Organization

Can You REALLY Clear Your Head Through Cleaning?

IMG-1431.JPG

“Want to hear something that’ll either make you smile or cry?”

Who asks a question at such a moment? Seriously.

I had just left the airport, saying goodbye to my eighteen-year-old son who was leaving on a two-year mission trip. I held it all together at the airport. In fact, I was pretty proud of myself. I’m not one who is inclined to a lot of emotion, but I kinda like the kid. And two years is a long time for him to be away.

As I sat in McDonald’s drive-thru (gross) for my husband to fill the void with a rubbery egg and cheese McMuffin, I received that provoking text.

You know that invisible force field we put around ourselves . . .? The one that help us keep up a delusional facade that we’re okay? The one that . . . if it has even one minuscule opening . . . it completely comes down? Yah. That one. 

That rotten little text from my unsuspecting daughter obliterated my wall in less than a millisecond. The floodgates opened, and my forty-eight year reservoir of tears came rushing forth with unbelievable force. Embarrassed to be in the drive-thru and crying, I had to hide behind my dark glasses and pretend I was interested in something out the passenger side window. 

IMG-1432.JPG

This was only the beginning. When my husband dropped me back home and left for work, I was the only one in the entire house. I’m not sure that has happened since my first child was born, almost 30 years ago. I laughed the funniest, loudest, most heartfelt happy tears I’ve ever experienced. I was overwhelmed with joy by my son’s decision to dedicate two years of his life to God. Yes, I will miss him. But the tears really were just built up emotion and love that had nowhere to go but out through my tear ducts. And come they did. For a full thirty minutes. That’s a really long time for someone who doesn’t cry. 

And then . . . I was done. 

Feelings of relief and calm washed over me, and I felt more like myself again. Still tender . . . but more like a normal me instead of the tear-stained, stuffy nosed, laughing/crying me from moments before. 

Now what? 

I said a quick prayer for direction, “Okay God. I’m done crying. I’m all yours. What would Thou have me do?”

Immediately the words came into my mind, “Clean the house.”

What was that?

“Clean the house.”

Rather startled, but willing to be obedient, I tackled my long-neglected home. The house that had patiently awaited attention for a couple months while we packed the two youngest for a 5-week pageant trip, moved a daughter out with roommates, moved another daughter and recently-graduated husband out for his new job, and now this son for his two-year adventure.

IMG-1433.JPG

I devoted every minute for the rest of the day organizing, scrubbing, washing, cleaning, and shining our home. I then made a list of every deep cleaning project that still needed to be completed, and I assigned myself one thing per day for the next month. I have made tremendous progress over the last three weeks, and I feel wonderful!

Yes. I like a clean house. Yes. I like to be organized. Yes. It’s been very rewarding. But what has actually affected me the most is what it has done for my mind. My mind is finally clear again!

I have had the mental and emotional space to start dreaming again. To set new goals. To make a new chore chart for the family. To write. To create a new event. To update my website.  www.stephaniefrancom.com To tweak my Instagram account. @stephaniefrancom I literally went from chaos and confusion to clear and calm. All from cleaning my house. 

God’s message to me that day was timely. In His omniscient understanding, He took my despair and heartache and traded it for purpose and peace. Just because He can. 

IMG-1434.JPG

What little shelf or drawer or corner could you put in order today to start moving into that refreshing place of peace? 

How I Finally Learned to Get Things Done

IMG-1172.JPG

My kids were helping at the local thrift shop. My husband was gone to work. And after tidying up after a weekend of company, the house was quiet. Phew!

Now what?

I knew there were a ton of things I had put off to focus on my busy week, but now I was at a loss. Nothing. Nothing would come. Ideas and thoughts bounced around in my head, but it was like reaching into a bowl of soup with your two fingers to pull out a crumb that has fallen inside. Each time you get close and pinch your fingers together to pull it out, you find it has slipped away. There’s nothing between your fingers. This can be rather maddening! And here the same thing was happening to my thoughts.

I began to recognize that this happened to me more often than it should. It seemed that when I had a spare moment, I couldn’t pinpoint anything productive to do. So I’d turn to social media “to collect my thoughts.” I’m sure you can see what a goofy plan that was. So in this situation . . . two hours passed and I was still scrolling when I heard the kids pull up. My solace was over, and I had accomplished nothing.

IMG-1171.JPG

One day my seventeen year old son came into my room absolutely beaming. I asked him why he was so happy, and he made a list of everything he wanted to do that day: change out the brake pads on his car, spend an hour reading a book on flipping houses, call the local tech school to register for a class on diesel mechanics, and detail his other car to prepare for sale.

I just stared at him in awe. Not only did he have a plan, he was excited about it. Then it occurred to me . . . during only a few months he had knocked out more goals than most people do in a year.

I asked him what was making the difference for him, and he said it was simple. Each morning, as part of his A.M. routine, he would set goals for the day. The next morning he reviewed how he had done, and then he set new goals.

A genius idea? I sure thought so. I had heard of doing this hundreds of times throughout my life, but not necessarily from real people actually doing it.

I had to tweak it just a bit for me because I needed to wake up with a plan already in hand. I knew my brain tended to be a bit fried in the middle of a hectic day.

IMG-1173.JPG

So . . . before going to bed each night, I started looking at my calendar and considering what my priorities were to accomplish the next day. I would take into account the things already scheduled for the day, and then maybe I’d set a goal to clean out a cupboard, check on a friend, write a thank you note, or read for fifteen minutes.

The first day after setting goals completely converted me. No joke. It took only once for me to see the benefit. When I had a moment by myself, instead of turning to my computer screen, I pulled out my list of goals. I didn’t have to think in the moment . . . I just moved.

Because I had planned ahead of time, I not only worked on goals during the lulls in between appointments, I started looking for little moments to sneak in a goal. I often complete my goals now before noon because it’s on my mind.

So what do I do if I’m ahead and I have a break in the afternoon? Good question.

I give myself a couple of options.

1. Maybe by this point I feel accomplished enough to just take a breather. That’s fair.

IMG-1170.JPG

2. I may simply take note that I had more time than I had realized and add additional goals to my list that evening when I plan for the next day.

3. If I have any brain power in that moment, I may set a couple more goals for myself to knock out before dinner.

This has turned out to be one of just a handful of things that keeps me moving, helps me stay on track, and brings a smile to my face that almost matches my son’s.

Maybe give it a whirl. Do you prefer mornings or night?