living with lists

I have tried FlyLady.  I have tried winging it.  I have sent myself on many, many guilt trips.

The thing is, my dear mom has a housekeeping plan for her house that left no room for failure.  If she planned to clean Friday, she cleaned Friday.  Her follow-through rate is amazing.  Mine?  Not so good.

FlyLady wasn’t so bad.  I have to say, it was motivating… in a cute sort of way.  Attitude and self-image were of high importance; I have a hard time arguing with that.  But the emails.  Ugh.  The emails drained me before I even got started.  I think you’re supposed to forget about the daily missions if you don’t do them for the day.  But I saved them.  I had piles and piles of uncompleted household missions that stared me in the face every day, reminding me that I would never catch up.

I abandoned FlyLady shortly before Isaiah was born.  And, well, the house has been a disaster since then.  I clean, oh, once a month?  I don’t know; I don’t count anymore.  But it stinks (literally, as of yesterday)because, you know, I like a clean house.  But beyond that — way beyond that — I’ve been wanting to seek God’s purpose in my daily life.

I believe one can know the big picture of needing Christ, and maybe even be motivated to love and evangelize those who don’t know about his saving grace, without inviting Him into the everyday.  But what about eating, sleeping, and getting groceries?  What about cleaning the toothpaste-caked bathroom?  What about changing your baby’s wet diapers (I’m not even talking poop; that takes some grace!  Pee is the mundane for me.)?  What about washing the car, ironing, sending the laundry through its cycles?  Where does God come into our lives during those moments?

Ann at A Holy Experience has been blogging about ceremony in recent days.  Read her words from her post “Live a Celebrated Life: the beauty of ceremony”:

If we consider an occasion meaningful, we develop a ceremony to duly recognize it. Simply, ceremony is a repeated action that marks important happenings: always candles on birthday cakes, centerpieces for Thanksgiving, vows on wedding days.

And yet, isn’t every day important? Do not all of our acts warrant ceremony?

Ann goes on to describe God’s way of creating ceremony in our lives: the sun rising and setting in splendor, the stars decorating the night sky.  So, too, we can mark the beginning of a new school year with bright, sharpened pencils; begin a meal with a prayer of joy and thanksgiving for a generous God; grace our ironing time with a blaze of music.

But how can there be ceremony if there is no mundane task to deck out in grace?  We can set out to only enjoy life, throw our work and schedules to the wind, and thank God for what prosperity may come.  Or we can embrace the mundane as opportunity for everyday beauty, for seeing the fruit of labor ripen and bless our lives because we tended it with diligence.

I’m good at imagining diligence.  I can make lists like no one’s business.  Don’t believe me?  Please see the following example.  She is one of (at least) three lists that will guide me in my housekeeping tasks:


Sweep/scrub floors (Kitchen and Living room)

“Spring” cleaning: Choose task(s) from monthly list (another list for another day!)

Clean out fridge and microwave


Clean bathrooms: counters, toilets, baths, showers

Dust everything

Clean kitchen counters

Plan weekly meals

Make shopping/errand lists

Check grocery store sales

Clean out purse

Declutter top of dresser

Isaiah’s bath night


Run errands: grocery store, post office, library, gifts, etc.

Pay bills; balance accounts

Write thank-you notes and letters (including MOPS)

Go through mailbox

Declutter and organize desk; File papers

Email Mom and sisters

Clean out car

Toss old magazines


Vacuum everything

Scrub bathroom floors

Declutter washer and dryer

Hobbies: cards, photo albums, knitting, creating art, etc.


Sweep tile floors; Spot scrub as needed

Wash car, if needed

Laundry: wash, dry, fold, put away


Change bathroom towels

Shine mirrors and glass

Date night


Work on household project, if needed

Garage/Yard Day

Clean kitchen counters

Take bath; Shave legs; Wash hair

Isaiah’s bath night


Go to church

Rest, worship, play

Write rough weekly to-do list

Empty all trash and put out trash barrels

Whew.  Now that we’ve got that over with, let us all agree that I know the work that needs to be done around a house.  But I also know the guilt of seeing my lack of checkmarks at the end of a day.

I have approached this new homekeeping project asking God to help me keep the beauty — His beauty — in it.  Today, I decided that I may hand-write the entire list in my journal, paste pictures I love beside the daily tasks, and use the list more of a guide than anything.  I will grace the list with encouragement from the Encourager Himself:  “Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established…. The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16.3,9)

More than anything, I don’t want my cleaning of my house and planning meals to rise above my desire to make our house warm and inviting — not only for guests — but for my family.  I want joy and peace, goodness and love to reign here.

That is why I want to add ceremony to our lives.  So to my daily task list, I add:

  • One hour of reading with Isaiah (yes, it’s a lot, but it’s so precious and important)
  • One hour enjoying nature
  • Time with God, early in the morning
  • Thirty minutes of reading for pleasure; thirty minutes of writing
  • Singing and reading Psalms with Isaiah every morning

These look like more tasks to accomplish, but they give us something to look forward to.  They motivate me for things that would otherwise be drudgery and rigidity.  They compel to me to let myself experience grace and rediscover purpose when all I can focus on is what I have done or haven’t done.  The lists are just for me; God isn’t giving grades.

    • mjhartter
    • September 4th, 2008

    Discipline is good, but there’s always another day.

  1. Don’t we all wrestle with the to-do’s of our day!
    Maybe that’s why the Word reminds us to do
    EVERYTHING as unto the Lord – talk about
    gracing our day – instead of bracing ourselves
    for the day.

    I like the fact that you say in the end… lists are
    not the bad thing, it’s how we do our lists… as
    unto the Lord, or not.

    I’ve done the Flylady thing too. The emails were too
    much – though the intentions were good, and for
    some women, probably just what they needed.

    But, not me. I daily glean a ton from Holy Experience.
    We are sisters indeed in this blog world! God Bless
    your every effort to beautify your day with His Grace.

    By the way, I like the idea of pictures by the chore…
    I am truly inspired by the visual – gotta see how I
    can incorporate that (every little bit helps!)

    By the way again, you’re brave to blog without pictures.
    It’s another refreshing twist. Aren’t we all a God-ordained variety!

  2. I found you through the Gratitude Community. Your weekly to-do list is impressive! I gave up trying to keep my house that clean–now I start my week by sweeping/mopping, cleaning the bathroom, changing sheets and tidying up. Other than dishes and laundry, I let the house go for the rest of the week. One day to get it all done, and then freedom!

    I got a little off-track here. What I started out to say was I like your additions to your list. The house will survive if it doesn’t get clean. Time with children, time with the Lord, time spent reveling in His beauty … that we can never regain once lost.

    Thanks for the encouraging post!

  3. We are on the same path! It seems there are quite a few of us.

    I read Ann at A Holy Experience, too, and she has been an inspiration.

    And like you, I am great at making lists. (Schedules, too.) I realized some time ago, from a business perspective, that I am good at coming up with ideas, systems, methods and so on, but that I am not good at the day-to-day implementing of those. That is a purely secular perspective, of course, but it did give me insight. (And it explained one co-worker I had, who loved doing that day-to-day stuff. I marveled at her! I longed to be able to do it, too.)

    But it is important to include the spiritual when thinking about these things; as you have done. Brother Lawrence was able to practice the presence of God in his kitchen…

    And we are alike in this, too: I have been praying for God to help me make my home beautiful and warm. I know it has something to do with cleanliness and orderliness, but it also has to do with touches of beauty. But, it is not about decorating.

    Thank you for your post! I’m not sure I know how to link and so forth, but if I do, I would like to do that from my blog. (I don’t blog much. I’ve come to understand writer’s block: where a person can compose great things in her head, but once at the keyboard, all she can come up with is a blank mind.

    • clbeyer
    • September 5th, 2008

    “The house will survive if it doesn’t get clean. Time with children, time with the Lord, time spent reveling in His beauty … that we can never regain once lost.”

    Well said, Louise! Thanks for visiting my blog. It’s always encouraging to get new readers.

    And Leah, I’ll be watching your blog to see what brillant ideas you come up with to make your house more inviting. : ) I find our rental house particularly challenging because except for a little outdated wallpaper, all the walls are a staunch white.

  4. Wonderful post!
    Enjoy these days with your little boy.
    I clean when I can but it doesn’t take priority over the really important stuff anymore.
    Blessings :0)

  1. November 16th, 2008

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