Category Archives: Cleaning

Where there are no oxen…

"Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox" Proverbs 14:4

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” Proverbs 14:4

I read this verse this morning in my quiet time and it struck me. I know I’ve read it several times before, but for some reason it really stood out today. Maybe because I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with the “messy” side of life lately. Whether it’s scrubbing toilets or working in the garden or organizing paperwork or washing dishes or vacuuming up dog hair or picking up a trail of toys for the millionth time…life is full of messy chores, unpleasant tasks, downright dirty work.  Work that no one really sees, tasks that aren’t fun and seem to never end…life is full of manger-cleaning “stable” work.

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean”

I almost rephrased that in my journal to say “Where there are no children, the house is clean” lol. Or “where there are no husbands…” or “where there are no wives who randomly begin projects that are left unfinished all over the dining room table to the point that the family can’t even eat at the table and dinner must be served in the living room…” (Not that I know any wives like that… 😉 )

(and I’m pretty sure these versions don’t have quite the same meaning and inference as the verse intended…but still 😉 )

If you want abundant crops…if you want success at whatever it is you are doing, as a homemaker or a mother or an employee or a boss or whatever it is you do…chances are there will be some “mangers” to clean, some messy tasks to do, some nitty gritty downright dirty work involved.

Sure, the stable would be sparkling clean and smell great if you had no oxen in there.  But without the ox, you can’t plow the fields. “Abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” Oxen are messy. They require a whole set of chores and care. But they are strong. And they are part of the “abundant crops” package.

I don’t have any actual oxen in my life. I don’t farm. At all. I am barely able to grow a little tomato in my tiny backyard garden, let alone harvest an abundant crop of any sort. I don’t even know if modern-day farmers even use oxen to plow their fields anymore. But I think everyone has some kind of “ox” in their life…some kind of necessary (though sometimes messy) thing that adds strength and helps you plow whatever kind of field you are plowing.

So today I’m thinking about what the “oxen” are in my life and I’m thanking God for them, and for the messes and the unpleasant chores and tasks and all the messy stuff that goes along with the work He has called me to do.  Because I know that my faithfulness in even the small, unnoticed, unpleasant tasks is important. It all matters. Even messy manger-cleaning stable work. 😉


“In every job that must be done there is an element of fun”

The laundry room.

My arch nemesis.

It’s the room in our house that seems to collect everything that doesn’t have a “home”…it’s the designated place for everything that doesn’t have a designated place.  It’s a very small room that doubles as our primary storage closet in our little home that seriously lacks storage space.  So clutter builds up…things get shoved in and piled up…it’s bad.

I’m ashamed to admit that this is the reality of what our laundry room often looks like:

It’s so bad.  Horrible.  My least favorite space in our house.

And yet, I need to be able to use this room.  My family insists on wearing clothes every day, so I need to be able to wash clothes every day or else laundry gets out of control.  And it often does.  Because I hate this room.  And I hate doing laundry.  So doing laundry in this room is just plain miserable.

I finally got to the point last week that I couldn’t even get to the washing machine without crawling over piles of stuff and moving things out of the way.  Something had to change.  I knew I had to do some major work in this space (which is one of the reasons I’ve procrastinated it so long…I knew it would be a lot of work and a pain in the booty). But enough was enough…no more procrastinating.  The laundry room makeover HAD to be done!

But the task was a bit overwhelming.  There is no way everything that was stuffed into that room would fit back in and still be a functional space.  And I had a very limited budget (like $20 limited).

I had to get creative.  And I had to purge.  A lot.

It took all week, but I finally have a clean and organized laundry room!

Ahhhh….soooo much better!

Here’s what I did to get there:

  • I pulled EVERYTHING out.  every. thing.  It seriously FILLED my dining room and kitchen.  It was ridiculous.
  • I threw out and got rid of a LOT of stuff.  Basically, if it had been sitting in there collecting dust for like 3 years and we never used it, it was gone.  If it served no function or purpose, if I didn’t love it, or if it was broken or otherwise unusable…it was gone.  I only put things back into that room that I knew we would use.
  • I took down most of the existing shelving and moved it around. I moved all shelving onto the one wall above the washer and dryer. (Before, there was shelving on every wall…it was ok, but made the room feel even smaller and more cluttered than it already was.  I just moved the shelves around so that it looked a little less chaotic. I didn’t lose any shelving space…just organized it differently.) Then I used a tension rod I already had from a previous project and hung a little “curtain” in front of the top shelves to give it a nice, clean look above the washer and dryer. (The curtain was made from a half-panel of an old shower curtain that I saved for some reason. I may replace it with a different fabric if I find one I love…but this was free, so it works 😉 ).  And it’s super easy to slide and get to anything I need on the shelves.
    (I realized in cleaning out this room that I had a bit of a laundry detergent hoarding problem going on, as you can see by all the All on that shelf…I counted 13 of them!…lol.  Lots of coupons and great sales lately…so I have enough laundry detergent now to last me quite a while.  I love couponing…but that’s another post for another day.)
  • I painted the walls.  The walls had not been painted…EVER.  And they were in BAD shape.  So I filled all the (many) holes all over the walls and put on a coat of primer and then topped it off with a nice, crisp coat of white paint.  I’m really loving white paint lately…it’s just so bright and clean. (This step of the process was a pain because of the limited space I had to move around in…especially when trying to paint beside and behind the washer and dryer…which is why I never ever painted that room…and why it probably will not get painted again for a VERY long time 😉 ).
  • I cleaned everything.  (It is so gross how much gunk builds up under and behind that dryer….so gross…just so gross).
  • I painted and hung up a peg board.  This was the only thing I spent money on (the board itself was only $6, and then I purchased a pack of assorted peg hooks for about $8…so $14 is all I spent on this whole project).  I’ve been wanting a peg board for a long time…I just like them, and I had found all sorts of cool ideas of ways to use them on Pinterest. (I love Pinterest).  We don’t have a garage, but I think if I ever had a garage I would probably have at least one wall be a solid peg board.  Anyway…I love how my peg board turned out and how it allows me to organize all my random little things. (And I can change them around and add more buckets and containers if I need to…I love it!)
    peg board(This is on the tiny wall directly opposite of the washer and dryer)
    I painted a section of the peg board blue (just because) and mounted it to the wall using some scrap wood I had, and screwed it into the studs. (The wood pieces behind it allow for the hooks and brackets to go in the holes without scraping up the wall behind it). This was another step of this whole process that was a pain…but in cleaning up I found a stud finder and laser level I didn’t know I had (it was like Christmas all over again, lol!)…so I used those and that helped the process 😉 ).mason jars to organizeThe set of brackets and hooks I purchased included two “shelf brackets”…so I used an old fence board as a makeshift shelf, and then sorted some of my supplies into mason jars and stuck them on the shelf.  (I love using mason jars…they have so many wonderful functions! But that’s a whole other blog post too 😉 )
  • And then…to finish it off…I made some art!

    And I used a quote that I love from Mary Poppins: “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun”…because finding that element of fun when doing laundry is a little challenging for me (because, like I said, I hate doing laundry 😉 ). But now with my nice and organized laundry space, maybe I’ll be able to find a little more fun in this job that must be done 😉 .

Mary Poppins laundry room artwork

I made my large laundry room artwork using watercolors and a Sharpie marker (what would I ever do without Sharpies?!).

Unlike Mary Poppins, it’s not practically perfect in every way…but I like it 🙂

I also made a smaller version and used it to help me create a digital version of the same art…a version to share!

So if you’d like to print your own Mary Poppins art, just click below on the size and version that you would like! (*It is free for personal use only…please do not sell or use it for profit…thanks!)


Mary Poppins Quote (Original)
{Click below on the size you want to go to the PDF file}


Mary Poppins Quote – Full Color
{Click below on the size you want to go to the PDF file}


Mary Poppins Quote – Black & White
{Click below on the size you want to go to the PDF file}

Oh, and that cute little printable hanging above my dryer?….

I found that little one on Pinterest over a year ago.  You can print your own over here: 

I am already loving my “new” laundry room.  Doing laundry, although still not my favorite thing to do, is not nearly as miserable. And I can find everything I need very quickly without having to dig and make a mess in the process.  Now to tackle our tiny hall closet….if I can organize the nightmare laundry room, surely I can handle that black hole in the hallway 😉

Planning for Peace {free calendar and daily checklist printables}

The girls returned to school this week. The weather outside has been crazy cold. So I’ve just stayed inside, kept my fuzzy socks on my feet, and started thinking about getting myself and our home organized for this new year. I really want peace in our home this year. But when the clutter piles up, when the pace is too fast, when the laundry is overflowing and “to-do” lists run long…when we don’t take time to be still, to make space…there isn’t peace.

If I’m going to make space, I’m going to need to be intentional.

If I’m going to make space, I’m going to need to be consistent.

Practically, for me, this means I need to do a little planning ahead.

So I started with a calendar. I scoured Pinterest to try to find one like what I had pictured in my head…no such luck. But I did find this super cute one from The Ink Nest which I downloaded and printed:

minicalendarHere’s the link so you can grab your own:

That one is cute and I love the graphics, but I also needed a calendar that had more space for me to write on each day. I couldn’t find what I was really looking for, so I made my own! 🙂

And I’m sharing it with you:

2014 Calendar{Just click on the image above and it should take you to the entire PDF file with all 12 months. Save, Print, Share, Enjoy!}

I’m going to use the 4 lines at the top of each month to list out ideas for Family Nights. If we can do 4 family nights/days a month…at least one per week…then that’s at least 48 intentional, meaningful family experiences this year. Some months we may do more…some months may be crazy and we may do less. But we value intentional time together, so we need to be intentional about planning for it.


I also made some daily lists to help me stay on track with tasks around the house. Like I mentioned in my last post, I don’t really like to clean. I am terrible about procrastinating little things and letting it pile up. This year I’m going to be more intentional in my job as a homemaker…I’m going to do a little every day so that the housework remains manageable. So I made some lists. I love lists…lists help me remain focused…and there’s just something about putting a little check in that little box beside a task…

I tried to keep it simple. Just a few things each day to keep me on track.

Here’s what my lists for Monday-Thursday look like:

Daily Lists_2014-1

I also made some blank templates…in case you would like to use it too:

Daily Lists_blank-1

Daily Lists_blank-2{Just click on the image above to download the PDF}

Take it, make it your own…you can list anything you want for each day. Just keep it simple, manageable, doable…even just two or three things done consistently every day can make a difference over time. I’m still learning this…still having to make myself remember this truth and allow it to sink deep: consistency over time has the power to influence…like drops of rain, small on their own, but added together over time can become a river. I don’t have to do everything all at once perfectly at the same time. Small, consistent investments – in my home, in my children, in my marriage, in my relationship with God, in anything – over time can make a huge difference.

Anyway…back to the lists…if you would like to customize these on your computer, feel free to save the image files for each page:

Monday-Thursday lists (Page 1)

Friday & Meal Planning lists (Page 2)

To customize your own lists, just insert the image into Word (or Photoshop or whatever word processing software you have). If you’re using Word, stretch the image out to cover the entire page, and then add text boxes on top of the image to add the text you want. Save your file to your computer, and then you can just print your lists every week without having to write out the same words over and over again. It may take a little time, but you can completely customize your lists that way.

Now…as much as I love a calendar and a schedule, and as much as I make lists and plan things out…I have to remind myself that this calendar is not the law, and I don’t want to become a slave to these lists. If something doesn’t get done, it’s not the end of the world. If I don’t check every box, it doesn’t mean I am a failure.

I am a recovering perfectionist, so this is big for me.

The lists and the calendars merely serve as a guide for me as I look ahead each week and plan for our family. I’ve found that if I don’t at least plan the main things out…if I don’t make space and time for what I value the most…then the urgent things tend to crowd out the important things, distractions suck up time, days get busy and before I know it I’m looking back at the end of a month and wondering where all the time went. (Been there, done that…way too many times)

So this year I’m planning for space. This year I’m making room for what is most important. This year I’m conquering the clutter, in my home and in my life, by being intentional and consistent. And I’m going to watch as peace invades as I make room for Christ…because even in the midst of the pace, and the calendar, and the checklists…He is Emmanuel…God with me.


***EDITED (01/28/14): I have created a new version of the Daily Checklists as an editable PDF file, so that you can just fill in your own daily to-do’s to save and/or print!  Just download the file below.  You will also need the font “Always In My Heart”, so here is the link to download that font for free: 

Editable PDF for the Daily Lists

(I’m still figuring out how to make these kinds of PDFs…so hopefully this will work the way it’s supposed to 😉  )

When Making Space Means Making a Mess…

The past few days I have been pretty busy around our little home doing something I really don’t like to do: clean.  I’m talking deep clean, pull everything out of every corner and out from under every bed and seriously C-L-E-A-N.  I don’t like doing this.  I actually probably verge on totally HATING it.  Which is why it gets so bad…because I procrastinate doing it for way longer that I care to admit.

Now before you think I’m an utter slob, I do clean my house.  Kinda.  I straighten up every day…even run the vacuum and dust the shelves.  All the open spaces that others can see, I am pretty good about keeping clean.  Unless someone were to look really carefully or open a closet door, you really (hopefully) wouldn’t think that my house is very messy.   But…if you open the hallway closet door, or if you were to peek under my bed or (heaven forbid) go into our back bathroom…you would see…we are a pretty messy family, with some minor (ok, sometimes more than minor) hoarding tendencies.  (Admitting you have a problem is the first step though, right?)

But I am typically pretty good at dusting over the surfaces and cramming the clutter into the unseen corners and closets of the house.  That is, until all those corners and closets get full and can’t hold anymore, and it starts spilling out into the open spaces.  Then it’s just frustrating.  And before long it gets to the point where I just have to break down and suck it up and clean out the mess.

This time it started in the girls’ rooms.  I have two girls, ages 10 and 8.  And they have A LOT of stuff.

We have a fairly small house…less than 1200 square feet…and as much as I love our little home and am very thankful for the space that God has provided for our family, it definitely has its challenges…and storage of all our “stuff” is one of them.  Clutter piles up fast, and if I don’t stay on top of it (which, sadly, I often do not), it takes over and leaves us feeling like we have even less space.

The girls’ rooms were at that point…beyond that point.  Especially after Christmas, when they both had a few new things to add to their already overflowing rooms.  Not to mention, there were clothes…everywhere.  I couldn’t fit the clothes I had washed into their drawers because I had not purged through their clothes in over a year, and so much of what was in their drawers were things they had outgrown or no longer wore anymore.  It was ridiculous.  Something had to be done.  I had put it off for far too long…it was time to pay the piper.

And so it began.

One room at a time, we dragged everything…EVERYTHING…out of the room and piled it in the living room.  This is the part of the process that I dread the most.  The part where it’s all out in the open, the part where we have to look at all of it all piled up and face it…the part where it’s….MESSY.  So messy.  So. So. Messy.


But it’s a necessary step.  We have to face the mess in order to purge through all the unnecessary things and put things back in order.

The whole reason I started this process was because the clutter was crowding the space in their rooms.  I needed to make space.

And sometimes to make space we have to make a mess first.




We have to drag out all that is cluttering up the space…the good and the bad, the old and the new, the broken and the beautiful…so we can go through it, one by one, and slowly put things back in order…slowly make space.

So that’s what we did.  We piled it all up, and then we went through EVERYTHING.  Every toy, every notebook, every piece of clothing they owned…and we made three piles: keep, throw away, and give away.

I am always amazed at how much TRASH accumulates in the hidden spaces, under beds and in closets and crammed in the corners of shelves.  It’s insane.

We also filled up several bags full of stuff to donate.  We have more than we need, and we don’t need to hang onto old things just because we can…we had new things that needed to fit in, so some of the old things had to go to make space for the new.

It was quite a process.  It look a LONG time.  The girls grew weary and frustrated.  I was exhausted.  I wanted to quit. They wanted to quit.  “Just throw it in a big box and shove it in a corner…deal with it later” was a thought that whispered through my tired bones as the night hours lingered and I still had a mess to sort through.  But I knew that if I did that, if I put it off, it would be a long time before I dealt with it again.  No, I had to see it through…I had to finish.  I’m tired of letting the clutter take over our space.

So we kept going.

Kept purging.




And slowly…ever so slowly…their rooms started going back together.  There was space for everything that was necessary and important and that they actually used and loved.  Emma even has an empty drawer in her dresser (seriously!).  And Lilly has a wide open space to play with all her little collections of things, so she doesn’t have to drag them all out to the living room to play with them.

They love their rooms now. And so do I.

And it got me thinking about this whole process of making space.



My word I have claimed for this year is Peace…making space in the pace for some peace, for Christ.  Both spiritually and practically.

Making space.

If I truly want to make space so I can have peace…in my home, in my relationships, in my life…maybe, sometimes, that requires making a bit of a mess first?

Because…how often is my heart like my home?  I allow things to clutter up the spaces.  I shove things in the corners, under the bed, in the closet of my heart.  The spaces that people see, the ME that people see, seems to be all neat and in order…but really, if you open me up, there’s a whole lot of junk crowding the spaces in my heart.  Old hurts that I haven’t let go of, habits I haven’t thrown out, unimportant things that take up my time and spaces in my day.  I shove them to the side because to bring them out, to pile them up and face them, would be…well…messy.  And it might take a long time to go through.  I don’t even know what all is hiding in there….and, honestly, I don’t know if I even want to know.

But if I’m going to make space in the pace…make space in my heart…make space in my life…for Christ, for His peace….then I need to face the mess.  I need to drag it out before Him and let Him clean me out.

Maybe it’s time to do some deep cleaning…not just in my home, but in my heart.

And then…maybe it’s time to put some steps in place so that it doesn’t get all cluttered up again.  (Both in my home and my heart).  Consistently purge…a little along the way…so it doesn’t pile up so badly and get so overwhelming and make such a big mess when I do go through it all.  Like stop shoving things under the bed or in closets just to put them out of sight…deal with things right away.

And as far as my heart, maybe say this prayer every single day and let God clean my heart and make space in there for peace:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24

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