Living mindfully and simply encompasses every area of our life. Simplifying our home to reduce clutter and surround ourselves only with things we use and love. Being mindful of the environment. Eating healthily and taking care of our bodies. Paying attention to what we put ON our bodies (I have a policy to never put something on my body that I wouldn’t eat). It also, and most importantly, includes how we spend our time. Many people equate “simple” with “easy”. But often, living a simple life is anything but easy. Sometimes it’s easier to buy stuff than to make it. To go to the grocery store and buy a tomato, instead of planting seeds, watering and weeding, and waiting months for that first, perfectly ripe, juicy tomato. Simple living is about mindful choices, even if it means more work. Since there are only 24 hours in a day, and 7 days in a week, we need to figure out how to fit it all in, and still make time for our other priorities, like homeschooling, outings and extracurricular activities. Having a simple weekly rhythm in place ensures that we get it all done.
I also dislike the feeling of running in a million different directions at once. I want to focus on those tasks and not feel pulled to attend to something else. I’m all about single-tasking, and giving something the attention it deserves.
I’ve tried different systems in the past, but most of them focused on cleaning only. Cleaning one room per day, dividing the house into zones and cleaning one zone per week, etc. Those were well and good, but as a homemaker, cleaning isn’t my only job. There’s laundry, sewing, mending. Meal planning and extra food prep. There’s office work (bill-paying, budgeting, organizing photos, taking care of appointments and health needs). Errands and shopping. There’s yard work and gardening. I always floundered with all of this, wondering how to squeeze it all in. So much of simple living involves these types of tasks, and without making a plan for getting them done, they would never happen.
A few years ago I began stumbling across several blogs mentioning a book called Large Family Logistics. At first I brushed it off, because 3 children hardly qualifies us as a large family. But she was a homeschooling mom who also ran a farm, so I figured if anyone knew how to get stuff done, it would be her. I read her blog, and finally purchased her book. Her system is so very simple. It goes back to how our grandmothers, or perhaps our great grandmothers ran their homes.
We are big fans of the Little House on the Prairie series, and Ma Ingalls always said:
“Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday”
Ma knew that by assigning a task to each day, all the work would get done, and on Sunday they could rest. She knew the significance of not leaving everything till the weekend, or trying to do 10 different things on one day. Doesn’t it seem so much more peaceful to just have one main task to worry about?
The Large Family Logistics method uses the same principle, but includes more modern tasks. We don’t need a “churning day”, and Ma probably didn’t need an office day. So here is how I run my home, Large Family Logistics style:
Monday – Laundry Day. I have fluctuated over the years on doing all my laundry in one day, vs doing a load a day. Truthfully, I prefer the laundry marathon. I start early in the morning, wash, dry, fold, sort, and put away all the clothes in one shot. It’s by far the most efficient way to do laundry, as you only have to sort and put away ONCE. The closets and drawers are full and ready to go for the week. The only drawback to this, is it means using my dryer. And since we are trying to reduce our energy use, I’m back to a load a day. In the winter I dry on an indoor drying rack, and in the summer I use the clothesline. Either way, this day isn’t just about washing. It’s also the day we tidy up the laundry room, wash anything that needs to be hand-washed, do ironing and mending, and work on sewing projects. It’s actually one of my favourite days, as I find working away in the laundry room to be rather meditative.
Tuesday – Kitchen Day. While Ma had a baking day, I prefer “Kitchen Day”, as it’s not just about baking, and truthfully we do very little baking here. But I use this day to clean out my fridge, use up leftovers, plan my menu, make my grocery list (or market list), pull out meat from the freezer to defrost for the week, tidy up my cold room and freezer, etc. Basically all food-related tasks happen on this day. Food is a huge part of simple living, so this is an important day of our week. We also make our own condiments, brew kombucha, etc on this day. I give the counters and sinks an extra scrub, and wash the floor, and basically make the kitchen a little nicer to work in the rest of the week.
Wednesday – Office Day. Maybe Ma had a day that she wrote letters, but she probably didn’t have bills to pay, and since they bought so little and made everything themselves, she probably didn’t have to worry about budgeting. I use this day to focus on my office and our homeschool room. I get all the bills paid that came in during the week, update our budget, deal with any correspondence, book appointments, etc. When all that is done, I wipe down the computer, dust the furniture and give the rug a vacuum. We do the same in the homeschool room, make sure everything is put back where it belongs, and run the vacuum through. It’s much nicer to homeschool in a tidy, organized space and doing this once a week keeps it pretty manageable.
Thursday – Errand Day. Well, in the book they call it “Town Day”, but since I already live in town I call it Errand Day. Or I could call it Market Day, since that’s one of our main stops, and it sounds more quaint. 🙂 Basically this is the day we do anything that needs to be done outside the home. We plan our route efficiently, hit the market, the library, the post office, the grocery store, the office supply store. We try to get it all done in one shot, once a week. There’s a reason for this. Running errands, especially with 3 children, is time-consuming, whether it’s one errand or 10. Every time I have to pack up the kids and leave my house, it basically means that nothing is getting done at home that day. It interrupts our daily rhythm to have to run out for something, and we fall behind on our other tasks. Not to mention homeschooling – if we end up leaving the house for something on another day of the week, there is a pretty good chance that no homeschooling is going to happen on that day.
Friday – Cleaning Day. This is the day for more general cleaning. Even Ma had a cleaning day. 🙂 The bathroom gets a good scrub-down (more than just our daily wipe-down). Towels and sheets get washed. Furniture dusted, hardwood floors swept, and rugs vacuumed. We might open up the windows and air out the house. Clean the ashes out of the fireplace and maybe light a fire. Light some candles, and basically make our home feel cozy and nice before the weekend. (Judging by these pictures, it seems like my kids spend a lot of time in their pyjamas! They really don’t. lol. But sometimes it’s nice to have a day where we don’t get dressed).
Saturday – Gardening Day. We do most of our outdoor tasks on this day. Mowing the lawn, rounding up the outdoor toys and putting them away (preferably before mowing!). Cleaning out the shed if needed. Cleaning up the garden beds, weeding, planting, all happens on this day. In the winter, our seed-starting etc. happens on Saturdays.
So there you have it – our week in a nutshell. Now I realize that now a days, most people balk at the idea of having a schedule like this. It feels restrictive, like someone is ordering them around, telling them what to do. They want FREEDOM. Freedom to do whatever they want, on whatever day they want to do it. And if that works for you, I say go for it! Sometimes I envy people who can just fly by the seat of their pants and still manage to get it all done. It just wasn’t working for us. I felt frazzled all the time, like I was going in a million different directions and never truly accomplishing anything. There was no “done” at the end of the day. No sense of accomplishment, just a never-ending to-do list that I never seemed to get to the bottom of. Our ancestors knew the wisdom of ordering their days. It’s part of how we choose to slow down, pay attention to, and enjoy our tasks. The truth is, we need clean clothes, food, and a clean house. So logically, it makes sense to set time aside to accomplish those tasks.
We don’t spend all day on this. We try as best we can to get our work done in the morning, which leaves our afternoons free for homeschooling, outings, etc. We only homeschool 4 afternoons a week, and leave ourselves a “flex day” one afternoon per week. Saturday afternoons we like to go on some sort of an outing, or even just hang out around the house and read, or relax.
Children also thrive on a rhythm like this. They enjoy the predictability, and there are no meltdowns when it’s time to do errands, because they know Thursday is always Errand Day. We work together and get it done.
I realize that many (probably most) homeschoolers prefer to do school work in the morning. But I like to match my tasks with my energy level, which means doing physical chores in the mornings while I have the most energy, and saving things like lessons, music, and handwork , more gentle tasks, for afternoons. If we need to book an appointment, I try to do that in the afternoon, as we can always bring school work with us, and work on it while we wait. We have followed this rhythm for years, and it works very well for us. Plus in the summer, we don’t homeschool, which means our afternoons are FREE (can you say BEACH??). 🙂