change. We often like to pass off fault on others. Thinking that someone else should change to suite our fancy. It can be difficult to look in the mirror and realize that WE are the ones that have the bad attitude. That WE are the ones that need to change. Self-evaluation is utterly important to any successful relationship but especially marriage. 

Love Him
Sometimes we just need to love him. Even if he is being a butt. So swallow that pride or the need to "be right." and find a way to show him you love him. Give him a kiss, grab a book and sit beside him while he does whatever it is he is doing. Just being there can make a huge difference. I have found that most people love in their love language. For instance peoples whose primary love language is physical touch or gifts will often give little "thinking about you" gifts and want to hold hands. Those who are more acts of service and quality time will generally always be looking to do something for you or others. They want to be around you just spending time together even if you do absolutely nothing. His love language is how he shows love because that is what says love to him. Just like your love language is how you love because it is what says love to you. So PAY ATTENTION! You need to learn to love him in his love language not necessarily yours.  

Serve Him
This couples with the other one but serve him. Ask him what you can do for him. Make his favorite meal. Put on his favorite show. Do something for him that lets him know you are there for him. 

Let Him Be
Sometimes they just need to be left alone. When I am upset I want someone to snuggle with me. Comfort me and hold me. My husband is the POLAR opposite. When my husband is upset or stressed he just wants to be left alone. He doesn't want to be cuddled, he doesn't want to be touched, he just wants to be left alone. Sometimes a man just needs to be alone with his thoughts. Respect that. Give him space. 

Now I know most Valentines posts are about happiness and sweet things. But the reality is not everyone has that loving environment on valentine's day. That is why I wanted to post something a little less conventional. Marriages have conflicts! and OFTEN on the "day of love." If you are fighting with your husband, or maybe it was just a small disagreement that turned into a full on battle then use this valentines day to fix it. Take advantage of the "day of love" and go show some to him. Even if you know you were right. Do you really want to spend Valentine's Day or any other day wasting precious time just because you don't want to be the first to apologize? 

Liked todays post? Share it! Like it! Tweet it! Don't forget to follow me on social media and like my facebook page and follow me on instagram and twitter. I love hearing from you so leave a comment below or email me at maryannapartlow@gmail.com 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Finding Normal Week 2: Cleaning House


Nothing is ever quite as wonderful as waking up to a clean home. No dishes to be washed and the laundry all put away. Nothing says good morning better, well except maybe a good morning kiss from your love ;). Really though, we have all seen those commercials. The ones where the mom is up as the sun is rising and she has already worked out and her house is in perfect order and she just hits a button to brew the perfect cup of coffee. Don’t you want to be her. I know I always do lol. The sad reality is that it is so far from easy to have everything in perfect order. And I don’t know about you but my morning usually consists of me trying to find my other shoe and remember my lunch as a rush out the door to get to work on time. If you are like me and don’t function well in a mess, the only way to a calm and relaxing morning is cleanliness. But how do we get the house clean and keep it clean. There are so many good articles out on cleaning and organizing. I know I have taken a cue from many of them. But for me I might get my house clean…or at least half of it. But it doesn’t even take a week sometimes before it is exactly where it was to begin with. Even when we can finally get our homes clean and in order what is it that keeps it clean? Is it routine? Consistency? A schedule? Do you want to know the key to keeping your home clean? Mentality. Your mental desire to want to keep your home clean and put forth the effort to do it. The other things are vital to the survival of a clean home too don’t get me wrong, but your mentality makes the difference. Mentally determining that you are going to do what it takes to keep your home clean is the biggest battle. We all want a clean home, and we are all willing at some point to drag our lazy selves around to begrudgingly clean said home. But after the house is clean we often find ourselves saying, “Oh it’s not that messy, I’ll get to it later” or “Tomorrow I have more time I’ll just wait till then.” Mentally determining that we won’t put things off and that we will take care of our homes makes all the difference. It really is the difference in having cleaning your home be a chore verses a lifestyle. It’s like eating healthy! Having a positive attitude toward cleaning and organizing also makes the difference in a long drawn out miserable process and a joyful way to serve our family. So now that you have decided to make cleaning a positive event and not a mundane ugh moment let’s talk about some tips and tricks to making the process go faster and be less stressful!
There are many different ways to approach cleaning your home. Some people like to start by simply inputting a routine. This is great, but for me when I do something I like being able to start with a clean slate. So I like to deep clean everything and then implement a routine. No matter which you prefer the end result is the same so whatever works better for you. For this post though let’s look at a clean slate home and then implementing routine.
The easiest way for me to start clean slate is to pick a room. I typically pick the farthest room and work my way out but if you have a bigger house then pick the room you want cleaned first.
Get a laundry basket.
So the first big part of getting a room clean is getting everything that doesn’t belong in that room out. I used to simply go through stuff and put it in separate piles and then I’d have to go and find space in the room they were supposed to go in. Time consuming, double working, not a good idea. My preferred method is the laundry basket. Start in whatever room (for me it’s usually the bedroom). Bring an empty laundry basket and before anything else get all the items that don’t belong in that room (i.e. shoes, dirty clothes, kids toys or dogs toys, etc.) and put them in the basket. Don’t worry about putting it away or finding a home for it just acknowledge that it doesn’t belong in that room and put it in the basket. Once this is done (depending on how much you’ve let the place go) you will already see a drastic improvement in your area. Do this in every room but do one room at a time and finish cleaning that room before moving on to the next.
Find a place for it
Having a home for everything is vital to your sanity if you are trying to keep your home clean. You don’t have to live in a house that looks like a museum but being able to put things in their place when cleaning saves time and stress. After you’ve laundry basketed a room start cleaning that room and find a place for everything. You’re not done with the room until you are satisfied that everything has a home.
Keep important stuff somewhere special
I have two important places right now but when we move into the new house I will have three. I have my “keepsake” box that has all my special things from cards, to wedding memorabilia and general keepsake stuff. I have a box for all important papers and documentation. And when we get the house I want to get a file cabinet of some kind so I can keep taxes, bills, car titles, etc. more organized. Point is no matter how you do it find a place for important papers. This is helpful so that you aren’t having to worry about losing stuff and possibly throwing away something important. If you don’t like keep paper lying around you can always scan documents into your computer and save them there as well.
Deep clean
Deep clean every room means you’re going to vacuum, dust, clean the windows etc. Doing this before heading to another room means you can officially check it off your list and it will be a thousand times easier to keep clean once it is really clean.
Now that we have a clean slate let’s talk about keeping it that way.
Laundry
Try to commit to doing at LEAST one load of laundry every day. That means a complete load as in washed, dried and put away. My husband, being a mechanic and everything in between, goes through clothes like CRAZY. This means I always have laundry, even when I just finished it. For that reason I’ve always had a slight aversion to laundry just because it seems impossible to ever keep it all done. If you struggle with this as well then here is some help…understand now that laundry will never be done. Once you understand that then you feel a lot less like a failing housewife just because you have laundry in the baskets. That being said. Your life will be a lot easier if you dedicate the time to do at least one load of laundry every day. For me it isn’t so much the washing of the laundry as it is the putting away. I just hate folding and hanging up clothes. That is why making sure I do at least one load a day is so important. It prevents me from feeling like I will never be able to finishing putting the mountain of clothes away that I didn’t wash all week. Additionally, to stream line your laundry process have a separate basket for each thing. I have a basket for me, SugarBear, and towels. This makes it easier when washing and putting away because you don’t have fifty million things all mixed up together. Whether you do you laundry in the morning or evening is up to you as that all depends on your schedule and personal preference. I prefer to do my laundry at night since my mornings are so busy. For me the easiest thing to do is to put a load of laundry in the washer before bed and don’t start it. Then when I get home from work I run by the utility room and press start on my already waiting clothes. A wash cycle is usually between an hour and an hour and a half. This means I have plenty of time to make dinner, and relax a little while still knowing I am getting something done. After dinner I go switch it around and enjoy another 30min to an hour of knowing something is getting done while I relax or do something else.
The Dishes
Oh the kitchen! It’s like the laundry, every time you are done…someone just had to get something to drink and there is another dirty dish. The most important thing you can do to help yourself is to ALWAYS clean your kitchen before bed. I don’t care how tired you are. I don’t care if it is three in the morning. NEVER go to bed with a dirty kitchen (and no a glass or spoon in the sink doesn’t count as a dirty kitchen). I know how very very very tempting it is to just say, “I will take care of it tomorrow it isn’t that bad.” Trust me don’t fall for it. Your morning self will thank you. For me one of the most pleasant things I can wake up to is a clean kitchen. If you have a dishwasher load it up and start it before bed. Or if you were lucky enough to start it earlier that evening, empty it before bed. I don’t like waking up and having to put dishes away, but some people don’t mind. Again, find what works for you. Whether you chose to wake up in the  morning and put the dishes away or have an empty dishwasher in the morning, make use of it. Don’t leave your dishes in the sink. Make a habit of putting your dishes in the dishwasher when you are done with them. Or if you plan on reusing the same cup or mug for instance rinse it out and set it to the side. The goal is to have a few dishes cluttering up everything as possible.
The rest of the house.
Living room, bedroom, hallway, doesn’t matter where! Before bed every night get that laundry basket back out and go through each room removing what doesn’t belong and as you get to the room it goes in put it away. This is a quick tidy up trick that keeps your house more or less “mother-in-law” ready as I’ve heard some people call it. If you do this every evening then not only will you wake up to a clean house it won’t take that long to do it either.
Make your bed
Making the bed makes the whole room look clean even when it is a mess! Do yourself a huge favor and make your bed every morning. If nothing else it will give you a nice bed to crawl into at the end of a busy day!
Schedules
Now that we have a clean house and we are keeping it generally tidy lets focus on the actual “clean” aspect. The bathrooms, the sinks, the pantry, the vacuuming etc. I LOVE planners and schedules and to do lists and so on and so forth. And although I love making a schedule I am not a strict must keep to the schedule kind of person. This means that if things don’t go as planned I don’t spiral into a mini mental breakdown. However, when it comes to cleaning the house having a stricter cleaning schedule helps me keep everything under control. Now this will be discussed in a lot more depth next week when we talk about routines and making and keeping them but for now making a generalized schedule of weekly cleaning duties is so helpful! Here is an example of a cleaning schedule

DailyWeekly
LaundryVacuum/dust/sweep house
KitchenClean the windows and window sill
Basket tidy upDeep clean the sink
Wipe down surfacesRun the dishwasher through a self-clean cycle
Sweep the kitchenSelf-clean the oven

Go through the fridge and wipe down the inside

Wash the sheets
That’s a general example but when we talk about routines we will get more in depth on daily verses weekly verse monthly and scheduling for the best results.
The most important part of keeping a house in order is to embrace it as a positive part of your life instead of looking at it as another chore that you have to do. No one particularly likes cleaning but when you have a positive attitude then your day and your cleaning will be better.
Never forget that no matter what we do, when we are doing it for the glory of God even the most mundane chore can be a wonderful blessing. Keep your focus on the King and when you feel like you are overwhelmed and can't handle it. Give it to God. You are not a failure just because your house isn't picture perfect clean 24/7 or even 5/2. Step back. Breath. Pray. Then put on a smile and continue. We can't glorify God when we are grumpy and complaining. Remember that all things we do we should do for God. Even cleaning our house. 
I hope week two of the “Finding Normal Series” was helpful for you. As a busy wife I find it difficult to remember that I need to make sure my home is a pleasant place not just for me but for those I share it with. Your home is your sanctuary and when your home is clean and clutter free you will find that you have a more positive day! Though many times I simply don’t want to do it mentally determining that I will do this for me and my family is a great motivator when you really just want to not care anymore. What are some ways that you find make clean up easier to handle? Do you have a routine or schedule you try to stick to? Leave a comment below or email me at maryannapartlow@gmail.com I love hearing from each of you! Don’t forget to like my facebook page and follow me on Instagram and twitter!
Copyright The Good Wife's Blog 2017.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any material on “The Good Wife's Blog”, without express and written permission from this site’s author and owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Blogging Days: Commenting, the Win-Win of Blogging

Without readers/subscribers a blog would basically be an online journal of sorts. Though there is nothing wrong with that I have yet to meet anyone who has started a blog that didn't want traffic on their site. Gaining traction can be so difficult though, Even if you can get your blog up and going then what about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on. The more fields you can branch into with your blog the better it will be in the long run. I know how discouraging it can be to be starting with a blank slate and feel like you just can't get the following you want. If you are like me internet and its inner workings are NOT your strong suite. I know the basics of Facebook, and I can maneuver my way around Instagram and tweeter pretty well (misspelling intended lol). But I am far from being able to be that perfectly socially involved blogger that just has it all together. While you are learning the inner workings of social media and getting traffic to your blog though, there are more simple ways to try to attract some attention. Comments. Now I know we touched on this subject lightly before, but commenting is a key element in blogger networking. First off it is always nice to comment on other bloggers stuff. By commenting though you are not only supporting someone else's blog, you are also getting yours out there. At the end of your comment leave a link to your blog and encourage people to check it out. Make sure you are putting the link in the actual comment as well as the space that asks for your website. Otherwise the only way people will get to your site is if they click on your name and that doesn't always happen. Now don't just go around and comment on everyone's blogs. Make sure you are legitimately interested in what the blogger is saying. Try to find blogs that relate to what you are blogging about or what interests you and someway relates back to your blog. Another way this helps is because it gets you reading other people material and will help you create a more well rounded blog overall. Also if you have started incorporating facebook and other social media sites into your blogging this will give you material to post as part of your 80/20 rule. Typically if I comment on something, I will also share the article to my facebook page during my 80% days. This is not only helpful because it gives you materials for your social sites but the audience of that blogger is being linked to something they like through you which in turn can create traffic to your site. Getting comments can be hard, trust me I know, but leaving comments is so much easier! Encourage a blogger, leave a comment and in so doing you'll get yourself and site out there too! Really it's just a win-win!     

So leave a comment below and don't forget to leave a link for your blog! I would love to check it out. Questions? email me at maryannapartlow@gmail.com and don't forget to follow me on social media. Links added on the top left of the blog!

Copyright The Good Wife's Blog 2017.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any material on “The Good Wife's Blog”, without express and written permission from this site’s author and owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author with appropriate and specific direction to the original content


    

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Finding Normal Series Week 1: Meal Planning


     Meal planning can be a complicated, lengthy, bothersome project. Trust me I know. I've tried doing it several times. I always seem to be able to a get the grocery budget down, and the shopping all set. However, when it comes to what is for dinner tonight...???. There are so many different ways to meal plan, by week, month, year (okay year is a little much but I know people that do it). Then there is the fly by the seat of your pants meal planners. In all honesty there is no "right" way to meal plan because it is purely based on how YOUR family works. On the go, healthy eaters, lavish meals, etc. However, there are a few tips that can help make your grocery budget last longer and your dinner plans not be as stressful no matter your family dynamic. 

Step one: You need to establish how you are going to plan and create a budget. Budget planning is essential to meal planning. For instance, I do my main grocery shopping once a month. In order to do that I have to have a general idea of what I am going to be making for the next 31 days. I run to the store every now and then if I need more milk, or eggs etc. You know the little things you can't buy in bulk because they expire. For the most part though I found that I can keep my monthly budget at or under about $100 if I don't buy a lot of unnecessary treats. Since we have started eating healthier though my budget is usually around $150 or under for the month. Setting a budget is so helpful because it prevents you from rationalizing buying unnecessary stuff. If you already know what you are going to spend you work harder to keep to the budget or if you're like me, you challenge yourself to stay under the budget. Either way figure out what your budget is. Understand too that some months will be higher than others. Laundry detergent, toothpaste, deodorant, toilet paper etc. are not things you buy every shopping trip. So don't forget to allot extra cash every few months for those times when you run out of those extra things. Anyway, I digress. Getting your grocery budget set is really the key to meal planning because it helps you determine what meals you can make for what price.
    
   


Step 2: Formulate staple meals. My "staple" meals are chili, chicken, tuna fish, and tilapia. These are meals I can make for pennies or dollars and don't require a lot of time either. Find a few good meals that you can make quickly and easily and that don't cost much. These will turn into your staple foods (the ones you always have on hand) which are very helpful for those months when money is a little tighter. 

Step 3: Start meal planning. I plan dinner more than anything. Mainly because lunch will usually either be leftovers or a sandwich. Since I work away from the house I usually try to keep salad fixings and lunchmeat in the fridge so SugarBear doesn't starve if we don't have left overs. Start by determining what your favorite meals are and which ones you are willing to have repeatedly. This eliminates a lot of guess work. If you can afford it, try and have at least two days a month that you either pick something up or eat out just as a relief for you and something fun for the family. Understand that your meals don't have to be extravagant. You don't have to have three courses and dessert. Typically, your "main" part of the dish is your meat (fish, chicken, beef, etc.). Your side dishes can consist of anything from veggies, fruit, pasta, salad, or nothing. I have made just a main dish before. The key to menu planning versatility and really just knowing what your family likes to eat. You can have salad as a main dish or a side dish much like mac and cheese. Everything depends on you and what all your family likes to eat. 
     Here is an example of one of my meal plans for a week

01/30-02/05
Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner
Monday
Cereal
Grilled cheese
Chicken Chili
Tuesday
Oatmeal
Left overs
China Delight (his favorite restaurant)
Wednesday
Bagels
Tuna Fish
Tilapia w/ rice
Thursday
Cereal
Salad
Dinner at his Mom’s
Friday
Pancakes
Left overs
Out to eat
Saturday
Breakfast “muffins”
Hot Sandwiches
Chicken Teriyaki
Sunday
Shakshuka
Grilled cheese
Fried Chicken w/ biscuits and veggies





As I said before I plan for dinner more than anything. For us breakfast isn’t usually a big thing until the weekend just because I don’t have time for it before I leave for work and him being a guy is stubborn and won’t eat breakfast lol. I usually try to keep things like cereal (healthy kind) and oatmeal etc. just so if he wants to eat breakfast he can. Lunch also isn’t a big deal for us since usually I am at work, and he forages if he is hungry. Hence a constant supply of salad and lunch meat so he won’t starve when there are no left overs. If it is easier for you don’t worry about “planning” breakfast and lunch. Honestly they are kind of meals that take care of themselves. As long as you have breakfast foods in the house don’t focus to much on that.
     
     Step 4: Inventory. Knowing what you have and what you don’t is kind of the make or break of meal planning. Now this is something that is time consuming and boring and I hate doing so chances are you will too. However, once you do it you never have to do it again as long as you keep up with it. There are at least two ways I know of that you can do this.

Way 1: Get pen and paper (or your computer or iPad) and go into your kitchen and inventory everything you have from the fridge to the pantry. If you want the process to go faster, then wait till you need to go to the store because your stock will be low and therefore it won’t be as difficult to do this.

Way 2: Inventory as you buy. This is easier in the beginning but can get difficult because you won’t have those “rare buy” items on the inventory list so you may run out and not know it. This way basically catches up to you eventually. You won’t have everything inventoried for a while but eventually as you buy and replace things when they run out you will.

     The importance of inventory is because it tells you what you have, what you need, and how often you buy it. This saves on budget and helps you make a meal plan using ingredients you already have to their full potential.
(You should really inventory your whole house but that is for another post). Inventory is a step you can skip however, if you are just starting the meal planning parade and don’t want to dive too deep in just yet.  

     Step 5: Don’t freak out. When all is said and done don’t stress and worry about it to much and if you “fail” don’t let it bother you because there is always next week/month. Just dust yourself off and try again. Meal planning is something that you have to design for your family. There is no right or wrong and if you are eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a few nights a week then that is okay! Work with what you have, what you can afford, and the more you do it the easier it will be.


I hope you enjoyed the first week of the “Finding Normal” series and that some of these ideas helped at least a little or maybe just gave you some encouragement in your endeavors. Leave a comment below with your ideas for meal planning or email me at maryannapartlow@gmail.com I always love hearing from you! Don’t forget to like my facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/thegoodwifesblog/ )  to get updates in your newsfeed and subscribe to have updates sent straight to your email box. You can also follow me on Twitter ( https://twitter.com/goodwifesblog ) and Instagram ( https://www.instagram.com/annapartlow20/?hl=en ) As always thank you for your support!