I've dreamed for years about writing a book.
In fact, in college, I wrote a children's book about my brother and I that I read every single year to my students. And then they read and reread it.
I never published it though, like my mom said I should. I just ordered it printed through an online scrapbooking site.
For now though, I decided that there's no time like the present to make a dream come true.
In the summer of 2017 (five years ago now!), as we were purchasing and moving into the farmhouse, I started to dream about writing a book for adults.
Just sharing my story and some lessons I've learned on this journey called life.
You might have seen that I've published a morning routine journal this year and I've created a little farmhouse 654 blank notes journal.
And today, I've added a printable eBook to my published books.
In some ways, it's hard to believe that I haven't written a blog post since October of 2021.
In other ways, it just makes sense.
Last October, when I wrote that blog post, we were just finishing up the first quarter of this last school year. From that point on, it felt like we were meeting ourselves coming and going.
This school year, we had a child in high school, one in junior high, and one in elementary. This made for some interesting schedules and lots of nights where Mr. Farmhouse and I split up to attend the girls' activities, often accepting help from the grandparents and aunts & uncles to get the third daughter where she needed to go.
I know this is something that parents have accomplished for many, many years...but for us, it was the first time that we were really pulled in three different directions, on top of career and farming duties.
If we're being honest -- our home suffered because of this. I don't think we were ever caught up on laundry or dishes and our mud room became a dumping ground for our belongings as we ran in to change clothes quickly and head out to the next event.
As Gretchen Rubin states in her book, Outer Order, Inner Calm, "it's easier to keep up than to catch up..."
And we are to the point where we desperately need to catch up.
However, we WILL NOT spend the whole summer "catching up".
We have three more summers left with our oldest daughter Harlee here at home, so we are going to work hard to create beautiful family memories in the midst of taking back our house.
Already this summer, we've visited the Kansas City Zoo, toured the Hallmark Visitors' Center & Kaleidoscope, attended a Royals game, and we've taken a mini-vacation to Phillipsburg, Missouri (more on THAT trip later...).
We've also already filled a 6-yard dumpster and gathered up over 20 tubs of belongings to sell or donate. We have gotten almost caught up on laundry and have marked off a few tasks off of our "list of things we have procrastinated on throughout the school year".
You might have noticed that I've added a new tab to the blog called "freebies".
I've decided to feature one freebie a week over on my Instagram page.
The printable documents you'll find on the freebie page will range from home management to parenting, from marriage to wall art. I'm just hoping to share some of the tools that I use in my day-to-day life with you all, so be watching for that on Fridays!
Today, I want to showcase a printable I shared a few weeks ago and give a little background as to how it has been helping our family!
We just weren't great at managing all of the ideas and projects we had for our property.
We moved into the farmhouse in summer of 2017 and immediately completed some of our big projects.
We added a bathroom upstairs, tore down an old barn on the property, and made some minor cosmetic changes to the house, in the first few weeks that we owned the house.
And then...it was time for the school year to start.
Every once in a while through the school year, we would find time over a weekend or a break to complete a project or two. However, for every bit of progress we made, we ended up adding three or four new projects to our "to do" list. There was never a time that we felt we had done EVERYthing we needed to do to get the property how we wanted it to be!
Looking back at pictures of what our property looked like back in the 40s, 70s, and even the 90s...I always felt a little ashamed that we could not figure out how to get the whole place the way we wanted for it to be.
Over each summer, when the girls and I were off school, we would try hard to knock out some big projects...but like I said before, we would add several NEW tasks to the list, as we worked through other items.
Fast-forward to 2020.
Due to COVID-19, the girls and I had been doing school and working from home for a few months, so we had been able to get some decluttering & organizing projects complete.
However, Mr. Farmhouse was still working, so some of the bigger projects were still on the back burner -- until May, that is.
Because several people around our house had some storm damage, Mr. Farmhouse drove home on his lunch break to check our place. He called me as he was driving up to the property and said, "You'd better come on home."
One of our barns was blown completely over (as you can see in the photos below). By the end of the insurance inspection, we needed a new roof on the house, new guttering, a new barn, a new carport, a new roof on another one of the sheds, a new swing set, a new basketball goal, and some other items that were broken in the storm.
Sidenote: We feel so very blessed to say that nobody was hurt on our property during this storm. We know that buildings and belongings can be replaced and we are grateful that our most challenging part of this project was cleaning up and rebuilding.
The night of the storm, we began cleaning up and continued through the next few weeks, during our free time.
Parts of our barn were found a few miles away.
The girls' playhouse was in pieces all up and down our road. In fact, we found one of the chairs that was inside the playhouse up IN a tree.
Storms are crazy.
We made steady progress cleaning up from the storm, but honestly -- we were not moving as quickly as I would have hoped and of course, the rebuilding tasks were in addition to the "house projects" list we had started in 2017.
And then came the dreaded q-word -- quarantine.
We were exposed to COVID-19 and had to stay home for fourteen full days...all of us.
It was in the heat of July and we decided to use our time together in a productive way. We started knocking out unfinished projects left and right.
We built a loft playhouse for the girls.
We cleaned out the old barn.
We did all of the dirt work for the new garage we were getting ready to build.
And now...eight months later, we are still making progress.
So how did we do it? And could our method work for YOUR family? I think so.
On the very first day of quarantine, we sat down together and made a list of every single project that we needed to accomplish at the farmhouse -- big and small.
Then we chose what projects we thought we could get finished on Day 1.
We worked through the day and enjoyed our evenings together -- with bonfires, movie nights, and softball games in the yard.
We repeated this process for the fourteen days of quarantine and at the end of the two weeks, it was crazy what we had accomplished.
After we completed so many projects in fourteen days, it really inspired us to continue this journey even when we went back to work.
This is when the four-week plan was born.
Instead of meeting every morning to plan our days out, we started adding this conversation into our Sunday night family meetings. At the beginning of each month, we would use our "four-week plan" worksheet to fill in some goals for the next four weeks. Then we would try to accomplish these items during our free time.
The next Sunday night, we would revisit and revise our list for the upcoming week.
This process served us well over the last six months and we've continued to mark larger tasks off of our lists.
A few months ago, right after Christmas, Mr. Farmhouse and I decided that we should probably refinance the house soon. We talked to our lender and decided that we would try to prepare for an appraisal over my spring break in mid-March.
This decision meant that we wanted to kick our four-week plan concept into high gear over the next few months.
We filled out a four-week plan sheet with every space in the house that we wanted to focus on and then we listed all the tasks we needed to complete in those spaces on a "detailed plans" page. You can find an editable version of this form on my Freebies page or HERE.
If you are like us -- naturally DISorganized and in need of a checklist to work through projects, grab this free printable and start your four-week plan this weekend!
Working hard at the farmhouse,
1. Divide and Conquer
Our 14-year-old does at least one load of laundry each day for the whole family...sometimes two. She knows that this is a daily expectation and has built it in as part of her before school and after school schedule. The 6-year-old gathers the laundry from downstairs and takes it to the laundry room to help her big sister out.
Our 11-year-old is in charge of dishes at our house. She runs the dishwasher at night and puts the dishes away before school.
Mr. Farmhouse and I have daily chores that we complete, as well.
As John Heywood said back in the 1500s..."Many hands make light work."
2. Daily Routines are Key
My morning routine is an integral part of every morning. It starts when I make my bed and ends when I finish up my prayer journal before I leave for work. Making my bed takes about 4.2 seconds each day. I get dressed and ready for work by 6:00 and I have half an hour to do my Bible study and prayer time before heading out the door at 6:30.
Our after school routine is just as important -- for me, I walk in, take care of the mail, and get supper going. The girls go ahead and do their farm chores when they get home, then do homework, and relax.
Before bed, we do a quick pick-up (see step 3 below).
3. Quick Pick-Up
Before bed, we do what we call a 15-minute quick pick-up. Basically, we set a timer for 15 minutes and the whole family gets to work picking up the main rooms of the house (living room, dining room, kitchen, mud room, and hallway). Everyone just digs in and picks up whatever has been left out and puts it away. We are usually finished before the 15-minute mark, but this has seriously revolutionized our "house-keeping" when we keep this habit! By picking up each night, we don't let the house get out of control!
4. When in Doubt, Throw it Out
I used to use this phrase when trying to decide if it would be safe to eat leftover food. However, I have come to use it when discussing random extra items in our home.
By nature, I am a keeper. I have been raised to keep things that we might need in the future, to keep things that have sentimental value, and to keep things that I "hope to accomplish someday".
After reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White, Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith, and Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin, my mindset on this has changed immensely.
We still have "stuff". Our house is definitely not a stereotypical "minimalist" home. However, we are so much more ruthless when it comes to being intentional with what we allow to take up space here at the farmhouse. It we don't love it or need it...out it goes.
5. Make it Look Like a Magazine
This is a phrase I'm borrowing from my dad. Growing up, when we were cleaning house and reported a room finished, Dad would ask us if the room "looked like a magazine" before he came to check it.
Our home doesn't "look like a magazine" all the time, but when we went through and did a huge cleaning and organization project through every room of the house this past year, we tried to get every room to that point. We went through each room and decluttered, completed any undone projects, and decorated the space with finishing touches that made it feel "homey" and "cozy".
When a room is intentionally organized and decorated in this way, it's easier to get it back to that state when cleaning.
So, there are my five tips that are helping us to learn to stay organized!
What would you add to the list?
Tune in the next few weeks for some more "lessons from the farmhouse" in different areas of life!
Working on our refinance list today at the farmhouse,
"Everybody up! It's 9:30 and we have things to do!"
Monday was a snow day and the two older girls were still asleep.
"Up and dressed to shoes by 9:45, please!"
I started down the stairs and Harlee shouts from her bed, "Wait...dressed to shoes? What does that even mean?"
So I explained that that meant getting completely dressed and ready, including shoes.
"But we're staying home today." Harlee said (whined?).
"Right, but we have a lot to get done, including work in the basement, and it's just easier to be productive in shoes."
After breakfast, we were downstairs purging and organizing the storage items in the basement and Claire says, "I think you were right...it IS easier to work in shoes!"
In fact, I get so comfortable going from one task to another in my good ol' house-cleaning shoes that I often find myself walking through the grocery store, pumping fuel at the gas station, or even heading into meetings in them.
Thankfully, Crocs are almost back in style these days.
So what about you? Do you wear shoes to clean in? Any specific pair of shoes or just whatever you're planning to wear that day?
Rocking the Crocs at the farmhouse,
Hello there and welcome to Week 2 of the Farmhouse654 Christmas Countdown!
Last week, we focused on getting organized before we begin our journey to a peaceful holiday season with our families!
We divided our home into eight zones and worked all week through the deep-cleaning process for Zone 1.
At the farmhouse, this was my Living Room & Entryway.
I started the week by decluttering any shelves and drawers in the living room...I went through our DVDs and purged anything we don't watch, cleaned out a few drawers that had acquired some junk, and minimized a few decorations on the flat surfaces.
After a crazy week of parent-teacher conferences and the first slumber party in the farmhouse, I used my Friday off school to finish up Zone 1 by deep-cleaning from floor to ceiling...dusting, cleaning the windows, and making the floors shine.
If you didn't get to join us for the Week 1 challenge, just try to squeeze both of the first two weeks in this week!
Our week 2 challenge is to think about our giving.
You can print my Week 2 Planning Printable here.
This week, we are focusing on the friends and family members we would like to give gifts to this year.
We want to be intentional with our giving!
This year for the girls, we are going to do four main gifts...
1. Something they want,
2. Something they need,
3. Something to wear, and
4. Something to read.
We're also going to buy a few "family experiences"...zoo passes, a Royals game, and gift cards to some of our favorite restaurants.
Thanks to this list, coupled with the fact that we had a Christmas sinking fund (using CapitalOne 360 that I talked about in my blog post a few weeks ago), I am almost finished Christmas shopping.
This week, make a list of who you need to buy for, any gifts you might have already, and ideas of what you would like to purchase or make over the next several weeks.
The second part of our challenge this week is about how we can give to others during this season.
Mr. Farmhouse and I do this in a few different ways that I've outlined on the Week 2 Challenge printable.
Start thinking about how you can give back!
Finally, we are starting work in Zone 2 this week!
My Zone 2 is my Kitchen & Mud Room! These two rooms will be a bit more challenging than the Living Room was! I still haven't felt "settled" in the Mud Room since we moved into the farmhouse three months ago. I'm hoping to change that feeling over the next week by breaking the process up into manageable tasks and tackle those two rooms!
I hope and pray that you are already feeling a little more peaceful about the upcoming holiday season!
Let's not get bogged down with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season!
Let's take a moment and enjoy the process of getting us to this special time of year!
Happy New Week, friends!
Much love to you and yours from the farmhouse!
If you're just catching up with the Farmhouse654 Christmas Countdown, feel free to join the Facebook group HERE and print out the Planning Calendar and Week 1 Checklist HERE.
Christmas Countdown Blog Posts
Well, here we are.
I have been in school for 3 days now and the girls start this Tuesday.
Things are about to get crazy.
The last few years, we have figured out that it works really well for the girls to have a morning, afternoon, and bedtime routine.
They don't always stick to the evening routines, 100%, depending on what activities we have going on after school...practices, piano lessons, games.
However, the morning routine has really become a natural way of life during the school year for us.
And as long as the girls get out of bed when they're asked to (that's a whole other situation), it really helps our mornings to run smoothly.
The two older girls switch back and forth between putting clean dishes away each morning and sweeping the kitchen & dining room (a new chore with all hardwood floors in the farmhouse!).
I've laminated these lists and the girls use a dry-erase marker to mark them every morning. They like the satisfaction of checking off items in a list, just like their mama.
We have done a list like this for every day of the week, including Saturdays. Saturdays also includes what we call a "quick clean" list that we all work on together for an hour or so to get the house spiffied up for a new week.
Sunday has become our "stop day" here at the farmhouse.
I am trying really hard to just have our family enjoy each other through the whole day and just take an hour or so in the evenings to prepare for the next week.
In our world of busy, busy, busy...it's nice to just breathe, breathe, breathe every once in a while.
Just a few years ago, I was trying to squeeze in photography sessions every extra minute I had (including Sunday afternoons) to help pay off debt and to make sure I wasn't disappointing people.
I've learned that no matter how many sessions I squeeze into whatever extra time I have left, people will still be disappointed when I run out of sessions.
And they will still love me.
So it's really okay!
When I finished this (completely simple and totally amateur) project, I decided to try something a little more complicated.
I found a purple cup in the cabinet that I've been wanting to buy some sort of vinyl decal for and I decided to try it myself to start.
I decided I could always peel it off if it didn't work out.
That way, we'll be free to enjoy each other in the evenings and on the weekends...crafting, and playing outside, and making slime.
We tried that once.
I am not the "slime-making" kind of mom.
I've realized that I spent too many years in the old house trying to manage the home, keep up with my small business, and being a teacher...without spending enough of my time and energy making memories with my babies.
Happy Weekend, friends! Make it a good one! ❤️?❤️
Let's be honest.
It's not always a big fun event to get the kids to do chores or help out around the house.
However, I really feel like it's necessary. I can't always get everything done that needs to be done without help.
Mr. Farmhouse is a great help-mate and helps inside and outside of the house, but sometimes (during hay season...or calving season...or bean-planting season...or...), we need to have a big marathon cleaning day and I need help from the girls.
Over the years, I've realized that the more fun we can make this process, the quicker it gets done and the less likely I am to scream like a crazy person by the end of the day.
A few winters ago, over Christmas break, when I was trying to get the house back in order to get ready for third quarter at school, I had a breakthrough.
I started to make cleaning a game...for all of us.
I started to think about ways we could make our mundane housekeeping tasks a competition, a team event, a game.
Over the last few years, I've come up with several of these "cleaning games".
I usually let the girls decide which one we do for the day.
I thought today I would share them with you so maybe those cleaning days can be a little more enjoyable for everyone involved!
The Disappearing Post-it Notes is one that the girls really like because you can watch the amount of post-it notes dwindle down to those last few tasks and then BOOM...the fridge is empty!
The rule is that the right side of notes has to be empty before they start on the left door.
The left door includes what I call "finishing" tasks. They are all somehow dependent on the ones on the other door. For example, on the right door is "clean out refrigerator" and "load dirty dishes from sink". So on the left door is "run dishwasher". In other words, they need to gather up all the dirty dishes from anywhere in the house before we run the dishwasher. Other "finishing" tasks would include dusting the flat surfaces in the house, sweeping the floors, putting all the clean clothes away that they have folded on some of the other post-it notes.
2. Note Card Flip
Another task-oriented game that we play sometimes is what I have called "Note Card Flip".
Again, I put all of the tasks on note cards. I have a whole set of these that I created a few summers ago that include basically every task that it would take to do a quick deep-clean of the house.
I add anything that needs to be done that day specifically and then I make some bonus "fun" cards.
I always end with a "last card" that is something fun.
Almost always, it involves a slush or shake Sonic.
Basically for me.
Because Sonic's unsweetened raspberry tea is my favorite beverage EVER.
There is an iPad and iPhone app called 30/30 created by Binary Hammer.
I cannot believe how much it helps our productivity level by keeping us on task and focused when we need to get some serious work done.
I use it in my classroom, when I am working on photography edits, and the girls and I use it when we clean.
When the five minutes is up, the app starts the timer for the next task.
We take our list of things we have to get done and add them to the app.
After every 30-40 minutes, we add a 10-minute break right into the app.
So our whole cleaning spree is timed there.
Sometimes, to keep us on task, we add our "lunch break" and anything else that we know will be taking our time that day.
4. Task Competition
The last one we use at our house is one I've never really named until just now.
And "Task Competition" is probably a boring name...you can rename it at your house if you so desire!
I make a list of tasks in black pen.
There is always an uneven number of tasks.
Beside each task, I draw a box.
Each of the older girls picks her own color of marker and I say "go".
They work until the list is completely done.
Every task they get finished with gets the task's box colored in using their individual color.
When all the boxes get colored, the girl with the most boxes colored gets some silly little prize.
Maybe a popsicle, a piece of candy, or a medium drink instead of a small at Sonic (I told you...I have a problem).
These are all ideas of how we try to make cleaning fun at the Newkirk house.
I hope you've gotten some ideas to use in your own homes!
I'd love to hear any other ideas you have for getting kids involved in the home management process!
Feel free to comment below so others can learn from your knowledge!
Thanks for reading, friends! Happy Friday! ❤️