To Be a Better Homemaker

I love being a wife and a mother, but housework has always been a struggle for me. If you have the same problem, here are a few hints that could help you be a better homemaker.

Learn your husband’s priorities. Years ago, when we were first learning to function as husband and wife, my husband and I did some negotiating. We each chose three priorities and promised not to nag about the other things. He chose clean socks and underwear in his drawer, his chair and place at the table not sticky, and a general cleanup right before he comes home (this is conditional on his calling and letting me know what time he is coming home). Anything else is a bonus! Clutter still bothers us, but we have both matured and mellowed some and we know that in the near future we will have years to sit in a clean house with no children around.

Take time for yourself. If my older children are home during the time I have designated as MY TIME, they know they must play quietly in their room for at least an hour. Except for rare times when they need to talk with me, the children leave me alone. Sometimes I read, sometimes I nap, sometimes I watch TV, and sometimes I eat lunch in total peace. The time is mine to do with as I want, and I am continually amazed at the lift this gives me.

Set your own limits. Do not be afraid to say, “I can’t handle that at this time!” For years we did not have animals—I could not handle babies and animals at the same time.

Be realistic. When I first sampled all those homemaking books being sold, I was overwhelmed. I decided that, realistically, I could not immediately do everything they suggested. Instead, I decided to establish one habit at a time, such as making my bed when I get out of it. Then when I mastered that habit, I would work on another until it became a habit.

Be flexible. Don’t be afraid to leave housework if your husband wants you to go somewhere or do something with him. Many husbands give up asking because their wives are too busy, too involved with the children, or just plain overcommitted. The stronger the husband-and-wife relationship, the smoother the home will run.

Teach your children to help. Children love to push buttons. Teach them to run all those gadgets. It helps when Mom is sick if someone ANYONE—knows how to run the washer and drier. Also teach them some tricks that can save you time and frustration. In our home, for example, we pin our socks together so that we will stand a better-than-average chance of having clean, matched socks in our drawers.

Use motivation. Pretend you are having company—do a quick pickup (everything out of sight), then go back to a big task. Clean one room, then sit in the clean room and read for ten minutes (reward system). Set the timer and force yourself to stay in one room for ten minutes. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Smile … Enjoy your home and your family. Develop a sense of humor. Be original. In my home, I use signs to ease friction. In fact, I have two permanent ones: “Please keep your complaints to yourself. Why ruin my day too?” And “This is National Do-It-Yourself Week. Please do it yourself.”

I have been known to hide the TV for three days (not for the children’s benefit, as their TV time is restricted anyway) to encourage some necessary communication between my husband and myself. He thought it was funny—I really thought he would be angry! You can get by with a lot if you smile while you do it. I have also been known to hide the Sunday paper until everyone (hubby, too) agrees to help with after-dinner cleanup.

Pray. In detail. Pray that you might get the bed made, the dinner on, and still have time to read to the children. Report back when you say your evening prayers. It helps! Cary Grubbe, Oregon City, Oregon

“Tell Me All the Things I’ve Done Today”

What child, eager to delay “lights out;” doesn’t suddenly become a captive listener at bedtime?

The careful parent who has reserved a little precious energy, can spin golden moments from lights out to slumber. That last bit of time at the close of the day can be cultivated to leaving little minds dancing with lovely memories of the day behind and confident anticipation of the one ahead.

“Tell me all the things I’ve done today” has become our children’s favorite 8:00 P.M. byword. With each child, we review the events of the day, looking for opportunities to praise kindnesses and to recognize well-made choices, to share disappointments and to rethink decisions. Bedtime is a sweet time to lovingly suggest alternatives to misbehavior and to secure pledges for improvement. With daddy holding her little hand and whispering in the glow of a nightlight, our three-year-old resolves with seriousness and dedication to try harder to keep her pants dry.

Even the youngest children delight in their own bedtime routines. Our two-year-old happily closes her eyes when she feels sure we’ve successfully exhausted the list of all the people who love her. We hope the long list reminds her of the security of her spot among family members at home and gives her a notion of the affection felt for her by loved ones far away. When we complete the list with Heavenly Father and Jesus, she knows that her sphere of association is caring and broad: here at home, 700 miles from here, and even in heaven.

Bedtime can also be a calm, unhurried time to lie beside a thoughtful child and ponder the glorious promises of the gospel. Often our six-year-old lets her mind wander and pricks a willing ear with questions like: “What will I do when I live in Heaven?” “What does it look like there?” “Tell me who I’ll see.” After patient answers, she closes her eyes, her head filled with promises of eternity. (Her perplexed parents head for the scriptures.) Older children can also learn to cherish these moments when they are encouraged to read at bedtime. Substitute a bedside light and a good book for what might have been thirty minutes of torture for a young insomniac and thirty minutes of frustration for a spent parent.

Bedtime should be the best time. Those quiet moments at the close of noisy days can be rich opportunities to recall beauty, share disappointment, correct confusion, reaffirm affection, and tuck little ones cozily between blankets of security and peace. Kathy Clayton, Irvine, California


Is your bed made?” “Have you brushed your teeth?” “Comb your hair! Are you tired of the constant reminding? Help your child remember to fulfill his responsibilities with a simple system using his fingers.

First, teach the child a sequence of key words or phrases, one for each finger, that represent tasks he needs to do in sequence every day. The sequence we use is (1) hands and face, (2) teeth and hair, (3) dressed, including shoes and socks, (4) bed, including rooms, (5) toys (or for older children, morning chore).

Use the same set of words for all the children. The key word can be attached to added responsibility as the child matures, but don’t change the key words.

Under the “Bed” category, for example, our three-year-old isn’t asked to vacuum his bedroom, but the seven-year-old is. This memory device can be started even up into the seventh year and the training should last a lifetime. The most important point the child learns is to answer the questions “What have I finished already?” and “What must I still do.”

After the basic hygiene and chores are taken care of, a child is free to play. This system not only helps children feel responsible, it also enables mother to feel less like a broken record. Bonnie McCullough, Lakewood, Colorado

Archives in a Drawer

I’m not sure just how it happened, but somewhere along the line our collection of family treasures became known as “The Archives.” While kindergarten paintings, handprints in plaster, and lace-pasted Mother’s Day cards will not be found in most archives, they play a prominent place in ours and do give a “historical perspective” of sorts to our family.

Since we seem to be too busy right now to be very well organized, our archives have neither rhyme nor reason. But what we have is admired and enjoyed. Our 14-year-old likes “trying on” his baby bootie to his size 12 feet; our 11-year-old likes knowing that when he was three he said, “Look, Mommy, the moon is full blast!”; and our 8-year-old likes looking at all his old report cards.

Whenever it appears that something might have “historical value,” I ask the boys to put it in the “archives”—the middle drawer of my bureau. But first I always write on it the date or circumstance. If it doesn’t get done right away it doesn’t get done at all, so this is a MUST!

When the drawer gets so full it won’t close anymore, I go through the items and take out those that are not particularly significant. The ones I want to keep go into a large bedding box, and every year or so I check to be sure they remain meaningful. This is a good rainy-day activity, and the children are inevitably amused by the contents of the box. Maybe one day they’ll smile with their own children over the same items and know that we cared for these small, warm remembrances, because we care very much for them! Jan Bernhisel, Fort Bragg, California

Church Magazines in Home Evening

I made a valiant attempt to read the Ensign, the New Era, and the Friend each month. However, I found myself falling sadly behind until my husband and I devised a plan. Each child was asked to give a synopsis of a story or article found in the magazine of his/her age group, while my husband and I each presented something from the Ensign. We did this at every family home evening and discovered it was a delightful way to keep abreast of the magazines. Our little three-year-old participated with a poem from the Friend, our ten- and eight-year-old daughters cut out pictures and paragraphs to present flannel board stories, and our teenager recounted what she read in the New Era. Charlene Higuera, Bakersfield, California

[illustrations] Illustrated by Bill Swensen