These daily routines are so important to help keep the house manageable.
And when I started following the FlyLady 10-15 years ago, I learned how important cleaning zones in our homes can be too for those "deep-cleaning" tasks.
The basic concept is for you to divide your home into various zones.
I used to try and make sure I was getting through every single zone every single month.
However, starting this next week, I think I'll put my house on an eight-week zone rotation.
Today, and for the rest of this week, I'll be focusing on deep-cleaning the front porch, the living room, and our deck.
I make a list of tasks to get these three areas "all spiffied up" and I work on that list for 15-30 minutes a day (depending on each night's activities).
So...your task for today is to divide your home into zones.
You can decide how many.
You can decide what types of tasks to put on your zone lists.
The important part is to start to develop some habits for deep-cleaning a little at a time, instead of just constantly being stuck in the cycle of having a BIG cleaning day every few weeks.
Working my zones at the farmhouse this morning!
As most of you know, I am a first year Director of Special Services in the district where I have been teaching for the last ten years.
And it is almost Christmas break.
In fact, our students finished today and tomorrow we'll have a day of professional development and then thirteen days off before we start back in for second semester in January.
As I sat at my desk this afternoon wrapping up things for the first two quarters, I took a moment and looked around.
I had a few thoughts running through my mind.
"This is my office."
"These are my responsibilities."
"I have almost survived the first semester as a school administrator."
And although I'm not quite there...I just ALMOST feel like I know what I'm doing.
This week, on my Facebook memories, a status popped up from two years ago...
At the time, just two short years ago, I had no idea how the opportunities would play out to get me where I am today.
Looking back, I can see the hand of God woven into the whole story...into the big moments and all the little details.
We bought the farmhouse in July of 2017. We sold our home and started doing some updates to the farmhouse. School started in August of 2017 and we were moving full-speed ahead remodeling, moving, and of course...getting ready for the school year.
When my boss asked me if I would be interested in a leadership position and encouraged me to go finish my certification, I wasn't thinking it would be anytime soon.
In fact, I had told Mr. Farmhouse that I was thinking I would probably teach for another 8-10 years and move into administration for the last 3-5 years of my career.
But during the craziness of moving a family of five during "back-to-school time", I got word that the Director of Special Services would be retiring and I was asked if I would be interested in the position.
"Where God guides, He provides." Isaiah 58:11
I have been stretched,
I have been challenged,
and I have been pushed out of my comfort zone.
I've had to learn a lot in a short amount of time and I have made many mistakes.
There are days that I want to cry over every little thing and days that I feel like I might just have this gig figured out.
And through it all...
through the frustrations and the calm...
through the uncertainty and the moments of confidence,
I've never wondered if this is the right place for me.
God has brought guidance, and He is still providing.
In the moment where I am feeling overwhelmed (like today!), the phone rings and a family has brought me a gift to thank me for my tiny part in the success of their babies. (Thanks, B family!)
The second I start to feel worry, my heart fills with peace at the thought that God opened all of the doors necessary to get me to this place.
When I walk down the hallway to bounce an idea off of the elementary principal, I find myself smiling at the thought that God has worked it out that my teaching partner and I have both ended up in leadership positions at the exact same time.
These things are not accidental.
What an encouragement to know that He cares for little ol' me.
Resting in His providence here at the farmhouse,
I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas morning as a child.
There was the year that we woke up to 10-speed-bikes sitting in front of the tree, surrounding the rest of the gifts for my little brother and me.
There was the year that it was snowy and cold and after all the gifts were opened, we both got carried outside with our eyes closed to find the playhouse they had ready for us. In fact, Mr. Farmhouse and I used that playhouse as our chicken coop until just last year when we moved to the farmhouse.
There was the year that he and I peeked at our gifts and our two "big gifts" were missing on Christmas morning. My mom had saved them for last and had wrapped them up with our parents' names on the tags. We were trying to play it cool like we didn't know they were missing, because we didn't realize they knew we had sneaked out to the shop to look...lesson learned!
Even into adulthood, we have always been provided with everything we ever dreamed of, so naturally I have wanted to provide the same feeling for my own girls.
However, we have some financial goals that we are working towards to be able to provide for them later in life...in high school when they need a vehicle to drive, to help them with college expenses, and of course, when they get married and start having children.
Going into debt or dipping into savings at Christmastime is tempting, but after working so hard for an entire year to save and work the debt snowball, we don't want to lose our progress at the end of the year because of gifts.
I cannot even tell you how amazing the process has been.
The girls couldn't even think of three items for each category.
They were sitting together at the dining room table as they tried to think long and hard about what they truly needed and the conversation they were having warmed my heart.
H: I can't think of anything for "something I need". I don't think I need anything.
C: I put an electric toothbrush because mine broke a few weeks ago.
H: You know, I will be needing a new softball glove this year. I'll put that on there.
The girls are completely aware that we would buy toothbrushes or softball gloves during other times of the year, but instead of using that gift slot for something else, they both decided to use it to replace items that are worn out or too small.
I was able to shop for the gifts without breaking the bank and literally all in one night (Black Friday with my sis-in-law!).
They will each get stocking stuffers and one small gift from Santa and that is IT.
The tree is still pretty.
The farmhouse is still cozy.
The magic of the season is all around us.
With four gifts each.
I can't wait to see their faces on Christmas morning.
Happy December from the farmhouse, friends.
There are 56 days left in 2018.
A few friends and I have been following along with Rachel Hollis's "Last 90 Days", where she has challenged people to make the last 90 days of the year count.
Well, I was successful in following her "Five to Thrive" for about 15 out of 31 days in October.
And now...that 90 days has dwindled down to 56 days.
So this weekend, I've taken some time to regroup and do some planning for the next two months.
The girls and I did some deep-cleaning in our bedrooms and the rest of the house.
I planned out our meals for the next few weeks.
We set some goals for ourselves and made a commitment to make these last few months of the year meaningful.
If you're feeling like things have gotten out-of-control and you just want to gain some peace and calm in the near future, feel free to join me in building some habits in the next 56 days that will help us to enjoy the holiday season.
More info to come in the morning.
When I knew I was going to be leaving the classroom at the end of last school year, I discovered that there was lots of work to be done...starting with cleaning out 13 years of teaching supplies from my classroom.
I was moving from a room that housed myself, over twenty children at any given time, and years and years of classroom materials, personal belongings, and random items I had kept "just in case".
As I mentioned in my blog post on Monday...usually, "just in case" never came.
I started the process of getting my room emptied just as soon as school was out.
I boxed up.
And I even sold a few items.
By the end of June, all that was left was a pile of tubs in the middle of the room that needed to be moved down to my new office.
On the afternoon of June 29th, I started the process of transforming my new office into my own.
I started to think of my office in terms of the "zones" I would need to have.
With these goals in mind, I started the process of going through every single drawer and shelf in the office.
After I had been through every piece of paper and book in the office, I started to organize what was there.
Finally, I decided what items I would keep from my tubs and sent the rest home or to the donate pile.
When my systems were clear, I was ready to decorate.
Armed with my clearance finds from Hobby Lobby and Big Lots, the transformation was complete.
So without further ado...here's my farmhouse office.
The new position has been all I had dreamed of and more.
I'm so thankful for God's providence and guidance over the last several years to bring me to the place I am right now.
Happy Sunday night from the farmhouse, friends.
I am an over-thinker.
I often complicate things that should be simple.
I sometimes spend more time writing out a detailed and systematic to-do list than actually working on the task at hand.
I have often created elaborate New Year's Resolution plans and intricate systems for managing my work- and home-life.
These systems are almost always difficult to implement long-term.
Every day is a new day, full of surprises and challenges.
My work calendar has been filled up with meetings, webinars, and out-of-town conferences for the last few months.
I knew this year would be an adjustment period, but to be honest...it's been pretty overwhelming.
We've had some situations come up in my department that are uncharted territory for our district. We've had students transfer in and students transfer out. I've been working with and learning from several outside agencies.
I've been reading several books about leadership and project management and not putting unrealistic expectations on yourself.
Through my reading (and YouTube & blog exploration), I've come up with three goals for myself to really focus on from now until the end of this school year.
There are a million things biding for my time every single day.
I have some choices about what I allow to take my energy every time something new comes across my desk, across my phone or email inbox, or in front of my door.
I have choices about when to say "yes" and when to say "no"...and I can assure you that when it comes to my family, the answer should always be "yes".
I need to be intentional with my time, with my commitments, and with Mr. Farmhouse and the girls.
Some days, this might look like closing my office door and pushing through the items that haven't gotten enough attention that week.
Some days, it might look like closing whatever I'm working on at school and heading home right after school.
Some days, it might look like laundry, dishes, and sweeping the kitchen floor.
Being intentional is so important.
I have always been a "just in case" person.
I'd better keep that piece of paper "just in case" we ever need it again (even though I could print if off the internet any time I want).
I'd better save those toys and clothes in a tub in the basement "just in case" (even though I trashed boxes that hadn't been cracked open in over eleven years when we moved last summer).
I've realized through the years, however, that I have hardly ever needed those "just in case" items!
Thanks to the KonMari method, I pared down quite a few of our belongings right before we moved to the farmhouse.
I tried to be very intentional in my decorating and purchases made when we moved in.
I've tried to transfer a lot of my "paper clutter" from paper to digital copies.
My complicated systems are now simple and intentional daily reminders...a checklist that I move through during my free time at home and school.
Less is more.
A simple and manageable system is so much more effective than an over-complicated and unattainable plan.
One Day at a Time.
At the end of the day, we can't be all things to all people.
We WILL NOT mark every single item off of the "to do" list and even if we did, there would be more tasks tomorrow.
We have to be intentional with how we spend our time each and every day.
I wake up in the morning and do my Bible study, have some prayer time, and then I crack open my calendar app.
I look at my list of the things that must get done that day on my Trello board and I schedule them into my little pockets of open time on my Google Calendar that used to be wasted.
As I work through the day, I mark items off my list as I complete them and I move the tasks down through the day if something comes up that is a higher priority item.
If I don't finish the tasks for the day, I have learned to forgive myself and move them to the following day.
We can only do what we can do.
We can do our very best...
give our best effort...
try to strive for perfection...
and still we will fall short.
We will never be "caught up"...but do you know what we can be?
We can be present.
We can wake up every morning renewed and full of purpose, ready to try again.
We can be intentional and we can strive for the beauty of simplicity...one day at a time.
Have a great week, friends.
Love from the farmhouse,
I got here after 10:00 p.m. Monday night.
I got checked in and headed up to my room.
I unpacked for the week and snuggled into my warm, comfy hotel bed to call Mr. Farmhouse and let him know that I arrived safely.
I'm spending my week in a hotel as I attend a conference that will teach me all about the responsibilities that come with my new job.
Tuesday, I was up early and ready to take on the day. After a day full of meetings, I made it back to my room about 4:00 and worked hard on finishing some items on my school to-do list. I met some friends at 6:00 for supper and came back to the room to do some reading, call and visit with the girls, and hit the sack.
This morning, I opened the hotel dresser drawer to get my clothes out and that's when it hit me...hotel life is amazing.
When I was packing to come over here Monday, I packed only what I would need.
I was intentional about what I put into the bag, as I knew I wouldn't want to carry anything extra with me.
I have one outfit for each day, my school bag, my electronics chargers, and the two books I am reading.
And so, as I was getting ready this morning and packing up my bag to take downstairs to the conference, I thought to myself...wouldn't it be wonderful to live like this every day?
Why can't we be intentional with what we have in our home?
Why can't we only keep what we need?
You may recall our KonMari journey that I blogged about when we were still living in the old house.
It was a journey where we looked at all of our belongings and asked ourselves, "Does this spark joy?" If the answer was no...out it went.
Since then, we've moved and we've accumulated more belongings.
I think it's time to go on that journey again.
I would love to walk into the house every single evening and think to myself, "Living the hotel life is really grand."
Happy Wednesday from the 9th floor, friends.
Make it a good one.
And just like that...the last school year of my teaching career is over.
You might remember a few months ago when I announced my new position as the director of special services in my current district.
At the time that I agreed to this position, back in late August of last year, it seemed like a lifetime away.
It seemed like there was so much more time left in my classroom. I mean, nine months is a LONG time, right?
And yet, here we are...the last day of school.
I'd be lying if I said I was over-joyed as I left the school parking lot today.
Yes, I'm excited for my new journey, but I feel like every time a season in our lives comes to an end, there is some grieving that must take place.
I have known that public education was the career choice for me ever since I can remember.
There was never a time in my life that I thought of any other career choice.
I can remember being preschool age and "playing school" with my dolls and stuffed animals in my bedroom. (I always tried to recruit my little brother, but it wasn't quite as enjoyable for him.)
My new role is exciting and refreshing and something I am looking forward to.
But in reality, there are things I am losing.
Things I'm giving up.
Things I am having to let go of.
Building relationships with the same 20-30 kids day-in and day-out.
Being able to make an impact in the daily lives of the students in my classroom.
Creating lessons that are engaging and interesting for my kiddos.
Spending time with some of my dearest friends all day, every day...my hallway colleagues.
Yes, I know I'll still be making a difference.
I know I'll still be able to connect with children.
I know I'll still have an impact.
I know I'll be in the same building I've been in for the last eleven years.
But this afternoon, my students of nine months walked out of my room.
I waved goodbye to my students and headed straight to the cafeteria to set up for the celebration we have at the end of every year.
When the staff get-together was finished, I headed back to my room.
I walked down a mostly empty hallway to my mostly empty classroom.
And it was then that I had a few tears.
Okay, I had a lot of tears.
Even tonight, as I sit here typing this, I have a tear rolling down my cheek.
There are a lot of things to look forward to..
There's a lot to be excited about.
But there are also a lot of things to be sad about...and that's okay.
I think that sometimes we feel like there's something wrong with grief.
Like we shouldn't feel sad when we are moving into something that seems bigger and better. Why would I be sad about this opportunity? Why would I have a hard time moving into a position that seems so perfect for me?
Well...because it's normal.
It's completely natural to grieve the seasons of our lives.
Change is necessary and important...but change can also be difficult and painful.
So as I sit here tonight on the farmhouse front porch, watching the fireflies blinking away in the field across the road...I will just have a good cry. You might remember that I believe ugly-crying is a vitally important part of life.
I will cry for the thirteen years I spent in a classroom.
I will cry for the dear friends and colleagues...my teaching BFFs.
I will cry for lesson planning and connecting with "that one kid" and lightbulb moments for struggling learners.
I will cry for read-aloud chapter books, scented chart markers, and my favorite bright pink fake leather rolling office chair that I bought on clearance for $15 a few years ago.
I will cry for my teaching partner who has become like an older brother to me over the last ten years. I will cry for the comfort and the security and the partnership that will change drastically in the near future.
I will cry and I will smile.
I will look back fondly on the experiences and lessons and memories that have become so important to me inside the walls of my classroom.
I will clean out that classroom over the next few weeks and I will move (some of) my belongings down the hallway to my new office.
I can't promise that there won't be more tears.
And there's nothing wrong with that.
Cherish the seasons, friends. Each of our seasons is filled with important lessons and precious memories.
But grieve the seasons if you have to.
Tears from the farmhouse tonight...and hope for tomorrow.
Back in January, I made the goal to read 30 books in 2018.
Well, it's mid-April and I am in the middle of books number SIX and SEVEN.
Book number six is The 7 Experiment (Jen Hatmaker).
And book number seven is The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact (Michael Fullan).
I will post a completed list at year-end, but for today, I would love to talk to you about the book I finished just last week, The 12-Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Get Done in 12 Months (Brian P. Moran & Michael Lennington).
I immediately downloaded it and started listening to it that night.
The concepts in the book were so obvious and yet, I needed to hear them so badly.
How many of us wake up on January 1st every single year with so many hopes and dreams for the year?
We make goals (New Years' Resolutions, if you will), whether on paper or in our heads.
There are so many things we want to accomplish by December 31st, and yet by the time February hits, adequate progress towards most of our goals has not been made.
We don't have to work too hard in January and February because December is still SO...FAR...AWAY.
We push through March and April, making excuses as to why we are not moving towards our goals.
It's so cold.
When it warms up, I will get to work on those goals. I promise!
When the school year ends, I'll have so much more time to focus on my plans.
There's still PLENTY of time to meet my goals before the end of the year! We're not even halfway through the year!
May, June, and July come and go.
The summer is just so busy. When school starts, I'll be able to focus more.
It's too hot!
Summer is for rest and relaxation.
By the time we hit August and September, we are ready to get the kids back into the routine of school and get to work on those "New Years' resolutions"!
But it's just crazy when everyone is trying to get back into the grind of school.
On October 1st, it hits us...we only have three more months to reach our goals.
We start to get a glimpse of the urgency that is needed if we're going to hit our goals before January 1st, but by this point...it feels like it's too late.
We'll try again next year.
I knew I couldn't continue this cycle forever.
With all of the changes coming in our life over the next six months, I knew that I needed to get it together.
I'll be starting a new job on August 1st and life will be different at the farmhouse at that time if we don't start to mark some things off of our giant to-do list.
The basic premise of the 12-week year is that we get rid of our "annualized" thinking when it comes to goal-setting and working towards making our vision for our life a reality.
We start to think of each 12-week section of time as a year.
Instead of putting off tasks until the end of the year when the urgency starts to take over, we keep that sense of urgency year-round, while setting realistic goals and focusing on the execution of daily tasks to help us reach our desired result.
"If you want to know what your future holds, look at your current daily actions. Those are the best predictor of your future. Not your hopes and dreams and visions. Your daily action. Because daily action is what moves a person forward."
We can have the most well thought-out vision and the most wonderful plan in the world.
However, if we don't execute well...none of that matters.
So remember as you think about your vision, your goals, and your plan that we need to also think about the effectiveness of our execution.
We have to DO the hard work every stinking day. Even when we don't feel like it.
Just do it.
We are in Week 2 of our first 12-week year and we are LOVING the results we are seeing.
I'm going to take you through the process of how Mr. Farmhouse and I set up our first 12 weeks.
This is, in no way, a substitution for you reading the actual book and following the plan.
But I'm hoping it can at least inspire you to get started!
1. Write out your personal vision for your life 10 or 15 years down the road.
Be specific! Close your eyes and picture the life you've always dreamed about! There's no goal too lofty. Just write it all down!
2. Based on that vision, think about what parts of that vision you could work towards for the next three years.
We are zooming in at this point.
We're taking that lifelong vision and breaking it into more measurable and attainable chunks.
We went through our vision and wrote some attainable goals.
I'm not going to share every single part of our personal family vision because your vision should be your own.
However, on our long-term vision, we wrote that we want to be completely debt-free in ten years.
So for our three-year plan, we want to work towards having everything paid off except for the farmhouse and my student loans.
3. Based on your three-year goals, set goals for the next 12 weeks.
We are zooming in even farther at this point.
What can we do to move ourselves closer to meeting that long-term vision and that three-year goal in the next three months?
At this point, we broke down our 12-week plan into fourteen very specific, small, and attainable goals.
It includes blogging goals, a plan to get my classroom completely cleaned out before I move into an office next year, and a plan for our first garden here at the farmhouse.
On this step, be specific.
And be realistic.
4. Create a weekly plan including activity that needs to be completed every week to help you reach your goals.
We did this on the Sunday evening before we started into our first week.
These are very specific tasks that will move you toward your 12-week goals.
Here's an example of this from our 12-week year.
We want to finish the wall and closet for the fourth bedroom.
During week 1, we needed to measure the closet and wall space and make a materials list. We needed to order the supplies from Sutherland's. These are the only two tasks for that goal that we could realistically finish in Week 1.
But we finished those two tasks and moved farther along in the process than we have in the last six weeks.
We aren't putting that task it off any longer because now it seems manageable.
It seems attainable.
We can do this!
5. Every single week, check your progress from the previous week and plan the next week.
This part is crucial to the success of the 12-week year.
What daily action did you carry out regarding each goal?
How much progress did you make towards your goals?
Were you diligent in doing the hard work every single day?
If not...OWN IT and vow to do better this week!
After checking your progress, make a new weekly plan!
In the book, Moran talks about three different blocks of time we need to religiously schedule each week.
Strategic Blocks - 3 hours of protected time early in the week where you knock out a lot of your weekly activity work (1 time per week)
Buffer Blocks - 30 minutes to one hour blocks of time where you do those mundane yet necessary daily tasks like checking emails and social media (1-2 times per day)
Breakout Blocks - 3 hours of time later in the week where you BREAKOUT of the work cycle and focus on pouring back into yourself (1 time per week)
I tried this schedule this week and could not believe how much more I was able to accomplish during that first strategic block when I wasn't distracted by emails, my phone, or other daily (sometimes meaningless) tasks that I spend so much time on each week.
Week 13 in the 12-week year is for reflection and celebration!
Because you're not thinking about the annual goals that are looming over you, you are able to be more focused on a few attainable goals and the tasks that will get you to the end result you desire.
I would encourage you to grab the book or at the very least, try to plan your own 12-week year soon.
You won't be sorry.
Happy Windy Saturday from the farmhouse, friends.
Week 2...here we come!
When I read the book It Starts with Food by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig, over a year ago, I learned about the importance of a "reset" for our bodies.
That's what the Whole30 is all about....resetting your body back to a “whole” diet with all real, clean foods and nothing processed.
After my first two rounds of the Whole30, I gradually fell back into my old eating habits and in turn welcomed back the joint pain, constant exhaustion, and digestive issues that come with eating “Frankenfoods”, as Melissa Hartwig calls them.
About nine months ago, I read Melissa’s second book, Food Freedom Forever.
It was with this book that I really started to understand the process of resetting, occasionally enjoying foods that are “worth” going off plan, and then quickly resetting again.
So you spend most of your time in this "reset" period of eating the foods that are very best for your body.
It was such a novel idea to me after spending years trying to "get healthy" and "lose weight" and "get in shape".
Research shows that calorie-restriction (or the complete restriction of specific foods) does not promote a sustainable lifestyle.
It makes so much more sense to live in a place of "reset" with an occasional jump off-track here and there.
And then this week, as I was trying to stay caught up with classroom planning, home responsibilities, and three little farm girls, it hit me...I should be living most of my life in a place of "reset".
I think we've been getting it wrong all these years.
Instead of mirroring that "reset" lifestyle, where we focus on the basic principles of sustenance, we overindulge in every way, every day.
And I'm not just talking about food.
I'm talking about the over-connectedness we have by being in constant communication with those around us by texting and social media accounts.
I'm talking about saying "yes" to every single request to volunteer or spend time on various projects outside of the home.
...about having so many belongings in our homes that we are slaves to them...spending every extra minute in life cleaning and maintaining them.
...about eating out three or four times a week because everyone won't be home all at the same time or early enough to eat supper at the table.
...about being so involved in every extracurricular activity offered to your family that you don't have time to just be home with those you love or to spend time with your church family.
Sidenote: Check out our minister's blog post from today...crazy timing, considering most of this post was already written!
I think the struggle is that these things I just mentioned above are THE NORM.
In the average American family, times of "reset" seem to be few and far between...only happening on a rare weekend when there is nothing else going on.
The problem with this is that we NEED more "reset" than that.
A healthy physical, mental, and spiritual life is promoted when the "reset" becomes the regular.
When we spend time sitting at home, instead of rushing from 'Point A' to 'Point B'.
When we purge unloved and unneeded items, instead of letting them control our homes where we must organize them and clean around them constantly.
When we have the freedom to say "no" to activities and even volunteer opportunities because we know that it would not put us in a healthy state of mind.
When we have time to plan a healthy weekly menu and make food (or enjoy Mr. Farmhouse making the food) for our family each night instead of taking advantage of the drive-through whenever it's available.
In order to make this work, we have to be intentional.
It will take carefully calculated decisions each and every day to find that "reset" life.
However, I'm looking forward to taking these next six months to really hone in on what are the most important parts of our life at the farmhouse and starting to weed away everything else.
I need a reset.
How about you?