Sunday, December 14, 2014

12 Days of Christmas Clutter

With just a few days to Christmas I am watching the gifts pile up under the tree, thinking about the clutter I already have in my home. While I worked on simplifying over the last year, and made plenty of progress in simplifying my life, I still have clutter that sneaks in and threatens to become my undoing. I have closets that are no longer organized, because they house clutter. I have rooms that got cleaned out for a garage sale this summer, but never got put back together. I have a daughter who has more toys than she plays with and I, myself, have more clothes than I wear. So this holiday season, I am going to deal with some of the clutter before Christmas! We make a point each year to go through Eliana's toys and get rid of what she doesn't play with any longer, but this year we're going to make a bigger effort towards progress. Here's what I'm challenging myself to do and I encourage you to join in with me!

12 Days of Christmas Clutter Challenge:

From now until Christmas, get rid of 12 things each day that you no longer love or use. They can be anything from clothes that don't fit to toys that your children no longer play with to decorations you no longer want to put up over the holidays or organizational items that never really worked for you. You will find that 12 items aren't hard to come by each day, especially if you have a clutter problem. By the time Christmas comes around, you'll have gotten rid of 144 items and will feel so much better!

Feel free to comment if you're joining in the 12 Days of Christmas Clutter Challenge. I'd love to hear how it's going for you! For now, though, I'm going to say goodbye and go find 12 items I don't need in my house any longer!

Here's to a happy clutter-free Christmas!!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The 5 S's

A few years ago, my mom suggested to me 5 things that Eliana needs from me in order to function well. I've had them written in various places around the house as reminders, mostly on mirrors and message boards I see often. As I was thinking over the 5 S's again tonight, I decided to make a printable to put in our front hallway. It looks something like this:

I love the 5 S's because they really, really DO make a difference for Eliana. They make a difference for me, too. I provided a general description / reminder for each of the S's on the poster, but there's more thought behind each one.

1. Schedule - a daily (and weekly) schedule is important for Eliana! The predictability of a regular schedule means that we're not faced with the unknown too often. Here are some of the elements that make up her daily and weekly schedule.

  • DAILY:
    • MORNING:
      • Wake up around 7
      • Take a shower
      • Get dressed
      • Drink coffee / protein shake
      • Eat breakfast
      • Put lunch in backpack
      • Leave for school about 8:45
      • Come to Mom's classroom at 3:30
      • Eat a snack
      • Do homework
    • EVENING:
      • Dinner at 6
      • Check homework with Daddy
      • Take Melatonin at 7:30
      • Bedtime Routine
        • Take vitamins
        • Brush teeth
        • Put on PJs
        • Go potty
        • Get in bed
    • MONDAY:
      • Mom usually has teachers' meeting, so Eliana has a list of things to do in the classroom after she is done with her homework. This list of things gets written on the board so she can check off each item and hold herself accountable for getting everything done by the time Mom comes back from the meeting. Eliana gets to do something fun (like watch a video) when she is finished with the list. 
    • TUESDAY:
      • Eliana has an appointment every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon at 4:30, so she gets her homework done between 3:45 and 4:15 so we can leave and be at the appointment on time. 
      • We are at the school all afternoon on Wednesdays, and Eliana often gets to play with some friends at the school after she is done with her homework. At 5:45 we leave for Awana.
      • Awana is on Wednesday evenings from 6-8pm. 
      • Eliana has piano lessons at 3:45
      • We leave immediately after piano at 4:15 to go to her Tuesday / Thursday appointment. She often does not have homework on Thursdays, but if she does it gets done after the appointment between 5:30 and 6 before dinner. 
    • FRIDAY:
      • Friday is family movie night. This is a tradition we try to keep and Eliana loves it. 
      • Saturday is pretty unstructured right now. I have noticed that Eliana struggles with the lack of structure and does better when given time limits for playing with friends, or jobs to do around that house that keep her doing something. 
    • SUNDAY:
      • We have church at 10:45, followed by lunch (often out). Sunday afternoon Eliana usually spends playing with her dolls, having a good bit of solitary time. She needs it. 
2. Structure - Even on days, like weekends and holidays, that don't follow the regular schedule above, Eliana has structure. She has routines for the morning and routines for the evening. The activities we ask her to do have set routines (like laundry or emptying the dishwasher). There are still boundaries and consequences that have to be observed in order to maintain the structure that is so necessary for Eliana! While schedule involves specific activities and specific times, structure is the framework on which a day is built. Schedule is about time. Structure is about order. No matter what time Eliana wakes up, she still has the same structure to her morning routine. The same is true of her bedtime routine, no matter what time she actually begins it. 

3. Supervision - Eliana is an extremely self-sufficient child, so I often forget that she needs almost constant supervision. Now, this isn't the helicopter-mom hovering kind of supervision, this is the "be in a place where I can observe her, give her reminders, converse with her and keep her on track" kind of supervision. This often looks like her working at the table to do her homework while I am making dinner. (Or, if we are at school, she's in a desk while I am at my desk working.) I'm close enough for her to ask questions, close enough to notice when she is off task and remind her to focus, but not hovering. I'm getting my own stuff done, too. Supervision looks like me talking through the steps of a task after Eliana has told me she's finished with it. "Did you do your laundry?" "Yes." "What clothes did you put in the washing machine?" "My uniforms." "Did you put soap in the washer?" "Yes." "Did you turn the washing machine on?" "Yes." - Often we will get through almost all the steps and discover a "No." answer, and then she has the opportunity to go finish the job. 

Supervision is a frustration saver. I have noticed that when I am not adequately supervising Eliana, I get frustrated because she did what she naturally does: makes messes and leaves tasks undone. As it turns out, these are the exact same things I naturally do, too. But when she doesn't follow through on what I asked her to do, she is creating habits of disobedience through distraction, and I don't want her to create those habits! So she can either get in trouble for not obeying, or I can do MY job and make sure that she is adequately supervised and not allowing her distraction to turn into disobedience. 

4. Solitude - Now that I've talked about the need for almost constant supervision, let me point out that Eliana needs times of solitude. I am technically still supervising her, but am not in the same room. Usually, these are the times she is upstairs playing with her dolls, or spending time quietly reading in her room. I can hear her playing, and am aware of where she is and what she's doing, and I can tell what's going on. But I am supervising from afar. Sometimes she needs solitary time to just process emotions. I used to have to enforce time in her room because she was having a meltdown. Now when she feels herself getting frustrated, she'll go to her room by herself to deal with her emotions. Often there is crying and wailing involved. I just let her emote, unless she is talking negatively about herself in the process, which sometimes happens. I will step in and stop that, but if she's just trying to figure things out, I let her. Sometimes she just needs to play and be a kid. Solitary time is good for that, too, especially since she doesn't have siblings and solitary play is what she has done her whole life. After a while, she will come down and be ready to spend time with the family again. Solitude is good for her. 

5. Security - I believe that all children need security, but I know that my own child does. She needs to feel loved. She needs to have boundaries. She needs to spend time with her parents as a family. She needs to know that she is safe. She needs to know that she can talk to us. She needs to know that we won't ask her to do more than she can handle. She needs to be comforted when she is sad. She needs to be reassured when she is scared. She needs to know that home is a safe place and her parents will protect her. She needs to feel secure. Part of what provides that security for her is following these guidelines. When I follow them, there is more peace in our home, which translates as security to her. It's one of the ways I can communicate love to her. 

As a mom, I kind of feel like there's a 6th S I need in order to provide the things listed above. I need to SLOW DOWN. When I am too busy, I don't follow the S's well. I feel like I don't have enough time to get everything done, and I try to pack too much in, and then I rush. I mess with the schedule. I rush the structure and try to skip steps. I am short tempered and strip away at her security. I need to take it SLOW in order to provide her what she needs from me. There are times when I feel like I don't have time to parent well, but the truth of it is that this is what God gave me time for. I need to use the time He gave me to accomplish the job He gave me in raising the daughter He gave me. Children are not a hobby that we do if we have time; they are what God gave us time for. 

If you find that the 5 S's will help you, I've created two printable versions for you. Click the link below each picture to download.