When I was a young wife and mother, I read all the organization books, the productivity books, the godly family living book

s. I learned a lot, and a lot of it was good.

But it took me about 10 years of trying to put it into practice that I finally realized I was never going to achieve what I had assumed I would achieve if I learned the right habits (ha – and did them all the time – ha) and set up my house and housekeeping systematically.

After a few months of existential crisis (almost entirely in my own head because I am an introverted intuitive), arguing about why this made it all pointless (i.e. when I was 12, I was 12 in my parents’ face; when I was 30, I was 12 in God’s face). God is good and patient (much more than I am with 12-year-olds in my face).

When I finally bent the knee and said, “Ok, fine. If this is really the way you’ve set it up, I’ll go with it. I’m just missing something that you’ve got figured out and I don’t. I’ll just do the work and never achieve anything by it if that’s your plan.”

Guess what? After repentance (even resigned baby-step repentance with mustard-seed-sized faith at a point when I ought to have had a loaded fruitful tree), comes rejoicing.

Giving up our own ideas of what we’re doing, what we’re about, what we’re achieving is often the first step to seeing real organization.

Organization begins in the heart, having a heart rightly ordered to our Creator and Lord. ⁠

We imagine that once we get our act together and completely organize and systematize our routines and our home, then it will all be easy. We seek that holy grail – organization – believing that having attained the quest, our lives will then have purpose, meaning, and ease.

We are weary, frantic, pestered, distracted, fatigued, and confused. Organization seems to be the answer to our problems. So we try and try and try, but we just can’t seem to get to the blessed state.⁠

News flash: Not getting there is a mercy and grace from God. Idols will never satisfy, never solve our scattered souls. The reason we are weary and frantic and pestered is not because of our situation, but because of our hearts. And only God can change our hearts.

The blessed state is the state of repentance and obedience, from which rejoicing and gratitude flow. ⁠

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The siren call of organization is that if we just get our act together, then we can make our life go our way, we can make our life easy on ourselves, we can be control. It’s a lie. Real, true, God-honoring organization is being always ready to serve as needed.

Being always ready is first an attitude, a mindset, a heart thing and secondarily a preparedness with the material resources we use in service. ⁠

So let’s find 52 ways to cultivate an organized attitude in our lives.

Table of contents

1. Choose a growth mindset.
2. Keep realistic expectations.
3. Change the story.
4. Meditate on truth.
5. Pause to pray.
6. Know your vocations.
7. Give yourself a motto.
8. Iterate your plans.
9. Smile.
10. Embrace 15 minutes.
11. Keep in fellowship.
12. Create an island of sanity.
13. Own your thoughts.
14. Know that life will change.
15. Accept entropy.
16. Roll with the punches.
17. Everything Has A Place.
18. Be impervious.
19. Kiss your husband.
20. Blaze the trail.
21. Make your bed.
22. Write a daily note.
23. Get steps.
24. Sing a song.
25. Get sleep.
26. Drink water.
27. Find accountability.
28. Say thank you.
29. Get dressed.
30. Have a menu plan.
31. Eat breakfast.
32. Make something.
33. Ignore the mess.
34. Hug your children.
35. Go to church.
36. Go to the doctor.
37. Purge a closet.
38. Laugh.
39. Build your house.
40. Have a good cry.
41. Read a novel.
42. Have a grocery route.
43. Wear an apron.
44. Take a photo.
45. Organize your purse.
46. Share the load.
47. Fill your mind.
48. Take a break.
49. Eat intentionally.
50. Develop grit.
51. Cultivate friendships.
52. Declutter your head.
So, why organize your attitude?

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1. Choose a growth mindset.

An organized attitude is a growth-oriented attitude.

An attitude that perceives life from the lens of growth rather than mere failure or success makes us


When we see the circumstances God sends our way as opportunities to grow, then we do not have to fear, we do not have to get angry, we do not have to panic.

Instead, we hunker down and see that we are being given the opportunity to practice this or that fruit of the Spirit and pray for it to be granted us. We see our need and get the grace that will see us through.

Choosing a growth mindset is sanctification, not self-help. We are to grow in godliness, and so if we can see our inconveniences, set-backs, and failures as providentially sent for our good, for our growth, we will be able to work through them with faith and not wallow in them in fear.

A growth mindset sees the yogurt spilled all over the floor – the homemade yogurt that took 24 hours to make – as a call to prize the child over our efforts by not taking him down for it but helping him clean it up instead. It’s not about my yogurt, it’s about what and who I love.

The good news is that when we practice acting out the right choice in such everyday situations, it will slowly change our internal responses. Even if, at first, we regret the yogurt more than we regret yelling at the child, if we obey and put things right and choose the right thing, our hearts will be changed.

Before organized closets, we need to accept our roles and duties.

2. Keep realistic expectations.

When we make a to-do list full of our own pet projects when our time is actually taken up with our children and their needs, we’re going to be grumpy and feel our children are getting in the way. Instead, we need to put them on our to-do lists and make sure we meet their needs before we add more in.

When we think that we can keep the house neat and clean while we’re pregnant and homeschooling, we’re setting ourselves up for frustration on top of our exhaustion.

When we think we can leave the house in under five minutes when we have five children who rarely know where their socks and shoes and coats are, we make ourselves late and rushed.

What to do?

Learn from experience.

We only know what expectations are realistic when we evaluate our reality.

We have to take that time to look back over that day we were at the end of our rope. What made us feel that way? What could we have done differently? How can we set things up to circumvent the frustration and prepare for what’s most likely to happen?

Perspective is gained only when we take that time to notice and think. Then we can change our plans and our expectations to fit our current circumstances and realities.

Take time for an evening review. Take time for a brain dump.

What will matter most by the end of the day?

Write that down on your list, no matter how silly or insignificant it sounds.

Living life well is not about checking off as many tasks as possible. It’s about knowing and doing the right things.

We can only know what those things are if we pause often and reflect.

Taking time outs to think it through is not wasted time, but profound time. Without it we simply march on through life, doing the most urgent or the most attractive or the most convenient task. However, with pauses for perspective, we gain clarity and peace, even when we don’t have time to follow up on our plan.

With a better idea of where we are and what our purpose is, we make better intuitive in-the-moment choices, even when we can’t open up our planner.

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3. Change the story.

What we think matters.

While it’s still awkward and uncomfortable, we accept the story God is telling in our lives and tell it to ourselves. We can take the reins and “take every thought captive.” We can change our thoughts.

And by changing our thoughts, we can change the story we see ourselves acting.

Our racing thoughts include an interpretation of what is happening to us.

What is happening?

What does it mean?

It’s difficult but essential to notice that our perception of what’s going on is an interpretation, a story overlaid on the bare facts. Stripping the story away entirely so that we are unconnected, stoic observers of our lives is not desirable, but we also do not have to be stuck with the story that first and naturally pops into our minds.

If the story we see ourselves living out is one where everyone is against us, where nothing ever works out for us, where kids are a pain and a hassle and a nuissance – then we must notice it and reject it. That is not the story God tells, and it is the story He is telling that is true and that brings peace and comfort, even when the difficult circumstances don’t lift.

God is giving us opportunities to practice and thereby grow in patience, kindness, and self-control.

God is setting apart and sanctifying a people for Himself, and we have the privilege not only of being a part of that people, but of being instruments in discipling the people in our charge, as well. It’s not about us. It’s about His work in the world – which we both are and can be a part of.

What role am I playing right now in that story?

But we can’t simply see that our story is self-pity or pride or whatever wrong-headed interpretation we’re stuck in. We can’t scrape it back to bare facts and stay there.

Rather, while it’s still awkward and uncomfortable, we accept the story God is telling in our lives and tell it to ourselves. What is true? Tell yourself the truth.

To do this, we must know the truth. That means we must know our Bibles and spend time in the Word. Prayer and Scripture reading is how we put off our old man, our old stories, and put on the new.

4. Meditate on truth.

Meditation is rather hip right now, but the kind of meditation I am speaking of is not emptying our minds, but rather filling them.

The Psalms speak of meditation, and in the New Testament we are exhorted to meditate on what is good and true and upright and beautiful. Think on these things.

We are thus commanded with good reason: it is good for us. It is good for our attitudes. It is how we keep a proper perspective and align our judgement.

In order to meditate on truth, we have to know truth. We have to be filling our minds with truth.

Daily Bible reading and prayer are essential to an aligned and vibrant attitude. Without it, we are tossed on the winds of our emotions. We need the centering and stabilizing of God’s Word for our hearts and minds.

But we also need bite-sized truths to meditate, not just general reading. To meditate means to deliberate over, to ponder, to consider, to mull over. We can’t really mull over chapters upon chapters at a time. We need to give ourselves little segments to sink down deep, little bit by little bit. Over a lifetime, it creates a deep well.

Here are some ways meditation might fit into our lives at home:

Morning devotions
Evening devotions
Scripture memory work with kids
Thinking while taking a walk
Copying Scripture onto a daily index card

By weaving habits of reading, speaking, and thinking about Scripture into our day, we can maintain a resilient and centered attitude.

5. Pause to pray.

The advice to begin our days with prayer is often heard, and rightly so. We need grace and clarity to face our duties with faith, love, and patience.

We do well to heed that advice.

But prayer is also something we can weave into everything we do, as 1 Thessalonians tells us, “pray without ceasing.”

The Heidelberg Catechism asks a question I think we’ve all felt, whether or not we’ve said it out loud:

Why do Christians need to pray?

Their answer, a summary of biblical teaching on prayer, is concise and convicting:

Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.

And also because God gives His Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking Him for them.

(emphases mine)

Pray with thankfulness.

Thankfulness comes up twice in this short answer because it comes up so much more in Scripture. We are told to pray with thankfulness even when we’re making petitions:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The promised peace is for those who request with thanksgiving.

Anxiety and worry are attitudes we need to rid ourselves of. Peace and joy (among others) are the fruits of the Holy Spirit, the attitudes of Christ we are to put on. God’s peace, by the Holy Spirit, guards our hearts, changes our attitudes, when we pray with thanksgiving.

Having peace and joy is not something we must do on our own before we present our requests, but something we ask for with thanksgiving and in the moment – all the moments, the many moments – we need it.

Once before everyone is up doesn’t cut it – ask me how I know.

Rather, we are to thank God for the moment He’s given us, even if it contains spilled milk or folded laundry knocked over or more dirty dishes. His goal is our sanctification, not a perfectly orderly home where no one ever steps out of line (our lines, thankyouverymuch).

We feel messed with because we need our lines messed with so we can grow in grace and patience and kindness and turn over our own will and accept His.

For that, we can thank Him.

But so often when we do pray, we pray not asking for the grace to handle our situation the way God would want us to, but we pray that the cross be removed from us utterly. It’s understandable. Christ prayed that prayer, also. But the answer was no.

If we want the answer to be yes, then we must pray that God will give us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control – because that’s what He’s trying to work in us, and we’ll be asking according to His will.

Then buckle up, because we’ll be given situations where we’ll have to actually practice those attitudes and responses. And we realize, “Now, Lord, when I said I wanted patience, what I actually meant was that I wanted you to remove the need for patience from my life.” He knows. And He knows better what you need. We can trust Him, thank Him, and grab the grace He sends.

6. Know your vocations.

If there’s one thing that derails our attitudes, it’s feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about what we should actually be doing.

There are so many options, so many opportunities. We simply must say no at times, but how can we know when we should say no and when we need to be stretched by saying yes?

The answer lies in our vocations.

Vocation literally means calling. It is much more than a job, although it includes your jobs. They are statements of the primary roles you play in life.

We each have ways of functioning that fit us, as persons. Our vocations are made up of the big responsibilities we’re given.

God has called us to particular good works, and He has not called us to do every good work. Taking time to clarify our vocations is an exercise that helps us discern those things God is calling us to so we can release the guilt of not doing the good works He’s called others to do.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. –Ephesians 2:10

To call our roles vocations is to remind ourselves that we do not determine our own mission or our own destiny. We don’t need a mission statement so much as we need to sit back and notice how God has gifted us and what God has given us.

Has He created you as a person and called you His child? That is a vocation.

Has He given you a husband and children? That is a vocation.

Has He given you roles in people’s lives or skills that serve the church or the community? That mightbe a vocation, or it might be a distraction or temptation.

What we are called to in one season of our life will not necessarily be what we are called to for our whole life.

It takes wisdom, prayer, and discussion with our husband and a good friend to determine what should be on our plates right now.

The first step in working that out and having categories and filters to run opportunities through is finding and naming your vocations.

I created a free guide to help you do just that. It is only the beginning of the discussion, but it is an essential beginning.

7. Give yourself a motto.

A motto is a short saying that helps you stay focused and committed. Having little mottos will make it easier for you remember to do what you want to do.

Some of my mottos include

Work the plan. Roll with the punches. Choose the right next thing.
Uses est magister optimus. (Practice is the best teacher.)
Come what may, time and the hour run through the roughest day. (Shakespeare)
Prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us. (from the Heidelberg Catechism)
Leave it better than you found it.
Smile and start.

These little chants I can tell myself are mini pep talks on the tip of my tongue that can help bring back my attitude when it starts drifting into dismay or laziness.

In my own life I have noticed three benefits that selecting a handful of mottos has given me.

1. They provide mental shortcuts.

Instead of reviewing an entire plan of action or running down a list of specific habits, these mottos remind me of the mindset and habit patterns I want to cultivate. The more I say them, the quicker they pop to mind when I need them.

2. They’re catchy.

Mottos are reminders, and they are also catchy. It’s important that reminders be, well, easy to remember. Catchy mottos are inherently compelling and motivating. When they pop into our head, they make us smile, which makes it easier to conform to them rather than fight and argue internally with a more dour, data-driven reminder.

Mottos keep our pep-talks upbeat.

3. They build an identity.

When we recite a handful of mottos over and over again, and conform our choices to them, we more and more naturally live them out even when we don’t use them. They become the way we simply do things.

The best way to form new habits is to take on the identity as the kind of person who … leaves places better than they were, smiles and starts, or doesn’t let a mistake or slip-up stop continual practice.

8. Iterate your plans.

It’s paralyzed us all.


We wait to start moving forward with our plans because we aren’t sure if we’re doing it right. We aren’t sure they will work. We aren’t sure we like the colors we picked.

We pull back and reformat the page or change the app we’re using. We make the list over again to ensure we didn’t miss anything.

We spend more time planning than doing the plan.

That’s perfectionism, and iterating is the solution.

To iterate means to perform repeatedly, to repeat a procedure, applying the result of the previous application to the next.

It’s technically a math term, but it applies beautifully to our busy lives at home which are so full of details and needs.

Don’t wait until the plan is perfect.

Just start with what you have, where you are.

Reserve time every week and every interval for evaluation, but in the midst of the day, just move forward with what you know. The perfect plan is not going to be as helpful as the plan you have in front of you, put into practice.

The day-to-day is for execution mode.

Planning mode is easier, it is less risky and messy. It can be a form of retreat, of hiding from obligation and responsibility.

Dive in, each day, to the responsibilities in front of you.

A plan will help. A better plan will help more. But doing an imperfect or partial plan will be better than scrapping or adjusting your plan.

Instead of being in constant planning mode, reserve times for it. Then, when you are supposed to be adjusting your plan, you have some actually data and feedback to work with.

You know where your sticking points were.

You have a better idea how your life intersects with your plan.

And the plan that you make after that reflection will be much better, more applicable, more individual, because you spent some time “trying out” an imperfect plan rather than waiting until you had everything ironed out.

9. Smile.

Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. –Mother Theresa

It’s easy to smile at our newborns, smile at a cute three-year-old antic, smile at our bigger kids when they volunteer to help out. It’s good our life as mother provides us these opportunities to smile, because smiling is good for us and it is good for our kids.

Smiling comes naturally to some and less easily to others, but it is a simple gesture that can steer us clear of self-pity and a downward spiral and an act that is contagious to our children. They will catch and mimic what we model, so we should be conscious of our expressions.

Consciously choose the emotions you display, and the outward act of the will can work its way inward to change your actual emotion.

As Gretchen Rubin writes in Happiness Project:

Random smiling is an example of my resolution to “act the way I want to feel:” while people suppose that feelings inspire actions, in fact, actions also inspire feelings. So by acting happier, I should feel happier. And you know, I think I do.

If we find ourselves in need of a little attitude organization, one simple step we can take is to heave a deep sigh and reoxygenate, then smile.

Facial expressions don’t merely reflect emotions, they also influence emotions. In “facial feedback,” studies show, the mere act of smiling makes people happier — even when they smile mechanically. – Gretchen Rubin

When to smile:

Smile when the milk spills, because the child now has an opportunity to learn how to clean up after making a mess. No real harm done, but much good can be learned.
Smile when a child enters the room. Let him know, without words, deep in his bones, that he pleases you.
Smile when your plans don’t work out. Turns out God had a different idea. Trust it’s a better one.
Smile when the laundry pile overflows. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to catch up on your podcasts.
Smile when traffic is slow. Maybe this is the chance you wanted to have a conversation with your pint-sized travel partner.

We can learn the habit of letting small inconveniences and trivial trials roll off our back, and by doing so our resilience and fortitude will be trained should a lasting or larger affliction come.

Smiling disarms the stress that so easily mounts. Stress is bad for our health, for our minds, for our kids. The only way to reject the stress response is to acknowledge we are not in control, but our God is, and we trust Him. In that we can always find a smile of gratitude.

A smile is a simple way to love someone else, to offer approval, acceptance, and affection. It is a gift to your children that gives back to you, also.

It’s simple. It’s effective.

10. Embrace 15 minutes.

One way we give in to perfectionism is to not start unless we know we can finish and get the results we want.

But as busy moms, that is rarely possible.

We can’t put things off until the perfect moment, because that moment will not come.

Instead, try embracing 15 minute chunks.

I like results and outcomes, but progress is more important and more achievable.

In fifteen minutes you can make progress.

Cleaning and organizing the entire house might be your project, but that’s not going to happen in one day.

However, if you set aside 15 minutes every day (or most days, anyway), you can slowly but steadily move toward that object.

Embrace the process, the incremental change that you move forward, more than the outcome.

Keep a list of small tasks that truly help out that take 15 minutes or less.

Mine includes cleaning out my purse, reordering the utensil drawer in the kitchen, and folding a load of laundry.

It’s good to remember that the job that seems daunting can be over shortly if we just start.

If the overwhelming job on your plate will take longer than 15 minutes, try breaking it up into chunks that are doable within a quarter hour. Is the entire kitchen a wreck? Split it into 5 zones and only tackle one at a time until you’re done.

Seeing small wins snowballs into satisfying success.

In fifteen minutes you can reset your attitude.

Whether it’s by taking a little time out (even if it’s behind a locked bathroom door), drinking a big glass of ice water, or walking up and down the driveway a few times while you pray to sort things out – knowing that your mood is not you and you can let it go is crucial and doesn’t have to take long, doesn’t have to take chocolate (though it helps), and doesn’t have to be dramatic.

God is in the business of changing hearts.

We can ask Him and He will do it, but we must be ready to actually repent and choose and act in love & joy.

Little drops add up over time. All or nothing is not the best approach to anything.

Consistency and building one brick at a time will make solid progress, whether it’s in habits of mood or habits of housecleaning. We will never reach perfection where we no longer need 15 minute boosts. Our house will never stay organized and our moods will never be perfectly tranquil.

But each time we require 15 minutes, we can take it and make progress.

11. Keep in fellowship.

Too often, when we start making goals around keeping house better or getting more done, our focus shifts too far and we start seeing these means as ends – which means anything that gets in the way of our ends is a problem to be overcome or a frustration to bear resentfully.

And too often, that means grumbling against our husbands or shouting at our kids. We could reach our goals, we think to ourselves, if it weren’t for these other people getting in the way.

It’s an insidious bitterness and falsehood that we must be diligent to root out whenever it rears its ugly head.

That’s what it is to organize our attitude.

Keeping house or completing other projects are always means, never ends in themselves. They are ways that we serve others and tools we use to bless others. When we become cranky and angry as we work, it is not a sign that we need to repent of our work, but that we need to repent of our attitude.

And God not only forgives, but grants us a new mind, a changed heart, and an opportunity to forgive and serve in the same way He has forgiven and served.

Keep in fellowship with your husband.

Does it feel like you are your husband’s maid? Do you sigh and mutter when you find socks or wrappers or belongings lying right where you just tidied?

You take it personally, but you know he is not aware of it.

Will you listen to your feelings or will you respond with love, kindness, and patience? These are fruit of the Spirit you don’t have to gin up on your own. Just ask for them and practice them.

You have two options:

Talk to him about how you see the house. Go into a room or setting that’s driving you crazy and ask him how he sees it. Try to see it through his eyes. Without anger or resentment, explain how you see it. Perhaps even hearing it out loud will cause you to see your own unreasonableness. I know it has for me. Talk about what bugs him, what bugs you, and create a plan together to help each other out.
Let love cover it. Love covers a multitude of sins. If it can do that, it can also cover a multitude of annoyances – that is, your own sins as well as his. Keep no record of wrongs, much less a record of petty irritations.

Organize your attitude by talking it out or by letting it go. Don’t let it fester.

Keep in fellowship with your kids.

It’s easy to feel like the kids are little walking undo buttons.

But the state of the house is not so important as the state of the children’s minds and hearts. How we respond to them, how we talk to them, how we treat them builds their identity in their own minds. Are we building up or tearing down?

Let us commit to modeling joyful work for them.

Let us commit to ranking them above our own goals or chores.

Let us commit to asking their forgiveness whenever we speak harshly or unkindly to them. They need that model of repentance as much as they need kindness, so as long as you set it right, a momentary lapse be for their good as well.

Keep in fellowship with God.

Before we can be right with our husbands or our children, we must be right with God. We must be working not for our own good, for our own reputation, or for our own self-importance, but because it is the work He has placed before us. We do it for His glory alone. We offer it to Him to be used at His discretion – and that might be for the children to undo or for a flood to overwhelm or for unexpected visitors to enjoy. We don’t know, but we can be ready to respond in gratitude, knowing He has His purposes and they are better than our own.

Jesus told us the requirement for fruitfulness:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. – John 15:4

And how do we abide in Him? Oh, He told us that, too:

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples. – John 8:31

A clean and organized house is of secondary importance to our primary relationships.

The home atmosphere is one tool for cultivating relationship, it is not a priority over them and should not be pitted against them.

12. Create an island of sanity.

It’s pretty much inevitable. With a busy, active family, the stuff will quickly move from their designated homes and fill the clear horizontal spaces.

How can we handle this in the middle of an average day while keeping our calm and still caring about how we keep our homes?

We must remember that the point of organizing is not so everything is neat and tidy and clear all the time. The point is that we are ready to do the right next thing; that we are maintaining an atmosphere of love and order in our home; and that our environment supports not only our work, but also the work of our children – the work of learning and growing and thriving.

That work is messy.

Enter: the island of sanity.

To help maintain your calm equilibrium in the midst of the chaotic, messy day-to-day, designate one small area as your own personal island of sanity.

When you don’t know where to start, start here.

So often, there’s so much out and so much clutter and so much to do that we don’t even know where to start.

When you have chosen an island of sanity, you always know where to start. And starting is always the hardest part.

Knowing where to start helps you get going and build momentum. Knowing where to start helps you build your habits and appreciate a clear space – even one clear space in the midst of chaotic clutter.

Build the habit of keeping it clear.

When I was learning to care about cleanliness and neatness, choosing one island of sanity and appreciating this one small spot in a sea of “need to do” around the house helped me so much.

It gave me a small win.

It gave me hope that the order would spread.

It gave me a small area to conquer, so I could build out from there.

When you feel like you’re going crazy looking at all that needs to be done, start with your island of sanity.

Claiming a space as an island of sanity gives you a manageable chunk to do when you feel like looking at everything that could be done will drive you up a wall.

Instead of thinking over and over again about everything that should be done, just start doing – start by clearing your island of sanity.

Instead of yelling at everyone to take care of their stuff, start with your own stuff on your island of sanity and move everyone else’s stuff to some other horizontal spot for them to deal with at EHAP.

Instead of wallowing in vague overwhelm, roll up your sleeves and simply tackle your island of sanity. Just doing a small, visibly effective task will help you calm down and get some perspective. It really will become a spot that reminds you that you can be calm, cool, and collected, even in the sea of bustling activity – just like this one small segment of counter can be clear in the sea of stuff.

Having one small area to tend consistently helps us let go of the desire to control and claim all the horizontal spaces in our home. It helps us take control of our own attitude first and foremost.

13. Own your thoughts.

Change the subject in your head when you need to.

When fear or doubt creeps in, we don’t need to reason with it or explain it away or answer it. We can simply pray about the issue that’s vexing us and then “change the subject” we’re thinking about.

We don’t have to engage fear or doubt and overcome them with willpower or logic. The response of faith is to pray, then turn it over into God’s hands and move on with whatever small obedience is in front of us.

This requires trust and it is also the practice of trusting. Not only knowing our worrying doesn’t do any good, but also acting on that knowledge by doing whatever it is we’re supposed to be doing instead.

Changing the subject doesn’t have to be super-spiritual. You can choose to think instead about what you’ll plant in your garden, about a book you’re reading, about a funny story of the kids’ antics you’ll tell your husband or mother.

Own your thoughts: Set your mind on things above, where Christ is.

The call in Philippians to set ours minds on things above is active. It’s a conscious, purposeful sort of thing, a thing that might feel weird and awkward at first. We’re to pick up our thoughts, as it were, from the trash heap where they want to dig and dwell, and set them where they should be: on Christ, on His kingdom, on love.

By faith, we have a good story. We’re living a good story because God’s writing it. We need to also tell ourselves The Good Story as we walk along our way – this is for God’s glory, not our own; this is about my salvation and sanctification, not about my pet goals.

Remembering the bigger picture puts our grievances and worries in perspective and helps us choose obedience instead of fear or pride. Remember the ultimate outcome and that you are a partaker of it.

14. Know that life will change.

Too often we go into a manic planning or organizing fit, thinking that if we just get on top of it now, we’ll be on top of it once and for all.

A “once and for all” attitude to organizing, cleaning, or planning is bound to disappoint. Nothing in this life is once and for all.

Life goes through different phases, stages, and seasons. Nothing we do will change that. Instead, what we do should work with that reality.

Planning and organizing while knowing that life will change and shift and our efforts will not last forever (or maybe even that long) will look different.

Life will change, so adjust expectations accordingly.

Perhaps it seems like if you start out knowing your efforts are only temporary and not going to last, you’ll start discouraged and think it’s not worth the time you’re investing.

However, it could also have the opposite effect.

Life will change, so work in planned iterations.

Perhaps, if you know you’ll need to reorganize that closet or revamp the chore system or redo the routines, you’ll be freed to let go of perfectionism and just start. The stakes aren’t high. Something is better than nothing and you don’t have to keep this system or set of routines forever.

The more often you start, the easier it becomes to rebuild or readjust the next time. You can start now, knowing you’ll get a shot at redoing it again. It can get better each time.

15. Accept entropy.

Do you, dear reader, know entropy?

We all experience it in every aspect of life. It is the muscles that weaken when not exercised, the dust that accumulates on the shelves, the clutter that seems to spawn in every corner.

Entropy is real. Entropy is part of the current natural order. The dictionary defines it as, “a gradual decline into disorder.”

That’s real life.

Gardens grow weeds.

If we want to handle life well, we have to align our mindset and our actions with that reality.

Organization will always be ongoing.

Organization is not a once-and-done sort of thing. Especially when there are growing children and changing responsibilities, stuff of all sorts is always being generated and needing to be dealt with.

Cleaning is ongoing: Dirt materializes. Cleaning everything once, no matter how thoroughly, is never cleaning it for all time. Do you have time and energy built in to clean the inevitable effects of entropy?

Organizing is ongoing: Stuff accumulates. Putting things in their right place will need to be done regularly, even daily. New things will come in that require us to find new homes for them, possibly rearranging once again. Do you keep space in your routines for tidying and reordering?

Planning is ongoing: Things happen. Time marches ever forward. Each day, each week, each interval requires us to plan ahead so we can meet the happenings of life with calm preparedness. Do you set aside time to plan each day, week, interval, and year?

Attitude is ongoing: Attitudes matter. There is never a time when we can just coast – that will tend toward disorder, even when it comes to our mindset and attitude. Gratitude and cheerfulness must become a daily habit.

Relationships are ongoing: People change. What is the point of the housework and the planning except fostering the lives of and relationships with our children and others? We need to continually be investing directly in our people’s lives, not just by cooking and cleaning for them, but by talking to them and loving on them. Never underestimate the power of simply smiling when they enter the room.

Maintenance and upkeep is a fact of life.

Everything – everything – tends toward disorder if left untouched and unmanaged. If we accept that and build in times for maintenance and upkeep of our homes, our systems, and our family, we’ll find more fulfillment and satisfaction in the work we do.

If you’ve been discouraged with the continual upkeep required, just know that the problem is not necessarily you or your system; the problem is entropy and it’s just a fact of life.

16. Roll with the punches.

The tagline I repeat over and over again in Work the Plan is

Work the plan.
Roll with the punches.
Do the right next thing.

What does it mean to roll with the punches?

Here is what my dictionary tells me:

(of a boxer) move one’s body away from an opponent’s blows so as to lessen the impact.
adapt oneself to adverse circumstances.

The first meaning provides us a striking image, a metaphor we can conjure in our imaginations as our circumstances change unexpectedly – even if the unexpected is only a breakfast mess or a toddler’s lost shoe.

Too often, I think, we hold on to or run to organization efforts in order to avoid adverse circumstances. But no matter what we do, we are not promised an easy life. We can’t find the perfect routine or perfect system and suddenly have all of life roll on smoothly.

Even if we did make that happen, it would probably be at the expense of doing anything meaningful in the world.

That’s not what we’re about. We’re about growing our people, reaching out to others, serving however we are being called to do so here and now.

Rough patches will come with that. We will not always get our way and we will be tempted to pitch a fit just like a two-year-old.

Instead, we can choose to roll with the punches.

Adverse conditions or difficult circumstances are not punishments or judgments, they are exercises given us to build our strength. So we can take the posture of the boxer and do what’s being asked of us as those conditions arise – do the right next thing.

Don’t take things personally, just roll with the punches.

Don’t freak out, just take care of whatever is in front of you.

While “doing the right next thing” is about our actions, “roll with the punches” is about our attitude – we can calmly roll with it, handle it, take care of it without panicking or exploding.

What we’re rolling away from is outbursts. We see the temptation coming at us from the one side to get angry, and we dodge it by choosing to speak kindly. We see the temptation coming at us to be anxious, and we evade it by changing our thoughts.

Punches aimed at our hearts and minds look like difficult circumstances, but the real danger is our impulse toward sinful reactions in those circumstances. However, it’s very possible that exact situation occurred so that we could practice overcoming our pet sins.

So we can, while we’re doing the right next thing and taking care of business, also take a deep breath and keep centered on what’s important: our sanctification, bringing glory to God in all we do, no matter what situations we find ourselves in.

17. Everything Has A Place.

You can’t EHAP if things don’t actually have a home.

As we start making plans for what to do over summer break, don’t merely add “declutter” to your list. Add “give things homes” to your list instead.

Yes, we do need to get rid of junk we don’t need or use. But how do we know how much to declutter? How do we know when we’re done?

The answer comes from evaluating the space we have, evaluating what we use and how often, and giving each item in our house a real place to belong. It’s a long process, and one that needs to be repeated as more stuff comes in and goes out and life changes. But it’s the true, practical step in real “organizing” – not labeling or buying new containers, but simply making a conscious decision about what goes where.

Here are three steps to work through as you give things a home.

1. Create a plot and systematically work through it.

Start with the most-used areas of your home and systematically go through the storage and holding places, one by one.

It might take a year or even two to make it through the entire house, but you will be steadily seeing progress and building the habit of “homing” things as you go.

It’s worth the effort and time!

2. Empty the storage places, shelf by shelf.

When you start organizing an area, empty the space, one shelf or one section at a time. Then only put back on the shelf what will belong there. Label the shelf if you want, but more importantly, do not put anything back in the space “temporarily” until you figure out where it should go.

As you are moving through your house giving things homes, declutter by getting rid of the things you don’t need or don’t use. When you must make a “home” decision for each item, handling it and being deliberate, you will make better decisions about what to keep and where to keep it.

3. Designate a temporary catch-all place as you work through the house.

Of course, you do need a temporary home for random bits as you work through. Choose a bin and add the random things you need to postpone decisions about into it. As you work through your home systematically, what room is last on the list? Store your random bit bins there.

Yes, it will be a doozy of a room to work through when you get to it, but by that time you will have experienced the calm that comes from having a home for everything and your motivation will increase. You will also have a better idea for what spaces you have left, whether or not you actually need or want the thing, and how storage best works for you and your house.

A little time and space allows us to make better decisions about those peripheral items.

It’s worth the time to make homes for all the things.

18. Be impervious.

Our attitude is the most important factor in how we handle life, and it is a multi-faceted component.

One of the components of an organized attitude – and one we don’t consider often – is imperviousness.

The dictionary defines the adjective impervious as

not allowing liquid to flow through
unable to be affected by

This is not being unemotional, although at times it may appear so. It is, however, not letting circumstances or irritants dictate your emotions.

It is only if you are impervious – if those liquids of outer happenings and other’s behaviors don’t flow through to your nerves – that you can control and manage your own emotions and responses.

So how do we build our own imperviousness?

Here are some strategies I have used:

Chant it as a mantra-motto when you find your irritation rising: Be impervious, be impervious.

Fake it until you make it. Pretend you’re impervious. Respond as if you are. Slowly, you’ll have trained your habitual reactions and you’ll find you are actually impervious.

Start and end the day with alone time – even just 5-10 minutes – and fit in a couple minutes here and there throughout your day. Don’t squander down time with aimless meandering around the house or online – close your eyes and breath, read a good book, walk outside and clear your head. Remove yourself from the madhouse regularly so you don’t become one of the madmen.

Pray continually. Instead of a single morning prayer to get you through the day, build the habit of praying for grace to honor God in how you respond – a quick, desperate, “forgive me, Lord; help me, Lord” prayer – when you feel your irritation rising.

Remember there’s always a way of escape. Others do not control your responses. We are commanded to love and irritation and resentment are not love. They are sinful responses. God forgives and He gives us the grace to choose to obey, but we need to turn to Him for that grace and forgiveness, as soon as we can, as often as we can.

To be impervious is not to be stoic. Rather, it is how we become the thermostat rather than the thermometer, how we set the tone for ourselves and for our interactions.

19. Kiss your husband.

It’s so easy in the hubbub of daily home life to lose sight of the fact that your family began with a marriage, not with children.

Our marital relationship is our primary relationship in the home. The children will grow up and move on to families and households of their own. You and your husband will remain.

So let’s keep in touch – literally – with our husbands to keep our homes and our own selves in harmony. We are wives before we are mothers and we will remain wives after our children move on.

Let’s act like wives in our homes rather than like nannies or maids.

This does not mean we need to have a date nig