The Art of Being a Mother – Part 3 of 7

Effective Management

Are you organized or spontaneous?

Which one is the right way to manage your household? Is the key organization, or is it spontaneity? Both ways are right – with a balance.  Don’t stifle your spontaneity, and don’t attempt to be unstructured if you’re wired for structure. Do recognize that a balance can help make for a happier studio.

Planning ahead can help save time and frustration later, yet spontaneity brings fun and breath to life. Your children need you to be both of these. Whichever your bent, recognize the benefit of having that balance, then work at becoming stronger in whichever of the two you’re the weakest.

As the Artist in charge of your studio, recognize that flamboyancy brings color and vibrancy to your day, and your kids will love that part of you. At the same time, if you run out of a certain color because you’re so busy being flamboyant, you will accomplish less and cause frustration on the part of your little artists (and possibly your spouse). You’ll  have more time to be flamboyant if you’re organized!

Flexibility is the key to efficient management. What works now might not work later. What worked for your mother may not be your style. The way your grandma did it might be more to your liking than you’ve ever considered. There are so many ways to manage your studio. Since it’s your studio, you need to find what works for you and then adjust your plan according to the development stages of your kids and the life events happening now.

Ask yourself: What frustrates me most about managing my studio?

Come up with a plan to fix it.

For starters, I suggest three areas that cause frustrations as a mom and studio keeper. (Ask me how I know!)

Meal Planning  and Preparation

For me, the hardest part is coming up with supper menus for a week or a month. I’ve done menus for a month, for just a week, and sometimes my menus are just a mental list in my head. There are days I am still trying to decide at 4 o’clock what I am fixing for supper that night. Sometimes I change plans mid-stream and sometimes I have my meal in the crockpot before 10 AM. Some days it depends on what is happening in my world and who is going to be present for dinner. I enjoy the flexibility of doing it the way I want, but I have to confess that life is easier for me when I’ve decided what I am serving for dinner that night.

Some folks make a menu and then shop accordingly.

Others shop and buy items on sale and then work their menus around their purchases.

Guess what!  Either way works.  Have it your way – but just be sure to follow a plan.

If you find it really hard to take the time to sit down and make up a menu for a week, try these ideas:

  • for a week (or two) write down each meal you serve your family.  At the end of the week, you’ll have a week’s worth of menus.
  • ask three other friends to each write down a week (or even five days’ worth) of menus, or ask them to give you a list of what they fixed for the past week. Incorporate those  into a master plan and you’ve got a month’s supply of menu ideas. You don’t need to use them all; just tweak them to suit your artists-in-residence.
  • have at least one or two meals that you can fix readily when you’re fresh out of ideas. For my family,  several food combinations are always a hit: tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches; strawberry shortcake with sliced cheese on the side; spaghetti with green beans and applesauce; and my favorite, home canned beef with a potato or macaroni dish and green beans. Each of these can be ready in thirty minutes or less, especially if your hamburger has already been fried and drained. [See 10 Kitchen Hacks listed below.]
  • when leftovers are all you’ve got planned, spruce them up with some fresh rolls, brownies, or an apple pie.

For more ideas of meal planning and saving steps as your shop, read 10 Kitchen Hacks.

Do it your way – but be sure to do it.  Tweak it to fit your lifestyle and your interests.

After all, it’s your studio.  So go ahead and be the Artist!


It seems that, no matter how hard we work, the laundry is never done, the bathrooms are never kept clean, and there is always a floor to be swept or mopped.

It’s true that cleanliness is important and our little artists need to learn to help keep things clean. I had a method that worked well when our kids were young.  You can read about How to Divide and Conquer Household Jobs for Kids.

When it comes to finding a way to stay cleaned up, cleaned out and organized, there are two methods I recommend.  You can actually combine these two.

  1. The Mount Vernon method. I first heard about this over a quarter-of-a-century ago and used it for maintaining order. I’m told that this method of cleaning is what is used by the housekeeping staff at Mount Vernon. Begin inside the front door of your house and work your way through that room; the next day you continue where you left off the day before. Continue working through the house until you are done, then start the process all over again. I’ve never visited Mount Vernon, but if I ever do, I’m going to ask the staff about this. You can also Google this method. There are so many sites explaining this method.
  2. From Total Mess to Total Rest in 15 Minutes a Day is a method from Emilee Barnes. Emilee had kids of her own when her brother’s kids came to live with them. She then had five children under five. When life is that busy, you don’t have an hour or two each day to tackle a room or a closet. Set your timer for 15 minutes and then zero in on one shelf or one drawer. When the 15 minutes are up, stop where you are and begin in the same spot the next day  There were days, I confess, when I worked for 30 minutes, especially if I knew I would be gone the next day  Even if you do this five days a week you’ll put more than an hour into one closet or dresser a week. In a years’ time, you’ll have put 65 hours into keeping your house tidy. Doable? I know it is – if we stick to it.

Moms, I’m still  not the most organized. This book More Hours in my Day and the Mount Vernon method saved my sanity  – and it can save yours. It’s simple, practical,  and realistic.

management goal plan success

Storage Organization

There’s a family joke at my house: I put things away and then can’t remember where I put them. I’m starting to keep a list – on my cell phone and on a printed copy.

Numbering or Lettering is the way to go! 

For attic or other storage, number your boxes or tubs according to the season.  A #25 is anything-Christmas.  A #14 is all things Love/Valentine’s.  #17 is St. Patrick’s day.

Christmas Houses were always a source of frustration for me. Dave bought them on sale – and we put many in different rooms in the house.  It was easy to take them out and set them up. When time came to store them, I struggled to read the fine print on the boxes, trying to figure out which image on the cover indicated this was the right box for this house.

Finally, I found a better way. Now each box has a number and each house has a corresponding number on its bottom.  All I need to do is find the house that matches the box number.  We also have houses from different manufacturers. I number the “blue boxes” 1-10; the “red boxes” 11-20; and the “vintage boxes” 21-30. The blue boxes go in the living room; the red boxes go in the dining room and the vintage boxes belong in the guest room and library on the fireplace mantles. When we bring the boxes into the house to set them up, we know exactly which room to put them in before we begin unpacking the houses.

You can do the same if you store your winter or summer clothing.  When kids are small and you’re wanting to store larger sizes until a younger sibling grows into them, number your containers and then keep a list.  It’s a lot easier to look for a B or #12 than to find a box that says “boys size 6 clothes”.

Again, figure out what frustrates you about keeping track of items in storage and come up with a plan. When it seems you’re always running late for everything, try backwards  planning.

Forget the advertisements where every child’s pjs match perfectly without any tears or holes. Forget the pictures of moms cooking in spotless kitchens. Forget the photos of a mother rocking her baby in the middle of the night with the moon shining in the window on a floor devoid of clutter and toys. These images are unrealistic.

So often we spend so much time spinning our wheels without getting anywhere. If we’d take a few minutes to analyze the problem, we’d come up with a solution that would, in the long run, save us time and energy. What is your most stressful time of day? Is it morning before the kids are up, after school when there’s homework to be done, right before supper when the kids are hungry and you still don’t know what you’re fixing for supper?!

When your world is spinning out of control, find your trigger points, and fix them. When you seem to be getting nowhere, take some deep breaths, figure it out, and fix it.

Be realistic and be real. That’s what it means to be an efficient manager of your studio.

You are, after all, the Artist – and it’s your studio.

You can do this.  Figure it out.  Then fix it.



Survival for busy women

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