To Redeem The Time

When I first left my 80-hour-a-week job at the hospital, our house contained piles everywhere. Paper piles, clothing piles, dishes and disorganization in every room. I knew how to run a medicine floor, and even an ICU. I could throw in a central line pretty quick and even intubate you if need be. But I did not know how to run a house. I didn’t know how to cook. My husband, also a doctor, was very understanding. Menu plan? Ha. We used a maid service during the busiest years and I experimented with recipes on the rare days off. But mostly, we ate take out or ate out.

I had a few months before our first child’s arrival to get the house organized and dig out from under all the piles, and the nesting instincts kicked into high gear. I loved learning how to run the home and cook.

I read books on it, of course. {That’s how it always worked for me: I learned to crochet from a library book back in middle school, and then to knit from another. I hadn’t met anyone who could teach me as well.} So I read Home Comforts and Sink Reflections…. I discovered Flylady and her crazy language. I devoured cookbooks and stained them up with my attempts. Over the years, I developed my own system for keeping up the home chores, gathered my own “go-to” recipes that everyone loves and healthified them. Children came and I trained them to sleep through the night with my flexible adaptation of the Babywise ideas. I now run a fairly organized house and cook a decent repertoire of meals.

Now, my oldest is four, and I’m looking at a path for our kids that might just involve schooling them at home {which I would LOVE}. The biggest concern I have as I sort through the decision isn’t socializing them properly or being sure I ‘cover the bases’ with their education. I feel fairly good about how I will address those needs. I savor learning and I truly look forward to transferring that relish for books and beauty and truth to them.

My biggest concern is time. You see, my husband’s calling as a cancer doctor can involve long hours, and despite his devotion to us he isn’t always able to help out with household chores. I’ve gained a lot of respect for single parents. So now, I look at the beautiful {and perhaps I see it too idyllically} task of homeschool, and wonder how I’ll streamline my other tasks and fit it all in without burning right out.

So 2013 is my year to find out how well I can streamline and utilize my time. Here are some steps I’ve begun which have really cut down on wasted time:

  1. I must limit myself to only ONE big house project a week. I’ve got a pile of house projects and just need to slow down and take it one step at a time. This week: complete the refinishing of my TV lift. Next week: Paint the powder room.
  2. Outsource what makes sense. There are a lot of floors and bathrooms in my house, and with all my other responsibilities, I have found it SO beneficial to hire a wonderful Christian lady to help me clean twice a month. I never thought I’d be comfortable with this, wanting to clean my own house, but there are only so many hours in a day, and my children are only small once. This has been one of the smartest things I’ve done for our family. And she makes me feel so good about giving her a job. She knows she is a huge blessing to my family.
  3. Continue redeeming lost time. I put my scripture memory cards on the ledge outside my glass shower wall, and review them while in there. Scripture memory work is so beneficial! I listen to my YouVersion app’s daily Bible readings (the ESV M’Cheyne plan) while I watch the sun rise in the morning, and also while doing laundry. When working on house projects, I tend to turn on an audio book. Right now I’m finishing up “Atlas Shrugged.”
  4. Seize the morning. You can read about this here, but in short, I’m now a morning person!
  5. Menu plan. I’m actually a fan right now of the Paprika app, which I’ve bought for both my ipad and iphone, both totally worth it. I used it last year for storing my recipes and I also cook from my ipad in the kitchen. But I’ve decided to make menu planning more of a priority this year, and I love the option they have for putting meals on a calendar and with one tap on the screen every ingredient dropping onto my grocery list. It will even condense items together from multiple recipes and place them by aisle on the list, which syncs to my iphone.  I want to stick to one grocery trip per week, and plan it well so that’s all I need. I’ve appreciated Edie’s great little series. If Paprika doesn’t continue to work for me I’ll take her suggestion and try Ziplist.
  6. Cook ahead of time. This will naturally flow from good menu planning. I prechop my veggies immediately once home from the grocery, and prep a large vat of soup for each week all at once for lunches. I make myself a egg white frittata stuffed with veggies once a week and warm a slice each morning. I’m stocking my freezer in installments, by quadrupling recipes I’m making anyway. Friday I made 5 whole wheat chicken pot pies and 5 turkey meatloafs. I have a 2 year old and a 4 year old and they get wild around dinnertime. With the unpredictability of my husbands arrival home, I’ve got to have a gameplan.
  7. Read more books, and fewer blogs. Blogs are great but books are better. I can feel my attention span fading when I spend too much time on pinterest or my reader.
  8. Be more selective with entertainment. We only record a few TV shows each week and mostly enjoy them on the weekend. This way our short evenings aren’t wasted staring at a box.
  9. Keep up with laundry DAILY. This has been PIVOTAL for me. It also keeps me from accumulating too many clothes for my kids. I’ve become a wardrobe minimalist. Thus, no crammed drawers. I keep a Tupperware in each closet and as soon as I see something is too small for a little one, I toss the item in the box. When full I’ll just pack it away (just in case…). No need for a major cleanout day that I dread each season.
  10. Fix the toy situation. Too many toys. Dumbed-down electronic toys. Toys everywhere. I don’t know how it happened but I’ve gotta get a hold of the situation. Suggestions? Downsize, rotate, forewarn well-meaning relatives of our dislike of electronic ‘toys’ that use little imagination and are junk food for the brain.
  11. Use the garden produce wisely. There is nothing like homegrown produce. I love it. And our garden has flourished all fall since we put it in. I can’t wait to see how tomatoes do this summer. We have it on a drip irrigation timer and it’s a raised bed. This is another example of something we outsourced: we had the raised beds built to our design and filled with mushroom compost. All we need to now is plant and weed and maintain. It will pay for itself in produce savings by year’s end. I’m harvesting a bunch of herbs to dry today {planning pesto and a dry dill dip mix} as we are just now getting near freezing down here in South Carolina. Here’s a current photo of it, still brimming with cabbage:

I’m doing all these things and trying to wise with my time because life is short, and I want to use it well. If there are strategies to make mundane tasks faster or more fun, I want to find them. This will give me more time to hang out with my husband when he’s home, and read to my kids, and later start homeschooling them. It will leave me more writing time and time to read medicine for my work at the free clinic. But even so, there will always be work: Laundry and dishes and toys to pick up and messes to clean. The key to doing them well is to cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving in all circumstances. Something I’m still practicing.

For more posts about time management and living with intention, check out this great link-up hosted at Life in Grace. Edie is one of my favorite bloggers, creative and wise.

{ 16 comments… add one }

  • Sarah January 23, 2013, 12:21 PM

    Lovely post! I am looking forward to reading how you made such a big life change.

  • GInger January 28, 2013, 1:31 PM

    Hi, I followed you from a comment you made at Life and Grace.
    I have not once regretted the decision, and it is the best that we have made for our children, however it is a struggle full of fear that creeps in, pitfalls and failures, probably even more that achievements and feeling good. And the day most often does not resemble the plan that I made for the day.

    I am Christian and try to read my bible and pray every morning, before the children are up. When I am feeling a little overwhelmed and fearful, I turn to this verse….
    Haggai 2:4 Yet now be strong….Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares th LORD of hosts, according to the convenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Sprit remains in your midst. Fear not”

    Congratulations you are embarking on the most incredible, challenging quest of your life.

    In His Grace,

  • edie January 30, 2013, 8:29 AM

    Love all your tips, Sarah!
    Love your intention.
    Wish you lived in Bean Station.

    • Sarah January 30, 2013, 9:30 PM

      Thanks, Edie, you’d be an amazing neighbor. I’d tend your chickens when you go out of town!

  • Shannon@MishmashMama January 30, 2013, 8:57 AM

    Your pointers are so valuable, and I love your garden layout. I will admit, I fall on the opposite side of the spectrum when it comes to “systems”. It’s actually a big reason behind why we homeschool. My key, and I am trying very hard to cultivate it, is silence and authenticity. There is not enough time in the day to chase after every squirrel that catches my eye. Adding outside pressure from somebody elses idea of what I should focus on just ends up making me feel like a failure. Instead, I have to allow for quiet moments where I can align with my own spirit. I have loved Amy Lynn Adams’s “Tell Your Time”. It has really helped my tune in to my internal priorities.

    • Sarah January 30, 2013, 9:33 PM

      I’ll have to look into that book. I tend to chase too many squirrels…:)

  • DL January 30, 2013, 10:29 AM

    May I encourage you to homeschool your children? I so appreciate your perspective in how to make this desire mesh so well with your homemaking goals. I have homeschooled my three children for over 24 years and now that my youngest is working full time am anxiously waiting to help disciple my grandchildren through the homeschool process. The memories I have of learning with my children still flood my mind and bring me much joy. The “rest of the world” will always rush in and seek to bring challenge to the homeschool process, but it is worth every moment of difficulty.

    • Sarah January 30, 2013, 9:32 PM

      Thanks, that is wonderful to hear. I can see how the time with them would be a treasure.

  • Ruth January 30, 2013, 10:36 AM

    I am so happy that Edie did this awesome link up. Your post is wonderful. Your honesty in knowing that you can not do it all is refreshing. I know I often feel like a failure because I can’t do everything.
    Thank you!

    • Ruth January 30, 2013, 10:38 AM

      I forgotto say, I love your garden.

    • Sarah January 30, 2013, 9:28 PM

      Thanks for visiting–I love the link up idea too, so glad she did it.

  • Heather's Hodgepodge January 30, 2013, 4:36 PM

    Beautiful garden! Good luck as you begin homeschooling next year.

  • Marie at the Lazy W January 31, 2013, 5:52 PM

    Oh my… First, nice to meet you! I am also kinking with Edie, and your green garden thumbnail and tag line “Redeem the Time” certainly caught my eye.
    Now… you and I have a preference for book learning in common. And Home Comforts was one of my FAVORITE in my early domestic years! Wonderful, encyclopedic stuff in there. And you’re a runner and a gardener too?? Split soul.

    Great pointers, I especially identify with early morning starts and reading more books than blogs.

    So nice to meet you! hope to stop in often. xoxo

    • Sarah February 2, 2013, 12:38 AM

      Haha yes, home comforts is really hefty–you can tell a lawyer wrote it! Thank you for stopping by! I want to read more of the posts that linked up, and will pop overt yours in a bit here!

  • laura February 1, 2013, 9:39 PM

    Sarah, popped on over from Edie’s and tried to leave a comment…must not have followed through with the whole “I’m not a spammer” box..
    Just wanted to say this:
    Yes, and I’ll say it again, Yes! So many wise tips here…
    I’ve recently come to understand that I too must carefully choose between blogs and books.
    I don’t remember where I heard this, and I’m sure I’ll at least slightly misquote it – “The only difference between yesterday and today is the people you’ve spent time with and the books you’ve read.”
    Although I don’t believe it’s entirely true, it gives me pause, and I’m reminded to guard and direct reading time judiciously.
    Your 2013 book list has me perfectly verklempt (An Edie word). I think you could be my new best bookish friend!

    • Sarah February 2, 2013, 12:36 AM

      Hi Laura, thanks for stopping by! I’ve been on your blog and love it and your farm; I love that quote you mention–so true. Have you finished the Aeneid yet? I’m still lagging there…


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