According to Wikipedia, Home Economics…
“is a field of formal study including such topics as consumer education, institutional management, interior design, home furnishing, cleaning, handicrafts, sewing, clothing and textiles, cooking, nutrition, food preservation, hygiene, child development, and family relationships.”
When one sees the term, “home economics,” a vision of a June Cleaver-type goddess of domesticity teaching young ladies in poodle skirts in the 1950s is immediately conjured up in one’s head. I still remember having my home ec class in grade school – the projects simply alternated between sewing lunch bags and miniature pillows to baking chocolate chip cookies and apple muffins. At the time, this class held the lowest value in my opinion and I took a similar course called “Family in Canadian Society” in high school for easy marks. I didn’t take the lessons on marriage and parenting seriously. I often worked on my English and Math assignments during the class – the bread and butter of my secondary education. I was going to have a high-powered career which would be far more rewarding than anything else I would do with my life – chasing the almighty dollar and being “successful.” I scoffed at all things domestic, as if they were obsolete skills that went the way of the dinosaurs. My mother is an excellent cook, baker, seamstress, and gardener, and I never took an interest. Actually, I almost looked at her with such contempt because I thought that women should not have to assume these roles in this day and age.
I don’t have many regrets in my life but I do regret not paying more attention to her everyday lessons in “home economics.”
Since having my children, I have drastically redefined the term “success” and “happiness.” The definitions no longer include material acquisitions and monetary accomplishments. They no longer include symbols of status or a future destination. It is amazing how I never expected to live the life I have but I also can’t imagine how I could not live this way.
Yes, I love the daily grind with the kids, but more often than not, I must admit that I often find myself overwhelmed. While my top priorities are stimulating and motivating the kids, I also am responsible for scheduling school and extra-curricular activities, doing a load of laundry daily, keeping the house reasonably tidy, feeding and caring for 4 children, and occasionally cooking a meal or two once a week. I must also be financially aware of incoming and outgoing cash flow to properly plan for major expenditures. The constant purging, organizing, planning, and trying to simultaneously enjoy the present moment and not worry about the future is quite the challenge. Our household to-do list is daunting. We do a little jig when we get to cross something off the list only to have two or three more items be added to the bottom. We have learned to accept that the list will always be there and that managing and prioritizing is the key.
Enter my new home management system. Thanks to the blog, SimpleMom, I stumbled upon a step-by-step guide to creating what I like to call: The Everything Binder (a.k.a “The Home Management Notebook” according to SimpleMom). Here is a photo of my new best friend:
The Keeper of the Sanity.
I went to Staples (one of my all-time favourite stores – there’s something about aisles of writing utensils and reams of paper that bring me such joy) and I purchased dividers, page protectors, divider pockets, plain white cardstock. I went to purchase this kraft-coloured binder made out of recycled paper and just made it my own with some few stickers and stamps and of course, decked it out with a nice little title, part of our family mission statement: Live Simply…a constant reminder to choose the simplest route for myself and for our family when planning our lives.
In this binder, I have taken suggestions from SimpleMom and also OrganizedHome (where there are tons of printable forms, lists, and categories) to start the binder. I have divided the binder based on what we do on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis – e.g. housekeeping, car maintenance, banking and finances, school, events, schedules, contact info for everything and everyone, health records, home inventory, meal planning, birthday planning, occasions…it is basically a repository for all the crap that comes into my house and ideas that pop in my head in the middle of the night. No forms, phone numbers, invites, or other important information are misplaced because they are all in this binder. We have even included a visual list of what the baby needs in the binder:
The girls are more excited when they can visually see the "baby stuff"...
My brain, after 5 pregnancies, has to be the consistency of tapioca pudding at this point. In the past, I have forgotten playdates, doctor appointments, various commitments, promises made, and my own phone number. During the day, I carry my trusty Moleskine notebook and write any and everything down that I don’t want to forget and the information is transferred into the binder. The kids’ schedules, school information, forms, and extra-curricular activity reminders are all in there. I have even inventoried their clothing for the season and have it in there as a reminder of what they still need and what they have too much of. I took pictures of ALL the shoes I have in storage and the shoes that fit them now and have written down the sizes so I know what we have as each child’s feet grow.
Don’t get me wrong. My home is still not in the shape I often fantasize it to be in when I will be walking through our door 6 weeks from now with a bundle in my arms, but at least, I am no longer running around asking the kids, “What were we supposed to do today? Come on guys, think! I know we have to be somewhere this morning but where???” Then we play twenty questions as they help me try to retrieve vital information from the growing chasm that is between my ears. It’s really like the Bermuda Triangle in my head – you could tell me things now and they will be lost forever. But for some reason, I can remember the details of a fight I had with Ever-Patient in the fall of 1994 and the lyrics to “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You” by one-hit wonder Glenn Medeiros (circa 1987).
Back to the home ec lessons. I have seen the light. I have seen how much I have underestimated the difficulty of managing a household can be. My mother made it (and still makes it) look effortless – the sewing, the baking, the cooking, the cleaning, AND she worked (and still works full-time). Being a home manager, which is what I call myself these days, requires skills that a CEO of a Fortune 500 company possesses – mental stamina, negotiation skills, creative thinking, the ability to act quickly and make decisions that directly affect the lives of others.
It’s funny, I find that the one thing I have learned that has been one of the more important lessons from school actually came from my Economics class. The lesson of opportunity cost. I am constantly weighing my choices throughout the day. For example, if I spend this hour cleaning, what am I giving up? Spending time with the kids? Eating breakfast? What is the value of that to me? More often than not, I look to our family mission statement to give me direction and remind me of what I value especially when I can get caught up in the messy details of life. Normally, the answer is staring at me in the face with a arms out ready for another round of Ring-Around-The-Rosy. Oh, if the CEOs of the world had someone to play that with every morning, the world would be a different place.
(I’d tell you again what our complete mission statement is but I just have to take a moment and look it up in The Binder…)