“So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.” 1 Timothy 5:14
Nancy Wilson in her book, The Fruit of Her Hands 1, states, “When we view managing our home as drudgery, it becomes just that – drudgery. But if we view it as our duty to God, it becomes a joy and delight. I remember my mother telling me that she never begrudged being busy at home because she saw it as her duty. If your home is disorganized and untidy, or downright dirty, you are not honoring God in your duties as a wife and mother. We are to learn to manage our households. It is our duty before the Lord, and we must do it well.”
I could say a loud Amen! and end this chapter here. Managing our homes is not a choice, but a duty. We cannot rely on not having the gift of organization. We cannot claim to have no time. We cannot stand upon our wonderful job as a mother. We cannot pride ourselves in our good intentions. And we cannot pacify ourselves with the occasional picking up of clutter and washing of laundry. Our duty is to manage our households. To manage means, “to succeed in accomplishing” and a manager is “one who has charge of or directs.”
This means that the responsibility of our homes being run effectively and efficiently lies squarely upon our shoulders as wives. Much of this book contains concepts that can be filtered into more relationships than just those with our husbands. This chapter, however, is going to take a hard look at our technical roles and tasks of being a wife. We need to remember all of the other facets of a godly wife to carry out these tasks, but the objective of this chapter is simply to point out our obligation to manage our homes and to manage them well.
I hear many women say things such as “I do the dishes and my husband does the laundry” or “I take care of dinner and he cleans up the kitchen.” I think that is wonderful. Thank the Lord everyday that you have a husband that longs to demonstrate the servant heart of Christ to you. However, as wonderful as those notions are, they cannot be the expectations. A husband’s primary responsibility is to provide for his wife and children and to supply spiritual leadership to his home. The wife’s primary responsibility is to care for her home.
If you have made a choice to work outside the home, you must understand that your primary ministry and job is managing your home. If your responsibilities to your husband, your children or your home are suffering, then perhaps you need to reevaluate your situation. When others enter your home, they can assume much about your commitment to your husband and to the Lord by seeing how well you are fulfilling your principal tasks. We have all been there. You go to a visit a friend and find her home in complete disarray. She laughs as excuses begin to spill from her lips. Suddenly, you have less respect for her and her husband and your desire to visit again wanes.
This is not meant to sound legalistic. There will be days that life is complete chaos and perhaps the vacuuming did not get done. I do not want to void legitimate occurrences that will cause a need to shift some priorities for a short time. The issue is did you not do the vacuuming, but still had time for your favorite afternoon show? Did your day really fly by or did you just fail to manage your time more wisely? Honestly evaluate your own heart. Remember that guilt is from Satan, but conviction is from the Lord. Guilt is vague and heavy. Conviction from the Holy Spirit is specific.
I do not want to harp on this for too long. Deep down, each of us as wives, know the reality of this truth. The Lord God is sovereign and wires us accordingly. Men are wired to work and to provide. Women are wired to be homemakers. That does not mean that we don’t have gifts outside of being wives and mothers, but it means that in our inner being we know that the responsibility is ours. I would like to go straight to the real world section and talk about some practical areas of our homes we need to be managing.
The Real World…
Let us look at various tasks that need to be performed around the house and how certain areas need to be managed. Much of this will come from my own way of doing things. Certainly, my way is not the only way. Take what you wish, adjust what needs to be adjusted, and filter in your own needs and personality. Please look at the spirit of the words and not necessarily the letter. Remember these are just practical areas around the house that we must all deal with at some point or another.
Rejoice! Before we actually talk of the “dirty” work, let’s remember to rejoice in our calling as a wife. It is an honor and privilege to serve our families and the Lord by managing our homes with excellence. Rejoice in all the tasks that you perform each day, for they are a fragrant offering unto the Lord! “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
Talk to your husband. Before you begin making lists or organizing the management of your home, be sure to consult its head, your husband. Ask him what tasks are the most critical to him, what his expectations for your household are, and what responsibilities he would like to maintain. Also, have him honestly assess you in this area and seek his counsel on ways that you might better be able to fulfill your calling.
Delegate if possible. As you start to sift through the needs of your household, be sure to keep in mind any chores that you can delegate. Managing your home does not mean that you have to necessarily perform each task yourself; it merely means that the responsibility for ensuring that it does get done is yours. If you have children, include them in your chore lists. Certain items such as taking out the garbage may be chores that are your husbands. My husband changes the cat litter. It is something that I cannot do while pregnant, so he takes care of it. However, if a week goes by and the box is overflowing, I cannot get angry with my husband. It is my job to manage my home and ensure that things are getting done. Does that mean that I have the right to nag and complain? No, it means that I have to find a tactful, gentle way to simply remind Lee of his commitment. Usually, he merely got busy and it slipped his mind.
Schedules. We spoke of this a little in the chapter on discipline. Your home needs to have some semblance of a schedule by which it runs. Do your children have a bedtime? Ensuring that my daughter goes to bed at eight each night not only teaches her discipline and keeps her healthy, but it also gives Lee and I quality time together each evening. Schedules can include things such as bedtimes, wake-up times, meal times and chore lists. I have learned that not having a schedule usually means that life is chaotic and stressful.
Finances. We mentioned this briefly in the chapter on contribution. Managing your finances can entail seeing to the details of balancing the checkbook and budgeting the income or it can merely denote being responsible with your money. This is one that is critical that you and your husband connect on the details. Remember that even if your husband does the checkbook and the budget, you are most likely the one that does the majority of the shopping. It is your duty to manage and respect that budget.
Shopping. This can include everything from grocery shopping to entertainment. I am one of those annoying women in the checkout line at the grocery store whose cart is overflowing. I make out a menu for the month and then a correlating shopping list. This not only guarantees that when I go to cook a meal all the ingredients are there, but it also saves me money. I have done the just go and buy and plan later way. Menus and monthly shopping really does save time and money. I only have to make a major grocery run once every four to six weeks. I try to take a walk through the house once a week and check stock on common household items. I never want someone to be in the restroom when we realize that we are out of toilet paper or preparing to put a load of laundry in the washer when I remember I used the last of the detergent two days ago. Keep a good inventory of your house and manage your shopping appropriately.
Routine cleaning. Once I had our daughter, Miriam, I learned quickly that if I did not manage and schedule the cleaning of my house then it would never get done. I sat down and made a list for each individual room in our house. (My mother-in-law always says, “If it’s not on a list, it doesn’t exist.” This has become the motto of my life!) I made a list of everything that needs to be done in each room such as dusting, cleaning out closets, cleaning the ceiling fan, and washing the sheets. Next I wrote down how often I feel that those items need to be done. Small tasks like vacuuming and emptying the garbage cans needed to be done much more often than cleaning the ceiling fan or organizing the closets. Making out lists helps me not to forget anything and there are certainly some chores that I could easily forget for months. It also provided me with a personal system of accountability. I do not necessarily look at my lists each day, but I do try to refer to them occasionally just to make sure that I am being faithful. I have also learned that if you are faithful to clean routinely then cleaning is never overwhelming. Every other Monday is my scrub the house day. It is never a huge ordeal because I am faithful to do it each time. But if I skip a Monday then the next time takes me twice as long. In the long run, routine saves time.
Laundry. A great rule of thumb is to never let your husband run out of boxers or socks. I have a laundry basket in my bedroom that when full is two decent loads of clothes. That full basket is my cue. In our home that is about once every two days. Also, do not forget to wash things such as your towels, bedding, and tablecloths. This is definitely one of my least favorite chores, so I have learned to do it all at once. I fold the clothes straight out of the dryer and head straight to the dresser or closet from there. Why prolong it? Plus, if you fold immediately, it cuts down on the need for ironing!
Organization. We all have them: junk drawers, catchall closets, bars and counter tops. I don’t think there is any way to eliminate them completely. The key is to maintain them. I go through my husband’s t-shirts twice a year because somehow they multiply when I turn close the drawer. Do not repress the memory of these sore spots until you are forced to deal with them at times such as digging for decorations at Christmas. Find a feasible way to keep them under control.
Meal preparation. As I stated earlier, I use menus. I hesitate to say that my way is the only way, but I can promise you that this method has saved me time, energy and money. One day a month I plan out the next month’s menu, and then my mind is free every evening. I do not have to worry about what I will cook and whether or not I will have to run to the store to pick up a few ingredients. It provides me with peace of mind and my family with choices. Many times I hand my menu to Lee and ask him to choose what he would like for dinner. This does not mean that every night has to be steak and potatoes. Sometimes we dine on hotdogs and French fries. A menu allows me to factor in variety. I also firmly encourage meals at consistent times and as a family. Counselors and researchers in both the secular and Christian realms agree that families that have dinner together around a table are the ones with children least likely to get in trouble and marriages least likely to divorce. Eating at a decent hour is not only better for your health, but it also provides some free time for the remainder of the evening.
Outside chores. I realize the fulfillment of these obligations most likely belong to your husband, but be sure to include them in the management of your home. Take care of the smaller tasks that you can accomplish to help ease the burden on your husband. Enjoy some fresh air with your children while raking the yard, or stroll down memory lane with your spouse while cleaning out the garage.
Miscellaneous tasks. These will be different for each of us. It can include writing thank you notes, making phone calls, and putting gas in the car. Be faithful to manage the miscellaneous as well.
I would like to end by sharing another anecdote from Nancy Wilson from her book The Fruit of Her Hands 1. She states, “One time when my children were still very young, a woman stopped by for a visit. “How do you keep your house so clean?” she asked. I thought for a moment, and I remember answering, “I work really hard – all the time.” What a mystery! What a secret! Being committed to a clean home and clean children rules out many other activities. It can mean little time for novel reading, not too many long phone calls, and not much socializing.” She goes on to refer to these tasks as a “full-time job”. We need to realize that caring for our homes, our husbands and our children is a full-time job. The same standard of excellence and productivity that is expected of us in the job market, we must expect of ourselves in our homes. It does not mean that we are perfect, but it does mean that we are committed to fulfilling our obligations with excellence!