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Mastering Summer Time and Space: Practical Tips for Managing Family & Home

Tonya Cox

July 8, 2024

As summer unfolds its leisurely embrace, families face the challenge of managing time and space. Balancing the allure of relaxation with the demands of daily life, especially with children at home, calls for a thoughtful and effective approach. Let’s explore some practical tips to make the most of these lazy summer days while also keeping a handle on the demands of family life.  

I recall a time when I helped a close friend tackle the overwhelming chaos in her home. She was meticulous about cleaning, but her house often looked like a whirlwind had swept through—dishes piled high in the sink, laundry scattered across the floors, and toys in every corner. At times, you couldn’t even see the floor beneath the clutter. I spent an entire week there, sorting, organizing, and tidying up every space. We worked tirelessly, believing that once everything was in its place, her home would finally stay neat and orderly. However, just a few weeks later, the chaos returned. It was then that I realized the problem ran deeper than just the physical clutter. It was about the lack of effective systems to maintain that order. This experience taught me that true organization is more than just cleaning up—it’s about creating sustainable habits and systems that can stand the test of time, especially in a bustling household with small children.

Creating Effective Systems

Morning Rituals Establishing a morning routine isn’t just about starting the day right; it’s about preparing our children for future responsibilities. Home serves as their training ground for learning essential skills. Encourage them to make their beds, get dressed, and be ready for the day ahead. These simple tasks teach responsibility and set a positive tone for the day, laying the groundwork for handling school or work responsibilities in the future.

Kitchen Comfort: Caring for the Heart of Home Growing up, my parents instilled in me the habit of cleaning up right after meals. They taught me that tackling chores promptly, like washing dishes immediately after eating, not only keeps things tidy but also makes the task much easier. There’s nothing worse than facing a pile of dishes with dried-on food and sinks full of dirty water! This simple practice prevents small messes from snowballing into overwhelming tasks. It’s about more than just cleanliness—it’s about responsibility and maintaining a clutter-free environment that everyone can enjoy.

I’ve also observed that some people prefer the system of doing dishes once a day. Even if dishes are only rinsed and neatly stacked in the sink, and the table and countertops are wiped down, it still maintains a sense of order and prevents chaos from taking over. Finding a system that works for you to keep the kitchen functional and organized is key. Letting little ones help with simple tasks like putting away clean dishes or wiping down surfaces not only teaches them responsibility but also fosters a sense of participation in caring for the heart of our home. After all, the kitchen is where we spend so much of our time meeting essential physical needs and creating cherished memories. As Louis Parrish said, “If you can organize your kitchen, you can organize your life.”

Quick Tidying Incorporating quick tidying sessions throughout the day helps manage clutter and maintain order. Utilize storage solutions such as labeled bins, drawer dividers, and vertical space organizers to optimize storage capacity and keep frequently used items accessible yet organized. At my grandmother’s funeral, each of her children shared  their mother’s mantra: “Everything has a place, and everything in its place.”  This mantra had a lasting impact on them and on future generations including me!  It is one thing to organize everything, but keeping it that way can be the bigger challenge.

We integrated tidying sessions at various points throughout the day whenever our routines shift gears—before lunch, nap times, dinner, or bedtime stories. It’s amazing how taking a few moments to tidy up proactively saves so much time and effort later on. 

I learned that tidying becomes a continual habit for tidy people—they’re always tidying as they move through their day.  Begin to make it a practice in your home that as you move from one room to another you pick something up and put it in its place along the way. Invite your child to join you and do the same.  Children mirror our habits and behaviors so we might as well be intentional in what we want them to mirror!! Begin to practice a system of order in your home even in small ways.  For example, “Let’s pick up the toys you were playing with before you get out more” can become a rule. While it may not always work perfectly, teaching these standards with a light-hearted touch encourages a tidy way of life that everyone can participate in. Remember, you’re not just a servant in your home; you’re a homemaker. Inviting your children into homemaking fosters a sense of shared responsibility and pride in maintaining a tidy and welcoming home together.

Laundry Routines With five kids, laundry was a never-ending experience in our household. I made it a habit to wash, fold, and put away two loads of laundry a day as part of my routine. While some parents opt for their children to do their own laundry, I felt they had plenty to manage already, and they would be responsible for their laundry soon enough; meanwhile, handling it myself helped keep our laundry room running smoothly and tidy.  I involved them by making it their responsibility to bring their dirty laundry upstairs each morning before breakfast and put it away in the afternoons.  During the summer, I found it a great opportunity to involve my kids in this routine and teach them how to do laundry.  Also, iInviting them to help fold a load out of the dryer is a great opportunity to chit chat and create connections with your kids as well as help them learn important skills like the “right” way to fold a towel! 😃  I have fond memories of learning how to fold cloth diapers with my mom back in the day when that is all we had!  It’s a lost skill but I still remember if it is ever needed again and more importantly I remember those moments working with my mom.   

Finding a system that works for your family is key. If laundry starts piling up or isn’t getting folded and put away, it might be time to reassess your system. It doesn’t need to be daunting; as my mother always said, ‘The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.’ Consistency is key to staying on top of laundry.

Family Engagement Encourage active participation from all family members in household tasks. Assign age-appropriate responsibilities and designate communal spaces for shared activities to promote collaboration and shared ownership of the home environment.  

Even as you do remember what your highest priorities are.  I had a profound experience with my 13-year-old son when he struggled to clean the bathroom to the standards I was seeking to teach him.  One day when I was feeling especially frustrated about this, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “you are not cleaning a bathroom.  You are raising a son.” I felt corrected and humbled in that moment and it changed my heart. 

So remember especially during  those times of life when they are young or during the summer months when your children are around, the most important part of any system is fostering connection, growth, and love. As a parent, you’re not only teaching life skills for thriving and creating a home of order but also nurturing connections that last a lifetime. 

As we embrace the rhythm of summer, mastering time and space management becomes a cornerstone of our daily lives. By integrating effective systems that flow naturally within our routines, we create space for productivity, creativity, and cherished moments with our loved ones. Remember, God said, “My house is a house of order,” and our desire is for our homes to be sanctuaries where His presence dwells, offering refuge from the world. Let’s design our homes with intentionality, fostering an environment of peace and divine presence this summer and always.

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