In every murder mystery, when the obligatory dead body turns up, you have to send it in for a post-mortem. How did the victim die? Of what? What did they eat last? They had terrible arthritis, who knew?
I often feel like balancing homeschooling and housekeeping is a mortal combat – either I slayed them, yay me, or more often they won and I died. It isn’t pretty.
I’m educating in a small apartment here. I haven’t yet mastered getting through the Christmas season without getting pretty overwhelmed, but it usually cheers me up when I have an orderly space to retreat to. I had a feeling all the stuff Christmas drags around with it was going to take over a lot of space, so this year, I proactively did things housework-wise to make sure I didn’t get squeezed out of my own apartment by holiday cheer.
I realize this makes me the murderer in this analogy, but let’s just go with it. I promise, chaos had it coming. So, let’s examine.
1. I did a pre-holiday purge. January is usually the time for organizing all the things, but I felt like it fit neatly into Advent, theologically speaking. I read somewhere that Advent used to be like Lent—a time of spiritual emptiness and waiting—and that clicked for me this year. I wanted to be able to look forward to and appreciate earthly presents as a blessing, instead of a curse (cheese and crackers, what has it come to when I dread getting presents??), so I cleaned out my earthly drawers and closets in anticipation.
Result: It helped a little. It would have helped more if I had purged more areas and then had actually gotten all the stuff all the way out of the apartment, instead of leaving some sitting around in bags, but it was better than nothing. As it turned out, I was actually excited about the presents we got.
2. I decorated “enough.” I was sick the week we decorated, so I couldn’t prettify things to my usual high and probably unbalanced standards. After I got the tree and lights up, I watched helplessly from my chair as the girls arranged ornaments. They were happy, the tree looked totally fine, and I shoved all the leftovers in a bin in the bottom of the coat closet. I had some lingering guilt about storing decor I didn’t use this year – maybe I should give the excess all away?? – but I shoved that in the coat closet too. Purging exists to help me; I don’t serve it.
Result: “Enough” was definitely a sanity-saver. I will do that again.
3. I claimed a basket to keep wrapping paraphernalia when it wasn’t in use. Wrapping takes up so much room. Ideally, of course, you have a set-up like my mother’s where you can bar everyone from the library for the duration and spread out on the ping-pong table, or you can do like me and wrap presents on your bedroom floor while shoving aside laundry baskets and hoping math workbooks really do make that sound out there.
BUT. When I finished a wrapping session, the tubes of paper tucked neatly behind my bedroom door and the tape, scissors, baker’s twine, other scissors, hole punch, bag of tags, ribbon, and whatnot all went into a basket with a lid, which went onto a shelf. The reason it could fit on a shelf is because I cleared out two whole desk drawers in my purge. That meant I could move my yarn and knitting needles into one of the drawers and all the sewing notions into the other drawer. This left me a nice empty basket for holding wrapping supplies. Whew.
Result: Hooray for not stepping on scissors in the night.
4. Wrapped presents had a place. This place was under the tree. The tree was in a corner, but not all the way in the corner, so there would be room for presents around and behind it.
Result: So much yes.
5. I (finally) put school stuff into a back room. When we are on break, the dino workbook has no business getting knocked down and trampled on in the main living area. Not, of course, that we would ever treat our school supplies like that.
Result: I can’t believe it took me that long to put it away.
6. Christmas week, I made the girls help me clean up our office/craft room. That is where the overflow craft supplies and toys live. We were going away the day after Christmas, and I wasn’t going to be able to organize the new acquisitions before we left, and I knew that any mess left in the living room would greet us upon our return. It was not fun spending a day of Christmas week cleaning…but worth it. We were able to get the major wave of Christmas presents tidied out of the front room before we left. Mostly.
Result: Since we came home with one child actively vomiting, I’m so glad the toys were out of the living room so we could start throwing up in it.
The real test is whether we were able to start homeschooling again in January or whether the forces of Stuff and Nonsense slayed me. Yes, we could! I think the girls and I were all glad to get back into our school routine. I think the medical examiner proved that however effective or ineffective the methods used, the dead body in the room was not me. And that is something.
Photo Credit: All images courtesy of Carolyn Bales.