My House Is Put Together: Part 4

Create a schedule, and do whatever it takes to stick to it!

I am categorically a free spirit. Monotony is like a cuss word to me.

At the same time, I get all excited about things that are neat and organized. The reality is – in order for something to remain neat and organized, there has to be some form of monotony, routine, schedule, mundane going on.

I have decided that in sucking it up and being an adult, I must be okay with this.

I also decided that it is healthy for my developing children to have some regularity in their lives. I don’t want them to feel insecure, unsafe, or anxious about what might happen, because that isn’t good for a developing brain.

Additionally, my total spontaneity, at least regarding my home and its level of (un)cleanliness, has caused me to feel stressed and almost at a panic when I’m at home. It was time for a change! Suck it up, MEL.

My actual home in December of 2018

I met with my pal Lindsay about this, and she gave me the truth bomb. “You can’t live like that.” Yes, girl. She knows what’s up. She advised that I make a list of the “absolute musts” or “non-negotiables” about having a clean house and get them organized into days of the week. I can do this, I thought. I’ve had schedules like this before. And thus, it began.

Our current schedule contains splitting up duties between me and Ryan, each with a job, and with our whole evening planned each day of the week. Lindsay color coded it for whose job is what. This was our starting point, just to get some traction with this house. NON NEGOTIABLES – these MUST happen. It’s working great.

A few recommendations with this:
– write it down! It seems more official when it is written down.
– send it to a friend for accountability and approval. It was so helpful for me to know that Lindsay would ask how it was going – it inspired me to stick to it better.
– hang it up where you can see it. Seeing is remembering. You will constantly remember it if you see it every time you enter the kitchen.
– it doesn’t have to look perfect. I love pretty fonts and beautiful images. Get over it. You just need to see the words. You can make it pretty later, after you have your life together.

Now, part B of this post is the hard part. You see, I LOVE to make plans. Planning is one of the most exciting and fun parts of life. But follow through? That is a whole separate story. I am TERRIBLE at follow through. Give me a fish, I’ll eat it. Teach me to fish, I’ll never do it again even though I’m perfectly capable and starve.

But really, though.

So, I came up with a bunch of things to do that make doing these chores more fun so that they get done.

  1. Laminate or put the schedule in a sheet protector and mark off what you do with a wet erase marker. There ain’t nothing like crossing something off a list.
  2. Make a longer-term plan for rewarding yourself for fulfilling your duties. Like, if you do every chore that day, give yourself a chocolate or maybe one episode of TV. If you do every chore that week, give yourself a Starbucks trip. If you do every chore that month, give yourself a vacation to Hawaii because that’s a straight up miracle and you clearly won the lottery and hired help if that happened. But seriously.
  3. Make it fun. I like to set up the laundry baskets so that I have to shoot and score when I’m sorting clothes. It’s fun, and it engages my kids.
  4. Set timers. There is something about beating a clock! SO FUN. Set a timer for 15 minutes and see if you can get all the floors mopped or all the laundry folded and put away. Set a timer for 10 minutes and work on each room getting it tidied or the floors done or dusted or whatever, and then move to the next room at the end of 10 minutes no matter what. These things make it like an adventure, which takes some of the monotony out of it, if you are inclined to despise it the way I am.

This is just a short list of what you can do.

If you need any help making a schedule for yourself, I’d love to help you with that! Email me at and we will schedule a virtual meeting to talk through your home and what might work best for you and your needs. I’ll happily be that person who helps you be accountable for your home. It’ll all be worth it when you are at peace. Your whole family feels better, too. Everything is simpler, and everything is more joyful.

My House Is Put Together: Part 3B


I mentioned in my previous post that the main thing I was struggling with in my home was toys. My kids have been blessed with lots of fun birthday parties, Christmases, a total doting mother who LOVES to buy people presents (that’s me, folks), and family who shower them with toys and gifts constantly, but it has become overwhelming. My kids flit and flop from toy to toy, and then they’ll go a whole week just playing in laundry baskets or pretending play-doh is characters from Tarzan. Regardless, I spent HOURS picking up toys and trying to get the reorganized.

Exhibit A – note that my children are snuggling up inside the laundry baskets.

I tried a bunch of methods – organizing everything into small bags, putting things in bins, just throwing everything in the toy box, keeping it all in one room, splitting it up between several rooms, etc. Then a friend of mine posted on Facebook about some research that shows we should limit the toys kids play with to teach them to extend their attention spans and to refresh them toward particular toys, and I was inspired!

I present to you:


I started by going very hardcore KonMari and putting every single toy in the entire house on my bed. It was special. This really does put into perspective how much of everything one actually owns. My guilty soul envisions starving children in China (my parents always said China, although many of my friends insist it should be Africa, but that’s neither here nor there)(literally, it’s not here, because “here” is central Illinois) aching for something at all while I sit in such incredible excess, throwing my bazillion toys casually over my head in glee.

the beginning. Genesis, if you will

I started with a trash bag for trash, another for give away, and then I left the remaining toys on the bed. I have all these awesome zipper bags that Ryan’s mom has sewn us, so I started sorting the remaining toys into categories as best I could.

The one now containing playdoh – my MIL is the BEST

After sorting everything into zipper bags, I ended up putting a few more toys in the “give away” bag because I didn’t have room for them in zipper bags. I also determined at that point that there would be some toys that I wanted only available with adult supervision. I mean, we all know about #AshesGate2018 and #CabinetsGate2018 – my children, though intelligent and beautiful, are truly gifted at destroying things. I decided I didn’t want to put every toy in the days-of-the-week bins, since I could easily see disaster occuring from that kind of freedom.

So, I split everything that I considered “dangerous” or “PG – Parental Guidance Suggested” in their own bins. This ended up being a lot of craft supplies, like a bin for play-doh, one for crayons, markers, colored pencils, and coloring books, all the K-Nex (because those have teeny tiny pieces that Grace would definitely try to eat), puzzles, and games (again with the small, easy-to-lose pieces).

The K-Nex and Puzzles bins

After putting the items in the boxes, I used little Velcro squares, index cards, sharpies, and our little pocket laminator to make labels for them. #nerdalert but seriously, that was so fun! I ended up putting those bins on the top of Ellie’s closet. Most of the other bins are going to be in Jared’s closet, since playtime is usually in his room.

Here you can see bins for play-doh and accessories, coloring and color wonder, sticker and activity books, and the bag is our library bag – we put our books from the library in there. This is the shelving system adjacent to the back door (to garage) and fireplace in the main living room.

After going through those, I had lots of toys left in various categories. Some examples include Ellie’s people and doll houses, Jared’s vehicles and PJ Masks toys, Ellie’s magnetic paper dolls, Jared’s toolkit, and things along that line. I ended up putting all of Ellie’s bags of toys in one pile, and all of Jared’s in the other.

The next determination was – which toys should they access on which days? They definitely have favorites – Ellie’s people and doll houses and Jared’s PJ Masks toys are definitely favorites. I decided make one bin the Monday AND Friday bin. This was for several reasons – we have two babysitters: a Monday/Thursday sitter and a Tuesday/Friday sitter. Giving the same bin on Monday and Friday meant that each sitter gets to experience the kids playing with their most favorite toys (and therefore not having as many potential fights or grumpies). Also, two days guarantees that my kids enjoy their favorite toys more often, but are still forced to play regularly with their less-loved toys, too.

I labeled one bin Monday and Friday, another Tuesday, another Wednesday, and another Thursday. Then I started putting the zipper bags in each bin based on what the kids like best so that they have something they really enjoy each day of the week. Then I placed them all in the top of Jared’s closet.

I also put all of the stuffed animals, dolls, and doll accessories in some Thirty-One under-bed storage containers that I already had. Ellie really enjoys getting out her stuffed animals, and I really enjoy how easy it is to clean them up now!

We also had some toys that were too big for the kids to fit in bins, but that they regularly play with. These are mostly vehicles that are Jared’s, so I decided they could live in his toy box. We attached a lock (using one of those toddler-proof toilet locks) so that we can open the toy box when we decide to. It has worked well!

During the process – this one says “Larger Vehicles – any day!”

It has been working great! Each time the kids play, they just throw everything into one bin and it goes back in the top of the closet or under the bed or in the toy box. Every toy in the house has a home, and it doesn’t take very long to get it all cleaned up. The kids are refreshed toward their toys because they only play with them once or twice a week, and they don’t mind helping clean up either since it doesn’t take very long.

One other unexpected bonus is that it can serve as a reward. When Jared is particularly good, we make a big fuss about taking down whatever days’ toys he wants. He gets so excited choosing the “Wednesday” bin or the “Tuesday” bin on his special days. (This is also how we approach Saturday and Sunday.)

It has been working great for a few weeks now, with no toys all around the house! I’m grateful for my days-of-the-week toy bins! I hope you find it helpful – maybe you can share about a method that has worked for you!

My House Is Put Together, Part 3A

Get rid of stuff, and organize what’s left.

I sort of subscribe to a mixture between FlyLady’s methods and Marie Kondo’s methods. Marie K is really big right now, thanks to her show dropping on Netflix recently. I am cracking up at all my friends’ facebook posts of all the crap they’re throwing out. I’m also throwing up at it a little bit, because it is truly overwhelming to come to terms with our materialism as Americans (and as humans). WHY? Why do we store up treasures on earth? They just overwhelm us and make us so sad and stressed. It’s NUTS.

I am totally guilty of this. I want and I want and I want and I want and it is just never enough. There is always some other dumb thing I want. I have easily filled homes with so much junk with no place to go and no real use for it and I’VE HAD ENOUGH.

So Marie Kondo’s big thing is to take everything of a particular category, no matter where it is in the house, and get it all in one place. Then go through it, hold up whatever it is, as ask yourself if it sparks joy in you. If yes, you keep it. If no, you toss it. Then you do it again with the stuff you decided to keep and a third time just to make darn sure that everything you own brings you joy. It’s actually really great, because it emits all these great feelings of “yay, I love my stuff” and “it’s worth my joy to have this particular item” as you’re getting rid of stuff instead of the usual “oh, I’m keeping this because I miiiiiight maybe use it someday even though I haven’t touched it until now for the past 5 years but it’s speeeeeeeeeeeeeeecial and I neeeeeeeeeeeed it.” Then, you put everything away in a designated place, and you fold it in a way that makes it take up less room, and voila! You have a beautiful, clutter-free, organized home.

It’s all good, until you don’t have enough time to sort every single item of clothing in your home because you are a total HOARDER and it doesn’t even all fit in one room and you can’t seriously go through it all in a single 3 hour period on a Tuesday night. This was my problem. I got it all into one room and then three hours were gone and I had gone through 1/3 of the clothes in my house. So, then, guess what I did? I threw all the clothes on the floor and went to bed exhausted, just like always. Actually most of them are currently in a gigantic pile on the unfinished basement floor, which is evidence that I need to get rid of them cause ain’t no big pile bringin’ me joy.

So anyway, it didn’t really work great. Marie K even says that in the book – she’s like, “Don’t expect to get it all done in one day.” And I’m like, okay, so where do I put the 80 jillion pounds of crap that I still own until I have time to determine if it brings joy or not?

These are the real questions.

Her method is great, but I just didn’t have the time to make it work for me. And everything was still such a mess. I do dream of really trying her method fully someday, but I have to use a kind of hybrid in the meantime.

So FlyLady’s big thing is kind of the opposite idea. She says just do one thing at a time so that you have some control over your life, and then add things, little by little, until you’ve run your house the way you want through consistent routines. She also is really big into saying goodbye to perfection – the toilet doesn’t have to be perfectly 100% germ free; it just has to not give you diseases.

not clean, but no diseases!
(please ignore, or note, depending on your sense of
humor and germaphobia, the used pullup just *next* to the
garbage can instead of inside it –
this was my life until a few weeks ago)

I have used varying levels of FlyLady for YEARS. I used to have this chore system in our previous house that was seriously the most elaborate thing you’ve ever seen, developed over more than a year of consistently adding one thing at a time until I had things like “2nd Tuesday of every third month, dust the attic” or whatever.

When we moved, we downsized significantly, so everything sort of fell apart and went to crap. I have never developed those great routines again, although I certainly dream of it. It also stems from having worked jobs that average 60 hours a week since living in this house and adding so many children (I have three now)(I think)(maybe four? there might be one hiding in that pile of clothes that I forgot about). I kid. There aren’t piles of clothes anymore, because everything is finally PUT. TOGETHER.

Truly, we are still working on all of this, but at the moment, everything without a permanent home is in the basement collecting dust (also known as the Room of Requirement)(see also: Labyrinth). Everything else has a home and is put together. We now have sucked it up and are acting like adults. And we have now started cleaning up constantly in little bits so that there never get to be overwhelming messes. I have found all three children. There are three; I’m almost positive. And the dog!

one, two, three. Yep, definitely three total kids currently

Now, this post has gotten very long, so I’m actually going to make a separate post to discuss the down-and-dirty of what we’ve done in this, but I’ll briefly say here: our first effort was TOYS. And I’m so excited to show you next time what we specifically did to tackle the crazy toy issue in our house. See you soon!

My House Is Put Together, Part Two

Do it constantly in little bits.

After sucking it up, my next bit of advice is to do the work in your home constantly in little bits, so that it never gets to be a big job.

Take 2 extra seconds when opening a string cheese to throw away the wrapper instead of leaving it on top of the counter.

Take 2 extra seconds to rinse off the plate and put it directly in the (unloaded) dishwasher instead of just setting it in the sink.

Wash the dishes immediately after cooking/dinner – this way, they don’t have time to sit and dry, and then you don’t have to scrub so hard to get old spaghetti sauce out of the pot 5 days later (I’ve never done that, what are you talking about?)(yes, I have).

Put clothes directly in the laundry basket or back on a hanger or in a pre-designated “already worn but not dirty yet” place, instead of just leaving them on the bathroom floor.

my average, everyday bathroom floor in 2018

Go ahead and put the clean laundry away instead of just bringing the clean basket upstairs and dumping it all onto your bed, only to throw it onto the floor so that you can go to sleep when you’re exhausted at midnight.

Go Nike on yourself – just do it.

And do it now.

Since we started this, it now takes me 10 minutes to get the entire house put together to go to bed, because most stuff was already put away. It takes about 5 minutes to get all the dishes completely out of the sink before bed, because only the dishes that we used at dinner needed to be washed or loaded into the dishwasher. Since I’m doing laundry more regularly, the loads are smaller, so it takes less time to put them away (about 10 minutes), so they aren’t .

And the best part is that friends came over yesterday, and I spent exactly 3 minutes tidying up the house before they got here. THREE. MINUTES.

This whole “complete it as it comes” thing has been a GAME. CHANGER. Two thumbs up. Highly recommended.

Coming up next: part 3 – Get rid of stuff, and organize what’s left.


My house is put together.

And it’s a miracle.

I went live on facebook on Saturday morning to talk about our little miracle – we’ve had a clean, put-together house for almost an entire month! I decided as a follow up to do 5 posts, one containing each step that I talked about in that loooooooooooong video. I talked forever, but it was actually reasonably simple to implement these things. BUT it made a GIGANTIC difference in our peace of mind, ability to find things, etc.

Step One: SUCK IT UP.

This was the hardest part for me. For some reason, I was battling myself with all these thoughts. I would say to myself, “It’s all too much! I shouldn’t have to do all this. How does anyone do this? I am so exhausted! I work full time in an especially exhausting job. Nobody is as tired as me. My kids are messier than everyone else’s kids, so they don’t have it as bad. If only our baseboards were in, our house would be finished and I could get it cleaned up. We have too much stuff, so there isn’t anywhere to put it, so I’ll just have to live with it all being a big mess. I can’t clean this up tonight; I’m too exhausted. UGH! Why are there so many dishes?”

and so on, and so on, and so on. *insert eyeroll here*

Basically, I was making excuse after excuse for why my house was so disgusting. I am the queen of validating – I can validate absolutely anything to myself.

The problem is that making all of those excuses did not, in any way, assist me in cleaning my home. There was stuff all over the floor all the time. There was so much clean laundry that was never put away and ended up in piles on the floor just to be washed again because I couldn’t determine if it was dirty or clean. Counters were covered in random junk that was left out instead of put away. There were crumbs and sticky spots on the floor all around the dining room table. We had mice at one point – not sure if that was because of dirtiness or just because of our neighborhood being so close to a wooded area. It was impossible to walk through our home without a hundred tiny crumbs sticking on the bottoms of your feet. The bathrooms constantly smelled like urine and feces.

My average, everyday home in 2018

It was all too much. I cried over it so many times, so overwhelmed. Everyone kept saying, “This is just a season. Soon it’ll pass, and you’ll be sad that your kids aren’t little anymore.” I would always think, “Okay, so I’m miserable and sad now, and later I’ll be miserable and sad, but my house will always be like this and I’ll always feel overwhelmed so basically you’re saying I’ll be miserable forever?”

About a week before Christmas, I had an epiphany.

Suck it up.

That was my epiphany.

I said to myself: You are a grown-ass woman. When the age boxes show up on paperwork, you have to check “30+.” There isn’t a world in which you aren’t an adult. You own this home. It is a blessing. You had those kids. They are a blessing. You have a partner who is willing to be helpful. He is a blessing. You have the obligation to steward well what has been given to you. You have been blessed with much, so you must be faithful with much. And how many years did you dream of this exact life? How long did you ache to find such wonderful love? How long did you dream of making your house your own by remodeling and living in a neighborhood with great people and a pool and playground and tennis courts? From what age did you begin imagining having your children and raising them, dreaming of high-waisted mom jeans and a big huge perm? Your life is incredibly wonderful, and you are choosing to complain about how hard it is instead of working this weedy garden. Do. The. Work.

Suck. It. Up.

Now, for some people, this kind of straightforward, rather harsh self-talk might not be helpful. But for me, it is necessary. I need to be brought back to reality when I get in these emotional fits of Mrs. Grumpy Gills.

And reality is: my life is amazing, and I have every power to make it feel so.

I set the tone in my home. I have immense power. I am not weak. It is not impossible. Yes, it is hard. Yes, I am tired. But I will NOT waste this time anymore. One chance. One life. I will never be thirty-one years old again. My kids will never be 5, almost 4, and 7 months again. This. Is. It.

Something shifted in my brain that day. I am not going to waste my only chance at giving my kids a stable, happy home just because I’m grumpy about being a working mom. I cannot stay home in this season of our life, regardless of how much I want to. (I’m truly convinced that if I stayed home, none of this mess would ever be an issue – I know it’s true because whenever I do get to stay home, our house is very put together and tidy.) I cannot change our circumstances in this way. But I can change my attitude. So from now on, I’m going to suck it up.

New phrases for self-talk: You might only get today, and then you’re into eternity. Don’t let the trivial pursuits of this day stop you from the eternal pursuits. When you are a literal mess, you are also a spiritual mess. You cannot give and feed into others when you are frantically clinging on to your last shred of sanity. Push off the weighted demons of perfection, dreams of how you wish things were, and excuses. Work. Tend your garden. With a sweet spirit for Jesus, serving Him in it all. The mundane becomes the holy. The trivial becomes eternal. Your children see this energy. They see your praise to the One who gave you everything. They see your effort to be faithful in these things. They see how you steward what has been loaned to you. This is your only chance to show them Jesus when they are kids, and someday they’ll grow up and have to clean a house, too. Teach them. Right now.

My friend Lindsay calls this the CEO mindset – you are the CEO of your life! And with this mindset of “I will do this,” I was able to move into Step 2.