I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

Making Your House Work for You

Are you frustrated with how your kitchen doesn’t work for you?
The cupboards are hard to reach. They seem made for someone else. And the family room has no storage for books.
That’s where re-arranging comes in. That’s how you make your home work for you.

Although when you rent, there is little you can “re-arrange” permanently, there are some things that can be done to help make your house your home.

Don Aslett, author and professional cleaner, wrote Make Your House Do the Housework. In it he describes how to design your house for cleaning less. He takes you through each room of the house and suggests ways to eliminate dirt, clutter, and mess. He states, "Structure discipline is not an option for a maintenance-free environment, it's a necessity." By structure discipline, he cites as an example, mounting a picture on the wall, rather than placing it on a table. Makes for ease in cleaning and looking clutter-free.
His ideas of home management help re-arrange our homes to make them work for us, not us work harder for our house.

When we first found our house 24 years ago, we had two boys, and one due within a few weeks. The dining room walls were pink wallpaper. That would go first.
But it took several years for me to decide what would be in its place. I replaced it with a type of paneling that I stained dark (to hide little hand prints and grimy dirt). I didn't want the room too dark, so I only went half-way up the wall. I made a laminate border above it (washable of course) of the boys' hand and feet prints, and their silhouettes.

I could never access the corner cupboards in my kitchen. After a fire took out the microwave and hood above my stove, I replaced the corner cupboards with open shelves. (I put the cupboards in the mudroom. More Organization!) The bottom corner unit had a lazy susan. I had to crawl in it to reach stuff that fell off of it. I took it out and found dead mice skeletons. No wonder the cat liked to crawl back there! Now I had a deep area for my flour (A big bucket to hold 30+ lbs) and infrequently used items.

Lately I was tired of my cupboard crammed with spices. I had them alphabetized, but they still appeared messy. I made a spice rack, using Smart and Final containers (since that is what I buy). As soon as I finished making it, Smart and Final changed their size of spice containers! I tried to readjust my spice rack, then ended up starting over. I used canning jars, since that's what I had. I added my teas. My cupboard is not so messy, my spices and teas are easier to find. 

See what I mean? Make your house work for you. If there's a problem, look for an answer. I use Pinterest for ideas. And then help in fine-tuning my ideas. Before Pinterest, I used library books—more tedious and less specific, but helpful.

When I found mice droppings on my toothbrush which was stored in the bathroom cupboard drawer. I had a problem.
I ripped out the cupboard and asked a friend to install a pedestal sink. That affected the linoleum floor. I ripped that up and painted the cement floor.
I now had space for a chair in the bathroom. Nice for keeping clothes dry while in the shower.
And I poisoned that mouse.

When toothpaste drippings were all over the boys' bathroom cupboard, I knew what to do. I ripped out the big cupboard and again put a pedestal sink. Now there was room for more to get ready at one time and no cupboard to drip toothpaste down. Just a swipe to the floor cleaned it.

Make your house work for you.

When our youngest son collected rocks and wanted to display them everywhere, I cut a hole in the drywall at the end of the hallway and inserted a shelving unit for him to display his “choice” rocks. (We were not including every one he thought pretty.)
I could see where "between the studs" storage could work for other things—a broom closet, a library in the hall, if only I had enough energy!

Did I start out making something grand?
No. The boys and I first built a dog house.
You know the adage, “Measure twice, cut once”? Mine was measure fifteen times, and still cut wrong. But in our defense, we used one of those hand saws that you hack back and forth with your own energy. Imagine my delight when someone introduced us to the battery-operated drill and saw!

The boys, especially my "engineer-in-training" son, would have liked to have a finished project looking “nice.” I tried to encourage him with—“It works.” But our projects have improved, and the boys have learned skills—how to use the drill and saws, and how to plan a project and take it to completion. Sometimes they plan, sometimes I plan, but seek their guidance, especially now they know so much more than I! These projects also encourage them in "man-skills." They may not like pouring cement, but they got stronger!

When we first poured cement, we measured the water with my kitchen measuring cup. We have moved past measuring, to knowing by feel.
We have also acquired some of the right equipment and tools, which makes a big difference. You can’t hammer a nail straight by pounding it with a screw driver, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to improvise and make do. Keeping cost down is important, too. And lack of knowledge makes for some creative jobs—even after reading Home Depot’s chapter on that project. (This was before the You-Tube demonstration for everything.)

Which brings me to the money part. How did we pay for all these re-arrangements? Big changes, like the flooring, carpet, or the new kitchen complete with raising the ceiling (done only recently), came from our big budget we saved toward. But many of my projects of re-arrangements came from my grocery budget. I was willing to skimp a month on groceries so I could fix a problem that bugged me. Many times, it wasn’t new stuff, but using what I had. Or starting the project, then getting it in phrases in the next couple of months until it was finished.
Those attempts gave me confidence to try other things.
My husband gave me the freedom to experiment, and the encouragement and praise over the finished project. Sometimes our new projects only helped for a short time, our family needs changed as the family grew and the boys grew. But they helped "grow" boys and helped keep their mom from going totally crazy (maybe).

When children were small and cleaning everything was hard, I tried to have a corner where I could sit and see something clean, organized and of beauty. It may have been a chair in the corner of my room. When my spirit was low, my soul needed refreshed, and my body weary, I could sit, usually while nursing, recite a Psalm, and be refreshed.
Without even the clean area around a chair, I looked out the window beyond the weeds (that must be picked) to the hillside and the sunset. I could see order and beauty there and be refreshed.
Make a space to refresh—Where you don't have to fix or clean or do anything—Where you can just allow God to speak to you.

I don’t rearrange just to keep up with what others are doing, I rearrange to solve a problem. Sometimes, it takes a long time for me to think through the problem and find a solution. Other times, the mess makes me motivated to move faster. (Like the mouse droppings)

When my ceilings were filthy, and I couldn't even look up for something clean, I scrapped popcorn off the ceilings by spraying with a water bottle and scraping while it was still wet. Tedious. Time consuming. Tiring. Messy, but effective. And then I could look up and see clean.

Making your house work for you is what this about.
Proverbs comes to mind: without the ox the manger is clean, but with the ox, comes a mess with accomplishment. Sometimes the mess is pretty messy, but after it's all picked up, a problem is solved. And our house becomes more like a home.

Displaying all 2 comments

I would love the book you mention! But even if I'm not in time I will definitely check it out of through the library. Sounds like an excellent read.

Someday when we have time :) we are going to make a spice rack like yours! But for now I have all the spices in some deep drawers in my kitchen with all the tops labeled, and it works well.

My husband is a great problem solver, I find that if I am struggling with a certain issue he usually has a good idea to resolve it! It was his idea to put broom clips along the stairway walls when I had no good place for the brooms and mop.

My dad loves Aslett's books!

However, if I'm the first to comment, please don't send it to me :)

Someone else can make use of it, and I can't.

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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